Antonio Machado


Selected Poems

 

 

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                  Translated by A. S. Kline © 2004 All Rights Reserved

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Contents

 

 

Cantares… (Songs….Machado’s Testament) 4

IV: ‘Yo eschuco los cantos’ 6

XI: Yo voy soñando caminas. 8

LXXVIII: ‘Y ha de morir contigo el mundo mago. 9

CIV: ‘Eres tú, Guadarrama, viejo, amigo, 10

CXIII: The Fields of Soria. 11

CXXVI: To Jośe Marίa Palacio. 17

CLVI: Passages. 19

CLVIII: Songs of the High Country. 22

CLIX: Songs. 27

CLXIV: Dreams In Dialogue. 32

CLXV: From Sonetos: III 36

CLXXIV: From ‘Other Songs for Guiomar’ 37

LII: Meditation. 38

LIII: The Crime Was In Granada. 39

Index of First Lines. 41

 

 


 

Cantares… (Songs….Machado’s Testament)


All goes, and all remains,

but our task is to go,
to go creating roads
roads through the sea.

My songs never chased
after glory to remain
in human memory.
I love the subtle worlds
weightless and charming,
worlds like soap-bubbles.

I like to see them, daubed
with sunlight and scarlet,
quiver, under a blue sky,
suddenly and burst…

I never chased glory.

Traveller, the road is only
your footprint, and no more;
traveller, there’s no road,
the road is your travelling.

Going becomes the road
and if you look back
you will see a path
none can tread again.

Traveller, every track
leaves its wake on the sea…

Once in this place
where bushes now have thorns
the sound of a poet’s cry was heard
‘Traveller there’s no road
the road is your travelling…’

Step by step, line by line…

The poet died far from home.
Shrouded by dust of a neighbouring land.
At his parting they heard him cry:
‘Traveller there’s no road
the road is your travelling…’

Step by step, line by line…

When the goldfinch can’t sing,
when the poet’s a wanderer,
when nothing aids our prayer.
‘Traveller there’s no road
 the road is your travelling…’

Step by step, line by line.

 

 


IV: ‘Yo eschuco los cantos’

 

I follow the songs

with age-old rhythms

the children are singing

while they are playing

and showing in song

what their souls are dreaming,

like stone fountains

that show their water:

in monotonous murmurs

of undying laughter

that has in it no joy,

of ancient weeping

that has in it no pain

and speaks of sadness

the sadness of loving

of ancient legends.

         

In the mouths of children

the singing brings

the tale’s confusion,

pain that’s clear

as that clear water,

brings the message

of ancient love,

that it conceals.

 

Playing in shadows

of an ancient plaza

the children, singing…

 

The fountain of stone

poured out its eternal

crystal of legend.


The children were singing

innocent songs

of things that go on

and are never ending:

the story confused

the suffering clear.

 

The fountain serenely

continued its tale:

erasing the story,

telling the pain.

 

 


XI: Yo voy soñando caminas

 

I go dreaming down roadways

of evening. Emerald pine-trees

golden hillsides

dusty oak-leaves!…

Where does this road go?

I go travelling, singing,

into the road’s far distance…

evening falls slow –

‘I bore in my heart

the thorn of passion:

Drew it out one day

And my heart is numb.’

 

And suddenly all the land

was silent, mute and sombre,

meditating. Sound of the wind

in the riverside poplars.

 

Evening’s more shadowy

and the turning road

that faintly whitens

blurs, in vanishing.

 

Lament, my song turns to:

‘Gold thorn, so sharp

Could I but feel you

lodged in my heart.’

 

 


 

LXXVIII: ‘Y ha de morir contigo el mundo mago

 

And is that magical world to die with you,

where memory goes guarding

life’s purest breaths

first love’s white shadow,

 

the voice that entered your heart, the hand

that you had wished to hold in dream,

and all things loved

that touched the soul, the depths of sky?

 

And is that world of yours to die with you,

the old life you renewed and set in order?

Have the anvils and crucibles of your spirit

laboured here only for dust and wind?

 

 


CIV: ‘Eres , Guadarrama, viejo, amigo,

 

Was it you, Guadarrama, ancient friend

mountains of white and grey

mountains of my Madrid evenings,

I saw there, brushed on the blue?

 

Among your deep gullies

and bitter heights,

a thousand suns, a thousand Guadarramas

rode with me, there, into your heart.

 


CXIII: The Fields of Soria

 

I

 

Soria’s earth is dry and cold.

Among the hills and bare sierras,

green meadows, ashen slopes,

spring comes

scattering small white daisies

over the fragrant grasses.

 

The earth’s not alive, the land dreams.

