Romance del Conde Arnaldos

arnaldos2At this time of year – Christmas Day, to be precise – I thought I would post on something completely different.  Something to get away from too much turkey, Christmas pudding or too much religious contemplation.  So this post is one of my rare forays into the world of poetry.  I like reading poems, especially reading them aloud, but it is something that I hardly ever do.  I have a very small collection of books of poetry, which I dip into now and again.  Most are in English of course, but I also have an even smaller collection of poems in Spanish.  I love the sounds of Spanish, or castellano to call the language by its proper name.  Some of my favourite poems came from a collection of Romances or Ballads are they are usually translated into English.  Perhaps this love comes from the great Scottish Ballad tradition.  Anyway the Spanish Ballads are among the greatest in Europe.  For your enjoyment and edification I present one of my all time favourites The Ballad of Count Arnaldos or Romance del Conde Arnaldos in the original castellano.  The English translation below is by Sedulia Scott

¡Quién hubiese tal ventura
sobre las aguas del mar
como hubo el conde Arnaldos
la mañana de san Juan!
Con un falcón en la mano
la caza iba cazar.
Vio venir una galera
que a tierra quiere llegar:
las velas traía de seda,
la ejercia de un cendal;
marinero que la manda,
diciendo viene un cantar
que la mar facía en calma
los vientos hace amainar,
los peces que andan n’el hondo
arriba los hace andar,
las aves que andan volando
n’el mastel las faz posar.
Allí fabló el conde Arnaldos,
bien oiréis lo que dirá:
—Por Dios te ruego, marinero,
dígasme ora ese cantar.
Respondióle el marinero,
tal respuesta le fue a dar:
—Yo no digo esta canción
sino a quien comigo va.

Who would have such fortune
on the waters of the sea
as had the Count Arnaldos
on the morning of Saint John’s Day!

With a falcon in his hand
he was going out to hunt
when he saw coming a galley
about to land on shore.
The sails were of silk,
the riggings of gauze thread,
the sailor in command
was singing a song
that made the sea calm,
made the winds die down,
made the fish in the waves
rise to the surface,
and the birds flying by
come to land on the mast.
There spoke the Count Arnaldos,
you shall well hear what he will say:
–By God I pray you, sailor,
tell me now that song.
The sailor answered him,
such an answer was given to him:
–I do not tell this song
but to him who goes with me.

As with most romances, this one has been severely truncated to leave us with this wonderful evocation of adventure and mystery.  It is us the reader or listener who has to fill in the gaps using our own imagination.  Or as it is put by Buddhists: True beauty can only be discovered by one who mentally completes the incomplete.  So on this Christmas Day, relax, enjoy the poem and contemplate your own adventures to come.  Poems should be heard of course and here is a link to a sung version of the poem by Amancio Prada.  He uses a slightly different version of the poem which you can see here.


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