Antonio Machado is above all known as a poet of Castille, the arid central plains of Spain. However he was born in Andalusia, and moved to Castille as a boy. This poem is about an orange tree and a lemon tree, whose natural home is in Andalucia, close to the Mediterranean, and what happens when these fruit trees are transplanted to Castille. I wonder if the poet was in some way writing about his own experience.
A un naranjo y a un limonero
Naranjo en maceta, ¡qué triste es tu suerte!
Medrosas tiritan tus hojas menguadas.
Naranjo en la corte, ¡qué pena da verte
con tus naranjitas secas y arrugadas!.
Pobre limonero de fruto amarillo
cual pomo pulido de pálida cera,
¡qué pena mirarte, mísero arbolillo
criado en mezquino tonel de madera!
De los claros bosques de la Andalucía,
¿quién os trajo a esta castellana tierra
que barren los vientos de la adusta sierra,
hijos de los campos de la tierra mía?
¡Gloria de los huertos, árbol limonero,
que enciendes los frutos de pálido oro,
y alumbras del negro cipresal austero
las quietas plegarias erguidas en coro;
y fresco naranjo del patio querido,
del campo risueño y el huerto soñado,
siempre en mi recuerdo maduro o florido
de frondas y aromas y frutos cargado!
The poem begins by describing the sad condition of the orange tree, in the first stanza, and the lemon tree, in the second stanza, as they droop in their pots, shriveled and pale in the arid, harsh conditions. In the third stanza we find out why, as the poet asks who has bought them from the fertile orchards of Andalusia to the windy plains of Castille. Castille is far removed from the Mediterranean climate and fertile soils which these fruit trees need. The final two stanzas evoke the lemon tree and the orange tree in their true native habitat, flourishing in the Andalusian climate. The final two lines connect this to the poet’s own memory, from his boyhood, as he remembers the scent of a fruit-laden orange tree, perhaps in the shady courtyard of his house.
So, this is a gently evocative poem which illustrates the human experience of exile and nostalgia with the description of orange and lemon trees away from their native habitat. It is quite moving, in a low key way.
The Poetry Dude