domingo, setembro 20, 2015

The Meaning of Poetry: "Folhas Caídas e Flores sem Fruto" by Almeida Garrett

Published 2014 (reprint).

"Folhas Caídas e Flores sem Fruto" = Fallen Leaves and Fruitless Flowers".

Almeida Garrett (1799 – 1854)

Barca Bela

Pescador da barca bela,
Onde vais pescar com ela,
Que é tão bela,
Oh pescador?

Não vês que a última estrela
No céu nublado se vela?
Colhe a vela,
Oh pescador!

Deita o lanço com cautela,
Que a sereia vanta bela…
Mas cautela,
Oh pescador!

Não se enrede a rede nela,
Que perdido é remo e vela
Só de vê-la,
Oh pescador.

Pescador da barca bela,
Inda é tempo, foge dela,
Foge dela,
Oh pescador!

At school learned a lot of things: running in the hallway, eating crap, dangling pencils from my nose, pop my gum, fake a burp, paraphrase and summarize. Once in a while I also got acquainted with some poetry. "Barca Bela" was one of those poems I used to know by heart. Not anymore. Let me say straight away that I learned poems at school at a very young age. When I was at the primary school we did at least a poem a week from the very beginning. That was the way for me to know a lot of Portuguese poetry. It was nice to get myself reacquainted now with this poem and with a lot of Garrett's poetry as well (Along the years Garrett's poetry was never one of my favourites). I still remember my first contact with poetry at school. I had to learn by heart one of the verses from this poem. After toiling for some time, I got to recite it in class. I remember the teacher asking me what it meant, and I also remember what I said: "Mas professora, a poesia não significa nada." ("But teacher, poetry doesn't mean a thing"). What do I think about Poesy now and Garrett's poetry in particular? I've never assumed that there is such a thing as the meaning of a poem. Nor have I ever assumed that poems contain the same species of meaning sentences do, or that meaning in poetry consists in the making of a kind of statement, i.e., the laying out of discrete bits of information. Is it the metaphoric thing? Nope. I've never thought metaphors have anything to do with it poetry-wise (I could mention a few poems without metaphors; this alone made skeptical of the very idea). On top of that I've always thought metaphors can be embarrassing (like jokes do) because sometimes no one gets them...So, what's the deal with poems? For me it's not important what a poem means. What is really important is that figuring out a poet's true purpose is impossible. For me what really matters is what we do with a poem. And not what it means. It goes without saying that the more I know a particular author (Shakespeare comes to mind), the more I'll be able to enjoy his work.  That's one of the reasons I enjoy translating poetry. It allows me to get in closer contact with what the poet is trying to "convey".

Wonderful poetry always begs me to include pieces of myself in the way I interpret a poem. That's the way it should be (I'm not including here the so-called "modern poetry", which is a different beast altogether).

And here’s my attempt at translating “Barca Bela” into German, using my favourite language for translating the untranslatable:

Schönes Boot

Fischer mit dem schönen Boot,
Wohin fährst du fischen?
Denn es ist so schön,
Oh Fischer!

Siehst du, wie der letzte Stern
Sich im Dunst verschleiert?
Hol die Segel ein,
Oh fischer!

Wirf das Netz behutsam aus!
Denn die Nixe singt so schön…
Ganz behutsam,
Oh Fischer!

Wenn sie sich im Netz verfängt,
Sind verloren Ruder und Segel
Schon bei ihrem Anblick,
Oh Fischer!

Fischer mit dem schönen Boot,
Noch ist Zeit. Drum flieh vor ihr,
Flieh vor ihr,
Oh Fischer!

NB: I’ll leave to you, dear reader, the interpretation of the poem. I know what it means to me. But what is really important is what it means TO YOU. “Barca Bela” is still one of favourite poem in Portuguese. The rest of Garrett’s poetry not so much. Romantic poetry, as far I’m concerned, needs something more…

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