The thought of seafarers stranded by the thousands because of the COVID-19 pandemic makes me hark back to a poem in Spanish entitled ‘Perdón si por mis ojos’. It was written by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973), winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature. I am delighted to share this powerful poem together with my English translation. Neruda describes the inner life of the seafarer against a backdrop of water, rock and seaweed.

PERDÓN SI POR MIS OJOS

Perdón si por mis ojos no llegó
mas claridad que la espuma marina,
perdón porque mi espacio
se extiende sin amparo
y no termina:
monótono es mi canto,
mi palabra es un pájaro sombrío,
fauna de piedra y mar, el desconsuelo
de un planeta invernal, incorruptible.
Perdón por esta sucesión del agua,
de la roca, la espuma, el desvarío
de la marea: así es mi soledad:
bruscos saltos de sal contra los muros
de mi secreto ser, de tal manera
que yo soy una parte
del invierno,
de la misma extensión que se repite
de campana en campana en tantas olas
y de un silencio como cabellera,
silencio de alga, canto sumergido.

FORGIVE ME IF THROUGH MY EYES

Forgive me if through my eyes comes
nothing clearer than sea foam,
forgive me because my space
spreads out without refuge
and does not end:
my song is monotonous
my word is a sullen bird,
fauna of stone and sea, the desolation
of a wintry planet, incorruptible.
Forgive me this succession of water,
of rock, the froth, the delirium
of the tide: so is my solitude:
sudden leaps of brine against the walls
of my secret being, in such a way
I am a part
of winter,
of the selfsame extension that repeats itself
from bell to bell in so many waves
and from the silence like a head of hair,
silence of seaweed, underwater song.

(translation by B.U. © Marine Café Blog) 

Pablo Neruda wrote another wonderful poem, ‘Si tu me olvidas‘ (If you forget me), which deals with the separation between lovers. It is a poem many seafarers can identify with. The English version  is recited by the American singer and songwriter, Madonna, in the following video clip. To read the poem in the original Spanish, click here.

~ Barista Uno

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