Translations from the Spanish

(latest additions, 25/4/19)

1
Three Things (16th Century - 2016)
2
Brainless Men (17th Century - 2019)



Three Things
after Tres Cosas by Baltasar del Alcázar (Andalucia, 1530-1606)

Three things alone there are that please
and spur me to love's orison:
my darling Zoe, good jamón,
and aubergines with cheese.

This Zoe, readers, 'twas for sure
who held me in such thrall,
that made me shrink from all
those things that were not her.
I spent three senseless years of ease,
till, just before she 'let me go',
she served jamón iberico
and aubergines with cheese.

To Zoe the palm, the crown, the prize;
the name and voice melodious —
but comparisons are odious
and trite to my sad eyes.
Taste, vision, meaning, all of these —
I find no clear distinctión
between sweet Zoe and jamón,
and aubergines with cheese.

Oft Zoe would wax lyrical,
about the jamón Aracene,
tetilla cheese and aubergine
an old-time Spanish miracle.
And so the wise man clearly sees,
when judging free from passión,
these things are one, Zoe, jamón,
and aubergines with cheese.

At least if now she sees my favours
bestowed on these delights
sweet Zoe might then spend her nights
competing with these flavours.
I hope it brings her no unease
to see just how content I am
with plates of pata negra ham
and aubergines with cheese.
18/11/2016

if you're interested in the recipe, you simmer sliced aubergine (eggplant) in a little light stock with a few slivers of onion.
Lightly toast a few blanched almonds and put them in a blender with enough of the stock to make a runny paste.
Arrange the aubergine and onion in a dish, pour over the paste and cover with slices of meltable cheese.
Season, top with a little grated nutmeg and a layer of grated parmesan, and bake in a 180°C oven for 20 mins.







Brainless Men (or #YoTambien)
after Hombres necios by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico, 1648-1695)

You brainless men, who all condemn
   poor women by your witless laws,
   can you not see that you’re the cause
of ev’rything you blame in them?

If, playing out your stupid game,
   their disdain you keenly seek,
   why expect them to be meek,
once you’ve coaxed them into shame?

Their resistance down you beat
   and then maintain with gravity
   that it was naught but levity
that gave you reason to entreat

Oh, what a brave and noble sight
   we see, when Man his logic takes
   and with his hands a monster makes —
and then recoils in childish fright!

Presumptuously arrogant
   you’d have the woman you would wrong
   a harlot while the chase is on
but then, once caught, a penitent

What attitude could be more queer
   and suited to a pompous ass —
   to be the one who clouds the glass,
and then complains it isn’t clear?

Will nothing leave you satisfied:
   neither favour nor disdain?
   Rebuffed, you whiningly complain,
you sneer if you’ve been gratified

A woman’s stymied from the start
   be she demure, polite, devout —
   ‘ungrateful’ if she kicks you out,
she sleeps with you and she’s a ‘tart’

Your double standards you apply —
   the unjust judgements of the fool;
   while half you blame for being cruel,
the rest as ‘easy’ you decry

So how to balance love and lust
   in your 'ideal' lady-friend,
   if the ones that reject you offend
and the ones who are willing disgust?

For between all the ire and unease
   with which your frustration afflicts you,
   blessed be the one who rejects you —
and you can go whine all you please

Wings are lent by your complaints
   to every woman's liberty,
   yet once you've set their passions free
you want to find them very saints!

Where lies the greatest guilt of all
   in such immoral passion —
   the one who falls from coercion
or the one who coerces her fall?

And who should Hell most welcome in
   (though both should be deeply abashed),
   the woman who sins for the cash,
or the man who pays cash for the sin?

So why does your guilt, oh so dire,
   make all of you men so afraid?
   Either love us as what you have made
or make of us what you desire

You'd find you have much better cause,
   if you’d give up your stupid chase,
   should you want to build up a strong case
against she who for your love implores

Oh, I see just how smugly you revel
   in your arsenal of libertine's arms,
   but combined in your pleas and your charms
are the World and the Flesh and the Devil!

First 4 verses 2003, completed 25/4/2019

A gifted child, the only way the illegitimate (and female) Juana de Asbaje could get any formal education was to become a nun.
She amassed a library of over 4,000 books and, reputedly, a number of lovers of both sexes.
A brilliant and witty writer and polemicist, she corresponded with many leading religious and political figures,
until her defence of the rights of women to an education displeased the bishop.
She was forced to sell off her library and turn to charitable works.
She died in 1695 of the plague, contracted while treating her fellow nuns.

[Translators note: as with Tres cosas, I have preserved the then popular ABBA rhyme scheme for the verses, if not sticking exactly to the rhythm. Inflected languages give one a lot more scope for rhymes than English!]