Saturday, 27 December 2008

En la noche oscura...

I do tend to underestimate my clerical friends, especially the number of them that read this blog.

One sent me a quick note that made me want to smile and cry at the same time:

clerical friends are not 'just to be supported' - well not this one anyway. [snip] Take care you...

Ps. John of the Cross in Spanish? oh yes - I think you would love it. He is not about depression at all... the dark night when read in spanish is electric and passionate... it's very you. just read the poem, forget the rest. x

*Hug*, hon, and thank you - you know who you are.

I've only ever read the poem in translation, or heard Loreena McKennitt's song adapted from it. It has always struck me as beautiful, but...electric? I could see the passion, but it felt sanitised; it didn't grab me. I loved the idea of being guided by the night more surely than by day, because I have always preferred moonlight to sunlight; the night's darkness and being guided by intuition to the day's bright glare and the guidance of logic and the outer senses. So despite my doubts, I always have had an affinity for it.

Oh. my. God. I had forgotten how much gets lost in translation. 'Electric and passionate' was the perfect description of the original. The sense of breathless movement, passionate searching for the beloved, and the joy of finding the beloved is just...incredible.

Lines like these just took my breath away:

¡Oh noche que guiaste!
¡oh noche amable más que la alborada!;
¡oh noche que juntaste,
Amado con amada,
amada en el Amado transformada!

[Oh night that guided me!
Oh night more lovely than the dawn!
Oh night that united
beloved with the lover,
the lover transformed in the Beloved!]

[note the use of the second person informal throughout, making the night familiar, a friend, not a feared stranger; also, please note that I have reservations re: amable = lovely, as it usually translates to 'kind', but I chose to keep the classic translation, unsure of older meanings.]

I was swept away - home. And so I leave you with the original Spanish version of San Juan de la Cruz. You know where to get a translation if you need one; what I want you to feel is the sweeping passion and breathless movement of the original.

Hang on tight. Or rather, don't.

San Juan de la Cruz
En una noche oscura

En una noche oscura,
con ansias, en amores inflamada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!,
salí sin ser notada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada;

a escuras y segura
por la secreta escala, disfrazada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!,
a escuras y encelada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada;

en la noche dichosa,
en secreto, que nadie me veía
ni yo miraba cisa,
sin otra luz y guía
sino la que en el corazón ardía.

Aquesta me guiaba
más cierto que la luz del mediodía
adonde me esperaba
quien yo bien me sabía
en parte donde naide parecía.

¡Oh noche que guiaste!
¡oh noche amable más que la alborada!;
¡oh noche que juntaste,
Amado con amada,
amada en el Amado transformada!

En mi pecho florido,
que entero para él solo se guardaba,
allí quedó dormido,
y yo le regalaba,
y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.

El aire del almena,
cuando yo sus cabellos esparcía,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello hería,
y todos mis sentidos suspendía.

Quedéme y olvidéme,
el rostro recliné sobre el Amado;
cesó todo y dejéme,
dejando mi cuidado
entre las azucenas olvidado.


ER said...

I'm so glad you were so affected by the poetry. It really is quite astonishing stuff. You are also right about reading it in the original Spanish, I'm not sure that anything can ever be really, truly translated, especially not into English which seems to lack some of the passion and excitement of the romance languages (but that is just my opinion and I know plenty of people who would disagree with me!) However, my Spanish is a little rusty so I usually read it in a book that has the Spanish on one side and the English on the other, just in case I need a little help!

(I think I may have just inadvertently revealed myself as anon I !!! Ooops!)

Irim said...

I did think it might be you, hon - the language and flow felt most similar to yours, of the people I knew. There were a couple of other candidates, but you were on the shortlist ;).

It's amazing stuff, and yes, I agree on translation. English lacks the liquid sound and the passion of the Romance languages (just think of how they're spoken!). Thank you for the suggestion.

Yeah, I'd want a parallel translation as well - I haven't used my Spanish in so long that some of the vocab is a bit rusty, and since San Juan is a number of centuries behind us, there's vocab that I don't know.

But God, I love Spanish, it flows like molasses - I find Italian very staccato, and think Spanish is the more beautiful of the two.


ER said...

My favourite is French: it flows but it's also more tranquil, calm, introverted. But Spanish does have more passion. Italian is too over emotional, everything is exaggerated and a bit overbearing!

Irim said...

Personally, I find French too nasal; it makes me flinch.

[Italian is too over emotional, everything is exaggerated and a bit overbearing!]

OMG, it's all becoming so clear to me now...


ER said...

Okay, NOW I'm worried!!!!

Irim said...

LOL! I was just thinking of a certain...'type' at the O: you know, the super-conservative, striped jacket and straw boater hat wearing, rigid, repressed, "Rome is the only place in the world" Catholic boy - think of how they react in a crisis (read: the chalice isn't lifted high enough) - to quote a wise friend:

over emotional, everything is exaggerated and a bit overbearing!

OMG, it'll be a miracle if I can keep a straight face at mass tomorrow.

BTW, if you're free Tuesday, I'm coming into town to give blood early afternoon... thoughts? PM me.


ER said...

Well, my specialty is making people laugh in Mass... just ask Benedict!