Octavio Paz

Four short poems in English translation by Johannes Beilharz


One and the Same
Summit and Gravity
Where without Whom


One and the Same


(Anton Webern, 1883-1945)


No center, no above, no below
Ceaselessly devouring and engendering itself
Whirlpool space
                            And drop into height
             Clarities steeply cut
                   By the night's flank
Black gardens of rock crystal
Flowering on a rod of smoke
White gardens exploding in the air
           One space opening up
              And dissolving
                                        Space in space
All is nowhere
Place of impalpable nuptials

(»Lo Idéntico«)


Summit and Gravity


There's a motionless tree
And another one coming forward
                                                         A river of trees
Hits my chest
                        The green surge
Is good fortune
You are dressed in red
                                      You are
The seal of the scorched year
The carnal firebrand
                                   The star fruit
In you like sun
                           The hour rests
Above an abyss of clarities
The height is clouded by birds
Their beaks construct the night
Their wings carry the day
Planted in the crest of light
Between firmness and vertigo
                 You are
         Transparent balance

(»Cima y gravedad«)




More than air

                         More than water

More than lips

                           Light light

Your body is the trace of your body



Where without Whom


There is not

A single soul among the trees

And I

Don't know where I've gone.


(»Dónde sin quién«)


Translator's note

All four poems were originally published in Octavio Paz, Ladera este (1962-1968), Mexico City: Joaquín Mortiz 1969. 

Previous English translations of the first three of these poems (One and the Same [Charles Tomlinson], Summit and Gravity, Passage [Lysander Kemp]) were included in Octavio Paz, Configurations, New York: New Directions 1971.

I was compelled to retranslate these three because I felt that the English – in part – did not do justice to the Spanish. In Summit and Gravity a whole line had been left out. All other differences between the previous translations and mine might be termed a matter of opinion, but I have attempted to come closer to Octavio Paz's spirit in a few cases where I thought the existing translation had a limiting effect as a result of (mis)interpretation. In other cases I chose more normal words because the greatness of Octavio Paz's poetry is partially due to the use of simple language. In yet other cases I chose words closer to the original in sound; for example, I used "beak" instead of "bill" for "pico."

Johannes Beilharz, April 2003

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