10Y SOME EXCERPTS FROM ‘PLATERO AND I’ he would go back in the noondaybroken, would fail her, as a sum \(Selected chapters and illustrations from “Platero and I,” by Juan Ramon Jimenez, translated by Eloise Roach, illustrated by Jo Alys Downs, University of Texas Press, V FEAR Large, round, pure, the moon comes with us. In the sleepy meadows we see shadowy forms like black goats among the blackberry bushes. At our passing, someone hides noiselessly. A huge almond tree, snowy with blooms and moonlight, its top enveloped in. a white cloud, shadows the road shot with March stars. A penetrating smell of oranges. Dampness and silence. The witches’ glen … “Platero, it is … cold!” PlateroI do not know whether spurred on by his fear or by mine trots, enters the creek bed, steps on the moon and breaks it into pieces. It is as if a swarm of clear crystal roses were entangled at his feet, trying to hold him … A n d Platero trots, uphill, shortening his croup as if someone were after him, alr ea dy sensing the soft warmth which seems u n attainable of the approaching town. VII THE CRAZY-MAN Dressed in. mourning, with my long brown beard and my small black hat, I must look odd riding on Platero’s gray softness. When, on my way to the vineyards, I cross the last streets, whitewashed and d a zzlingl y bright in the sunlight, shaggyhaired gypsy children, with sleek tanned bellies showing out of their green, red, and yellow rags, run after us shrilling a longdrawn-out call: “Crazy-man! Crazy-man!” Before us lies the open country. Face to face with the vast pure sky of fiery blue, my eyesso far from my earsopen contentedly, receiving in all its quietness that nameless calm, that harmonious and divine serenity that lies in the infinitude of the horizon. And from a distance, over the fields, sharp cries finely muffled, broken, breathless, faint: “Crazy-man! Crazy-man!” XXVII THE MANGY DOG He used to come sometimes, lean and panting, to the garden house. The poor thing was always running from someone, accustomed to shouts and stones. Even other dogs snarled at him. And The Poet sun, slow and sad, down the hill. That afternoon he had followed Diana. As I was coming out, the keeper, who on an evil impulse had aimed his gun, fired at him. I had no time to stop him. The wretched dog, with the bullet in his body, whirled dizzily for a Moment with a round sharp howl, and fell dead under an acacia bush. Platero, head erect, kept his eyes fixed on the dog. Diana was frightened and kept trying to hide behind one or the other of us. The keeper, perhaps in remorse, repeated long explanations to no one in particular, angry and helpless in this effort to silence his conscience. A veil hid the sun, as in mourning, a large veil, like the tiny one that clouded the one good eye of the murdered dog. Beaten to exhaustion by the sea wind, the eucalyptus wept ever more loudly toward the storm in the deep crushing sil ence that noon spread above the dead dog throughout the yet golden countryside. XLVI THE CONSUMPTIVE GIRL She was sitting up straight in a poor, mean chair, her face a dead white, like a bruised lily, in the center of the cold. whitewashed room. The doctor had prescribed walking in the country, to take the sun of that chilly May; but the poor child could not go. “When I get to the bridge,” she told me, “you see, sir, just close by, I can’t breathe.” The childish voice, thin and AUSTIN Eloise Roach came across a volume of Juan Ramon Jimenez sonnets when she was studying French and Spanish poets at the University of Texas in 1926. “Although the outward form was perfect,” she said, “the poetry was exciting to me because it was different … Jimenez excited me. I would just go around reciting JimT,, enez . When she was invited to read her own poems to the Poetry Society of Texas in Dallas, she read her translations of Jimenez instead. In January, 1926, Golden Book, a literary magazine, published this from Jimenez through Eloise Roach: “If you hasten, Time, like a golden butterfly will flee Before you. If you tarry, Time, slowly like a patient ox, Will follow you.” She first saw “Platero y Yo” in an abridgement including only a few chapters when she was at Stephen F. Austin State Teachers’ College in Nacogdoches in 1930. It had been published by D. C. Heath & Co. as a college edition, apparently for first or second mer breeze sometimes fails. I offered her Platero for a little ride. Mounted on him, what smiles, what clear-bubbling laughter from her sharp, dead child’s S’,1’\(t face, all black eyes and white teeth. Women would look out the doorways to watch us pass. Platero walked slowly, as if knowing that he was carrying a fragile lily of fine crystal. The girl, in her spotless habit of the Virgin of Montemayor tied at her waist with scarlet cord, transfigured by fever and hope, looked like an angel passing through the town on her way to the southern sky. LXVIII SUNDAY The clamorous voice of the bell, now near, now far, resounds in the sky as if the blue were. a crystal goblet. And the open country, already a little sickly, seems to gild itself with open notes falling from the joyous chiming. Everyone, even the watchman, has gone to town to see the procession. Platero and I are alone. What peace! What freedom! What well-being! I turn Platero loose in the meadow, and under a pine which the birds have not deserted, I fling myself on the ground to read Omar Khayyam. The silence between two peals, the inner tumult of the September morning, acquire shape and sound. The gold and black wasps