el invierno con su blanco ajuar,
ya la escarcha comenzó a brillar
en mi vida sin amor. Profundo padecer
que me hace comprender
que hallarse solo
es un horror. Y al ver
cómo soplan en mi corazón,
vientos fríos de desolación
quiero llorar. Porque mi alma lleva
brumas de un invierno,
que hoy no puedo disipar…
WinterOnce again, winter’s bride
returned in her white trousseau,
hoar frost spread sharp shine
in my lonely and loveless life This deep suffering
forces me to realise
again, the horror
to find myself alone. And feeling
how these cold desolate winds
are chilling through my heart
I am close to tears. Because my soul is shrouded
in the folds of winter’s mists
which I can’t sweep away…. Orchestra – Francisco Canaro
Singer – Roberto Maida
Composer – Horacio Petorosi
Lyrics – Enrique Cadícamo
Notes to the Translation of the tango “Invierno”
Enrique Cardícamo wrote this six verse song in 1937. Only the central four verses sung in the recording are translated here. The missing first and last verses tell us that the narrator imagines the central four verses emanating from the empty balcony of his former lover.
A simple translation into English of the opening lines does not make clear the intended metaphor. I have thus expanded the translation slightly to show the impact of the original words and explain it here. The word ‘ajuar’ is key. It comes from Hispanic Arabic (assiwar) and means ‘trousseau’ in English ie either the set of household goods for a new bride to start her married life or, as in this poem, her bridal clothing. I have inserted ‘bride’ into the original “winter’s bride in her white trousseau”. It is also significant that the verse opens with “Volvió” ie “it has returned”. The singer has been returned again to a state of loneliness which existed before his now failed love affair. I continue that theme in the next verse with “to realise again”.
‘Hoar Frost’ in English is La Escarcha in the Spanish verse and the hoar equates to the white hair of old age and is specifically the light dusting of frozen dew which spreads on fields of grass.
In the third verse I replace “al ver cómo” ie ‘seeing how’ with the more accurate ‘feeling how’.
In the fourth verse I replace “lleva” ie ‘carries’ by ‘is shrouded in’, introducing the idea of cold death (where ‘shrouds’ are the wrappings of a corpse prior to burial)
Apart from the above few changes of translation there is little further to say about this poetry. The metaphor of the new frozen bride as a contrast to the warmth of his previous lover is a powerful image. There is little other imagery apart from the hoar frost. These four verses are somewhat enhanced by the two missing opening and final verses.
I have often said that many tango songs do deal with the subject of lost love. There are other themes. However this majority of nostalgic songs of lost romance can not be simply dismissed as “all the same”. This is not at all true and the interest lies in the invention and variety of treatments of the theme which are used/developed/imagined by the poet lyricists. Tango songs provide so many different portrayals of love and the agonies of loss.
Translation & Notes Copyright ©. 2023 Alan A. Smith and Tango Amistoso