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Barefoot Portugal

Found it! -- Many thanks to Deborah for sending me Unamuno's poem "Portugal" (an unpublished fragment), from which the line quoted in The Stone Raft is taken.

Portugal, Portugal, tierra descalza,
acurrucada junta al mar, tu madre,
llorando soledades
de trágicos amores,
mientras tus pies desnudos las espumas
saladas bañan,
tu verde cabellera suelta al viento
-- cabellera de pinos rumorosos --
los codos descansando en las rodillas,
y la cara morena entre ambas palmas,
clavas tus ojos donde el sol se acuesta
solo en la mar inmensa,
y en el lento naufragio así meditas
de tus glorias de Oriente,
cantando fados quejumbrosa y lenta.

Portugal, Portugal, o barefoot land,
nestled by the sea, your mother,
weeping lonely
over tragic loves
while the salty foam
bathes your naked feet,
your green locks loose to the wind --
locks of whispering pines --
your elbows resting on your knees
and your dark face between your palms,
cast your eyes where the sun goes down
alone in the immense sea
and in this slow shipwreck reflect
on your Oriental glories,
singing fados, plaintive and slow.
(Not making any claims about the quality of this translation -- it is done on the fly. If you have any ideas about how it could be improved, feel free to mention them in the comments.) It's a pretty poem -- in his (engaging) essay on The Rivers of the Douro Valley in Literature, Antonio Garrosa Resina notes that Unamuno composed it during a visit to Oporto in 1907. I'm a little uncomfortable with the juxtaposition of "junta al mar, tu madre" in line 2 and "soledades" in line 3 -- I must be mistranslating this -- not sure what the (plural) "soledades" is referring to but it can't be (singular) Portugal, who is next to her mother the sea... maybe it's "weeping over tragic solitary loves." (Also: is the "slow shipwreck" the sunset? I think Portugal's glories being "Oriental" is a reference to the subject of The Stone Raft, the treaty which gives Portugal imperial dominion over all lands to the east of a particular longitude, Spain over lands to its west.)

Well: this brings up a question for me about Pontiero's translation in The Stone Raft. The context is that José and Joachim have just met Pedro and the three are having dinner, watching the news on TV where they see images of people standing on Portugal's beaches looking at the oncoming ocean. Let's look at the Portuguese and Pontiero's rendering together:
Agora ei-los ali, como Unamuno disse que estavam, la cara morena entre ambas palmas, clavas tus ojos donde el sol se acuesta solo en la mar imensa, todos os povos com o mar a poente fazem o mesmo, este é moreno, não há outra diferença, e navegou. There they are now, as Unamuno described them, his swarthy face cupped in the palms of his hands, Fix your eyes where the lonely sun sets in the immense sea, all nations with the sea to the west do the same, this race is swarthy, there is no other particularity, and it has sailed the seas.
I'm not going to argue with italicizing the quoted portion and capitalizing its first letter, I mean it's not in the original but it reads fine; but how could "la cara morena" possibly be understood as referring to Unamuno's face rather than as part of the quotation? This makes no sense at all to me -- it's an interesting image but it can't be the image intended in the original passage. Note how "moreno" is used again referring to the Portuguese race -- this is the only distinction between them and other peoples with the sea to the west. Here's my attempt at an improvement, relying heavily on Pontiero for a sense of the flow of the passage:

There they are now, as Unamuno described them, Your dark face between your palms, cast your eyes where the sun goes down alone in the immense sea, all peoples with the sea to the west do the same, this one is dark-skinned, there's no other distinction, and has sailed the seas.

posted evening of Monday, October 19th, 2009
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