Pariome mi madre

Here is a traditional, anonymous poem from the late mediaeval period in Spain, I would guess from the mid to late 1400s. The title “Endechas” means lamentations, and the poem certainly dwells on misfortune – and misfortune from the very circumstances of birth. It reminds me a bit of the Rolling Stones song “Jumping Jack Flash” in that way. Popular culture keeps on repeating itself…


Parióme mi madre
una noche escura,
cubrióme de luto,
faltome ventura.
Cuando yo nascí,
era hora menguada,
ni perro se oía,
ni gallo cantaba.
Ni gallo cantaba,
ni perro se oía,
sino mi ventura
que me maldecía.
Apartaos de mí,
bien afortunados,
que de sólo verme,
seréi desdichados.
Dixeron mis hados,
cuando fui nascido,
si damas amase
fuese aborrecido.
Fui engendrado
en signo nocturno,
reinaba Saturno
en curso menguado.
Mi lecho y la cuna
es la dura tierra;
crióme una perra,
mujer no, ninguna.
Muriendo, mi madre,
con voz de tristura,
púsome por nombre
hijo sin ventura.
Cupido enojado
con sus sofraganos
el arco en las manos
me tiene encarado.
Sobróme el amor
de vuestra hermosura,
sobróme el dolor,
faltóme ventura

From <;

The poem plays up the atmospherics of sinister omens surrounding the birth of the narrator, the dogs didn’t bark, the cocks didn’t crow, repeated, his mother covering him with mourning clothes at his birth, the witches foretelling that he will never be loved by a woman. The poem then recounts how he is raised by dogs not by any woman, and that his mother cursed him to be ever luckless. The final four lines hint at the narrator finding a beauty to love, but the curse remains and all he can feel is pain.

Like many anonymous poems this piece is like a folk tale and reflects the experience of the low-born, the ordinary poor, whose life is likely to be nasty, brutish and short, at least at that time in history. Poetry is predominantly the domain of more noble sentiments, so this is a good reminder that poetry can reflect low life as well as high life.


The Poetry Dude


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