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V. Si de mi baja lira :: If the sound of my simple

V. Si de mi baja lira :: If the sound of my simple

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Song V

Ode ad florem Gnidi

If the sound of my simple

lyre had such power that in one moment

it could calm the anger

of the violent wind and

the fury of the sea, the sea’s turbulence,


and if in the wilderness

with sweet singing I could melt the savage hearts

of the fiercest animals,

and so move the trees that

they approach, stirred and bewildered by the sound,


do not suppose, beautiful

lily of Knidos, that I would sing of

the deeds of angry Mars,

dedicated to death,

his countenance stained with powder, blood and sweat,


nor of the captains would I

sing, who ride in state, seated in high chariots,

by whom the German princes,

their proud necks tied to the yoke,

and French ones too, are tamed and put on show.


No, for I would sing of

nothing but the power of your beauty,

though occasionally too

I might put on record

the cold-heartedness which is your dread weapon,



y cómo por ti sola,

y por tu gran valor y hermosura,

convertida en viola,

llora su desventura

el miserable amante en su figura.


Hablo de aquel cativo,

de quien tener se debe más cuidado,

que está muriendo vivo,

al remo condenado,

en la concha de Venus amarrado.


Por ti, como solía,

del áspero caballo no corrige

la furia y gallardía,

ni con freno le rige,

ni con vivas espuelas ya le aflige.


Por ti, con diestra mano

no revuelve la espada presurosa,

y en el dudoso llano

huye la polvorosa

palestra como sierpe ponzosa.


Por ti, su blanda musa,

en lugar de la cítara sonante,

tristes querellas usa,

que con llanto abundante

hacen bañar el rostro del amante.


Por ti, el mayor amigo

le es importuno, grave y enojoso;

yo puedo ser testigo,

que ya del peligroso

naufragio fuí su puerto y su reposo.



and tell how only through you,

for the sake of your quality, your beauty,

the wretched lover is turned

into a pale violet

your namesake, and weeps for his ill fortune.


It is of that captive

I speak who deserves more consideration,

for his is a living death,

sentenced and chained to the oar,

a slave caught and bound to the shell of Venus;


because of you, no longer

does he correct the fierce rebellion

of the restless stallion

or control him with the rein

or harry him with sharply pricking spurs;


because of you, he does not

brandish with expert skill the hasty sword,

and on the training ground

he flees the dusty lists

as if anxious to avoid a poisonous snake;


because of you, his gentle

muse abandons her sonorous lyre

for melancholy complaints,

which cause the lover’s face

to be inundated with copious tears;


because of you, he finds

his best friend importunate, a bore, a burden;

as I can testify, who

once was in time of peril

and shipwreck his refuge and safe haven,



Y agora en tal manera

vence el dolor a la razón perdida,

que ponzoñosa fiera

nunca fué aborrecida

tanto como yo dél, ni tan temida.


No fuiste tú engendrada

ni producida de la dura tierra;

no debe ser notada

que ingratamente yerra

quien todo el otro error de sí destierra.


Hágate temerosa

el caso de Anajerete, y cobarde,

que de ser desdosa

se arrepintió muy tarde;

y así, su alma con su mármol arde.


Estábase alegrando

del mal ajeno el pecho empedernido,

cuando abajo mirando,

el cuerpo muerto vido

del miserable amante, allí tendido.


Y al cuello el lazo atado,

con que desenlazó de la cadena

el corazón cuitado,

que con su breve pena

compró la eterna punición ajena.


Sintió allí convertirse

en piedad amorosa el aspereza.

¡Oh tarde arrepentirse!

¡Oh última terneza!

¿Cómo te sucedió mayor dureza?



and now to such degree

is his lost reason overcome by grief

that no poisonous beast

was ever so much hated

as I by him, nor ever so much shunned.


You were not engendered from,

nor fashioned out of the hard earth; it is not

right that one should be known for

the sin of ingratitude,

who has banished from herself all other faults.


It were better you should fear

Anaxarete’s outcome and avoid it,

who of her disdainfulness

too late repented and whose

soul therefore is burning with her marble flesh.


