Las Simples Cosas

This is currently one of my favorite songs.

It’s called Las Simples Cosas and my favorite version is a flamenco-influenced rendition by Martirio, although it’s also sung by Buika, Chavela Vargas and Mercedes Sosa among others. My favorite stanza says:

Uno vuelve siempre
a los viejos sitios
donde amó la vida,
y entonces comprende
como están de ausentes
las cosas queridas

Literary translated, this means:

One always returns to the old places where one loved life and then one understands how absent are the the things one loved.

In my more liberal translation it means:

You inevitably go back to those times and places when you felt you loved life. It’s then you realize how absent the things you loved are from your life.

I think this is one of my favorite songs because in a few sentences, it talks about the arbitrariness of the decisions we make and paths we choose, of nostalgia on the verge of regret, and finally, about the importance of living in the moment. As someone prone to nostalgia — not limited to my own memories; my nostalgia has at times encompassed bygone eras, centuries, historical moments, even other people’s memories and lives — I’m partial to songs that capture a sense of the what could have been but wasn’t or what was and now isn’t. In fact, I’m intrigued by any art that can capture a moment — a specific moment, unique or ordinary, that has passed and can never be revisited except through memory, interpretation or nostalgia. Think Norman Rockwell paintings or folkloric dances that are performed to preserve some particular way of life rather than as part of a modern and relevant exchange.

My liberal translation:

Uno se despide
de pequeñas cosas,
lo mismo que un árbol
en tiempos de otoño
se queda sin hojas.

Like a tree that loses its leaves in Autumn, we say goodbye to the little things so unfeelingly/facetiously/casually (basically, without giving it greater thought and without decorum)

Al fin la tristeza
es la muerte lenta
de las simples cosas,
esas cosas simples
que quedan doliendo
en el corazón.

In the end, sadness is the slow killer of simple things; of those simple things that remain, aching in your heart.

Uno vuelve siempre
a los viejos sitios
donde amó la vida,
y entonces comprende
como están de ausentes
las cosas queridas.

You inevitably go back to those times and places when you felt you loved life. It’s then you realize how absent the things you loved are from your life.

Por eso muchacho
no partas ahora
soñando el regreso,
que el amor es simple,
y a las cosas simples
las devora el tiempo.

Therefore, young man, don’t leave now, later longing to return. Because love is simple. And time devours the simple things.

Demórate aquí,
en la luz mayor
de este mediodía,
donde encontrarás
con el pan al sol la mesa servida.

Linger here in the bright light of midday, where you’ll find the bread in the sun and the table set. I’m not entirely sure if this is exactly what the lyrics are trying to say…as much as I consider myself to be fully bilingual, there are times when I feel I’m just not enmeshed enough in the language and culture to fully understand and capture the meaning of a phrase, sentence, or even word when it comes to Spanish. For example, the word alegre. Being alegre is a way of life in Colombia, and in a way it means happy, joyous, full of life, but not exactly.

Hope you enjoy the song as much as I did!

Categories: Colombia, Nostalgia

Tags: , ,

5 replies

  1. I love this song, and I’d been thinking about it a good bit in the past few weeks as I found myself steeped in nostalgia, regret, and a longing for the past (namely, Colombia and a relationship there). Yes, this song expresses the futility of nostalgia very well, and perhaps exhorts us to wisely reconsider before we move on and abandon the things in our life that seem so simple– because we will later realize their worth and pine for them.

    For insensiblemente, I’d say unfeelingly, not insensibly. You let go of small things almost without even realizing it. There is no actual goodbye, and thus no closure or awareness.

    I think you have the last stanza right. What could be simpler than the midday sun and a set table with bread? But what better captures the wonderful simplicity of love and companionship?

    Thanks for sharing. I still prefer Mercedes Sosa’s version.

    • Yes thanks that’s the word I was looking for.

    • Thanks for the input Katie! I made a couple changes with your suggestion. I used to get nostalgic for Latin America a lot…I guess that’s why I kept moving back there over and over. Somehow, I always remembered all the positive things; it was an escape for me in a way and it wasn’t until I was there for a few months that I remembered why I had left in the first place. But I think you’re right…we move on and say goodbye to people, situations, relationships, mindsets, places, etc so flippantly, as if we have a million better and more enticing options in the future, which I guess is true in some cases.

      I saw on your blog you are considering considering moving back to Latin America. Let me know how that goes!

  2. Absolutely stunning translation and comments. This version is probably the most touching one. My gratitude to you and congratulations for your splendid knowledge about soanish language, atmosphere.


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