Friday, May 12, 2006

Sor Juana Rebukes a Rose

Here's a slight reworking of an old translation I made of Sor Juana's "En que da moral censura a una rosa, y en ella a sus semejantes". You can see the Spanish and the earlier draft here. It still needs work.

In which she rebukes a rose, and in it those like it

Divine rose, you are grown in grace,
with all your fragrant subtleness,
teacher with scarlet beauty blessed,
snowy lesson in a lovely face,

twin of human frame and doom,
example of a gentility vain,
in whom are unified these twain:
the happy cradle, the grieving tomb.

Such haughtiness in your pomp, such pride,
such presumption; you disdain mortal fate;
later you are dismayed and hide

as dying you show a withered state
of which, by learnéd death and foolish life,
alive you lied, but dying demonstrate!

UPDATE: Thinking about the matter more, I think 'snowy lesson in a lovely face' might be better as 'a winter lesson in a lovely face', because 'snowy' sounds like it's the color of the rose (which jars with the previous line), whereas the point is that it's the situation of the rose -- the rose is in an early winter snow. One thing that's in the original that doesn't show up well in the translation are the cognates; this could perhaps be improved slightly by using 'graciousness' rather than 'gentility' in the second stanza.


  1. what is the title in English?

  2. branemrys9:31 PM

    It's in the post: "In which she rebukes a rose, and in it those like it"


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