Cuando sopla el Norte duro

This poem from Rosalia de Castro shines a light, with compassion and veracity, on the plight of the poor – here in nineteenth century Spain, but in reality the scourge of poverty and deprivation is still too widespread. And the poem takes place in winter, when conditions are even harsher for the poor, without adequate shelter, clothing or food. There is no good King Wenceslas here to invite the poor beggar into the warm castle.

Cuando sopla el Norte duro
y arde en el hogar el fuego,
y ellos pasan por mi puerta
flacos, desnudos y hambrientos,
el frío hiela mi espíritu,
como debe helar su cuerpo,
y mi corazón se queda,
al verles ir sin consuelo,
cual ellos, opreso y triste,
desconsolado cual ellos.

Era niño y ya perdiera
la costumbre de llorar;
la miseria seca el alma
y los ojos además;
era niño y parecía
por sus hechos viejo ya.

Experiencia del mendigo,
era precoz como el mal,
implacable como el odio,
dura como la verdad.

From <;

As the North wind blows and the poet huddles around a warm fire, the poor beggars are still outside in the cold, weak, naked and hungry. The scene is Dickensian, and the poet cannot bear to see such suffering.

The most heart-wrenching encounter is with a poor child, living in misery through no fault of its own, and become prematurely like an old man through malnutrition and misery. The child has no tears left.

The beggars experience is irredeemably bad, but true. The poet sees no hope of change, offers no help, is indeed overwhelmed by the misery in front of her eyes.

Despite offering no hope, the poem does a service by bearing witness to this terrible situation.

The Poetry Dude


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