Friday, December 10, 2010

Rosalia de Castro's Siesta

I first came across the poems of Rosalia de Castro in 1976 while going through a book in the library. One poem which moved me the most was given the title of "Siesta", by the translator, John Frederick Nims.

The poem deals with a mother's daily life as she deals with her clamorous children at siesta time. Mothers all over the world, wake up early, make tea and breakfast for the family. They send the children to school and the man of the family to work. Then it is time for lunch. Through all this hard work they might need a little sleep in the after noon. The mother gets angry with the playful children, but then immediately she repents as she scatters the children away, like the "beads of a broken rosary." The poem starts describing children playing:

Aquel romor de cántigas e risas,
ir, vir, algarear;
aquel falar de cousas que pasaron
i outras que pasarán;
aquela, en fin, vitalidade inquieta
xuvenil, tanto mal
me fixo, que lles dixen:
"Ivos e non volvás."

J.F.Nims translates the poem with a lot of skill:

Now all that sound of laughter, sound of singing,
going, coming, happy stir!
that talk of Know what happened? What's about to?
the breathless Have you heard?
all of that bright vitality, so restless,
of boys and girls
- too much to bear. I begged
"Please leave me. Don't return."

When the children go away, the poet describes the scene as the "beads of a broken rosary rolled and scattered across the floor."

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