poesía de gotán:

Mano a mano (1920)

This post is a special guest translation by Elaine Newton-Bruzza of Portland, Oregon. She holds a Master’s in Translation Studies from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, and recently I collaborated with her on the English translation of Gustavo Benzecry Sabá’s excellent book The Quest for the Embrace: The History of Tango Dance 1800 – 1983 (Los legionarios del abrazo: Historia del tango danza 1800 – 1983). She has been accepted to the Doctoral program in Hispanic Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and despite receiving little funding, she has decided to pursue the degree. Her research will focus on the portrayal of women in tango lyrics. Please consider making a small donation to support her studies – you can do so by clicking here.

Elaine composed this translation of the classic tango “Mano a mano” with the music in mind—stressed syllables are matched as closely as possible, line by line, to make it singable. She also used period English slang in a clever and creative way to translate Lunfardo words and expressions.

Fair and Square
lyrics by Celedonio Flores
music by Carlos Gardel and José Razzano
translation by Elaine Newton-Bruzza

I’m bedeviled by my sadness,
I recall you, and I see now
nothing more than one good woman
passing through my hapless life
with your swanky airs and graces
you warmed up my little love nest
you were good and you were steadfast,
and I know that you have loved me
as you’ve never loved another,
as you’ll never love again.

I had your number from the get-go
back when you, poor slip-of-a-girl,
barely cut it hand to mouth down
in that shabby boarding house;
Now you’re quite the fancy lady,
life is just a bowl of cherries
You spend all of that square’s moola
and you play him for a sucker
just the way a feckless cat plays
with a miserable mouse.

Disappointed hopes and fancies
are now all that fill your noggin
You were conned by all the bozos
and your girlfriends and the swells;
the milongas with the tycoons
and their crazy fascination,
the success and the defeat of
milonguera aspirations
have dug deep inside your soul and
taken hold of your poor heart.

There is nothing that I owe you
our accounts are fair and square now,
I don’t care about what you’ve done,
what you do, or what comes next;
I’ve kept tabs on all your favors
and believe I’ve paid you for them
if by chance I have forgotten
a small favor that I owe you
you can charge it to that sucker
who keeps you on his account.

In the meantime, may your triumphs,
those pathetic passing triumphs,
be a never-ending line of
countless riches and delights
may your big-shot sugar daddy
keep you rolling in the shekels
may you show up at the hot spots
with your milonguero playboys,
and may all the cats keep saying:
“She’s a heck of a good gal.”

And tomorrow, when you’re just a
castoff and forgotten has-been
and a hope no longer lingers
in your poor downtrodden heart
if you’re looking for a leg up
if you need some words of wisdom
just remember this old buddy:
one who’d risk his skin for your sake,
to help you as much as he can
if you ever have the need.

Carlos Gardel (1927)

Trio Ciriaco Ortiz (Instrumental, 1933)

Orq. Francisco Lomuto, singer Jorge Omar (1936)

Orq. Alfredo De Angelis, singer Carlos Dante (1946)

(Spanish original after the jump)

Mano a mano

Rechiflado en mi tristeza,
te evoco y veo que has sido
en mi pobre vida paria
sólo una buena mujer.
Tu presencia de bacana
puso calor en mi nido,
fuiste buena, consecuente,
y yo sé que me has querido
como no quisiste a nadie,
como no podrás querer.

Se dio el juego de remanye
cuando vos, pobre percanta,
gambeteabas la pobreza
en la casa de pensión.
Hoy sos toda una bacana,
la vida te ríe y canta,
los morlacos del otario
los jugás a la marchanta
como juega el gato maula
con el mísero ratón.

Hoy tenés el mate lleno
de infelices ilusiones,
te engrupieron los otarios,
las amigas y el gavión;
la milonga, entre magnates,
con sus locas tentaciones,
donde triunfan y claudican
milongueras pretensiones,
se te ha entrado muy adentro
en tu pobre corazón.

Nada debo agradecerte,
mano a mano hemos quedado;
no me importa lo que has hecho,
lo que hacés ni lo que harás…
Los favores recibidos
creo habértelos pagado
y, si alguna deuda chica
sin querer se me ha olvidado,
en la cuenta del otario
que tenés se la cargás.

Mientras tanto, que tus triunfos,
pobres triunfos pasajeros,
sean una larga fila
de riquezas y placer;
que el bacán que te acamala
tenga pesos duraderos,
que te abrás de las paradas
con cafishos milongueros
y que digan los muchachos:
Es una buena mujer.

Y mañana, cuando seas
descolado mueble viejo
y no tengas esperanzas
en tu pobre corazón,
si precisás una ayuda,
si te hace falta un consejo,
acordate de este amigo
que ha de jugarse el pellejo
pa’ayudarte en lo que pueda
cuando llegue la ocasión.

About Derrick Del Pilar

Born and raised in Chicago, I came to the tango while studying at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires in 2006. In 2008 I earned my B.A. with majors in Creative Writing and Spanish & Portuguese from the University of Arizona, and in 2009 I earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. My specialty is the history & literature of early 20th century Argentina.


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The sound files on this site are included for illustrative purposes only. Those wishing to obtain high quality versions for their personal collections should purchase commercially available copies. If you can't get to a record store in Buenos Aires, a great many tangos are available, song by song, in meticulously digitized versions from http://www.tangotunes.com/ and others can be found on the iTunes music store or Amazon (transfer quality varies widely). Though he no longer has inventory available, Michael Lavocah's superb http://milonga.co.uk/ can help you determine which CDs might be best to buy used.
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