Wednesday, April 15, 2009



ABC WEDNESDAY and we're already up to letter 'M'.

Monteverdi, who was born in the sixteenth century, wrote Madrigals. I found this translation of one of them and I have taken the liberty of versifying it. I have done this because I was conscious of the fact that there was a link between Monteverdi's words and the lyrics of modern songs bewailing lost love. I have always tended to think of shepherds as 'rough peasants' but many of them, though un-schooled, may have been very sensitive souls. I may be far off Monteverdi's mark, but I hope I've captured a little of the spirit of this old old song.


Direct Translation by Charles Marshall.

He stood in the shadows of a pine
and took a knife. The afternoon was still,
beech leaves had begun to curl and burn
and roots dug still deeper into soil
the sun had scorched and searched all day for rain.
He cut into the rough bark her name
in all the many languages of love
as the sheep slept round him in the shade;
he cursed in wet wood and sap his loss
while the day cooled like a stone;
he carved the few words of hers he’d kept
as the evening breeze whispered in the grove;
and then as darkness fell he read again
her words with stumbling fingers, and he wept.

My Translation
Heavy, the weight of the day.
And the beach leaves scorched and curled.
The roots dug deep in the soil
To find a watery world.
He found the shade of a pine,
Where all his sheep lay sleeping,
And he took from its sheath his knife
Which was always in his keeping.
He cut her name in the bark,
That name meaning so much to him,
But the pain of a lover-left
Almost threatened to undo him.
Deep he cut with the knife,
Till the sap ran like his tears;
He carved the words she had said
Which would torture him for years.
The day began to cool,
But white-hot remained his ardor.
The day sank like a stone,
But the stone of his heart was harder.
The night breeze cooled his cheeks
And the black of night descended.
The sheep must be taken home,
For the long sad day had ended.
The clefts from his knife in the tree
Were no longer seen with his eyes,
But his fingers traced their lines
And he wept for all sad goodbyes.


mrsnesbitt said...

BRENDA! lovely idea! A poem for my mum! Awesome!

Karyn said...

Such a sad've painted a very detailed picture with just a few words....beautiful!

Jane Hards Photography said...

Oh you cleverclogs. Madrigals lovely word rolls around the tongue. I will be going to the Laxey Blues Festival next month. Lots of Madrigals in a Manx style.

photowannabe said...

Beautifully sad. The final sentence is so descriptive...And he wept for all sad goodbyes.

Tumblewords: said...

Ah, this is charming. So many goodbyes are sad... I've heard of madrigals but was pleased to learn a little more. Thank you!

spacedlaw said...

I love madrigals. Thanks.

Rune Eide said...

I am amazed at your versatility with words. They seem to come flowing in an orderly and structured manner and at the same time they are full of wit.

mrsnesbitt said...

Like other comments here, yes a wonderful gift you have.
Words to sum up my mum's words...I would be thrilled for you to pen something!

Dragonstar said...

It's not easy to turn a direct translation back into a poem - well done.

Jay said...

Ah, it's the old story. Love and loss. The very stuff of opera and classical song!

Granny Smith said...

I have a book of sonnets in translation from the Portuguese (Jorge de Sena's AS EVIDENCIAS available from the Portuguese dept. at University of California Santa Barbara)) so I can appreciate the difficulties. Well done!

pictureeachday said...

Ooh, your interpretation is beautiful! You've infused even more emotion into the story than in the original, I think.

I loved working backwards through your blog till I found your ABC post :) The songbird above and grandson below are just adorable!

Kat said...

a great tribute to the "man"kind's love. They really pine and weep for a lost love.