I’ve been working (slowly…) on a couple papers for classes, one of which led me on a brief and surprising goose chase through my bookshelf. Along with the article I was originally looking for, I also found a collection of poems I translated for a poetry class back in the dark ages of 2003. Reading back over them today, I was surprised that these were the poems I had chosen, and I wonder what exactly they meant to me then, compared to what they mean to me now:

Der Phönix
— Gotthold Lessing

Nach vielen Jahrhunderten gefiel es dem Phönix, sich wieder einmal
sehen zu lassen. Er erschien, und alle Tiere und Vögel versammelten
sich um ihn. Sie gafften, sie staunten, sie bewunderten und brachen
in entzückendes Lob aus.

Bald aber verwandten die besten und geselligsten mitleidsvoll ihre
Blicke und seufzten: “Der unglückliche Phönix! Ihm ward das harte Los,
weder Geliebte noch Freunde zu haben; denn er ist der einzige seiner
Art!

The Phoenix
by Gotthold Lessing (tr. Sara Q. Thompson)

After several centuries in repose,
the Phoenix decided to be seen once more.
When he appeared, every beast
and bird gathered around him.
They gaped, they marveled, they flattered
and erupted in enthusiastic applause.

But soon, those most sympathetic and compassionate
looked away and sighed: “Poor Phoenix…
he is the most unfortunate,
having neither love nor friend —
cursed to be the one and only.”

and this one, from one of my favorite poets:

Soneto XLIV

— Pablo Neruda

Sabrás que no te amo y que te amo
puesto que de dos modos es la vida,
la palabra es un ala del silencio,
el fuego tiene una mitad de frío.

Yo te amo para comenzar a amarte,
para recomenzar el infinito
y para no dejar de amarte nunca:
por eso no te amo todavía.

Te amo y no te amo como si tuviera
en mis manos las llaves de la dicha
y un incierto destino desdichado.

Mi amor tiene dos vidas para armarte.
Por eso te amo cuando no te amo
y por eso te amo cuando te amo.

Sonnet 44

by Pablo Neruda (tr. Sara Q. Thompson)

Know that I do not love you and that I love you,
given that life is of two minds,
word is a wing of silence,
and fire is one-half cold.

I love you in order to begin loving you,
in order to renew infinity
so that I’ll never stop loving you:
therefore, I don’t love you yet.

I love and don’t love you as though I’m holding
in my hands the keys to happiness
and to a doubtful desolate destiny.

My love has two lives just to love you.
That’s why I love you when I do not
and why I love you when I do.

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