At the start of April, snow

covers Moncayo’s shoulder:

the traveller winds a scarf

round neck and throat, and shepherds pass

wrapped up in their long capes.

 

                              II

 

Ploughed fields

like patches of brown serge

beehives, vegetable plots,

dark greenness where sheep browse

between leaden pinnacles, sowing

a sweet dream of Arcadian childhood.

The stiff branches steam

on far roadside poplars

a bluish vapour – of new leaves –

and in the clefts of valleys and ravines

the flowering brambles whiten

and perfumed violets bud.


                    III

 

Rolling country, and the roads

hide travellers there who ride

the small brown donkeys,

and then in glowing evening depths

rise again, humble figures

on a golden sunset canvas.

But if you climb a hill and view the land

from heights where eagles live

there are steel and crimson gleams,

leaden plains, and silvered hills,

ringed round by violet mountains,

with caps of rose-tinted snow.

 

IV

 

Those figures on the land beneath the sky!

Slow oxen plough

the slope as autumn opens

and in between the dark bowed heads

beneath the heavy yoke

a basket there of rushes and broom

a cradle for a child:

behind it walks

a man bent down to earth,

a woman sowing seed

in open furrows.

Under a cloud of carmine flame

in the fluid sunset gold and copper-green

the shadows lengthen.


V

 

Snow. In the inn on the open plain

you see the hearth where firewood smokes,

and a seething pot bubbles.

A northerly sweeps the frozen plain

lifting the silent snow

in white swirls.

The snow falls on fields and plain,

as if over a grave.

An old man, shivering, coughs

and huddles by the fire: an old woman

spins her twist of wool, while a girl

sews green trim on to scarlet serge.

The old ones are a muleteer’s parents

who lost his way one evening

travelling the whitened land,

and vanished in mountain snows.

There’s an empty place beside the fire,

and a dark frown on the old man’s brow,

like a shadowy cleft

like the gash of an axe in wood –.

The old woman watches the plain, as if

she hears footsteps on the snow. No one there.

Deserted the road nearby,

deserted the fields round the house.

The little girl’s thinking of green meadows

where she’ll play with the rest of the girls

in the gold and azure days,

when the white daisies flower.

 

 


          VI

 

Soria the cold, Soria the pure,

the crown of Estramadura,

with your castle ruined in war,

that overlooks the Duero

with your eroded ramparts

with your blackened houses!

Dead city of noblemen,

of soldiers, of huntsmen,

of doorways with emblems

and a hundred great families,

city of starving dogs

dogs scrawny and shrill

dogs that swarm

through the sordid streets

howling at midnight

when jackdaws caw!

Chill Soria! The bell-tower

of the courthouse strikes one.

Soria, city of Castile

lovely under the moon!


 

VII

 

Hills of silver plate,

grey heights, dark red rocks

through which, round Soria,

the Duero bends

its crossbow arc, shadowed oaks,

stone dry-lands, naked mountains,

white roads and river poplars,

twilights of Soria, warlike and mystical,

today I feel, for you,

in my heart’s depths, sadness,

sadness of love! Fields of Soria,

where it seems the stones dream,

you go with me! Hills of silver plate,

grey heights, dark red rocks.

                             

VIII            

 

I’ve seen once more the golden poplars,

roadside poplars of the Duero,

between San Polo and San Saturio,

beyond the ancient walls

of Soria – watchtower towards

Aragon, on Castilian soil.


 

The riverside poplars that blend

the rustling of dry leaves

with water’s sound when the wind rises

have initials carved

in their bark, lovers’ names

those symbols that are years.

Poplars of love whose branches yesterday

were filled with nightingales:

poplars that tomorrow will be

lyres of the fragrant spring wind:

poplars of love by the water that flows

and passes by and dreams,

You go with me, I carry you in my heart!

 

                              IX

 

Yes, you go with me, fields of Soria,

tranquil evening, hills of violet,

riverside poplar groves, green dream

of grey soil and the brown earth,

bitter melancholy

of a decaying town,

you’ve touched my soul,

or were you there already in its depths?

Race of the high Numantian plain,

keeping faith with God like old believers,

may the sun of Spain fill you

with joy, with light, with riches!

 

 

CXXVI: To Jośe Marίa Palacio

Palacio, good friend,

is spring there

showing itself on branches of black poplars

by the roads and river? On the steeps

of the high Duero, spring is late,

but so soft and lovely when it comes!

Are there a few new leaves

on the old elms?

The acacias must still be bare,

and the mountain peaks snow-filled.

Oh the massed pinks and whites

of Moncayo, massed up there,

beauty, in the sky of Aragon!

