Wednesday, 6 January 2021

If I Could Only Write - Ramón de Campoamor

“And will you write a letter for me, padre?”—
  “Yes, child—no need to tell me the address!”
“Do you know whom it’s for because on that dark evening
        You saw us walking?”—“Yes.”
“Pardon! forgive!”—“Oh no, I don’t reproach you!
  The night, the chance—they tempted you, I know.
Pass me the pen and paper—I will begin, then—”
        My own Antonio!
“‘My own’?”—“Why, yes, I have it written;
  But if you like, I’ll—”—“Oh no, no, go on!”
How sad I am—“Is that it?”—“Yes, of course, sir!”
        How sad I am alone!
Now that I’m writing you, I feel so troubled!—
        “How do you know so well?”—
“The secrets of a young girl’s heart, my daughter,
        The old can always tell.”
What is this world alone? A vale of tears, love!
        With you—a happy land!
“Be sure you write it plainly, won’t you, padre?
        So that he’ll understand.”
The kiss I gave you on the eve of marching—
        “Why, how did you find out?”—
“Oh, when young people come and go together,
        Always—nay, do not pout!”
And if your love can’t bring you back here quickly,
        ’Twill make me suffer—I—
“Suffer! and nothing more? No, no, dear padre,
        Tell him ’twill make me die!”
“Die! child, do you know that offends our Father?”
        “But still, padre, write die!”
“I will not write ‘die.’”—“What a man of iron!
        If I could only try!
“Oh no, it is no use, you dear good padre:
        ’Twill never perfect be
If in these signs you cannot lay before him
        The very heart of me.
“Write him, I pray you, that my soul without him
        Would gladly mourn and die,
But that this lonely heartache does not kill me
        Because I’ve learned to cry.
“And that my lips, the roses of my love’s breath,
        Will never ope again;
That they forget the very art of smiling,
        By dint of so much pain.
“And that my eyes he always thought so lovely,—
        No longer clear and bright,
Since there is no dear face to mirror in them,—
        Forever shun the light.
“And that of all the torments ever suffered,
        Parting’s most hard to bear;
That like a dream the echo of his voice is ringing
        Forever in my ear.
“But since it is for his dear sake I suffer,
        My heavy heart grows light;—
Goodness! how many things I’d like to tell him
        If I could only write!
“But, padre”—“Bravo, Amor! I’ll copy and conclude there.
        Our learning should be meek.
’Tis clear that one needs for this style of writing
        Small Latin and less Greek.”

Ramón de Campoamor (1817–1901) Spain
Translated by Ellen Watson
Source: Library of World’s Best Literature. Charles Dudley Warner, et al. Warner Library Co., 1917

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