Selected Poems of Garcilaso de la Vega: A Bilingual Edition


Garcilaso de la Vega (ca. 1501–36), a Castilian nobleman and soldier at the court of Charles V, lived a short but glamorous life. As the first poet to make the Italian Renaissance lyric style at home in Spanish, he is credited with beginning the golden age of Spanish poetry. Known for his sonnets and pastorals, gracefully depicting beauty and love while soberly accepting their passing, he is shown here also as a calm student of love’s psychology and a critic of the savagery of ...

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Garcilaso de la Vega (ca. 1501–36), a Castilian nobleman and soldier at the court of Charles V, lived a short but glamorous life. As the first poet to make the Italian Renaissance lyric style at home in Spanish, he is credited with beginning the golden age of Spanish poetry. Known for his sonnets and pastorals, gracefully depicting beauty and love while soberly accepting their passing, he is shown here also as a calm student of love’s psychology and a critic of the savagery of war.

This bilingual volume is the first in nearly two hundred years to fully represent Garcilaso for an Anglophone readership. In facing-page translations that capture the music and skill of Garcilaso’s verse, John-Dent Young presents the sonnets, songs, elegies, and eclogues that came to influence generations of poets, including San Juan de la Cruz, Luis de Leon, Cervantes, and Góngora. The Selected Poems of Garcilaso de la Vega will help to explain to the English-speaking public this poet’s preeminence in the pantheon of Spanish letters.

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Editorial Reviews

Ricardo Padr�n

“John Dent-Young has done something that I did not think possible: he has successfully rendered Garcilaso’s verse in English in ways that capture its rhythm and grace, while at the same time conveying its sense with all the directness and elusiveness of the original. This edition stands to become the point of entry into the work of this classic Spanish poet for readers of English.”
Josiah Blackmore
“Dent-Young reveals Garcilaso’s lyrics as an imaginative meeting-place, where the poet's intensity of sentiment encounters the sweep of his philosophy and his erudition. English-speaking readers can here immerse themselves in the mind of one of Spain’s outstanding poetic talents. These accomplished translations make Garcilaso’s Renaissance literary art shine.”
William J. Kennedy
“Dent-Young captures clearly and precisely the difficult simplicity of this most foundational of Spanish poets. His authoritative translation renders Garcilaso’s changing moods and contrasting images in all their delicate gravity. This volume provides long overdue access to a marvelously supple, skeptical, resolute poet.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226141886
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Dent-Young is a freelance editor and translator who has also translated from Chinese. He was a lecturer in English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for nearly twenty years. He is the editor and translator of Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Read an Excerpt

Selected Poems of Garcilaso de la Vega


The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2009 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-14188-6

Chapter One

Soneto I

        Cuando me paro a contemplar mi estado,
    y a ver los pasos por do me han traído,
    hallo, según por do anduve perdido,
    que a mayor mal pudiera haber llegado;

        mas cuando del camino estó olvidado,
    a tanto mal no sé por dó he venido;
    sé que me acabo, y más he yo sentido
    ver acabar comigo mi cuidado.

        Yo acabaré, que me entregué sin arte
    a quien sabrá perderme y acabarme,
    si ella quisiere, y aun sabrá querello;

        que pues mi voluntad puede matarme,
    la suya, que no es tanto de mi parte,
    pudiendo, ¿qué hará sino hacello?

Sonnet I

    When I stop to view my situation
    and contemplate the steps that brought me here,
    seeing the dangers of the way, I feel
    I might have reached a far worse destination;

    but when I cease to think about the journey,
    I wonder that my state should be so bad;
    I know I'm finished, and what most makes me sad
    is thinking how this love of mine ends with me.

    I'm finished, through my innocent surrender
    to one able to end me, able to kill 10
    if so she wishes ... and able too to wish it;

    for if I can be killed by my own will,
    then her will, so much less in my favor,
    being able, what will it do but do it?

Soneto V

        Escrito está en mi alma vuestro gesto,
    y cuanto yo escrebir de vos deseo;
    vos sola lo escrebistes, yo lo leo
    tan solo, que aun de vos me guardo en esto.

        En esto estoy y estaré siempre puesto;
    que aunque no cabe en mí cuanto en vos veo,
    de tanto bien lo que no entiendo creo,
    tomando ya la fe por presupuesto.

        Yo no nací sino para quereros;
    mi alma os ha cortado a su medida;
    por hábito del alma misma os quiero.

        Cuanto tengo confieso yo deberos;
    por vos nací, por vos tengo la vida,
    por vos he de morir y por vos muero.

Sonnet V

    Your countenance is written in my soul,
    and everything I'd wish to write about you;
    you wrote it there yourself, while all I do
    is read—still with an attitude that's fearful.

    This is, and will always be, my occupation;
    and though for all I see my soul lacks space,
    I still believe in a good beyond my grasp,
    given that faith's the primary assumption.

