This is also from Trafalgar. Doña Francisca is trying to convince her husband not to go back to war at sea:
¡No sé para qué sirve la Santa Inquisición si no convierte en cenizas esos endiablados barcos de guerra! Pero vengan acá y díganme: ¿Para qué es eso de estarse arrojando balas y más balas, sin más ni más, puestos sobre cuatro tablas que, si se quiebran, arrojan al mar centenares de infelices? ¿No es esto tentar a Dios?
My attempt: What good is all this shooting bullets and more bullets, just like that, put over four tables''? that, if they break, will toss hundreds of wretches into the sea.
I'm having trouble with "cuatro tablas." "Four points of the compass" comes to mind, but what does that have to do with breaking things'
"Cuatro tablas" refers to the ships, as 4 pieces of wood planks. I'ts a pejorative way of describing the warships.
Alright, then I guess I'd offer the following:
"What's the point of all these cannonballs being hurled back and forth, with no rhyme or reason, and with us perched on our little boats which, if broken, would throw hundreds of wretches into the sea? Isn't that tempting God'"
I used "little boats" because the speaker seems to be referring dismissively to the warships by calling them tablas, or mere boards floating on the water. Of course, other translations are also possible.
My computer won't let me edit or delete comments at the moment (probably a script gone awry or something). Thus, I see that Heidita and Lazarus had already answered the question about puestos. Thanks!!!
puestos is confusing me too. I wondered if the speaker, being enraged, might not have actually specified the antecedent. She also appears to be switching from ustedes to vosotros form. You can see more here.
puestos: being on top of
the sailors, fighters
James Santiago said:
Also, I'm not sure of the meaning of "puestos" here. It clearly does not refer back to balas, because they don't agree in gender. What is it modifying?
It is an absolute construction: "puestos (los marineros)".
And "bala" is a cannonball here, yes.
puestos is confusing me too . . .
Natasha, your question has been answered, but I don't think balas here would be translated as bullets, but rather as cannonballs. I would say "What's the point of all these cannonballs being hurled back and forth, with no rhyme or reason, ..."
Also, I'm not sure of the meaning of "puestos" here. It clearly does not refer back to balas, because they don't agree in gender. What is it modifying'
Thank you very much, Lazarus and Guillermo! I think then we could say "on a couple of planks."
"Cuatro" is used colloquially to mean "(very) few":
Han caído cuatro gotas (=few drops)
En la fiesta había cuatro gatos (=very few people)