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Finding the Meaning

You may suggest that translating is nothing more than finding one word’s equivalent in another language. You may believe that your dictionary can solve all your grammatical woes. Your electronic translator or software may seem to be the most reliable way to get the author’s point across.

You would be wrong.

An experienced translator doesn’t just exchange one word for another. If we’re talking about poetry, for example, words have very little to do with it. A good translator reads beyond the words on paper to find the true intended meaning. She taps into the images, sounds, feelings and experiences which the author invokes. That is what she translates.
Ramón Rodríguez is a local poet of international renown. He turned 82 not long ago. In his honor, the University of Veracruz has recovered some of his most important work. Two translations of T.S. Eliot’s poem “Virginia” appear in the literary journal La palabra y el hombre. The first is a more literal translation and the second is Ramon’s interpretive translation.

Here is the poem “Virginia” in English:

Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.

Here is a translation done by Octavio Castro López:

Río rojo, río rojo
Tu tranquilo flujo ardiente es silencio
Ninguna voluntad es todavía como un río
Apacible. ¿Os conmoverá este afán vehemente
Sólo hasta que hayáis escuchado
Al cenzontle? Las colinas apacibles
Esperan. Esperan los pórticos. Los purpúreos árboles,
Los árboles blancos , esperan, esperan,
Se detienen y declinan. Vivir, vivir,
Jamás transformarse. Y aun transformándose
Mis férreos pensamientos vinieron conmigo
Y conmigo se van:
Río rojo, río, río.

Here is the translation done by Ramón Rodríguez:

Río Rojo, rojo río
fluyendo silencioso,
ningún silencio como el tuyo,
¿Escuchas el sonido de los pájaros?
los Pájaros que esperan,
como las colinas, como los puentes,
como los blancos árboles que esperan,
que permanecen, decaen, viven, viven,
inmóviles, movibles,
lo que se mueve conmigo
lo que se va conmigo:
Río Rojo, rojo río.