Category Archives: Baltasar de Alcazar

Baltasar de Alcazar (1530-1606) – Tres Cosas, A Gastronomic Poem

Baltasar del Alcazar
Three things have chained my heart in love
That equally do please:
The fair Inez, a well-smoked ham,
And aubergines in cheese.
Friends, this Inez of whom I speak
Has such a hold on me
That I must hate all else but her.
Who can her equal be?
For one whole year she ruled my sense,
A task within her means,
Until she served for lunch one day
Smoked ham and aubergines.
Inez, victorious at first,
No longer keeps that role.
My judgment gone, these three main things
Share equally my soul.
Not measure, weight, nor taste of each
Can help me find the means
To judge between the fair Inez
And ham and aubergines.
Now Inez boasts a beauty rare,
But Aracena ham,
With aubergines and Spanish cheese,
Makes other foods a sham.
So equal are these three in weight
That all are sure to please;
Alike are all the three to me,
Inez, the ham and cheese.
At least this matter of new loves
Will force Inez to free
Her favors much more cheaply now
And sell herself to me.

Wherefore if reason stirs her not
I still have other means;
A slice of ham smoked in the fire,
Au gratin aubergines.

Translated from Spanish by Wayne Rollins.
I’m currently reading Renaissance And Baroque Lyrics: An Anthology Of Translations From The Italian, French, And Spanish, and there is this marvellous, funny poem by the Spanish poet Baltasar de Alcazar. He was born in Seville, a member of a noble family, and pursued a military career in the fleet. His lyrics were noted for their originality. He used the old Spanish metrics to write with gusto and humour. Among his poems were epigrams, jests, and romantic poems, influenced by Martial, the Roman poet. Although he evidently never published his poems, a selection was printed in Flores de Poetas in 1605. Tres Cosas is a popular poem, fully epicerean and celebrating love for all earthly things. Even I could easily find myself in exactly the same conundrum. What fair man could beat “well smoked ham” and “aubergines in cheese”?
Concerning the poem, the Spanish original is a series of quatrains, a perfect ABBA, where every second stanza employs the same rhyme, -eso/-on. Every line also contains 8 syllables. This is not quite the case with the English translation, which, nevertheless, preserves the melody of the Spanish poem (the text is under the “Read more” break).

  Tres cosas me tienen preso
de amores el corazón,
la bella Inés, el jamón
y berenjenas con queso.

Esta Inés (amantes) es
quien tuvo en mí tal poder,
que me hizo aborrecer
todo lo que no era Inés.

Trájome un año sin seso,
hasta que en una ocasión
me dio a merendar jamón
y berenjenas con queso.

Fue de Inés la primer palma,
pero ya júzgase mal
entre todos ellos cuál
tiene más parte en mi alma.

En gusto, medida y peso
no le hallo distinción,
ya quiero Inés, ya jamón,
ya berenjenas con queso.

Alega Inés su beldad,
el jamón que es de Aracena,
el queso y berenjena
la española antigüedad.

Y está tan en fil el peso
que juzgado sin pasión
todo es uno, Inés, jamón,
y berenjenas con queso.

A lo menos este trato
de estos mis nuevos amores,
hará que Inés sus favores,
me los venda más barato.

Pues tendrá por contrapeso
si no hiciere razón,
una lonja de jamón
y berenjenas con queso.