his is a lovely sonnet from Antonio Machado in which he combines the expression of his love for the remote and wild countryside of his adopted Castille with his love for his wife, by his side in this inspiring setting. But he is evoking this idyllic scene while sitting on the balcony of his apartment in the city, letting his imagination bring the idyll to life through the words of the poem. There are several levels of transformation here, enhancing the impact of this poem.
“As if I saw your face on the high plains…”
¡Como en el alto llano tu figura…
¡Como en el alto llano tu figura
se me aparece!… Mi palabra evoca
el prado verde y la árida llanura,
la zarza en flor, la cenicienta roca.
Y el recuerdo obediente, negra encina
brota en el cerro, baja el chopo al río;
el pastor va subiendo a la colina;
brilla un balcón de la ciudad: el mío,
el nuestro. ¿Ves? Hacia Aragón, lejana,
la sierra de Moncayo, blanca y rosa…
Mira el incendio de esa nube grana,
y aquella estrella en el azul, esposa.
Tras el Duero, la loma de Santana
se amorata en la tarde silenciosa.
The poem begins with the poet imagining seeing the face of his wife on the high plains – you can tell he is imagining this by the first word, “Como” – as if. Then he tells how he is making his words, the words in the poem, recall the beauty of the high meadows covered in yellow brush and ashy rock. In the second four lines, imagination gives way to memory, the memory of seeing the oak trees bursting forth from the slope, the poplars leaning over the stream and the shepherd walking up the hill. In the eighth line, Machado brings up back to the reality that all this is coming from his head in the act of creating the poem – he is sitting on his balcony in the city.
In these first eight lines it is the poet’s vision of nature which is at the forefront, but then he brings his wife into the picture – the city apartment is also hers, and he invites her, in the poem, to share his vision, the see the mountains, the clouds the river Duero, the hills, and the shared experience which inspires love in the quiet of the afternoon.
The places mentioned are real locations in the country to the west of Zaragoza, in Castille close to the edge of Aragon, paces which Machado loved dearly.
The Poetry Dude