Spanish Translation

Simple Verses by José Martí is a collection poem written in 1891, before Martí death in 1895. From this collection, many verses are commonly available in several language all translated from the original Spanish version. In my translations of Martí, I aim to keep everything as true to his voice while also arranging some verbs and nouns to capture connected verses in how I image and interpret Martí’s voice in each passage.

I have placed the original text on the left with the English translation placed in () for each verse. When dealing with poems, musical lyrics or something written in short length, I traditional place translations side by side to give native speakers easy when reading, and to pin point easily in parts where my translations begin and end for each text line.

Notes: Martí seems to follow the ABAB pattern where the first and third line rhythm at the end. For example, in the first line end with “sincero” which means sincere while the third lines ends with “quiero” which can mean “want” I have translated the lines correctly and as true to each word, (meaning that I did direct translation in terms of meaning and by word definitions), but it is difficult to try to mimic the same poetic patterns I see in such lines I described above.


Yo soy un hombre sincero (I am a sincere man)
De donde crece la palma. (from where the palm grows)
Y antes de morirme quiero (and before my death I want)
Echar mis versos del alma. (To throw my verses from the soul).

Yo vengo de todas partes, (I come from everywhere),
Y hacia todas partes voy: (And towards everywhere I go):
Arte soy entre las artes, (I am Art found in the arts),
En los montes, monte soy. (In the mountains, mountains I am).

Yo sé los nombres extraños (I know the foreign names)
De las yerbas y las flores, (of the herbs and the flowers)
Y de mortales engaños, (and of the deadly deceptions )
Y de sublimes dolores. (and of the subliminal colors).

Yo he visto en la noche oscura (I have visited in the oscure night)
Llover sobre mi cabeza (Raining over my head)
Los rayos de lumbre pura (The rays of pure flames)*
De la divina belleza. (of the divine beauty).
* Note: Lumbre translates into a type of burning light, and it could mean fire. I translated into flames since ‘lights’ was not the right word since it means bright yet not descriptive enough to capture the heat of what lumbre means. Flames captures heat, light without directly giving the reader an image of an actual fire.

Alas nacer vi en los hombros (At birth I saw in the men)
De las mujeres hermosas: (from the beautiful women):
Y salir de los escombros,  (and exiting the ruins),*
Volando las mariposas. (butterflies flying).
* Note: Once again, escombros could mean rumble, debris and ruins. I used ruins since it captures both rumble and debris but it flowed better since ruins ends with N as do the previous two lines.

He visto vivir a un hombre (I have seen live a man)
Con el puñal al costado, (with the dragger at flank),
Sin decir jamás el nombre (without saying ever the name)
De aquélla que lo ha matado. (of who has been murdered).*
* Note: aquella is feminine pronoun, which gives away the identity of the gender of the subject in this line. I took out the name because if I were to add the gendered pronoun I would placed this pronoun in the line before it since it would not flow nicely in the last line. I would have to change most of the structure of the line in order to compromise the flow of this section verse so I decided to take gender out in this sentence.

Rápida como un reflejo, (Broken like a reflection),
Dos veces vi el alma, dos: (twice I saw the soul, two):*
Cuando murió el pobre viejo, (when the poor man died),
Cuando ella me dijo adiós. (when she told goodbye).
* Note: Dos means two. I could translate this line as: two times I saw the soul, two. Or I could say twice which relatively connects twice and two together, which flows better.

Temblé una vez -en la reja, (trembles a voice – in the grille),
A la entrada de la viña,- (en the entrance of the wineyard),-
Cuando la bárbara abeja (when the barbarian bee)
Picó en la frente a mi niña. (stung on the front of my little girl).

Gocé una vez, de tal suerte (I was joyful once, from such luck)
Que gocé cual nunca: cuando (that I enjoyed like never before: when)
La sentencia de mi muerte (The sentence of my death)
Leyó el alcalde llorando. (Read the mayor in tears).

Oigo un suspiro, a través (I hear a sigh, through)
De las tierras y la mar, (from the land and the sea),
Y no es un suspiro. –es (and it is not a sigh. -is)
Que mi hijo va a despertar. (that my son will awaken).

Si dicen que del joyero (if they say the jeweler)
Tome la joya mejor, (takes the best jewel)
Tomo a un amigo sincero (took a sincere friend)
Y pongo a un lado el amor. (and places aside love.)

Yo he Visto al águila herida (I have Seen the eagle hurt)
Volar al azul sereno, (flying to the blue serene sky),
Y morir en su guarida (and dying in his nest)
La víbora del veneno. (The viper of poisons )

Yo sé bien que cuando el mundo (I know well that when the world)
Cede, lívido, al descanso, (Giving, livid, resting),
Sobre el silencio profundo (Over the profound silence)
Murmura el arroyo manso. (Murmurs the gentle stream).

Yo he puesto la mano osada (I have placed the used hand)
De horror y júbilo yerta, (of horro and exuberant rigior),
Sobre la estrella apagada (Over the extinct stars)
Que cayó frente a mi puerta. (That fell in front of my door).

Oculto en mi pecho bravo (Hidden in my brave chest)
La pena que me lo hiere: (the shame that has hurt me):
El hijo de un pueblo esclavo (the son of an enslaved village)
Vive por él, calla y muere. (living for him, silence and death).

Todo es hermoso y constante, (Everything is beautiful and constant),
Todo es música y razón, (everything is music and reason),
Y todo, como el diamante, (and everything, like the diamond),
Antes que luz es carbón. (Before light was carbon.)

Yo sé que el necio se entierra (I know that the fool was buried)
Con gran lujo y con gran llanto, – (With grand luxuries and with grand weeping, -)
Y que no hay fruta en la tierra (and when there is no fruit in the ground)
Como la del camposanto. (Like the cemetery).

Callo, y entiendo, y me quito (Screams, and I understand, and I’m removed)
La pompa del rimador: (The pomp of a rhymester:)
Cuelgo de un árbol marchito (Hangs from a withered tree)
Mi muceta de doctor. (My hood of a doctor).

Thank you for reading my translation of Jose Marti.

There are no affiliated links. All links connect to resource on where to find information books, music, and images not copyright written under my name. All material are solely owned by Sonia Portillo. All original samples used are given credit to their original copyright owners. All copyright material are cited and used in a transformatted method that fall under the fair use right.

Leave a Comment