I have to admit it, I am “enamoradiza.” I check Google to see what the meaning is in English: “lovesick, person who falls in love easily, amorous, besotted.” Who in the world says that? Let’s agree that something is lost in translation, but I think I know how I became this way.
I don’t remember my parents reading fairy tales to me when I was a little girl; they did, however, recite beautiful poems that I can repeat to this day. One of my favorites was “Sonatina” by Rubén Darío (1867-1916), the Nicaraguan Modernist poet. If I was sad and sighing his words would echo around me:
“The little princess is sad… from the princess slips
such sighs in her words from the strawberry lips.
Gone from them laughter and the warm light of day.
Pallid she is sat in her golden chair;
unsounded the keys of the harpsichord there,
and a flower, from a vase, has swooned away.”
No wonder years later, I loved teaching personification images to my unsuspecting students.
“Ah, the poor princess, with that mouth of roses,
thinks of butterfly and swallow, but supposes
how easily with wings she would soar up under
the bright ladders brought down from the sunlit day.
With lilies she would meet the fresh songs of May,
and be one with the wind in the ocean’s thunder.”
and, of course, I have said it here before how I am like a swallow…
The poem has eight long stanzas with its climatic end when the prince arrives:
“Be patient, my princess: the horse has wings,
for you he is coming, the fairy godmother sings.
With a sword in his belt he has a hawk above,
and a kiss to ignite you, to vanquish death:
never has he seen you, but joyous the breath
from the prince who awakes you: you will be his love.”*
“Remember how you longed to be a Marguerite
Gautier? Burned on my brain, the strangeness of your face
On that first date when we went out to eat:
Light-hearted night with none thereafter to take its place.
Your lips, smeared scarlet with a crude lipstick replete
With purple, sipped champagne with exquisite grace
From finest crystal while you plucked a… yes, marguerite:
‘He loves me, he loves me not…’ You knew quite well the case.”**
Marguerite Gautier had a long life as the protagonist in The Lady of the Camellias (1848). But trust me, this translation doesn’t do it justice.
Maybe I learned my lesson, because I didn’t recite love poems to my two daughters, although I do remember reading Mother Goose to them. What I took very seriously was to teach them how to read even before they started school with Doctor Seuss books; how they loved Green Eggs and Ham, Are You My Mother? and The Cat in the Hat! Funny how they told me years later that they never noticed I had an accent reading to them in English.
Unsuspectedly, this post brings me back to my book American in Translation (2011). A memory within a memory, I guess.
*Translated by John Holcombe
**Translated by William Ruleman