Anonymous: Translated by Rhina Espaillat

Rhina colorBIO

Rhina P. Espaillat has published nine full-length books and three chapbooks, comprising poetry, essays and short stories, in both English and her native Spanish. Her original work, and her translations from and into both languages, appear in numerous journals, over seventy anthologies and dozens of websites. Espaillat has earned many national and international awards, including a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from Salem State College and several honors from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Culture.


NOTE: Jarchas, also known as Kharjas, are fragmentary lyrics that remain from the oral poetry composed in Spain, in Mozarabic and transcribed in either Arabic or Hebrew letters. Composed as early as the eleventh century by anonymous poets, they are often love songs in the voices of women, and represent the earliest stage of Spanish poetry, possibly refrains originally used at the end of longer pieces.


Unlatch Your Door

Unlatch your door, for your window
Is too dark to see;
Love watches over you, my rose,
Fly away with me!

I have asked for your loveliness;
God who gave it preserve it,
Loveliness so pure,
None but I deserve it.

(Anon., Avre tu puerta cerrada)
tr Rhina P. Espaillat


Nights, Nights

Nights, nights, sweet nights,
Nights are for making love.
Ah, nights are for making love.

Turning and turning in the bed,
Like fish in the sea.
Ah, like fish in the sea.

Ah, what nights, mother of mine,
That are not to be.
Ah, that are not to be.

(Anon., “Noches, noches,” Judeo-Espagnol Ballad,
tr. Rhina P. Espaillat)


Evening Song

If the sea were made of milk
Then a-fishing I would go,
Fishing for my sorrows there
With little words of love I know.

Give me, Dove, your hand, to climb
Up into your nest, please do:
It’s sad that you sleep alone,
I’m coming to sleep with you.

(Anon., “La Serena,” Judeo-Espagnol Ballad,
tr. Rhina P. Espaillat.)



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