Sunday, August 29, 2004

En el campo

La pelota, el perro y la niña

Fue maravilloso volver al campo australiano. Bueno, este paisaje no es salvaje. Está cerca de Bowral, en las tierras altas del sur de Sydney.

Pero los juegos, sí, eran de los salvajes. Jugué dos partidos de ajedrez con George, que tiene ocho años. Jugué también con él dos partidos de un juego curioso que se llama cuatro-en-una-línea. Con el perro Stig y la niña Charlotte jugué al futbol. Estábamos cantando, gritando, escalando y saltando. Me puse fatal. Acabo de volver a la ciudad y al trabajo, donde se puede descansarme un rato.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Czeslaw Milosz, 1911-2004

Milosz in Poland, 2003. Milosz en Polonia.

On hearing of the death of Milosz.

And I went out into the windy sun of winter.
And I saw magnolia flowers fallen
and flowers still on the tree.
And a beautiful light touched everything.
And I could hardly catch my breath.

Al oír hablar de la muerte de Milosz.

Y salí en el sol ventoso del invierno.
Y vi las flores caídas de magnolia
y las flores todavía en el árbol.
Y una luz hermosa tocaba todo.
Y casi me quedaba sin aliento.

Friday, August 13, 2004


Some day soon I may hear he has died. Czeslaw Milosz, the writer, is seven years short of his century. He was born in 1911 in old Lithuania, then part of tsarist Russia. He will die as a Polish-American poet. That is how the headlines will capture his essence. My guess is that his death will be recorded here in Australia, if only because his name has been yoked with Nobel's since 1980, when he was awarded the literature prize.

Until now, I've always hesitated to write about Milosz. In the first book of his to come my way, I found this quotation from Goethe:

"Whatever one knows, he knows for himself only and he should keep it secret. As soon as he reveals it, contradictions appear, and if he begins to argue, he will lose his equilibrium, while what is best in him will be, if not annihilated, at least shaken."

More, from The Australian newspaper.

Y aquí, algo de Milosz en el castellano.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Peso de a ocho

asiento: slave trade monopoly granted by Spain to Dutch, French or English suppliers after the mid-seventeenth century.

avería: Spanish ad valorem tax on merchandise shipped between Spain and the Americas, used to fund defence against pirates.

bagnio: North African jail where Christian prisoners were held until ransomed.

biscocho: sea-biscuit, or "hard tack," the early modern European sailor's staple food.

cimarrón: runaway, usually referring to escaped slaves, as in Panama.

derrotero: sea chart, noting horizons, anchorages, shoals etc.

guerrilla: little war, used to refer to informal warfare, robbery and hostage-taking.

matelotage: practice of same-sex mating for legal and possibly sexual purposes among buccaneers of Hispaniola; matelots designated one another as heirs in case of accidental death.

palenque: stockade, but also applied to cimarrón settlements.

pechelingue: Dutch pirates and privateers, the term being apparently derived from the port of Vlissingen.

peso de a ocho: piece of eight, Spanish silver coin divided into eight reales.

presidio: garrisoned fort.

rancherías: pearl fisheries, as on the islands of Margarita and Cubagua.

regua: Spanish mule train carrying merchandise, slaves, silver and gold across the Panamanian Isthmus.

rescate: practice of bartering for contraband in Spanish American colonies, practice of ransoming Christian captives (among them Cervantes) from Berber corsairs in North Africa.

situado: onerous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spanish American impost used to pay for anti-pirate fortifications, military salaries, and so on in Panama, Cartagena, Havana, Flordia, etc.

Rich pickings from a pirate glossary, found aboard Blood and silver: a history of
piracy in the Caribbean and Central America
by Kris E. Lane.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Monday, August 02, 2004

El dingo

Gringo: A perjorative term used in Latin America to refer to white English
speakers, particularly Americans. There are records of the term being used in
Spain in 1787. At that time it was applied to foreigners who had not mastered
Spanish and were hard to understand. Specifically in Madrid, it was applied to
Irish people living in the city.

The origin of the word is most probably griego, Greek, in the sense of a
foreign or unintelligible language. The story attributing its origin to the song
"GREEN GROW the lilacs" which was popular among American soldiers during the
US's war with Mexico is not true, as this was fought between 1846 and

From the Oxford Spanish dictionary. I wonder if Australians count as gringos. Es cierto que somos dingos.