Monday, October 8, 2018

Luis de León

Luis de León (1527—1591) is an Augustinian monk, and one of Spain’s greatest lyric poets. In 1560 he was appointed to the chair of theology at Salamanca. In 1546 the Council of Trent had declared the Latin translation known as the Vulgate to be the authentic text of the Bible. Because de León and others used Hebraic texts and the Septuagint, by 1572 he was arrested and accused of heresy by the Inquisition. Although he escaped punishment, he was hounded by them again in 1582, because of his views concerning predestination.

He wrote commentaries on the books of Job, Obadiah, Galatians, and Song of Songs. He also wrote translations of selections from Virgil, Horace and the Psalms. His prose masterpiece The Names of Christ is, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the supreme exemplar of Spanish classical prose style”. It echoes themes also found in his poetry. In 1588 he prepared and published the first collected edition of the writings of Teresa of Ávila.

The following translation is by Willis Barnstone

On The Ascension

---Do you leave, shepherd saint,
your flock here in this valley, deep, obscure,
---in loneliness and plaint,
---and rise piercing the pure
high air–to that immortal refuge sure?

---Those who were formerly
lucky are melancholy and grieving too.
---You nourished them. Suddenly
---they are deprived of you.
Where can they go? What can they now turn to?

---What can those eyes regard
(which one time saw the beauty of your face)
---that is not sadly scarred?
---After your lips’ sweet grace
what can they hear that isn’t blunt and base?

---And this tumultuous sea,
Who can hold it in check? Who can abort
---The gale’s wild energy?
---If you’re a sealed report,
Then what North Star will guide our ship to port?

---O cloud, you envy us
Even brief joy! What pleasure do you find
---Fleeing, impetuous?
---How rich and unconfined
You go! How poor you leave us and how blind!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.