• Subscribe to our e-letters

  • Facebook_icon

The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2010

14-and-under, commended

Read the judges’ comments
To obtain the free booklet of winning entries and commentaries,
please email:

Charlie Dowding

The Miracles of Our Lady
by Gonzalo de Berceo

I, Gonzalo de Berceo, in the gentle summertime,
Wending upon a pilgrimage, came to a meadow’s side;
All green was it and beautiful, with flowers far and wide,
A pleasant spot wherein the traveller might abide.

Flowers with the sweetest odours filled all the sunny air,
And not alone refreshed the sense, but stole the mind from care;
On every side a fountain gushed, whose waters pure and fair,
Ice-cold beneath the summer sunshine, but warm in winter were.

There on the thick and shadowy trees, amid the foliage green,
Were the fig and the pomegranate, the pear and apple seen;
And other fruits of various kinds, the tufted leaves between,
None were unpleasant to the taste and none decayed.

The verdure of the meadow green, the odour of the lovely flowers
The grateful shadows of the trees, tempered with fragrant showers,
Refreshed me in the burning fire of the arid midday hours;
One might live upon the balm and fragrance of those bowers!

Ne’er had I found on earth a spot that had such power to please,
Such shadows from the summer sun, such odours on the breeze;
I threw my mantle upon the ground, that I might rest at ease,
And stretched upon the forest bed and lay in the shadow of the trees.

There soft reclining in the shade, all cares beside me flung,
I heard the soft and mellow notes that through the woodland rang;
Ear never listened to a strain, for instrument or tongue,
So mellow and harmonious as the songs above me sang.

Translated from the Spanish by Charlie Dowding

From Milagros de Nuestra Señora

Yo maestro Gonzalvo de Berçeo nonnado

Iendo en romeria caeçi en un prado

Verde e bien sençido,de flores bien poblado,

Logar cobdiçiaduero pora omne cansado.

Daban olor sobeio las flores bien olientes,

Refrescaban en omne las caras e las mientes,

Manaban cada canto fuentes claras corrientes

En verano bien frias, en yvierno calientes.

Avie hy grant abondo de buenas arboledas,

Milgranos e figueras, peros e manzanedas,

E muchas otras fructas de diversas monedas;

Mas non avie ningunas podridas nin açedas.

La verdura del prado, laolor de las flores,

Las sombras de los arboles de temprados sabores

Refrescaronme todo, e perdi los sudores:

Podrie vevir el omne con aquellos olores.

Nunca trobé en sieglo logar tan deleitoso,

Nin sombra tan temprada, nin olor tan sabroso,

Descargué mi ropiella por iaçer mas viçioso,

Poseme a la sombra de un arbor fermoso.

Yaçiendo a la sombra perdi todos cuidados,

Odi sonos de aves dulçes e modulados:

Nunca udieron omnes organos mas temprados,

Nin que formar pudiessen sones mas acordados.

Gonzalo de Berceo

Translation commentary

I started off thinking whether or not I knew any Spanish poets but I didn’t. Fortunately, I found a book called The Miracles of Our Lady in my mum’s bookcase. It was a rather big book and it was in English, so I thought I should find another one, but because the book was originally written in Spanish there was a prologue to the book in Spanish. When I translated some of the words into English, however, they did not match their English translations in the book and on the internet. So I slowly translated the prologue from Spanish into English. Once this was done I looked up the poem’s background. By doing this I could work out what kind of mood each line was. The last word of each line rhymed with the others of that verse and this was hard to do in English. I had to find a word at the end of each line that rhymed and also reflected the mood of that particular verse.

There were a few words that I personally could not understand; but as long as it made sense, rhymed, was translated right and it reflected the mood I didn’t care. After I had done all this I went through the book’s English version and realised it wasn’t all that different. But there were some key words missing in their translation.

Overall I was very happy with the translation and I felt that, apart from the odd word at the end of the line, there was nothing I could majorly improve on.

Charlie Dowding