The garden is brilliant and in bloom.
Over the weeds, among the foliage,
The wind passes, dreamy and distracted,
Pilgrim of a thousand pilgrimages.
May is acidic and multicoloured,
Devoured by its own ardour,
In this crystal-clear afternoon
It moves down the paths
Towards the fantastic disorder
Of my good and my evil.
And in its dance carried
Through the garden delirious I wander,
Now leaning forward and taking in
The gardens at the bottom of the lake,
Now losing my gaze
In the indescribable greenery
Of new and tender leaves
Where I seek to satisfy
My long thirst for freshness.
Featured in memory of Colin Rorrison (1983-2012)
O jardim está brilhante e florido.
Sobre as ervas, entre as folhagens,
O vento passa, sonhador e distraído,
Peregrino de mil romagens.
É Maio ácido e multicolor,
Devorado pelo próprio ardor,
Que nesta clara tarde de cristal
Avança pelos caminhos
Até os fantásticos desalinhos
Do meu bem e do meu mal.
E no seu bailado levada
Pelo jardim deliro e divago,
Ora espreitando debruçada
Os jardins do fundo do lago,
Ora perdendo o meu olhar
Na indizível verdura
Das folhas novas e tenras
Onde eu queria saciar
A minha longa sede de frescura.
Notes on this poem
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s O Jardim was first published in 1947. Andresen produced a large body of poetry over the course of her life in which childhood, the sea, the city, classical antiquity, time and nature were among her favoured subjects. In her work, the natural world represents beauty, freedom, mystery and the possibility of perfection. I chose to translate O Jardim as its suggestive imagery and distinctive formal characteristics offer a particularly engaging example of the poet’s reflections on the natural world.
When translating poetry from Portuguese to English the translator is often faced with certain general problems, such as how best to reproduce the density of cultural meaning attached to certain words. In addition, the syllabic length of certain kinds of words can be a notable issue. For example, the way verbs conjugate in Portuguese inevitably produces polysyllabic words, while in contrast English uses series of, often, monosyllabic words, such as “Gostaria/I would like”. I took a free approach to translating the poem, aiming principally to reproduce the imagery and ideas expressed in Andresen’s original. However the original is governed by a variety of striking formal echoes. Consequently, the main problem I was faced with was to what extent I should try to reproduce the formal structure of O Jardim. In Portuguese, rhyme directs each stanza of the poem, while assonance, repetition, rhythmic changes, and anaphora are employed at different stages to structure the reader’s experience of the poem. I decided that the quality of the final poem would be negatively affected by trying to impose a rhyme scheme onto it. Nevertheless, other aspects of form could be maintained, such as the assonance “devorado/ardor”, “devoured/ardour” on line 6. In addition new cohesive elements could be created, such as the repetition of “pilgrim/pilgrimage” and alliteration of “dreamy/distracted”.