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Castile

by Miguel de Unamuno (Spain, 1864-1936)
translated by Cheryl A. Corey

O Castile! You raise me up in the rugged palm of your hand;
To the sky that burns, that cools, that holds you under its command.
 
A mother of hearts and arms for a land that’s sinewy, lean, and clear;
Who wraps today in golden hues of noble yesteryear.
 
Your naked fields and prairie sky converge to make a womb
That cradles all within—the sun, the sanctuary, the tomb.
 
Surrounded by expansive peaks, if heaven’s anywhere
It’s here, upon your moors. I deeply breathe the summit air,
 
And to that air release my songs; and should they be of worth,
Let them fall from this, your giant altar, back to earth.

 

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Original Spanish

Castilla
 
Tú me levantas, tierra de Castilla,
en la rugosa palma de tu mano,
al cielo que te enciende y te refresca,
al cielo, tu amo,
 
Tierra nervuda, enjuta, despejada,
madre de corazones y de brazos,
toma el presente en ti viejos colores
del noble antaño.
 
Con la pradera cóncava del cielo
lindan en torno tus desnudos campos,
tiene en ti cuna el sol y en ti sepulcro
y en ti santuario.
 
Es todo cima tu extensión redonda
y en ti me siento al cielo levantado,
aire de cumbre es el que se respira
aquí, en tus páramos.
 
¡Ara gigante, tierra castellana,
a ese tu aire soltaré mis cantos,
si te son dignos bajarán al mundo
desde lo alto!

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Cheryl Corey is a Connecticut poet. She is also an author of short stories, a novella, and recently completed a novel.


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9 Responses

  1. Paul Buchheit

    Nice translation, Cheryl. I enjoyed the imagery in the description of Spanish land.

    Reply
  2. Paul Freeman

    A very vivid poem. The long line format really helped, I felt.

    Thanks for the read, Cheryl.

    Reply
    • Cheryl Corey

      Thank you, Paul. I had to do a bit of deconstructing and reconstructing. I was set on rhyming couplets.

      Reply
  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Beautifully done. This poem has vivid imagery! Thank you for translating it so well.

    Reply
  4. Cheryl Corey

    I endeavored to capture the poet’s love for his land; and what poet wouldn’t want to send their poems out into the world from a mountain peak!

    Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    Cheryl, you capture well the poet’s self-identity and his love for his land. Given his own stanza form and apparent patterned use of vowel sounds in lieu of rhyme, how did you decide on long line rhymed couplets? What would you say you gained or lost by presenting his patriotic passion in your design?

    Reply
    • Cheryl Corey

      I’d have to say that it wasn’t so much a decision as an evolution. It begins with the translation and potential meanings of each word; from there I move on to the phrasing; what the poet’s trying to say in each stanza; and the overarching theme. As I translated into English, I discovered possible rhyme schemes, from which the form almost dictated itself to me. I’ve read other, more literal translations that I found to be flat and quite frankly, boring. I wanted my version to be just as passionate as the original, and as English is a very versatile language, I like to think that I’ve succeeded.

      Reply
  6. Alan Steinle

    Hello, Cheryl,

    I appreciate what you’ve done with Unamuno’s poem. I have also translated a couple of poems by him.

    Your last three stanzas seem to be in perfect iambic heptameter, except for the last line. You might consider adding a syllable at the beginning of the line: “Then let them fall…”

    Reply

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