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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2012
14-and-under, joint second prize

Read the judges’ comments
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Read the winning entries from previous years

Thomas Franchi

To a Nose

There was once a man who had a nose.
It was a most impressive nose,
the nose of a killer,
a writer's nose,
a hairy pointed sword of a nose.

It was a like a badly-shaped sundial,
pensive and still,
it was an elephant turned upside down,
it was Ovid's nose, but…nosier.

It was like the breakwater from a galley,
it was an Egyptian pyramid,
it was the twelve tribes of noses.

It was a peach of a nose,
An infinite mass of nose,
A nose

Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Franchi

A una nariz

Érase un hombre a una nariz pegado,
érase una nariz superlativa,
érase una nariz sayón y escriba,
érase un peje espada muy barbado.

Era un reloj de sol mal encarado,
érase una alquitara pensativa,
érase un elefante boca arriba,
era Ovidio Nasón más narizado.

Érase un espolón de una galera,
érase una pirámide de Egipto,
las doce Tribus de narices era.

Érase un naricísimo infinito,
muchísimo nariz, nariz tan fiera.

Francisco de Quevedo

Translation commentary

When translating this poem I came to a few hurdles but still had fun and enjoyed the translation. I started by quickly translating the poem, just to get the feel of it and then I read the Spanish over and over again to try and get behind it. Once I had properly understood the poem, I went back to the beginning and went through it very slowly.

The first thing that I noticed about the poem is that it is a sonnet. Although sonnets usually follow iambic-pentameter, this poem doesn't so I didn't translate it using this either. The main problem I found was that I had to find a way of translating the word érase in a way so that the emphasis of the poem didn't switch from the nose to érase. I had to do this due to the sheer amount of times Francisco Quevedo used this word, nine times in fact. The second hurdle I hit was when the poem says, 'era Ovidio Nasón más narizado'. I chose to translate the line as 'it was Ovid's nose, but…nosier' because it replicates Quevedo's word play in the original Spanish. Secondly, I know that the ón ending in Spanish can be used as an intensifier, and thought that this could be well expressed by the comparative adjective 'nosier'.

Another challenge which I faced whilst translating this poem was the line 'las doce Tribus de narices era'. With this line I had to think about either expanding the meaning or changing it due to racial overtones. After thinking about this, I decided to leave it in because it gives some historical context to the poem. This poem was written about one hundred years after the Jews were expelled from Spain, so the historical context is also important as well as the overall humour side of the poem. The last point which I had to really think about was the penultimate line, 'érase un naricísimo infinito'. I wanted to really emphasise the superlative in an interesting way and not by just saying 'the biggest nose' or something alike. The way which I found to express the size of the nose was by using the word 'peach' which I think really expresses the bulbous nature of the nose as well as being a good English idiom.

To add to the overall effect of the poem, which is as much for a reader as it is for a listener, I have reshaped the poem and the lines to look like an old man's nose, maybe even Quevedo's? I think that this enhances the poem even more and is a fitting tribute to Quevedo and indeed Ovid.

Thomas Franchi