Here is the Nicaraguan poet, Ruben Dario’s, poem on Spain, the cultural, historical and linguistic source of inspiration and tradition across the whole Spanish-speaking world. It is a sonnet which includes a real tension between the sentiments of admiration and of reprehension for the Spanish influence and legacy.
Fittingly, the sonnet begins with the image of a ship drifting, battered by the winds and waves of a storm, capturing the history of Spain as a pioneering sea-faring nation, but also the fact that the country has lost its way.
Dejad que siga y bogue la galera
bajo la tempestad, sobre las olas:
va con rumbo a una Atlántida española,
en donde el porvenir calla y espera.
No se apague el rencor ni el odio muera
ante el pendón que el bárbaro enarbola:
si un día la justicia estuvo sola,
lo sentirá la humanidad entera.
Y bogue entre las olas espumeantes,
y bogue la galera que ya ha visto
cómo son las tormentas de inconstantes.
Que la raza está en pie y el brazo listo,
que va en el barco el capitán Cervantes,
y arriba flota el pabellón de Cristo.
The poem goes on to say that the ship is heading to a Spanish Atlantis, a mythical land of plenty across or under the sea, reflecting the ideals and aspirations of Spain, but also with the connotation that this would be illusory, doomed to failure, disappointment and suffering. The second four lines call out the resentment, hatred and absence of justice afflicting humanity, and by implication, afflicting Spaniards above all.
But in the final six lines, Dario’s appreciation of more positive qualities of the Spanish people comes through – the ship perseveres in battling through the waves, however rough and unpredictable they are, and the people are brave and stoic, following the example of illustrious forebears like Cervantes and inspired by their Catholic faith.
On balance, the poem is conflicted in its vision of Spain, but at least brings out the contradictions, the challenges and the redeeming qualities of the poet’s experience of the country which sets the tone for his cultural heritage.
The Poetry Dude