translating anoche cuando dormia by Jenna Breunig at optimist jenna dot com, drawing of sleeping girl surrounded by flowers and bees

Translating “Anoche Cuando Dormía”

Previous translations of “Anoche cuando dormía” have focused on the meaning of each individual word. When I read the English versions, I can’t help but feel like something is missing.

While my translation is less literal, I aimed to share the rhythm and lyrical qualities of the poem. I hope this can offer English speakers a glimpse of the poem’s beauty.

Spanish

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que una fontana fluía
dentro de mi corazón.
Di, ¿por qué acequia escondida,
agua, vienes hasta mí,
manantial de nueva vida
de donde nunca bebí?

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que una colmena tenía
dentro de mi corazón;
y las doradas abejas
iban fabricando en él,
con las amarguras viejas
blanca cera y dulce miel.

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que un ardiente sol lucía
dentro de mi corazón.
Era ardiente porque daba
calores de rojo hogar,
y era sol porque alumbraba
y porque hacía llorar.

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que era Dios lo que tenía
dentro de mi corazón.

English

Last night, while I was sleeping
I dreamed a blessed dream
There was a fountain I was keeping
Inside my heart, right here.
I asked, “Now, why, secret spring,
Water, do you flow here to me?
A bubbling stream of new life,
From which I never did drink?”

Last night, while I was sleeping
I dreamed a blessed dream
There was a beehive I was keeping
Inside my heart, right here.
And the humming golden bees
Were creating deep here in me
Weaving from old bitterness
White wax and sweet warm honey.

Last night, while I was sleeping
I dreamed a blessed dream
There was a bright sun I was keeping
Inside my heart, right here.
It burned inside, and it gave me
The glow of a red warm home
I call it a sun, for it shone bright
And it caused my tears to flow.

Last night, while I was sleeping
I dreamed a blessed dream
That it was God I was keeping
Inside my heart, right here.

Enjoying the Beauty

Attempting to translate this piece while maintaining its sound was a challenging task. I added new words in some places to maintain rhythm where lines would be too short. While I aimed for rhymes, I was cautious about straying too far from the source material, so many of the lines do not rhyme completely.

Someday, I’d like to do a video of a reading with this poem and some nature imagery. However, my YouTube channel is still pretty small and my schedule is still pretty busy.

This is one of my favorite poems. I hope that, with this translation, you can enjoy it too.

2 thoughts on “Translating “Anoche Cuando Dormía””

    1. Yes, it’s such a beautiful poem. Antonio Machado was truly a poetic legend. I enjoyed translating it so that English speakers can get a sense of the original. Poems like this deserve to be shared!

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