Her flinty heart exulted,

taking its pleasure in another’s pain,

till chancing to turn her eyes

downward she saw the corpse

of the wretched lover stretched upon the ground,


and tied about his neck

the noose, by means of which he had released

the pained heart from its chains

and with this brief suffering

purchased another’s lasting punishment.


Right there she felt her harshness

converted into tender loving pity.

O repentance come too late!

O tenderness at the last!

What then of the greater hardness soon to come?



Los ojos se enclavaron

en el tendido cuerpo que allí vieron,

los huesos se tornaron

más duros y crecieron,

y en sí toda la carne convirtieron;


las entras heladas

tornaron poco a poco en piedra dura;

por las venas cuitadas

la sangre su figura

iba desconociendo y su natura;


hasta que, finalmente,

en duro mármol vuelta y trasformada,

hizo de sí la gente

no tan maravillada

cuanto de aquella ingratitud vengada.


No quieras tú, señora,

de Némesis airada las saetas

probar, por Dios, agora;

baste que tus perfetas

obras y hermosura a los poetas


den inmortal materia,

sin que también en verso lamentable

celebren la miseria

de algún caso notable

que por ti pase triste y miserable.



Her eyes became fixed

on the lifeless body that they saw; then

her bones still further hardened

and grew, until they engrossed

all the flesh, taking it into themselves,


her frozen organs little

by little converted into solid stone;

in the anguished veins the blood

was beginning to forget

its proper form and function, its true nature;


until at the end she was

nothing but hard marble, metamorphosed,

and to the people less

a wonder to behold

than welcome proof of ingratitude avenged.


Do not you then, my lady,

tempt the arrows of angry Nemesis!

Avoid them for God’s sake,

and let it be enough that

your perfect deeds, your beauty, should supply


the poets with immortal

inspiration, without their being obliged

in sad verses to record

some horrible disaster

laid at your door, some wretched tragedy.



The tomb of Garcilaso and his father at St. Peter the Martyr in Toledo, Spain.

Elegies and Epistle to Boscán

The two elegies, in tercetos, were written some time in 1535, after

the Tunis campaign (see Sonnet XXXIII). The Epistle to Boscán

is a little earlier, written most likely in the summer of 1534, when

Garcilaso was returning to Naples after a mission to the court in

Spain—probably to report the capture of Tunis by Barbarossa.

All three poems are formally freer than Garcilaso’s best-known

work and in some sense more personal: they offer interesting

insights into his situation and state of mind.

Elegy I commemorates Don Bernaldino, the duke of Alba’s

younger brother, who died of an illness at Trapani in Sicily. It can

be a little confusing because it addresses different people at different times. I have supplied some breaks in the layout that are

not present in the original, mainly to help identify the changes

in the person addressed. Briefly, the opening addresses don Fernando, the present duke of Alba; lines 76–96 are a meditation

on war; line 101 (English 102) shows that the poet has switched

to addressing don Bernaldino, the dead brother; lines 130–80

speak of the mother and sisters, and then the river Tormes (personified) and nymphs and satyrs of the region, eventually urging

the latter to stop mourning and try to console the family; line 181

returns to don Fernando, giving him reasons why he too should

stop grieving. The end, from line 289, addresses don Bernaldino

in heaven, promising that he will not be forgotten on earth (if

heaven is kind enough to preserve the poet’s work).

It may also be worth noting that the duke was a young man,


a little younger than Garcilaso, whose older friend Boscán had

been his ayo, or “tutor,” for manners and worldly accomplishments.

It is written in terza rima, known in Spanish as tercetos encadenados, or “linked tercets.” In my translation I have only sporadically attempted to reflect the rhyming, which in the Spanish

gives to the form a certain tightness and unity that may seem

lacking in the subject matter.

Elegy II, which is more of an epistle than an elegy and describes

the poet’s feelings about various aspects of his situation, refers

explicitly to the period just after the North African campaign

when the emperor’s army was resting in Sicily before the return

to Naples. It is also in written in tercets, and I have made a more

sustained effort to follow the rhyme scheme in my translation.

The Epistle to Boscán follows the epistles of Horace and is the

first poem in Spanish written in endecasílabos sueltos, or “blank

verse” (though this equates it with the Latin hexameter rather

than Elizabethan blank verse).


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