¡Como en el alto llano tu figura 

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.

 

From <http://www.taringa.net/post/apuntes-y-monografias/19082198/5-Poemas-Cortos-Antonio-Machado.html>

 

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.

 

Beautiful poem…

 

The Poetry Dude

Amor empieza por desasosiego,

This is a very satisfying, logically constructed, analytical sonnet by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, in which she dispassionately lays out the successive phases of a love affair and then uses it to console a friend who is suffering because he is in the final stages of the process in which jealousy and suspicion darkens any relationship. The process is very like what Marcel Proust describes in the various love affairs described in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, except here, Sor Juana effectively nails the subject in a fourteen-line sonnet, whereas Proust takes a couple of thousand pages or so.

So here is Sor Juana’s Advice to a Jealous Lover…

QUE CONSUELA A UN CELOSO

Amor empieza por desasosiego,

solicitud, ardores y desvelos;

crece con riesgos, lances y recelos;

susténtase de llantos y de ruego.

Doctrínanle tibiezas y despego,

conserva el ser entre engañosos velos,

hasta que con agravios o con celos

apaga con sus lágrimas su fuego.

Su principio, su medio y fin es éste:

¿pues por qué, Alcino, sientes el desvío

de Celia, que otro tiempo bien te quiso?

¿Qué razón hay de que dolor te cueste?

Pues no te engañó amor, Alcino mío,

sino que llegó el término preciso.

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/sor-juana-ines-de-la-cruz-que-consuela-a-un-celoso.htm>

The first four lines succinctly describe the first three phases of a love affair – unease, caring, passion; then daring and risk-taking; then dependence as revealed by needy claims on the lover. The second stanza proceeds through the cooling of passion but the awakening of jealousy, justified or unjustified, which starts to extinguish the flames of love. This the arc of many love affairs, and Sor Juana has described it in just eight lines.

In the remainder of the poem, Sor Juana addresses a lover, reminding him that the course of love is always like this, with a beginning a middle and an end – so why should Alcino, the lover, be upset by this completely natural course of events? There is no blame to be attached to either Alcino or his lover, Celia. So there is no point in suffering as a result – all that has happened is that this love affair has reached its natural end.

Sound and balanced advice indeed, but any lover would likely not be receptive to it until much later.

The Poetry Dude

Al ver mis horas de fiebre 

For the 61st of his sequence of rhymes, Spanish romantic poet Gustavo Adolfo Becquer meditates on his own insignificance, or, if you prefer, indulges in an extended expression of self pity. From sickness through death, burial and posterity, nobody will care for or even remember this poet. Well, today’s blog post proves that idea wrong, 150 years or so later…

Rima 61

Gustavo Adolfo Becquer

Al ver mis horas de fiebre

e insomnio lentas pasar,

a la orilla de mi lecho,

¿quién se sentará?

Cuando la trémula mano

tienda, próximo a expirar,

buscando una mano amiga,

¿quién la estrechará?

Cuando la muerte vidríe

de mis ojos el cristal,

mis párpados aún abiertos,

¿quién los cerrará?

Cuando la campana suene

(si suena en mi funeral)

una oración, al oírla,

¿quién murmurará?

Cuando mis pálidos restos

oprima la tierra ya,

sobre la olvidada fosa,

¿quién vendrá a llorar?

¿Quién en fin, al otro día,

cuando el sol vuelva a brillar,

de que pasé por el mundo

quién se acordará?

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/rima-lxi.htm>

The poem describes a gradual descent from fever to death and oblivion for the poet, with at each stage nobody who cares, nobody who notices and ultimately nobody who remembers. Each four line stanza describes one step in this lonely and forlorn process in which the poet ends up completely forgotten by all, even if each stanza ends with the question, asking who will be there, who will weep, who will remember, the answer is understood. But the world will continue and the cycle start again, with another day, another poet, and so on, and so on…

The Poetry Dude

No importan los emblemas

This is a delicate poem from Vicente Aleixandre of love lost, of the contrast between real feelings or sensations and mere symbols or words. The poet is grappling to come to terms with his loss and falls back on the parallel with the sea and the waves, or rather the contrast between the ebb and flow of the waves on the beach, and the  lost love which will never return

 

Como la mar, los besos

 

No importan los emblemas

ni las vanas palabras que son un soplo sólo.

