News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I Tend a White Rose

Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca (I Tend a White Rose) is perhaps the best-known work of Cuba’s most beloved patriot and poet, Jose Marti. In Spanish, the poem’s simple words are powerful and inspiring. Yet I’ve never been nearly as moved by its many English translations. So I will toss my hat into the ring. Whether you are bilingual or not, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of my version.

I Tend a White Rose 
I tend a single white rose
in summer as well as winter,
for the true friend who will extend
an honest hand in peace.  
And for the foe who would tear
the living heart from my chest,
thistle nor thorns do I sow,
I tend a single white rose.

Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca
Cultivo una rosa blanca
en junio como en enero
para el amigo sincero
que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
el corazón con que vivo,
cardo ni ortiga cultivo;
cultivo la rosa blanca.

Little known outside Cuba, Jose Marti was a patriot, a poet, and most of all, a humanitarian.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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