Garcilaso de la Vega: "While there is yet the color of the rose" (From Spanish)

The donor who requested this poem also requested that I make my audio recording of the original Spanish using a reconstruction of the pronunciation Garcilaso himself would have used. This I have done. More information about this pronunciation follows the text.

Sonnet XXIII
By Garcilaso de la Vega
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by Enrique Flores

While there is yet the color of the rose
And of the lily in your countenance,
And while the burning candor of your glance 
Can fire the heart and yet constrain its throes;

And while yet that soft hair of yours which flows
From a gold vein, in a disheveled dance
Is tangled by wind's sudden dalliance
As round that lovely proud white neck it blows,     

Gather the harvest from your joyous spring
Of sweetest fruit before Time comes in rage
Of snow to cover that fair peak at last.

The rose will wither in the wind's chill blast.
So changing everything comes flighty Age    
Never to change its way for anything.
Soneto XXIII
Garcilaso de la Vega
Click to hear me recite the original Spanish


En tanto que de rosa y de açucena
se muestra la color en vuestro gesto
y que vuestro mirar ardiente honesto
enciende el coraçon y lo refrena,

Y en tanto que el cabello que en la vena
del oro se escogio con buelo presto
por el hermoso cuello blanco enhiesto
el viento mueue esparze y desordena

Coged de vuestra alegre primauera
el dulce fruto antes que el tiempo ayrado
cubra de nieue la hermosa cumbre

Marchitara la rosa el viento elado
todo lo mudara la edad ligera
por no hazer mudança en su costumbre




The pronunciation I use in my recording is a very conservative one, the Castilian spoken by Toledo's traditional elite in the early 16th century, preserving the medieval affricates and voiced sibilants, as well as word initial /h/ from etymological /f/. (Note here that correct scansion requires <h> to block elision in <la hermosa> and <no hazer>. From Old Castilian <fazer>, <fermoso>.) The only innovative element is the merger of /b ß/. It is a close descendant of the language described in Antonio de Nebrija's Gramática de la Lengua Castellana (published in 1492, having incidentally the distinction of being the first thoroughgoing grammatical description of a Romance language).

Juan Valdés' Diálogo de la Lengua (1535), published perhaps two years after this Sonnet was written, gives much information about the cultured Toledan accent which he praises, and about other accents whose deviations from the former he disparages.

There were also innovative speakers who already had a contrast between laminal and apical sibilants (/s̠ z̠/ vs /s̪ z̪/) rather than the fricative/affricate contrast I use here. Such a pronunciation, which Valdés' diálogo chastises, because prescriptivists gonna prescript, appears to have been characteristic of some of the Castilian brought to Central and South America by the earliest colonists. This is suggested both by the earliest stratum of Castilian loanwords into indigenous languages, and by the earliest transcription systems used by many missionaries to represent Indigenous languages with Castilian graphemes. It was eventually swamped in the 17th and 18th centuries by other types of speech exported from Europe.

In any case, I assume that a man like Über-courtier Garcilasso, a personal acquaintance of the king, would have still used the affricates — at least when reading poetry. Especially since his poetic project involved the elevation of the Castillian language in imitation of Italian and classical Greco-Roman models, at some remove from the popular lyric tradition. Of course it is anyone's guess whether he also used this pronunciation to cuss when he stubbed his toe.

This type of speech was to fall out of fashion everywhere in less than a century, owing in part to the fact that Philip II was to move the capital to the phonologically innovative Madrid, where the voiced and voiceless sibilants were already merged even in cultivated speech.



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