    I was only born so I could love you:
    my soul has cut you to its own dimensions,
    as my soul's own habit I must have you;

    everything I have I know I owe you;
    for you was I born, for you I hold my life;
    for you I will die, am dying, here and now.

Soneto X

        ¡Oh dulces prendas, por mi mal halladas,
    dulces y alegres cuando Dios quería!
    Juntas estáis en la memoria mía,
    y con ella en mi muerte conjuradas.

    ¿Quién me dijera, cuando en las pasadas
    horas en tanto bien por vos me vía,
    que me habíades de ser en algún día
    con tan grave dolor representadas?

        Pues en un hora junto me llevastes
    todo el bien que por términos me distes,
    llevadme junto el mal que me dejastes.

        Si no, sospecharé que me pusistes
    en tantos bienes, porque deseastes
    verme morir entre memorias tristes.

Sonnet X

    O sweet mementoes, unfortunately found,
    sweet and also, when God willed it, happy!
    You live together in my memory
    and, with memory conspiring, plot my end.

    When in those times, now forever fled,
    your presence was such happiness to me,
    how could I imagine you would be
    with such a pain as this revisited?

    Since in one moment you took it all away,
    the happiness you'd given over time,
    take away too this pain that you have left me;

    or else I shall suppose you only showed me
    such happiness because it was your aim
    among sad memories to see me die.

Soneto XI

        Hermosas ninfas, que en el río metidas,
    contentas habitáis en las moradas
    de relucientes piedras fabricadas
    y en colunas de vidrio sostenidas;

        agora estéis labrando embebecidas,
    o tejiendo las telas delicadas;
    agora unas con otras apartadas,
    contándoos los amores y las vidas;

        dejad un rato la labor, alzando
    vuestras rubias cabezas a mirarme,
    y no os dentendréis mucho según ando;

        que o no podréis de lástima escucharme,
    o convertido en agua aquí llorando,
    podréis allá de espacio consolarme.

Sonnet XI

    Slender nymphs who dwell within the river,
    contentedly inhabiting those halls
    that are constructed out of shining jewels
    and underset by colonnades of crystal,

    whether bowed over your embroidery,
    or toiling at the weaver's delicate art,
    or whether sitting in little groups apart
    making your loves and lives into a story,

    for a moment set aside what you are doing
    and raise your lovely heads to view my plight;
    you won't spend long, for such is my present state

    either for pity you will shrink from listening
    or, when weeping turns me into water here,
    there'll be time enough to comfort me down there.

Soneto XIII

        A Dafne ya los brazos le crecían,
    y en luengos ramos vueltos se mostraban;
    en verdes hojas vi que se tornaban
    los cabellos que al oro escurecían.

        De áspera corteza se cubrían
    los tiernos miembros, que aún bullendo estaban;
    los blancos pies en tierra se hincaban,
    y en torcidas raíces se volvían.

        Aquel que fué la causa de tal daño,
    a fuerza de llorar, crecer hacía
    este árbol que con lágrimas regaba.

        ¡Oh miserable estado, oh mal tamaño!
    ¡Que con lloralla cresca cada día
    la causa y la razón por que lloraba!

Sonnet XIII

    Daphne's arms were growing: now they were seen
    taking on the appearance of slim branches;
    those tresses, which discountenanced gold's brightness,
    were, as I watched, turning to leaves of green;

    the delicate limbs still quivering with life
    became scarfed over with a rough skin of bark,
    the white feet to the ground were firmly stuck,
    changed into twisted roots, which gripped the earth.

    He who was the cause of this great evil
    so wildly wept the tree began to grow,
    because with his tears he watered it himself.

    O wretched state, o monumental ill,
    that the tears he weeps should cause each day to grow
    that which is cause and motive for his grief.

Soneto XVII

        Pensando que el camino iba derecho,
    vine a parar en tanta desventura,
    que imaginar no puedo, aun con locura,
    algo de que esté un rato satisfecho.

        El ancho campo me parece estrecho;
    la noche clara para mí es escura;
    la dulce compañía, amarga y dura,
    y duro campo de batalla el lecho.

        Del sueño, si hay alguno, aquella parte
    sola que es ser imagen de la muerte
    se aviene con el alma fatigada.

        En fin, que como quiera, estoy de arte,
    que juzgo ya por hora menos fuerte,
    aunque en ella me vi, la que es pasada.

Sonnet XVII

    Thinking that the road I took was straight,
    I landed in such misery it seems
    that now I cannot conceive, in wildest dreams,
    anything that would content me for a moment.

    The open countryside's a narrow cage,
    the beauty of moonlight is dark night to me,
    while hard and bitter is sweet company
    and my bed hard as the ground where battles rage;

    of sleep, if it comes, I welcome only the part
    that is an aspect of death's gloomy image,
    for that alone accords with my weary soul.

