Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Those Who Have Tasted It, Know

Staying put

Desmayarse, atreverse, estar furioso,
áspero, tierno, liberal, esquivo,
alentado, mortal, difunto, vivo
leal, traidor, cobarde y animoso;

no hallar fuera del bien centro y reposo,
mostrarse alegre, triste, humilde, altivo,
enojado, valiente, fugitivo,
satisfecho, ofendido, receloso;

huir el rostro al claro desengaño,
beber veneno por licor suave,
olvidar el provecho, amar el daño;

creer que un cielo en un infierno cabe,
dar la vida y el alma a un desengaño:
esto es amor; quien lo probó lo sabe.

-- Lope de Vega --

To faint, to dare, to be enraged,
coarse, tender, generous, elusive,
hopeful, lethal, dead, alive,
faithful, treatcherous, cowardly and brave;

to not find but in your lover peace and relief,

to look happy, sad, haughty, woeful,
angered, courageus, fugitive,
satisfied, offended, mistrustful;

to turn your face on clear deception,

to drink poison as if it were sweet liquor,
to forget gain, to love the pain;

to believe that heaven can lie in hell,
to give life and soul to an illusion,
this is love; those who have tasted it, know.

-- Lope de Vega --  

(The translation is mine and I'm sure it can be improved.)

There's a new movie out based on the exciting and well rounded life of Lope de Vega, the Spanish playwright who dominated Spain's early Golden Age of theater. Here's a bit more abour him:

"Lope de Vega was born in 1562, two years before Shakespeare. He was the first Spanish dramatist to make a living as a playwright and is now considered to be the greatest of all Spanish playwrights, having written over 2,200 plays, over 500 of which have survived!

Today, Lope would be considered a prodigy. At the age of five, he could read Latin, as well as Spanish, and had begun composing poetry. At fourteen, he was a student at the Imperial College at Madrid, but ran off with a classmate and joined a military expedition against Portugal. Fortunately, the Bishop of Avila came upon Lope and, sensing the young boy's talent, took him under his wing. Under the Influence of the Bishop, Lope enrolled at the University of Alcalá and graduated with a bachelor's degree. He was on the verge of following in the the Bishop's footsteps and becoming a priest when, suddenly, he fell violently in love, revealing a passion that would later manifest itself in his plays.

After graduating from Alcalá, Lope joined a naval expedition to the Azores, then went to Madrid where he began his assault on the Theatre. He quickly fell in love with a married woman, the daughter of the producer who bought his plays. The affair lasted for five years, and Lope celebrated his love under the name of Filis in many of his ballads, but when it ended, it ended violently. Lope fell into a furious quarrel with the woman's father and began to refuse him his plays. He also lampooned the man mercilessly which resulted in a libel suit. Lope was first imprisoned, then exiled from the kingdom of Castile for two years. Within three months, Lope returned to Madrid at the risk of being sent to the galleys and eloped with Isabel de Urbina, the daughter of a prominent courtier, only to later abandon her. In 1588, he left Isabel in Madrid and joined the Spanish Armada.

Fortunately for the good of the Spanish Theatre, Lope escaped the fate of many of his fellow soldiers during this disastrous venture against Britain. His ship, the San Juan, was one of the few to return safely. Not only did Lope survive, but he spent the six month voyage composing the epic poem The Beauty of Angelica.

After returning to Valencia, Lope set about the business of making a living in the theatre. Soon, he was composing so many plays that more than one manager was dependant upon the young playwright for his supply. But Lope still found time to carry on his love affairs. He soon initiated a tryst with the actress Micaela de Luxon who would provide him with four children and inspire many a sonnet. He would remain as constant to her as was possible for a man of his ilk, which meant that she would share him with several other Spanish ladies. In 1598, he married the daughter of a successful pork merchant.

Lope's affairs produced a large number of offspring. In 1605, he found himself the father of both a son by his wife and a daughter by Micaela. Two years later, Micaela also gave birth to a son named Lopito who would become a talented poet. In spite of his many affairs, Lope was a devoted father. When his wife died in 1613, he brought all of his children together under one roof.

In 1614, Lope became a priest. However, he continued to write secular plays, and he continued to carry on his affairs--most notably with the wild actress Lucia de Salcedo and a young married woman named Doña Marta. However, he seems to have been devoted in his own way to the priesthood, for he was known to have been in the habit of scourging himself for "the good of his soul" until the walls of his room were flecked with blood.

In 1632, Lope lost Doña Marta. Three years later, his son Lopito was lost at sea, and his illegitimate daughter eloped with a courtier. These losses weighed heavily on the seventy-three-year-old playwright. Lope de Vega died on August 27, 1635.

Most of Lope's plays revolve around the conflicting claims of love and honor. His most popular work is Fuente Ovejuna or The Sheep Well (1614) in which a tyrannous feudal lord is murdered by villagers who refuse to confess and are eventually spared by intervention of the king. Other popular plays by Lope de Vega include The Foolish Lady (1613), Finding Truth Through Doubt (1620-24), The Knight from Olmeda (1622) and Punishment without Revenge (1631)."

Text copied from here


Ruth said...

There is a lot of truth packed in that little poem. I didn't know of de Vega. Thank you.

willow said...

Beautiful poem. What did you think of the movie?

K said...

