Gabriela Mistral

Selected Poems
Gabriela Mistral

tr. Ursula K. Le Guin
U. of New Mexico Press

The translation goes directly to its source on facing pages and does not linger to form an impression or take stock, the result being that the reader with some Spanish is miraculously endowed with an ability to read the great South American poetess in her own words, and that is a point that cannot be argued too strongly.

The apparatus is not significant, notes are not plentiful, the presentation seems skewed to the standard marketing policy of a press that can no longer afford to hire professionals capable of assessing a book. Consequently the introductory materials are largely useless, though there is a chronology.

Le Guin does her utmost to get out of Mistral’s way, and only paraphrases occasionally for top running speed. Diction is the significant loss, rhyme is present at times, Church poems are untranslated.

So there is little if any point in reviewing this effort, it will be bought and used by everyone with an interest in the subject, irrespective of any critical remarks whatsoever.

The system is easily demonstrable.




     Tengo la dicha fiel
y la dicha perdida:
la una como rosa,
la otra como espina.
De lo que me robaron
no fui desposeída:
tengo la dicha fiel
y la dicha perdida,
y estoy rica de púrpura
y de melancolía.
     ¡Ay, qué amada es la rosa
y qué amante la espina!
Como el doble contorno
de dos frutas mellizas,
tengo la dicha fiel
y la dicha perdida…




     I have a faithful fortune

and a fortune lost.

One’s like a rose,

the other a thorn.

What was taken from me

I still possess:

the faithful fortune

and the fortune lost,

and I’m rich in purple

and unhappiness.

     O how I love the rose

and how the thorn loves me!

Like round twin apples

after the frost:

the faithful fortune,

the fortune lost.







     I have a fortune true

and a long-gone fortune;

the one like rose,

the other like thorn.

Of that which from me’s stolen,

I am not dispossessed:

I have a fortune true

and a long-gone fortune,

and I am rich in purple

and in melancholy.

     Ah, how well loved is the rose

and what a lover the thorn!

Like the double contour

of fruits born twin,

I have a fortune true

and a long-gone fortune...