    And, say what you will, I'm now in such a state
    I hold this present pain to be more savage
    than anything in the past, though its pain was real.

Soneto XXIII

        En tanto que de rosa y azucena
    se muestra la color en vuestro gesto,
    y que vuestro mirar ardiente, honesto,
    con clara luz la tempestad serena;

        y en tanto que el cabello, que en la vena
    del oro se escogió, con vuelo presto,
    por el hermoso cuello blanco, enhiesto,
    el viento mueve, esparce y desordena;

        coged de vuestra alegre primavera
    el dulce fruto, antes que el tiempo airado
    cubra de nieve la hermosa cumbre,

        Marchitará la rosa el viento helado,
    todo lo mudará la edad ligera,
    por no hacer mudanza en su costumbre.

Sonnet XXIII

    While colors of the lily and the rose
    are displayed within the outline of your face,
    and with that look, both passionate and chaste,
    storms grow still in the clear light of your eyes;

    and while your hair that seems to have been mined
    from seams of gold, and seeming too in flight
    about that neck, so white, so bravely upright,
    is moved and spread and scattered by the wind,

    seize the sweet fruits of your joyous spring,
    now, before angry time creates a waste,
    summoning snow to hide the glorious summit:

    the rose will wither in the icy blast
    and fickle time will alter everything,
    if only to be constant in its habit.

Soneto XXV

        ¡Oh hado esecutivo en mis dolores,
    cómo sentí tus leyes rigurosas!
    Cortaste el árbol con manos dañosas,
    y esparciste por tierra fruta y flores.

        En poco espacio yacen mis amores
    y toda la esperanza de mis cosas,
    tornadas en cenizas desdeñosas,
    y sordas a mis quejas y clamores.

        Las lágrimas que en esta sepultura
    se vierten hoy en día y se vertieron 10
    recibe, aunque sin fruto allá te sean,

        hasta que aquella eterna noche escura
    me cierre aquestos ojos que te vieron,
    dejándome con otros que te vean.

Sonnet XXV

    O fate, so active to promote my troubles,
    how hard I find your laws have been to me;
    with your destroying hands you felled the tree
    and scattered on the ground the fruits and flowers.

    In a narrow space my unbounded love now lies
    together with all the hopes I ever had;
    all are turned to ashes, disdainful, cold
    and deaf to my complaints and to my cries.

    Accept the tears that on this grave are spilt
    today, and those that in the past you caused,
    albeit there they have no value to you,

    until by the dark of that eternal night
    these eyes of mine that saw you shall be closed,
    leaving me with other eyes to see you.


Excerpted from Selected Poems of Garcilaso de la Vega Copyright © 2009 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents





I                       Cuando me paro a contemplar mi estado::

When I stop to view my situation . . .

V                     Escrito está en mi alma vuestro gesto::

                        Your countenance is written in my soul . . .

X                     ¡Oh dulces prendas, por mi mal halladas::

O sweet mementoes, unfortunately found . . .

XI                    Hermosas ninfas, que en el río metidas::

Slender nymphs who dwell within the river . . .

XIII                  A Dafne ya los brazos le crecían::

Daphne’s arms were growing . . .

XVII                Pensando que el camino iba derecho::

                        Thinking that the road I took was straight . . .

XXIII               En tanto que de rosa y azucena::

While colors of the lily and the rose . . .

XXV                ¡Oh hado esecutivo en mis dolores::

O fate, so active to promote my troubles . . .

XXX                Sospechas, que en mi triste fantasía::

Suspicion, how you occupy my sad . . .

XXXII             Estoy contino en lágrimas bañado::

                        I am continually half drowned in tears . . .

XXXIII            Mario, el ingrato amor, como testigo::

Mario, Love the ingrate having observed . . .

XXXV             Boscán, las armas y el furor de Marte::

Arms, Boscán, and the fury of rampant Mars . . .

XXXVII           Mi lengua va por do el dolor la guía::

                        My tongue simply follows where pain leads . . .



III                    Con un manso ruido::

With the gentle lapping . . .

V                     Si de mi baja lira::

If the sound of my simple . . .



I                       Aunque este grave caso haya tocado::

Although this dread event has touched my soul . . .

II                      Aquí, Boscán, donde del buen troyano::

Here, Boscán, where the great Mantuan locates . . .

Epistle              Señor Boscán, quien tanto gusto tiene::

Señor Boscán, for one who takes such pleasure . . .



I                       El dulce lamenter de dos pastores::

Of two shepherds’ melodious laments . . .

from II             En medio del invierno está templada::

Even in the depths of winter, the water . . .

III                    Aquella voluntad honesta y pura::

That pure and honorable sense of duty . . .

Appendix A: Two Coplas

Appendix B: Letter (as a prologue to Boscán’s translation of Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier)


Selected Bibliography

Index of Titles and First Lines

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