Wow, when you read his life story you understand the emotions packed into this poem. This was a man who loved passionately and dangerously. I love that he came full circle towards the end of his life to becoming a priest (albeit on his terms) - he had way too much living to do earlier on! Thanks for the introduction to the film - I will look out for it.

rauf said...

oh deeah ! what a life ! Had kit Marlowe lived longer his life would have been as dramatic as Lope's. EEEEEEEE i think i am wrong here Claudia. Marlowe's short life perhaps was more dramatic than this.
is there any movie on Marlowe ? He appears briefly in Shakespeare in love i think

rauf said...

and Dr. Faustus is more brilliant and more imaginative than all of Shakespeare's put together

Claudia said...

Ruth, it is a brilliant definition of passionate love, isn't it? I'm afraid I hadn't heard of Lope de Vega either until yesterday when a Spanish friend mentioned the movie.

Claudia said...

Willow, I haven't seen the movie yet.

Claudia said...

Karen, he came full circle towards the end of his full, well rounded life... I like the neatness of that! I'm looking forward to seeing the film.

Claudia said...

rauf, there's a lot of unknowns about Marlowe. Was he a spy? Was he an atheist? Was he a homosexual? Was he murdered? Was he murdered because of any of these? Still, what little is know is intriguing, I agree. I've never read his Dr. Faustus. There seems to be quite a lot of speculation about how much of what was published was actually written by Marlowe himself. Apparently the play was extensively cut and rewritten after his death.

Don't you like Shakespeare, rauf?

The truest lines ever written in a play are his:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Trulyfool said...


I think I actually memorized one of his poems way back when.

Your translation (which seems to accord with the structure and 'feel' of the Spanish -- I'm not good enough to do this myself) seems more modern than Shakespeare, not so?

As for love, he's getting warm.


Claudia said...

More modern than Shakespeare... I'm not sure what you mean, Trulyfool. I worked on the translation for a couple of hours, off and on but I'm definitely not a poem translator.

rauf said...

oh i love Shakespeare Claudia. Now Shakespeare was too good to be one person. If we believe he was one person, yes he was brilliant, too brilliant. My memory is failing me Claudia. You could write against aristocracy or the puritans but you could not write against the Church. Marlowe was murdered for this reason. He was a spy like James Bond was sent to Spain and France. Actually he lived a life of James Bond

There was a theory floating that three people created Shakespeare. Ben Johnson, Christopher Marlowe and i forgot the name of the third,
to write against the establishment But this was not like Jesus Christ. There had to be a person called Shakespeare to take the credit reward or guillotine. What you say about Dr. Faustus is true Claudia. Even in modern times the play is considered too weird. Marlowe's imagination was touching the sky.
There is a possibility that much had been chopped.

rauf said...

oh those lines of Macbeth are truly wonderful Claudia. How true !

Trulyfool said...


I guess 'more modern'in not having that layering of metaphor within metaphor that Elizabethan/Jacobean English makes difficult for modern readers.

My Spanish certainly is inadequate, but the structure seems to depend on series of adjectives thrusting out 'straightforward' (?) images, plus infinitives (?).

Translating is an art which rightly takes time for someone who cares, as you clearly do.

What might stop me from calling it 'more modern' would be archaic usage or diction. Did you run up against any of that when you translated?

Here's a random S'peare sonnet:


Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

'Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

Doesn't it seem more antique in its structuring? Complex In allusion?

You don't have to answer this -- just trying to explain what I thought I was getting at.

(Sorry for the space usage!)


Claudia said...


Lope de Vega's 16th century Spanish is much more modern than Shakespeare's 16th century English, I encountered no such difficulty in translating.

There's a well known 19th century translation of this poem into English which gives it an archaic feel that the original doesn't have. I didn't use it because of that.

To faint & dare defy, be furious
harsh, frail as the evening's fair adieu,
foolish, and honest, cowardly, and, too
be brave (bestower of th'soft kiss of excuse).

To drown, deprived th'breath of breathing Good,
and, mercilessly, take advantage of
the haphazarded chance. To promise, & therefrom
lie, to be that ... vacillating Certitude

that hides th'true visage from deception,
drinks the mephitic for a fragrant dew,
--To drink pleasure, splendor, woe,

concede all to a Heaven's [selfish] Concept,
forsake Good, and be blind to one's own true view--
is to love ( as those that have proven this know ).

Trulyfool said...


Absolutely. That 19th Century one sounds like . . . the 19th Century. And perhaps not the best of it.

Your translation matches my ear.


Miguel Costa said...

I've tasted it!...
and it's a Great Poem! and Great Translation! I'm amazed! Thank you for sharing!

Claudia said...


Deste com o meu blog! Obrigada pelo teu comentário simpático e... Welcome!!!

Miguel Costa said...

Sigo o teu blog desde que fizeste o post sobre o saramago no teu Fb. Mas deixaste de colocar posts durante muito tempo. :)

No dia 5 voltei a activar o meu blog, no blogspot e vi lá no meu dashboard que estavas de volta :)

com o teu consentimento, passarei a fazer uma visita diária :)

by the way... roubei o poema para o colocar no meu blog...


Claudia said...

Já acrescentei o teu blog ao meu blogroll, aqui à direita. Já o visitei e gostava de comentar de vez em quando mas não dá...