(after Garcilaso de la Vega)
Love offered me a cloth so fine and rich,
with folds so ample, I could not refuse
but sewed myself a habit, stitch by stitch.
I find the garment shrinks with daily use:
its generous measures pucker and draw tight,
I suffocate where once I’d room to spare;
I stretch and strain to free myself, I fight,
yet still the precious fabric will not tear.
Come, show me one who wants to cut these ties –
these homespun tapes we fashion for our lives
to bind ourselves to husbands or to wives –
and I will show you one who’s spinning lies.
Each wears the cloth he wove, though I confess
I wonder if mine’s shroud or wedding dress.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is translation, what is a derivative work, and when sufficient changes have been made to warrant calling something an original.
I think when I started this piece I was intending to make a translation of Garcilaso’s Amor, Amor. As I went on, though, I realised that I didn’t actually understand the classical Spanish, so I made the poem mine and completed it as I felt appropriate.
I suppose it’s the sewing imagery that has made me think of patching and turning garments and from there on to the Ship of Theseus, which seems of some relevance here. (I misremembered it as “Ulysses’ boat”, but, appropriately, it seems to remain the same paradox, whichever name you give it.) Perhaps there’s an Ariadne out there who can unravel the truth.