Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Antonio Machado

Antonio Machado was a Spanish poet. Born in 1875, he was briefly and happily married, but his wife died young. Things didn’t improve from there: he fell ill while fleeing fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War and died shortly after scaling Pyrenees and crossing the French border in 1939.

Machado is reckoned to be the great Spanish modernist poet, but the translations of his work that I’ve read are uneven. The good ones absolutely persuade me of his brilliance; the bad ones remind me how dicey a proposition translating poetry can be.

This is another lovely poem from A Book of Luminous Things. The translator is Robert Bly, who is a noted poet in his own right.  I would be lying if I said I were a huge fan of Bly's own work, but I quite like his translations, which are graceful and economical.

I went to see my mother's family in Florida for Thanksgiving a mere week and a half after getting back from my Greece/Turkey trip, so travel poems such as the one that follows remain very much on my mind.  If anyone’s curious, my Florida Thanksgiving pictures are here.

Rainbow at Night

(for Don Ramon del Valle-Inclan)

  The train moves through the Guadarrama
one night on the way to Madrid.
The moon and fog create
high up a rainbow.
Oh April moon, so calm,
driving the white clouds!

  The mother holds her boy
sleeping on her lap.
The boy sleeps, and nevertheless
sees the green fields outside,
and trees lit up by sun,
and the golden butterflies.

  The mother, her forehead dark
between a day gone and a day to come,
sees a fire nearly out
and an oven with spiders.

  There’s a traveler mad with grief,
no doubt seeing odd things;
he talks to himself, and when he looks
wipes us out with his look.

  I remember fields under snow,
and pine trees of other mountains.

  And you, Lord, through whom we all
have eyes, and who sees souls,
tell us if we all one
day will see your face.

Antonio Machado on Wikipedia.

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