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“La Reina/The Queen”

I have named you queen.

There are taller than you, taller.

There are purer than you, purer.

There are lovelier than you, lovelier.

But you are the queen.

 

When you go through the streets

No one recognizes you.

No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks

At the carpet of red gold

That you tread as you pass,

The nonexistent carpet.

 

And when you appear

All the rivers sound

In my body, bells

Shake the sky,

And a hymn fills the world.

 

Only you and I,

Only you and I, my love,

Listen to me.

 

I think I mentioned that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Day 12 :”Keeping Quiet”) was known for his love poetry, so I wanted to offer you an example of it, especially in contrast to Byron’s poem from yesterday.

To a romantic in the 19th century, to be in love was to be blind, at least vocally. Love and devotion were most properly expressed through hyperbole and exaggeration. But when the Romantic Era ended, so too did the necessity to claim things that couldn’t possibly be true. While poets and writers still enhanced the qualities of their beloveds, there was usually an element of realism as well.

What I love about this poem is the romantic realism of the narrator. There are certainly taller, lovelier, purer women, but she is his queen. When she walks by, no one notices her royal presence, which is just fine with him. For when she appears, his whole realm, body and soul, celebrates her arrival – “a hymn fills the world.” (I can’t imagine a more generous compliment.)

I imagine the final stanza delivered in a whisper, as the poet softly urges his beloved to believe in her own majesty. When she looks around the ordinary world, in a mirror, or on the streets, she will find nothing to indicate that she’s anything special, but don’t believe it, he begs her. In his kingdom, she is the queen.

 

“La Reina”

Yo te he nombrado reina.
Hay más altas que tú, más altas.
Hay más puras que tú, más puras.
Hay más bellas que tú, hay más bellas.
Pero tú eres la reina.
II.
Cuando vas por las calles
nadie te reconoce.
Nadie ve tu corona de cristal, nadie mira
la alfombra de oro rojo
que pisas donde pasas,
la alfombra que no existe.
III.
Y cuando asomas
suenan todos los ríos
en mi cuerpo, sacuden
el cielo las campanas,
y un himno llena el mundo.
IV.
Sólo tú y yo,
sólo tú y yo, amor mío,
lo escuchamos.