flutter round the bunches of mus year Spanish. She knew an artist there, Allyn Gordon, and they read it together. “One day, we decided to translate it,” Miss Roach says. “I would translate it, and then we would read it together.” He would discuss her translation, and there would be a few changes or suggestions. At the end of the eighteenth chapter, the artist went to California. Miss Roach, came to , Austin as head of the French department of the schools. She went on translating. “Suddenly I couldn’t stand it any longer! I would go to Spain, I would meet Juan Ramon Jimenez and his wife. I wrote him, and he said yes, I should come.” They had lunch at the Jimenez’s home in Madrid. Jimenez seemed tall and slender, with gentle black eyes in his pale face over his black beard. “Everything was just right. They were highly cultivated people …. They could quote American poets as well as I could. Of course I was quoting Jimenez, I knew it so well.” The time arrived for them to read the translations. “They told me before we began that three people had tried it and catel grapes which load the vine; the butterflies, indistinguishable from the flowers, seem to renew themselves in a metamorphosis of color as they fly. The solitude is like a great thought of light. Now and then Platero stops eating and looks at me. I, now and then, stop reading and look at Platero. LXXXIV THE HILL Have you ever seen me, Platero, romantic and classic at the same time, lying on the hilltop? Bulls, dogs, crows pass, and I do not move; I do not even look. Night comes, and I leave only when the dark takes me. I do not know when first I saw myself there, and I even doubt if I have ever been there. You know what hill I mean: that red hill that rises like a torso above the old Cobano vineyard. Atop it I have read all I have read, and there I have thought all my thoughts. In all museums I have seen this picture of me painted by myself: I, in black, stretched on the sand, my back to me. I mean, to you, or to him who m i g h t be looking, my thought free between me and the west. Someone calls me, to eat or to sleep, from the Pina house. I believe I go, but I do not know whether I remain on top of the hill. I am sure, Platero, that now I am not here with you, nor ever wherever I may be, not even in the grave when I am dead; but on. the red hill that is classical and romantic at the same time, watching, book in hand, the sun set on the river …. CXVI CHRISTMAS A fire out of doors! … It is the afternoon before Christmas, and a dim, feeble sun barely lights the raw, cloudless sky, all had given it up. One American and two Englishmen had tried it, but it just didn’t come out. “And so they read it. They were sitting together on the sofa. ‘They would read a chapter, and they would look up at me with tears in their eyes. Particularly his wife; she would look up and say, ‘Esto es! Esto es!’ “When they had read twenty chapters they were just overcome. He said that I conveyed not only the material, but the spirit and rhythm of his prose. She said yes, both of them said yes, I should go on and finish it and publish it.” She came home to Austin in a great joy and finished her translations. “I submitted the manuscript to people, to be told that it was lovely, but didn’t have any commercial vallue to it.” She tried half a dozen publishers. One publisher’s reader wrote her he would give anything to publish it but the company felt it would not sell. On a Friday afternoon last year the Austin American Statesman carried a wire story that Jimenez THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 Aug. 30, 1957 gray instead of all blue, with an indefinable yellowness in the west horizon …. Suddenly there is a strident crackling of green branches beginning to burn; then the thick smoke, white like er mine; and at last the flame, which cleans out the smoke and fills the air with pure short-lived tongues of fire that seem to be licking the air. Oh, the flame in the wind! Rosy, yellow, mauve, blue spirits disappear I know not where, piercing the secret, low-hung sky; and they leave an odor of live coals in the cold. December outdoors, warm now! Winter with affection! Christmas Eve of the happy! The neighboring r o c k r o s es thaw. The la n d s c a p e, seen through the warm air, trembles and becomes pure as if it were molten crystal. And the caretaker’s children, who have no creche, come in their poverty and sadness to stand around the fire and warm their cold-stiffened hands, and into the coals they throw acorns and chestnuts, which burst with a loud report. And they grow gay after a while and jump over the fire, which the darkness turns red, and they sing: “… Walk, Maria, walk, Jose …” I bring Platero and let them play with him. CXXXV M ELAN CHOLY This afternoon I went with the children to Platero’s grave, a low mound that lies in the orchard, at the foot of a round, fatherly pine tree. April had adorned the damp earth with large yellow lilies. Titmice were singing above in the green canopy mottled with had won the Nobel Prize. Saturday morning Miss Roach called Frank Wardlaw at the University of Texas Press. Early the next week he called and asked: “When. can you do the other chapters?” She did them between Thanksgiving and the New Year, and if you don’t know the rest, it’s because you don’t read the Luce publications, The New York Times, or books of great charm published by The University of Texas Press. R.D. The Translator A WAIT OF TWO DECADES FOR A PUBLISHER
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