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Sonnet XVIII

What have I that my friendship you should seek?

What wealth from it, my Jesus, could you gain

so that at my front door, bedecked with dew,

you spend dark winter nights in snow and sleet?

How hard was I within my deepest core

to never let you in! How strangely mad

if of my callousness the frigid ice

dried up the bleeding wounds of your pure feet!

How many times the angel said to me,

“Soul, come now to the window and look out:

you’ll see with how much love he knocks again!”

And oh, how many times, beauty divine,

“Tomorrow he may enter,” I’d respond,

only tomorrow to respond the same!


Faint, dare, be furious,

rough, tender, liberal, elusive,

encouraged, deadly, deceased, alive,

loyal, traitorous, cowardly and spirited;

not find outside the good center and rest,

be happy, sad, humble, haughty,

angry, brave, fugitive,

satisfied, offended, suspicious;

flee the face to the clear disappointment,

drink poison by suave liquor,

forget the profit, love the damage;

believe that a heaven fits into a hell,

give life and soul to disappointment;

This is love, whoever tasted it knows it.

Sonnet CXLIX (149)

Rusty chains, scattered links,

Broken planks washing up ashore,

Fierce halberds with shattered shafts,

Burst muskets and cannons;

Ruins of battered towers

Whose sight inspires the labourer

To thresh the floor white, flags in tatters,

Dented, bloody morions;

Rigging, shackles, relics of banners,

Gaol, sea, war, Algiers, pursuit and winds

Reveal themselves on earth as castles in the air.

Likewise, my verses in many an instance,

My captive love, the sea of my torments

And the deadly war about my senses.

Soneto 61

Ir y quedarse, y con quedar partirse
partir sin alma, e ir con alma ajena
oír la dulce voz de una sirena,
y no poder del árbol desasirse;

arder como la vela y consumirse
haciendo torres sobre tierna arena;
caer del cielo, y ser demonio en pena,
y de serlo jamás arrepentirse;

hablar entre las mudas soledades,
pedir prestada, sobre fe, paciencia,
y lo que es temporal llamar eterno;

creer sospechas y negar verdades,
es lo que llaman en el mundo ausencia,
fuego en el alma y en la vida infierno.

Sonnet 61

To go and stay, to stay and split apart,

to part without a soul and make your way

with someone else’s soul; to have to stay

bound to the mast while a siren tempts your heart;

to burn straight down the wick until you’re spent,

constructing castles on the softest sand;

to tumble from a heaven and be damned,

a tortured demon, never to repent;

to speak among hushed solitudes; to accrue

on faith a debt of patience; to proclaim

eternal all this fleeting daily strife;

to trust suspicions and suspect what’s true

is what the world calls absence: it’s a flame

within your soul, a hell within your life.

Translated by David Rosenthal

A una calavera

Esta cabeza, cuando viva, tuvo

sobre la arquitectura destos huesos

carne y cabellos, por quien fueron presos

los ojos que mirándola detuvo.

Aquí la rosa de la boca estuvo,

marchita ya con tan helados besos,

aquí los ojos de esmeralda impresos,

color que tantas almas entretuvo.

Aquí la estimativa en que tenía

el principio de todo el movimiento,

aquí de las potencias la armonía.

Oh hermosura mortal, cometa al viento!,

¿dónde tan alta presunción vivía,

desprecian los gusanos aposento?

To a Skull

This head, when alive had

On the architecture of its bones

Flesh and hair, by which the eyes,

That stopped to look at it, were made prisoners.

Here the pink mouth was

Fading already with such cold kisses,

Here the emerald eyes were imprinted,

Color that entertained so many souls.

Here the judgment that was

The source of all movement,

Here the powers of harmony.

Oh mortal beauty, kite in the wind!,

Where such lofty presumption lived,

The worms despise the chamber.

O Navis

Poor bark of Life, upon the billows hoarse

Assailed by storms of envy and deceit,

Across what cruel seas in passage fleet

My and sword alone direct thy course!

My pen is dull; my sword of little force;

Thy side lies open to the wild waves' beat

As out from Favor's harbors we retreat,

Pursued by hopes deceived and vain remorse.

Let heaven by star to guide thee! here below

How vain the joys that foolish hearts desire!

Here friendship dies and enmity keeps true;

Here happy days have left thee long ago!

But seek not port, brave thou the tempest's ire;

Until the end thy fated course pursue!

Translated by Roderick Gill