Are there brambles flowering,

among the grey stones,

and white daisies,

in the thin grass?

                             


On the bell-towers

the storks will be landing now.

The wheat must be green

and the brown mules working sown furrows,

the people seeding late crops,

in April rain. There’ll be bees,

drunk on rosemary and thyme.

Are the plum trees in flower? Violets still?    

There must be hunters about, stealthy,

their decoys under long capes.

Palacio, good friend,

are there nightingales by the river?

When the first lilies,

and the first roses, open,

on a blue evening, climb to Espino,

high Espino, where she is in the earth.

                             

 

(Baeza, 29 April 1913. Machado’s wife Leonor Izquierdo died very young,

in 1911, and is buried in the church at Espino.)  


CLVI: Passages

 

I

 

In the blue, the black

flock of birds

calling, flapping, perching

on the frozen poplar.

… On the bare poplar

sombre rooks, still and silent

like cold dark notes

penned on February’s stave.

 

                              II

 

The blue mountain, the river, the tall

copper wands of slender poplars,

and white of almonds on the hill,

oh snow in flower, butterfly on the bough!

With the broad beans’ fragrance the wind

blows over the land’s bright solitude.

 

                              III

 

A white flash

snakes through leaden cloud.

The child’s eye

amazed, and the frowning brow

the room is dark – of the mother!…

Oh balcony closed against the storm!

The wind and hail

ring on the bright glass.


IV

 

The rainbow and the balcony.

                                               Seven strings

of the sun’s lyre tremor in dream.

A toy drum gives seven taps –

water and glass –.

                              Acacias with goldfinches.

Storks on the bell-towers.

                                         In the plaza

the rain has washed the dusty myrtle.

Who placed those laughing virgin girls

in the vast quadrangle

and above, hosannah! in the broken cloud,

the palm of gold and the blue serene?

 

                              V

 

Between chalk hills and grey crags

the train eats the steel trail.

The row of gleaming windows

hold a twin cameo profile

repeated through the silver glass.

Who is it that has pierced time’s heart?


VI

 

Who set, between those rocks like cinder,

to show the honey of dream,

that golden broom,

those blue rosemaries?

Who painted the purple mountains

and the saffron, sunset sky?

The hermitage, the beehives,

the cleft of the river

the endless rolling water deep in rocks,

the pale-green of new fields,

all of it, even the white and pink

under the almond trees!

 

VII

 

In the silence it goes on

trembling, Pythagoras’ lyre,

rainbow in the light, the light that fills

my empty stereoscope.

They’ve blinded my eyes those embers

of the Heraclitean fire.

World for a moment is

transparent, void, mute, blind.

 

 


CLVIII: Songs of the High Country

 

I

 

In the white hills…

Fine snow

and a headwind.

 

In among the pine trees…

the road hides itself

in white snow.

 

A fierce wind blowing

from Urbión to Moncayo.

Wastelands of Soria!

 

II

 

Later there’ll be storks in the sun

watching the evening redden

from Moncayo to Urbión.

 

                              III

 

The door in my heart

opened on its hinges,

and once more the gallery

of my history was revealed.

Once more the little plaza

with flowering acacias,

once more the clear fountain

telling its tale of love.

 


IV

 

The brown oak

and the stony wasteland.

When the sun sets

the river wakens.

 

Oh far mountains

of violet and mauve!

In the darkened air

only river sounds.

 

Lilac moon

of ancient evening

in a cold land

more moon than earth!

 

V

 

Soria, in blue mountains,

on the fields of violet,

how often I’ve dreamed of you

on the plain of flowers,

where the Guadalquivir runs

past golden orange-trees

to the sea.

 

                              VI

 

How often ashen land

you’ve veiled my view

of green lemon trees

with your oaks of shadow!

 

Oh fields of God,

between Urbión’s Castile

and Moncayo’s Aragon!


                              VII

 

In Cordoba, mountaineers,

in Seville, farmers, seamen

and labouring sails

swelling to the sea:

and on the wide plain

where the sand drinks

the briny ocean’s spit,

my heart turned towards

the founts of Duero,

Soria the pure…Oh, frontier

between earth and moon!

 

High barren plain

where the young Duero flows,

earth where her earth lies!

 

VIII

 

The river wakes.

In darkened air,

only the sound of the river.

 

Oh, bitter singing

of water over stone!

…By Hawthorn Hill

beneath the stars.

 

Only the sound of the river

in the depths of the valley

beneath Hawthorn Hill.

 


IX

 

In the midst of the fields

the hermitage with no hermit

leaves its window open.

 

A green tiled roof.

Four white walls.

