Monday, 5 November 2012

León Felipe Translation: The Poet and the Philosopher (El poeta y el filósofo)

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Note: I am now posting my translations here:

I thought that I'd post another León Felipe translation today. I've been feeling quite philosophical lately, reading Francis Bacon's essays for university this week amongst other things, and so I felt that the following choice was appropriate. I hope that you enjoy it, and that certain passages don't seem too odd. I can assure you that it's quite odd in Spanish too, but I can't say that my translation is perfect!

THE POET AND THE PHILOSOPHER (El poeta y el filósofo)

I am not the philosopher.
The philosopher says: I think…therefore I am.
I say: I cry, I shout, I howl, I blaspheme...therefore I am.
I believe Philosophy begins with the first judgement, Poetry with the first lament. I don’t know what the first word said by the first philosopher on earth was. But that of the first poet was: Oh!


This is the oldest verse that we know. The pilgrimage of this Oh!, for all the vicissitudes of history, has been Poetry up to now. One day this Oh! is organised and sanctified. Then the psalm is born. From the psalm the temple is born. And the shadow of the psalm has been housing man for centuries.

Now everything on earth has broken. Everything. Even the tools of philosophy. And the psalm has become mad: it’s been crying, shouting, howling, blaspheming...and thrown headfirst into hell. The poets are here now. Well, I am here at least.

This is the route of Poetry across all paths on Earth. I believe it’s different to Philosophy. Therefore one can never say: this is philosophical poetry.

This is because the fundamental difference between the poet and the philosopher isn’t, as believed till now, that the poet speaks in rhythmic, crystalline and musical verse, and the philosopher with obscure, dull and doctoral words. Instead, it is that the philosopher believes in reason and the poet in insanity.

The philosopher says:
To find the truth one must organise the brain.

But the poet says:
To find the truth one must burst the brain, make it explode. The truth is beyond the music box and the great philosophical file.

When we feel the brain rupture and the psalm break into a cry in the throat, we begin to understand. One day we discover that there are no windows in our house. Then we open a large hole in the wall and escape in search of light: naked, crazy and dumb, without speech or song.

It can be added that as poets we know very little. We’re very bad students, we’re not intelligent, we’re lazy, we like to sleep and believe that there is a shortcut to knowledge.

And instead of meditating like a philosopher, or investigating like the wise, we place our greatest problems on the altar of the oracles and decide how to solve them by tossing a dime.

And we say things like: Because I do not know who I am...that decides fate.

Heads or tails? 


Brian Joseph said...

I have never read Felipe but these translations are very interesting. I want to read him more thoroughly.

This is making me think about something. I am reading ralph Waldo Emerson for the first time. I have previously read Walt Whitman extensively. Though Emerson was a philosopher and Whitman was a poet the two are known and obviously have a similar worldview. I would disagree with Felipe on one point as I think that Whitman was a philosophical poet.

Lucy said...

I recall that Whitman is mentioned elsewhere in the Felipe collection I've been translating from - I'll have to plan a post on it! I too think that philosophy and poetry can be very closely intertwined.

Thank you for inspiring me to explore this further.

Violet said...

Wow. That's a powerful piece of writing. I think poetry and philosophy are totally different. Philosophy is about understanding through rational thinking, and poetry is about that "OH!" moment of just getting it. I don't believe I can think my way into a poem: I just feel it in my blood and bones. Make any sense? Probably not. :)

tolstoytherapy said...

That definitely makes sense! Felipe wrote such powerful poetry: I must put some more translations on here of his work. I instinctively think that poetry is beautiful and philosophy rational, although I like your "Oh!" moment analysis :)