Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: “A Su Retrato / To Her Portrait”

A SU RETRATO

Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engaño del sentido:

éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores,
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

es un vano artificio del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado:

es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadáver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz


TO HER PORTRAIT

This coloured counterfeit that thou beholdest,
vainglorious with excellencies of art,
is, in fallacious syllogisms of colour,
nought but a cunning dupery of sense;

this in which flattery has undertaken
to extenuate the hideousness of years,
and, vanquishing the outrages of time,
to triumph o’er oblivion and old age,

is an empty artifice of care,
is a fragile flower in the wind,
is a paltry sanctuary from fate,

is a foolish sorry labour lost,
is conquest doomed to perish and, well taken,
is corpse and dust, shadow and nothingness.

Translation by Samuel Beckett

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7 thoughts on “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: “A Su Retrato / To Her Portrait”

  1. Nice translation. Lots of feeling–seems very close to that of the original. I also liked how you used the Old English.

  2. Hope to see you again this year. Not registered yet in the calendar, but we will see. I am working on the World March for Peace and NonViolence, DC so I won’t have much time. Pls. say hi to your family on my behalf.
    Cheers, Neida

  3. Very nice presentation. Thanks! Another translation, the one by poet-feminist Muna Lee, complements the Beckett with different language:

    This which you gaze upon, a painted lie,
    Blazoning forth with niceties of art
    False syllogisms that the hues impart,
    Is a shrewd snare, the sense being ta’en thereby.
    This, wherein the flatteries try to cover
    The horrors of the years, and to erase
    The rigors Time has left upon the face,
    Age and forgetfulness to triumph over:
    Is an artifice most vainly wrought,
    Is a frail flower carried on the wind,
    Is a shield against a sure Fate borne:
    Is the idle labor of a vagrant mind,
    Is a solicitude ponderous and out-worn,
    Is corpse—is dust—is shadow—and is naught.

  4. Jonathan–thank you for posting Muna Lee’s translation of Sor Juana’s sonnet which I’ve not seen before. That one could stay as close to the Spanish text as Lee has AND keep to the rigor of end rhymes amazes me. A great work–thanks again

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