 

Far off the harsh stone

of Guadarrama shines.

Water bright without sound.

 

In clear air

the poplars of the grove,

leafless March lyres!

 

X: Rainbow At Night

 

(For Don Ramón del Valle-Inclán)

 

Bound for Madrid, one evening

the train in the Guadarrama.

In the sky the rainbow’s arch

of moonlight and water.

Oh calm moon of April

driving the white clouds!

 

The mother holds her child,

sleeping, in her lap.

Sleeping the child still sees

the green fields going by

with little sunlit trees

and gilded butterflies.


The mother, frowning dark

between tomorrow, yesterday

sees dying embers

and an oven full of spiders.

 

And there’s a sad traveller

who has to view rare sights,

talks to himself, glances up

and voids us with his glance.

 

I think of fields of snow,

pine-trees on other hills.

 

And you, Lord, through whom

all see, who sees all souls,

say if a day will come

when we shall see your face.

 

 


CLIX: Songs

 

                              I

 

By the flowering hills

seethes the wide sea.

The honeycomb from my bees

contains tiny grains of salt.

 

                              II

 

By the black water.

Scent of sea and jasmine.

Málagueñan night.

 

                              III

 

Spring is here again.

No one knows how it came.

 

                              IV

 

Spring is here entire,

Snowy hallelujahs

of the flowering briar!

 

                              V

 

Moon at full, Moon at full

so swollen and so round

in this March night, so still,

honeycomb of light

worked by bees pure white!


VI

 

Night in Castile:

the song is sung,

or, rather, is unsung.

When all is asleep

I’ll lean on the sill.

 

                              VII

 

Sing, sing clear, rhythmically

the green branching almond tree

and the river’s double willow.

 

Sing of the grey oak-tree

that the axe has severed

of the flower no one sees.

 

Of the orchard pear-trees

the white flower, and the pink

flower of the peach-tree.

 

And this fragrance breathed

By the moist breeze

from the flowering bean.

 

VIII

 

The fountains and the four

acacias in flower

in the little plaza.

The sun no longer burns.

Pleasant late afternoon!

Sing, you nightingale.

It’s the same hour

in my heart.


IX

 

White inn,

a traveller’s cell,

with my shadow!

 

 

                              X

 

The Roman aqueduct

a voice from my land sings –

and the love we possess,

my child, there’s steadfastness!

 

                              XI

 

Words of love

sound better

for a little excess.

 

                              XII

 

High Mass

in Santo Domingo.

They called me

a heretic, a Mason –

praying with you

what devotion!

 

 


XIII

 

A fiesta in the green meadow

fife and drum –

A shepherd arrived

with flowering crook and golden sandals.

 

I’ve come down from the hills

just to dance with her:

to the hills I’ll return.

 

A nightingale sings

in the garden leaves:

sings by night and day,

sings in moon and sun.

Hoarse with singing:

a girl comes to the garden

to pick a rose.

 

Between the dark oaks

there’s a stone fountain

and a little earthen jug

that’s never filled.

 

Through the oak trees,

under a white moon

she’ll return.

 

                              XIV

 

In Valonsadero with you

on the Eve of Saint John:

tomorrow on the pampas

the other side of the sea.

Till I return,

keep faith with me,

 

I’ll be on the pampas, tomorrow,

but my heart will fly from me

to the slopes of the high Duero.

 

                              XV

 

While you’re dancing round,

sing, girls, sing:

already the fields are green,

April your lover is come.

 

By the riverside

among the dark oak-trees

we’ve seen the silver

of his sandals gleam.

Already the meadows are green,

April your lover is come.

 

 


CLXIV: Dreams In Dialogue

 

                              I

 

Your form appears to me as in the high

country!…My words evoke

green fields, plateaus bare and dry,

flowering briars, ashen rock.

 

And, obeying memory, dark oaks

bud on the hill, poplars by the riverside:

the shepherd toils up the slope,

a balcony in town is glowing: mine,

 

Ours. Do you see? Towards Aragon, far off

the peaks of Moncayo, white and red…

Look at the fires of that crimson cloud,

 

and a star in the blue, beloved.

Santana Hill, beyond the Duero,

Turning dark in evening silence.

 

 


                              II

 

You ask why my heart forsakes this place

For the sake of the high plateaus,

and among farming, and sea-going folk,

I sigh for Castilian wastes?

 

No one elects his love. My fate

led me one day to the grey barrens,

where cold snows in falling veil

the long-dead oak tree shadows.

 

From a slice of Spain, high and rocky,

A ragged branch of rosemary, I

bring flowery Guadalquiver, to you.

