Lady Luck (Da Bienes Fortuna)

 Another pastoral poem this week, by a Spanish contemporary of Marlowe and Raleigh. This is my own translation of a poem by Luis de Góngora. It’s a rather loose, light-hearted translation – I’ve tried to capture the spirit of the poem, rural, jokey and fatalistic. The refrain in Spanish ‘cuando pitos, flautas / cuando flautas, pitos’, just doesn’t work in English, so I’ve varied the stanza endings with some lines of my own. I’m sure professional translators do that sort of thing all the time.

Lady Luck


Fortuna dispenses her gifts

To rules not written:

You’re expecting a kiss,

Instead you get bitten.


We’re quite accustomed

To the tortuous routes

She takes in doling out

Honours and estates.

To some she gives awards

To others the boot.

Expecting a whistle,

You’re given a flute.


Sometimes she’ll despoil

Of his pound and his hut

The foremost goatherd

While the lamest goat

Of he she favours

Has borne him two young.

Expecting water,

You’re covered with dung.


Down in the village

The poorest of fellows

Just for stealing an egg

Is slung from the gallows

While another is guilty

Of a hundred thousand crimes.

Hoping for reasons,

You’re lumbered with rhymes.

Here, for Spanish speakers and the curious, is Góngora’s original Spanish:

Da bienes Fortuna
que no están escritos:
cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

¡Cuán diversas sendas
Se suelen seguir
En el repartir
Honras y haciendas!
A unos da encomiendas,
A otros sambenitos.
Cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

A veces despoja
De choza y apero
Al mayor cabrero,
Y a quien se le antoja;
La cabra más coja
Pare dos cabritos.
Cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

Porque en una aldea
Un pobre mancebo
Hurtó sólo un huevo,
Al sol bambolea,
Y otro se pasea
Con cien mil delitos.
Cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

Lee todo en: Cuando pitos flautas – Poemas de Luis de Góngora



Filed under Poetry

3 responses to “Lady Luck (Da Bienes Fortuna)

  1. Pingback: A Song from the Coptic | sweettenorbull

  2. Edward Barrett


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