Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) is a well-known Chilean poet who was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature. Probably less-well-known is the Mexican poet Eduard Langagne (1952- ). What links these two poets from the perspective of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement is not so much that they have composed their works in the Spanish language (which is one of the three ACAP official languages) but that they have both produced poems with albatrosses as a central theme.

Here is one by Langagne about an albatross trapped aboard a ship, with an English translation from the combined (by myself) efforts of Liliana Ayala and Borja Heredia.

Soy el albatros

Soy el albatros
no levanto el vuelo
l día me quema con su pipa de opio
La mañana se mofa de mi andar tropezado
Soy el albatros
atrapado en la quilla
Mi anhelo es silencioso
No puedo alzar el vuelo en la cubierta
Soy el albatros
He de abrir estas alas
Alejarme del barco que me impide volar

I am the albatross

I am the albatross
I cannot take flight
The day burns me with its opium pipe
Morning teases me about my stumbling walk
I am the albatross
Trapped in the keel
My wishes are silent
I cannot take off from the deck

I am the albatross
I must open these wings
Away from this boat that will not let me fly.

And here is a short poem by Neruda about the flight of the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans

Oda a un Albatros Errante

En alta mar navega el viento
dirigido por el albatros:
esta es la nave del albatros:
cruza, desciende, danza, sube,
se suspende en la luz oscura,
toca las torres de la ola,
anida en la hirviente argamasa
del desordenado element
mientras la sal lo condecora
y silba la espuma frenética,
resbala volando el albatros
con sus grandes alas de música
dejando sobre la tormenta
un libro que sigue volando:
es el estatuto del viento

Three translations into English of Neruda's poem to a Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans have been found, which make for interesting comparisons:

Ode to a Wandering Albatross

The wind blows across the high seas
guiding the albatross
that is the course of the albatross:
crossing, descending, dancing, rising,
suspended in the darkness,
touching the towering wave,
nestling in the boiling mix
of unruly elements
as the salt decorates him
and the frenetic foam whistles,
the albatross slips by,
flying with his massive musical wings
leaving over the storm
a book that continues to fly:
it is the state of the wind

Translation by Mark Tasker

The wind sails the open sea
steered by the albatross
that glides, falls, dances, climbs,
hangs motionless in the fading light,
touches the waves' towers,
settles down in the disorderly element's
seething mortar
while the salt crowns it with laurels
and the furious foam hisses,
skims the waves
with its great symphonic wings,
leaving above the tempest
a book that flies on forever:
the statute of the wind.


In the high sea the wind navigates
guided by the albatross:
that is the ship of the albatross:
crossing, descending, dancing, rising,
suspended in the dark light,
he touches the towers of the wave,
he nests in the boiling mortar
of the unruly element
while the salt decorates him
and the frenetic foam whistles,
the albatross slips flying
with his large wings of music
leaving over the storm
a book that continues flying:
it is the codex of the wind.


Listen to a recitation of a longer albatross poem Oda a un Albatros Viajero written by Pablo Neruda.  Click here to read the poem in the original Spanish.

With thanks to Liliana Ayala, Borja Heredia and Mark Tasker for their translations.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 7 September 2011