 

My heart’s where it was born, not to life

I mean, but to love, beside the Duero

…The pointed cypress, the wall all white!

 

 


                              III

 

Lady, the embers of the evening

part the dark clouds of the storm

paint on the ashen stony form

of some far hill, the glow of morning.

 

Dawn congealing on cold stone,

in the traveller’s heart striking fear,

more than, at midday, a mountain lion,

or in some deep gorge, a giant bear.

 

Caught, with the flame of one passion,

in a clouded dream of hope and fear

I go to the sea, towards oblivion

 

–and not like night-bound masses here

rocks darkened by the earth’s rotation –.

Don’t call to me: I shan’t reappear.

 

 


                              IV

 

Oh solitude, my sole companion,

muse of marvels, that gave my voice

the word unasked for, answer my question!

Who is this now with whom I talk?

 

Away from the noisy masquerade

My friendless sadness turns, lady,

with you, you of the veiled face,

always veiled to speak with me.

 

And I think: that I am who I am, to me

that’s no great puzzle, to be the shape

created in the inner mirror, it’s the mystery

 

rather of your loving voice: show your face,

so that your eyes of diamond I might see,

your diamond eyes fixed on me in space.

 

 


CLXV: From Sonetos: III

 

Have I tarnished your memory? So many times!

Life flows on by like some wide stream,

and with a tall ship, to the sea,

it bears green mud, and clouds of slime.

 

More so if storms have washed banks bare

dragging along the spoils of tempest,

and if an ashen cloud in heaven

is ablaze with bright-yellow flares.

 

Yet however it flows to an unknown shore,

life is still fountain water, freed

drop by drop, from its pure source,

 

or torrents of spray, that break noisily

beneath the sky, from the rocky force.

And your name sounds there, eternally!

 

 


CLXXIV: From ‘Other Songs for Guiomar

 

                              III

 

I will write this on your fan:

I love you, so as to forget you.

So as to forget you, I love you.

 

                              VI

 

And I’ll send you my song:

‘One sings what one loses’

and a green parakeet

for your balcony, to say it.

 

 


LII: Meditation

 

Now the moon goes climbing

over the orange grove.

And Venus is shining

like a glass dove.

 

Amber and beryl

beyond the far mountain,

and over the calm ocean

sky of porcelain, purple.

 

Now it’s night in the garden

about its tasks goes water!

and only the scent of jasmine,

the nightingale of odours.

 

From ocean to ocean

How silent it seems, the war,

while Valencia blossoms

drinking the Guadalviar!

 

Valencia of slender towers

and soft nights, Valencia,

I’ll be there with you,

when you I no longer see–

where sand adds to the meadow,

where the violet sea recedes.

 

 


LIII: The Crime Was In Granada

 

For Federico García Lorca

 

                              I:  The Crime

 

He was seen walking between the rifles,

down a long street

out to chill fields

still lit by early stars.

They killed Federico

when the dawn broke.

The executioner’s crew

dared not look in his face.

They shut their eyes,

said: ‘Nor will God save you!

Federico fell dying

blood on his brow, lead in his guts –

…To think the crime should be in Granada.

  poor Granada – in his Granada

 

 


II: Death and the Poet

 

He was seen walking only with Her,

and unafraid of her scythe.

– The sun now on tower after tower, hammers

on anvils – anvil on anvil, of the forges.

Federico was speaking

flattering Death. She listened.

‘Yesterday in my verse, friend,

the clap of your dry palms sounded,

you gave ice to my song, your silver

scythe’s edge to my tragedy,

I’ll sing to you of your wasted flesh,

your empty eyes,

your hair the wind stirs,

the red lips where you were kissed…

Now as ever, gypsy, my death,

how good to be alone with you,

in this breeze of Granada, my Granada!

 

                              III

 

He was seen walking…

                                        Friends, carve

in the Alhambra, a statue of dreams

and stone, for the poet,

over a fountain where water goes grieving

and saying, eternally:

the crime was in Granada, in his Granada!

 


Index of First Lines

 

All goes, and all remains, 4

I follow the songs. 6

I go dreaming down roadways. 8

And is that magical world to die with you, 9

Was it you, Guadarrama, ancient friend. 10

Soria’s earth is dry and cold. 11

Palacio, good friend, 17

In the blue, the black. 19

In the white hills…... 22

By the flowering hills. 27

Your form appears to me as in the high. 32

You ask why my heart forsakes this place. 33

Lady, the embers of the evening. 34

Oh solitude, my sole companion, 35

Have I tarnished your memory? So many times! 36

I will write this on your fan: 37

Now the moon goes climbing. 38

He was seen walking between the rifles, 39