Monday Salon

It appears lately I can only blog for a week at a time, and then I fail. Well, I’m off work and traveling this week, so last week was pretty busy with prevacation stuff to take care of. And I could really use this vacation, I’m sure it will help the blogging along with the rest of my life. I’ve still been quietly reading, just too blocked to write anything.

One happy side-effect of my trip back to NY/CT was that on Saturday I got to go with my dad to see Leonard Cohen, probably the chance of a lifetime. And it was amazing. I’ve shared some of his poetry before; here I will share part of a song he adapted from a Federico García Lorca poem, “Pequeño Vals Vienés” (“Little Viennese Waltz” or “Small Viennese Waltz,” I’ve seen both).

The original poem in Spanish, a language I can only pretend to read, doesn’t seem to scan very well for me. But I know nothing at all about Spanish poetry; maybe it’s not supposed to in that way. But there are a few lines where the feel of a waltz comes through—where things come in threes: “Te quiero, te quiero, te quiero” “Porque te quiero, te quiero, amor mío,” “Este vals, este vals, este vals, este vals,
de sí, de muerte y de coñac.” Somewhat strangely, the English translation in the Grove Press edition of Poet in New York doesn’t preserve that. The lines are, respectively, “I love you, I love you” “Because I want you, my love” “This walt, this waltz, about itself, about death and cognac” (the last one sort of does, because you can’t just delete the part about cognac, but it should have a third “about,” don’t you think?).

But I think my whole reading of it is too colored by knowing the song, “Take this Waltz.” Which is a waltz, and therefore really sounds waltzy and introduces threes where they weren’t in the original. E.g., we go from “Take this waltz that dies in my arms” to “Take this waltz, take this waltz, take this waltz, it’s been dying for years.” Like I said, adapted, not translated, for the song. I think it’s quite lovely.

Last stanza of the original:

In Vienna I’ll dance with you
wearing a disguise
with the head of a river.
Look at the hyacinth shores I wear!
I will leave my mouth between your legs,
my soul in photographs and white lilies.
In the dark waves of your journey
I want, my love, to leave
—violin and tomb—the ribbons of waltz.

Last stanza of the song:

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna,
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise.
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
my mouth on the dew of your thighs.
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
with the photographs there and the moss.
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty,
my cheap violin and my cross.
And you’ll carry me down on your dancing
to the pools that you lift on your wrist—
O my love, O my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
it’s yours now. It’s all that there is.

I really like that “I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise.”