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Ovillejos

What undermines all I attempt?
Contempt!
What heaps sorrow onto me?
Jealousy!
And what gnaws me through and through?
Missing you!

That’s why nothing will do
to make my distress less -
I’m killed by hopelessness,
contempt, jealousy and missing you!

What is it that makes me feel so rough?
Love!
What makes my puffed-up pride deflate?
Fate!
And what’s allowed all this to happen?
Heaven!

That’s why I have no time for them,
these evil strangers that thwart me,
ganging up together to hurt me -
love, fate and heaven!

What will change my luck? What’s left?
Only death!
And as for love, in all its profusion?
Delusion!
For all its woes, what’s the only redress?
Madness!

See how we get into this crazy mess
when trying to heal love’s pains,
if, after all else, the final cure remains
only death, delusion and madness!

English translation by Paul Archer of Ovillejos by Miguel de Cervantes, the original poem appears below.

Note: An ovillejo is a poem consisting of ten lines. The first stanza of six lines is in the form of three rhyming couplets - the first line of each couplet is octosyllabic and forms a question to which the second line follows with a tetrasyllabic answer. The second stanza is a quatrain of four lines that summarises, or amplifies, the first stanza. The rhyme scheme is as follows: aa bb cc cddc. In this poem, which comes from Don Quixote and is the first known example of the use of ovillejos, Cervantes has written a sequence of three ovillejos.

Ovillejos

¿Quién menoscaba mis bienes?
¡Desdenes!
Y ¿quién aumenta mis duelos?
¡Los celos!
Y ¿quién prueba mi paciencia?
¡Ausencia!

De este modo en mi dolencia
ningún remedio se alcanza,
pues me matan la esperanza,
desdenes, celos y ausencia.

¿Quién me causa este dolor?
¡Amor!
Y ¿quién mi gloria repuna?
¡Fortuna!
Y ¿quién consiente mi duelo?
¡El cielo!

De este modo yo recelo
morir deste mal extraño,
pues se aúnan en mi daño
amor, fortuna y el cielo.

¿Quién mejorará mi suerte?
¡La muerte!
Y el bien de amor, ¿quién le alcanza?
¡Mudanza!
Y sus males, ¿quién los cura?
¡Locura!

Dese modo no es cordura
querer curar la pasión,
cuando los remedios son
muerte, mudanza y locura.

For more translations of poems by Cervantes, go to Translations.

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