Monday, May 20, 2013

Ballad of the King of Aragon

From Campo Viejo there did gaze
One day the King of Aragon
Upon the surging Spanish sea.

He watched the waves at ebb and flow;
He watched the galleons and the barques,
Saw some arrive and others go,
Some off to merchant trading set
Some from the front returning home.
Some would a course for Flanders chart;
To Lombardy would others roam.
And those that came back from the war,
How great they made the king's pride grow!
He gazed upon the city great
Of Naples - wide its name is known!
He looked and saw the mighty towers;
Three castles did the city hold:
Strong Castel Novo, and Capuana,
Santelmo, which nigh seemed to glow,
And stood as clear among the three
As ever midday sun has shone.
Then from his eyes the King did weep
And from his lips began to moan:
"Oh, city! You have cost me much
And caused me such enduring woe!
You've cost me noble Dukes and Counts,
Men that were worthy, fierce, and bold.
You've even claimed my closest kin,
The noblest son that you had born;
Among your many people here,
None equal to him could be shown.
You've cost me twenty-two good years,
The best that I have ever known;
In you did I first grow a beard,
And in you, I've at last grown old."

 - Anonymous broadsheet, Spain, early 16th c. Translation: Craig B. Daniel, 2011.

Though probably not published or even composed until at least half a century after, this ballad evidently takes place in 1443; the King in question is almost certainly Alfonso V of Aragon, who became heir to the Kingdom of Naples in 1421 but was opposed by rival claimants. After 22 years of fighting, he finally entered the city as its undisputed king.

In translation, I have opted for iambic tetrameter, one of the two forms of English ballad meter (the other, more common, being alternating tetrameter and trimeter), and have chosen to maintain the original system of constant assonant rhyme, which I find works well on short poems such as this one but becomes first boring and then irritating in longer ones. Of all my translations, this is probably my favorite so far; it and Count Arnaldos are the two I have committed to memory in case an occasion calls for poetic recitation.

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