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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pequeno Vals Vienes (Federico Garcia Lorca)

"Pequeno Vals Vienes" is the poem on which Leonard Cohen based the song "Take This Waltz." I have long wanted to do my own translation of the piece. So I have. It's below. The original, Spanish text can be found here.

update: I've done another version and posted it in the comments.

Little Viennese Waltz

In Vienna there are ten girls waiting
for death to sob on their shoulders;
there's a forest where the doves fall
to pieces every morning,
and their feathers are five thousand windows
in a gallery in the museum of frost.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz
with its flavours of cognac and death,
and the sea splashing salt on its tail.

I need you, I want you, I'll love you
in the armchair with the book of the dead,
in corridors with their shadows of sadness
and the irises’ scent in the dark,
in our bed as pale as the moonlight
where we dance to rhythms we invented
with the shells of ourselves for drums.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

In Vienna there are four broken mirrors
where the echoes of your mouth still play,
there's a piano whose keys are all dying
and boys wishing to wear something blue.
And the poor people tie freshly-wept garlands
to the tiles of their roofs every day.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

Oh I love you, I want you, I need you,
in an attic where young people play
speedy Hungarian polkas
on quiet July afternoons
and sing of the lamb-white snow iris
(its petals open so slowly,
like your silent face in the dark).

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

We'll dance it together in Vienna,
this waltz disguised as a river.
But there'll be a ocean of hyacinths around us,
their petals and my mouth on your legs.
Keep my soul in photographs and lilies,
and in the dark undulations of your thighs.

And I want, my love, to leave you
this violin with the dark in its hollow,
this violin with the tomb built in,
this violin and the tape of this waltz.

5 comments:

MackJohnny said...

I got up this morning and did another version which I think works better:

Little Viennese Waltz

In Vienna there are fifty girls waiting
for death to sob on their shoulders,
there's a forest where every morning
the doves are dissected by talk,
and their feathers are five thousand windows
open in the museum of frost.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips sewn together.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz
that flavours itself with cognac and death,
that wets its tail in the sea.

I need you, I want you, I'll love you
in the armchair with the book of the dead,
in corridors with their shadows of sadness
and the irises’ lofty scent in the dark,
in our bed as pale as the moonlight
and our dance in the shell of our dreams.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its broken waist.

In Vienna there are forty mirrors
where the echoes of your smile still play,
there's a piano with its keys all dying
and no blues left for the boys,
and poor people hang freshly-wept garlands
on the tiles of the roofs every day.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz that died in my arms

Oh I love you, I want you, I need you,
in an attic where young people play
speedy Hungarian polkas
on quiet July afternoons
and sing of the lamb-white snow iris
(its petals opening slowly,
like your face with its dark edge of silence).


Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz called “I’ll Always Want You.”
.
In Vienna we’ll dance it together,
this waltz disguised as a river.
And you’ll see that hyacinths surround us,
their petals and my mouth on your legs,
and I’ve left my soul in photographs and lilies
and in the dark undulations of your walk.

And I want, my love, to leave you
this violin with the dark in its hollows,.
this violin and its measure of the waltz,
this violin with the tomb built in.

hservant said...

Gorgeous--the formalized gaiety of the waltz is sad in the way of all flesh/culture.

I like the wheedling weed in the other post too.

That was a bunch of "life is short" poems for one night, no? All new to me--you must know where to look.

MackJohnny said...

Sure wasn't intentional. Must have been the mood I was in that made me pick 'em.

(Wonder if that constitutes another vote against the myth of consciousness?)

Anonymous said...

Here another version. Lorca is full of images that challenge translation.

There are ten girls in Vienna,
a shoulder where death sobs,
and a forest of dissected doves.
There is a morning fragment
in the museum of frost.
There is a room with a thousand windows.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this waltz with your mouth shut.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz,
of yes, of death and cognac
that dips its tail in the sea.

I want you, I want you, I want you,
with the armchair and the dead book,
through the melancholic corridor,
in the dark attic of the iris,
in our bed of moon
and in the dance dreamed by the turtle.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this waltz of arched back.

There are four mirrors in Vienna
where your mouth and the echo play.
There is a death for piano
that paints the boys blue.
There are beggars on the tiled roofs,
there are fresh garlands of tears.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this waltz dying in my arms.

Because I want you, I want you, my love,
in the attic where the children play,
dreaming old lights of Hungary
through the warm afternoon rumours,
seeing sheep and snow iris
through the dark silence of your brow.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this waltz, this “I’ll love you forever” waltz.


In Vienna I shall dance with you
in a custom that has
the head of a river.
Look at the hyacinths on my flanks!
I shall live my mouth between your thighs,
my soul in pictures and lilies,
and in the dark cadence or your steps
my love, I want to live, my love,
violin and sepulchre, the two binds of waltz.

Philipp Blau said...

not a comment as such but an attempt to transform one page of a famous novel ("A Man Without Qualities" by R.Musil)into a poem:

Moosbruggers Dance of Death

An accordion is playing
moths are drawn
to the light on the table.
Those fantasies he takes
to squash them between his fingers
into small adventure dragons.
There falls a drop of blood
into the earth
so order comes
into the worlds unbearable tingling.

All is beautiful now
like an ugly girl
drawn in a round dance
turning her face
towards the staircase
where he looks down.
As he opens his eyes
every dancer obeys him
transfigured in beauty.

So he starts dancing
invisible to them.
He who never danced in his life
moved by music
which turns into sleep
in the Blessed Virgins womb
to finally rest in God.
Dances deadly freed
invisible until everything turns
to a cobweb of frost.
Then magnificent he smiles
to death in the meeting.