Yo no sé cómo saltar (I Don’t Know How to Leap) by Juan Ramón Jiménez

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Poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez (Estío, 11)

Reading and video by sonolopez (Javier López Clemente)

Here’s the poem, which I think should be in the public domain by now, together with my translation (feel free to offer corrections in the comments).

Yo no sé cómo saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.

El río se lleva, mientras,
la realidad de esta tarde
a mares sin esperanza.

Miro al oriente, al poniente,
miro al sur y miro al norte…
Toda la verdad dorada
que cercaba al alma mía,
cual con un cielo completo,
se cae, partida y falsa.

…Y no sé como saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.

I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.

Meanwhile the current bears
this afternoon’s reality
into despairing seas.

Look to the east, the west,
look to the south and to the north…
all that golden truth
that encircled my soul,
complete with its own sky,
collapses, false and broken.

…And I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.

I imagine Jiménez is rolling at his grave at the video’s use of the soundtrack from The Matrix — he was pretty uptight, I hear — but it works for me.

5 Comments

  1. Reply
    Jean 6 March, 2009

    Only just catching up here Dave. I like this, but I’m wondering why you chose to translate ‘orilla’ (shore, brink, edge…) as ‘the crest of the wave’. Seems unlike you to add so much that’s not there in the original.

  2. Reply
    Dave Bonta 6 March, 2009

    Because my mind took a holiday, I think. (Geez, I even translated a poem called “La Orilla” once.) Thanks.

  3. Reply
    Dave Bonta 6 March, 2009

    Thanks for “brink” – I think that’s just about the only word that combines literal and figurative meanings to the degree required here, don’t you think?

    As a morning person for who the afternoon is a dead time, I really identify with this poem!

  4. Reply
    Jean 6 March, 2009

    Gee, that was a gratifyingly quick reaction! Yes, I think brink works well here, though I can’t say I had thought that through before commenting. I love the poem too (didn’t know it before). It reminds me of a friend many years ago who was much wont to mention how he felt sad and empty at dusk every day, ‘because I am a poet’ (he was young enough for such pretentiousness to be forgivable, I guess).

  5. Reply
    Dave Bonta 6 March, 2009

    Ha! Usually by dusk I’m fine – it’s early to mid-afternoon when I wilt and things seem pointless. The cure (as a Spanish poet would surely know) is a good, long siesta.

    Speaking of which…

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