Carolina Coronado and Martha Perry Lowe Translating Sisterhood
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187 Carolina Coronado and Martha Perry Lowe Translating Sisterhood Noël Valis The literary fortunes of the Spanish romantic poet Carolina Coronado (1820– 1911) have risen and sunk only to rise again in the past 25 years. Acclaimed, then forgotten, she has found a new place, in part as the central figure of a lyrical sisterhood of mid-nineteenth-century women poets.1 This sense of female solidarity, however, actually extended beyond Spain’s borders to include an American poet, Martha Perry Lowe (1829–1902), who became her sisterin -law in 1852, when Carolina married Horatio Justus Perry, the secretary of the American Legation in Madrid. Scholars have known for some time about this literary relationship, in particular the poem Martha wrote in praise of her Spanish sister, “Carolina Coronado, Poetess of Spain,” which appeared in Lowe’s first collection of poetry, The Olive and the Pine, in 1859.2 But, to my knowledge, no one has pointed out that the New Englander dedicated at least one more poem to Carolina (“To Carolina Coronado,” 1865) and, especially germane to my purposes here, also translated her “Oda a Lincoln” in 1864 as “Ode to Abraham Lincoln.” Taken together, the three texts suggest that one way to practice translation is through the literal and figurative bonds of sisterhood, in which individual and cultural differences are both heightened and smoothed out through the act of translating and in which sisterhood itself is lyrically translated into being . Fittingly, as both women were ardent abolitionists, the major theme of two of the poems issues out of the twin poles of slavery/freedom (while two stanzas of the first poem also dwell on the theme). In this way their sisterly 188  Translators Writing, Writing Translators bonds form the textual and affective basis for advocating the breaking of real bondage in historical time. The two women were destined to meet only twice, first in 1853 when Martha (along with her sister Ellen) traveled to Spain to welcome her new sisterin -law and then in 1872 at which time Martha was married and had children. But they maintained a correspondence throughout their lives. Because of the difficulties and expense of transatlantic travel, along with the American Civil War and the fragile health of Martha’s husband Charles, they were unable to see each other more than on these two occasions. It should also be pointed out that Carolina never traveled to the United States, and her husband never saw his homeland again, even though he was eager to join the Northern Army during the Civil War. In the obituary for her brother, Martha noted that “his wife’s health was delicate.” “His wife’s death would be at his door,” she wrote, were he to leave and take up arms (Lowe 1891:4). The truth is Carolina was enormously possessive of her husband, and her neurotic temperament, which only worsened over the years, led her to keep Horatio on a short leash (see Pérez González 1999:240–43, 265–66, 366). Martha, however, seems either not to have understood their relationship or to have forgiven Carolina’s deficiencies of character, for she has nothing but praise for her sister-in-law, as we see in the first poem she published on the Extremaduran writer: “Carolina Coronado, Poetess of Spain” The walls of Badajoz looked down Upon a gifted maid, who rose Within that old, beleaguered town, And startled Spain from her repose. Her eyes were beaming with the fire Of poet youth beneath her dark And shining locks. She struck her lyre; And, lo! the land of Spain did hark. She calmed her deep, impassioned breast With love to all the solitudes, And hid beside the wild-bird’s nest Her verses in the rocks and woods. carolina coronado and martha perry lowe 189 She hung enraptured on the sweet Young meadow rose, and lingered near The turtle-dove, who did repeat “Love, love,” for ever in her ear. Unto the Stars she told her tale, Weeping her tears melodiously At evening with the Nightingale, Or with the Palm communing high. Her genius moved not straight within The prunèd walks of classic time, But ran abroad, and revelled in New laws that rose from out her rhyme. She poured a tide of passion through The sordid flats of Life’s dull sea; And, last, she dared to speak unto Her nation that word—Liberty! Yes, she—the fearless girl—did make The slavish priesthood tremble...



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  • Academic writing -- Study and teaching (Higher).
  • Translating and interpreting -- Study and teaching (Higher).
  • Translating and interpreting -- Vocational guidance.
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