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Selected Poetry of Francisco de Quevedo

A Bilingual Edition

Edited and Translated by Christopher Johnson

Francisco de Quevedo (1580–1645), one of the greatest poets of the Spanish Golden Age, was the master of the baroque style known as “conceptismo,” a complex form of expression fueled by elaborate conceits and constant wordplay as well as ethical and philosophical concerns. Although scattered translations of his works have appeared in English, there is currently no comprehensive collection available that samples each of the genres in which Quevedo excelled—metaphysical and moral poetry, grave elegies and moving epitaphs, amorous sonnets and melancholic psalms, playful romances and profane burlesques.

            In this book, Christopher Johnson gathers together a generous selection of forty-six poems—in bilingual Spanish-English format on facing pages—that highlights the range of Quevedo’s technical expertise and themes. Johnson’s ingenious solutions to rendering the difficult seventeenth-century Spanish into poetic English will be invaluable to students and scholars of European history, literature, and translation, as well as poetry lovers wishing to reacquaint themselves with an old master.

256 pages | 7 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2009

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages



“This is a thoughtful introduction to a major Baroque poet little known to English readers, one whom Borges called the greatest artificer in all of Hispanic letters. Christopher Johnson’s attentive selection and translation hit the high and low notes in Quevedo’s register, from scurrilous to near sublime, from ‘love that reaches beyond death’ to stoical sonnets about time, which ‘neither stumbles nor returns.’”

Christopher Maurer, Boston University

“In translations which capture the startling metaphors, contrived symmetries and disarming directness of the original texts, Christopher Johnson offers fresh access in English to a selection of Quevedo’s finest poems.  His insight-filled introduction and notes guide the modern reader skillfully through the complexity and diversity of Spanish Baroque poetry.  This volume promises a new life in translation to some of the most emotionally and intellectually intense poems ever written in Spanish.”

Mary Malcolm Gaylord, Harvard University

"Johnson has captured Quevedo’s essence--his contradictory and conflictive nature, his emphasis on the incongruities of existence. The reader who expects a collection containing mostly sonnets . . . will be surprised to find a good number of silvas, romances, and letrillas (many of them vicious and scatological) on the thems of love, the brevity of life, morality, mythology, and satire,.’"


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations             Acknowledgments               Introduction   
Metaphysical Poems
1. Represéntase la brevedad de lo que se vive y cuán nada parece lo que se vivió / Describing the brevity of life and how past life seems to be nothing / Sonnet  
2. Signifícase la propria brevedad de la vida, sin pensar, y con padecer, salteada de la muerte / Expressing the essential brevity of life, unexpectedly, miserably assaulted by death / Sonnet  
3. El escarmiento / The Warning / Silva  

Poems from Christian Heraclitus
4. “Un nuevo corazón, un hombre nuevo” / “A new heart, Lord, a new man” / Sonnet  
5. “Trabajos dulces, dulces penas mías” / “My sweet labors, my sweet pains” / Psalm  
6. Enseña cómo todas las cosas avisan de la muerte / He teaches how everything warns of death / Sonnet  
7. Conoce las fuerzas del tiempo y el ser ejecutivo cobrador de la muerte / He acquaints himself with the forces of time and death’s debt collector / Sonnet  
Moral Poems
8. Desde La Torre / From La Torre / Sonnet  
9. Don Francisco de Quevedo / Don Francisco de Quevedo / Sonnet  
10. A una mina / To a mine / Silva 
11. El reloj de arena / The hourglass / Silva   
12. Juicio moral de las cometas / Moral verdict on comets / Quintillas  
Lyric Poems on Diverse Subjects
13. Túmulo de la mariposa / The butterfly’s tomb / Sextilla  
14. A una fuente / To a spring / Silva  
15. Al pincel / To a paintbrush / Silva  
Elegies and Epitaphs
16. A Roma sepultada en sus ruinas / To Rome entombed in its ruins / Sonnet  
17. Memoria inmortal de Don Pedro Girón, Duque de Osuna, muerto en la prisión / Immortal memory of Don Pedro Girón, Duke of Osuna, dead in prison / Sonnet  
18. Inscripción en el túmulo de Don Pedro Girón, Duque de Osuna, Virrey y Capitán General de las dos Sicilias / Inscription on the tomb of Don Pedro Girón, Duke of Osuna, Viceroy and Captain General of the Two Sicilies / Sonnet  
19. Túmulo a Colón habla un pedazo de la nave en que descubrió el nuevo mundo / At Christopher Columbus’s tomb, a piece of the ship that discovered the New World speaks / Sonnet  
Love Poems
20. Compara con el Etna las propriedades de su amor / He compares aspects of his love with Etna / Sonnet  
21. Exagaraciones de su fuego, de su llanto, de sus suspiros y de sus penas / Exaggerations of his fire, grief, sighs, and pains / Sonnet  
22. Describe a Leandro fluctuante en el mar / He describes Leander floating in the sea / Sonnet  
23. Encareciendo las adversidades de los Troyanos, exagera más la hermosura de Aminta / Exaggerating the adversities of the Trojans, he exaggerates more Aminta’s beauty / Sonnet  
24. A una dama bizca y hermosa / To a cross-eyed, beautiful woman / Sonnet  
25. Soneto amoroso difiniendo el Amor / An amorous sonnet defining Love / Sonnet  
26. Himno a las estrellas / Hymn to the stars / Silva  
27. Un galán preso y desterrado y ausente de su dama, lament


American Translators Association: Lewis Galantiere Prize

American Literary Translators Association: National Translation Award

The Society of Authors: Premio Valle Incla

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