Poeta ayer, hoy triste y pobre

In today’s poem Antonio Machado conveys a melancholy world-weary mood in which the hopes and dreams and love-affairs of a young man have been supplanted by the hard knocks of life, real or metaphorical. Disillusion and disappointment are the dominant state of the poet’s mind in this poem.

Much of Machado’s work alternates between navel-gazing, as here, and celebrating the countryside and natural beauty of his native region of Castille.
There are also a few political poems and some poems which are written as tributes to friends, mentors, precursors or others he admired. This poem belongs firmly in the first category.

Antonio Machado
Coplas mundanas

Poeta ayer, hoy triste y pobre
filósofo trasnochado,
tengo en monedas de cobre
el oro de ayer cambiado.

Sin placer y sin fortuna,
pasó como una quimera
mi juventud, la primera…
la sola, no hay más que una:
la de dentro es la de fuera.

Pasó como un torbellino,
bohemia y aborrascada,
harta de coplas y vino,
mi juventud bien amada.

Y hoy miro a las galerías
del recuerdo, para hacer
aleluyas de elegías
desconsoladas de ayer.

¡Adiós, lágrimas cantoras,
lágrimas que alegremente
brotabais, como en la fuente
las limpias aguas sonoras!

¡Buenas lágrimas vertidas
por un amor juvenil,
cual frescas lluvias caídas
sobre los campos de abril!

No canta ya el ruiseñor
de cierta noche serena;
sanamos del mal de amor
que sabe llorar sin pena.

Poeta ayer, hoy triste y pobre
filósofo trasnochado,
tengo en monedas de cobre
el oro de ayer cambiado.

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/coplas-mundanas.htm&gt;

Machado was clearly striving here to capture a mood rather than construct a tidy poem in formal terms. All the stanzas have four lines except the second which has five. However he does achieve symmetry by having the final stanza repeat the first one.

The poem evokes in several ways the contrast between optimistic youth and his disillusioned older state, but the comparison is entirely in favour of being young, carefree and in love, open to experience whether hearing the nightingale sing or shedding tears because of some youthful love affair. Whereas his older state seems grey, monotonous and bereft of future.

This is indeed mid-life crisis poetry – I hope he went out and bought a sports car or secured a trophy wife…

The Poetry Dude


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