Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pablo Neruda, "Ode to Happiness"

A green leaf fallen on the window,
New, shining;
An elephant's call;
A dazzling coin;
A ray of light. . . .

I scorned you, happiness.
I was badly advised.
The moon
carried me on her roads,
The ancient poets lent me
glasses to see,
but I placed by each thing a shadow,
on the flower a black crown,
on the beloved mouth
a sad kiss. . . .

A melancholy young man,
I found your hair scandalous. . . .

I erred.
Today I call on you, happiness.
You are necessary like the earth.

Like the fire you sustain the home. . . .

With you I want to go from home to home,
from town to town,
from flag to flag.
You are not for me alone.
We journey to the islands,
to the seas.
To the mines we go,
to the forests.
Not only lonely woodcutters,
poor laundresses
or hard-edged stone cutters
will receive us with fruit,
but all those parishoners,
the reunited,
from land and sea,
the brave young men
in their struggle.

With me through the world!
With my song!
With the star's half-seen flight,
And the joy of salt spray.

I will help everyone
because I owe
my happiness to all.

Do not be surprised
by my ambition;
I learned as a soldier
that my true duty was to happiness.

I fulfill my destiny with song.

— Translated by Ilan Stavans, modified by me. From a wonderful bilingual edition, Pablo Neruda: All the Odes, 2013, edited by Ilan Stavans. The odes were written between 1925 and 1945, and Neruda reworked and modified them many times, so it is hard to give a composition date for any of them.

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