Importa el eco de lo que oí y escucho.

Tu voz, que muerta vive, como yo que al pasar

aquí aún te hablo.

 

Eras más consistente,

más duradera, no porque te besase,

ni porque en ti asiera firme a la existencia.

Sino porque como la mar

después que arena invade temerosa se ahonda.

En verdes o en espumas la mar, se aleja.

Como ella fue y volvió tú nunca vuelves.

 

Quizá porque, rodada

sobre playa sin fin, no pude hallarte.

La huella de tu espuma,

cuando el agua se va, queda en los bordes.

 

Sólo bordes encuentro. Sólo el filo de voz que

en mí quedara.

Como un alga tus besos.

Mágicos en la luz, pues muertos tornan.

 

Vicente Aleixandre

 

From <https://tocandoloscorazones.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/como-la-mar-los-besos-vicente-aleixandre/>

 

Delicate, wistful, tasteful, beautiful – a love poem which touches this reader’s heart.

 

The Poetry Dude

Aunque en ricos montones

 

Today let’s enjoy Fray Luis’s sixteenth century rant against a corrupt and grasping judge. Presumably the poet or one of his circle must have been on the wrong side of this judge’s demands or decisions. Its just a pity that Fray Luis did not name the judge – but presumably his circle of readers would have known who was the target of the poem. And since this kind of situation still exists today in too many jurisdictions, we can use the same arguments of Fray Luis to highlight the corruption in public office.

 

ODA XVI – CONTRA UN JUEZ AVARO

Fray Luis de Leon

 

Aunque en ricos montones

levantes el cautivo inútil oro;

y aunque tus posesiones

mejores con ajeno daño y lloro;

 

y aunque cruel tirano

oprimas la verdad, y tu avaricia,

vestida en nombre vano,

convierta en compra y venta la justicia;

 

aunque engañes los ojos

del mundo a quien adoras: no por tanto

no nacerán abrojos

agudos en tu alma; ni el espanto

 

no velará en tu lecho;

ni huirás la cúita y agonía,

el último despecho;

ni la esperanza buena en compañía

 

del gozo tus umbrales

penetrará jamás; ni la Meguera,

con llamas infernales,

con serpentino azote la alta y fiera

 

y diestra mano armada,

saldrá de tu aposento sola una hora;

y ni tendrás clavada

la rueda, aunque más puedas, voladora

 

del Tiempo hambriento y crudo,

que viene, con la muerte conjurado,

a dejarte desnudo

del oro y cuanto tienes más amado;

y quedarás sumido

en males no finibles y en olvido.

 

 

 

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/fray-luis-de-leon-oda-xvi—contra-un-juez-avaro.htm>

 

The first two and a half stanzas set up the portrait of an avaricious and grasping judge, piling up mountains of gold at the expense of others’ distress, suppressing truth, treating justice as a commodity to be bought and sold and seeking approval and acceptance from the rich and high-born We can all recognize this figure, and not only among judges. Using public office as a means of private gain goes back to the Romans and beyond and is still prevalent today, even in countries where we assume the rule of law for all is accepted. Just look at the news headlines almost any day.

 

I wonder if this poem was also associated with Fray Luis’s own imprisonment on charges of heresy – he spent about four years in prison in the mid 1570s on charges of heresy before being eventually exonerated and released.

 

The rest of the poem enumerates the unpleasant consequences for the judge of his corruption and avarice – sharp thistles in his soul, being unable to sleep at night, mortality, lack of capacity for enjoyment; the Meguera, in Greek mythology the instrument of divine vengeance, will never leave his side; and he will be unable to stop the passage of time, bringing death and the loss of all the gold he has accumulated. The judge will finish up with eternal suffering, presumably in hell, while he will be forgotten on earth.

 

I am guessing the judge would have been motivated by more immediate incentives though.

 

The Poetry Dude

Dije: Todo ya pleno.

This wonderful poem by Jorge Guillen is to capture a moment when the world seems to stand still, when the poet is open to capture and appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the world around him. It happens to be at 12 o’clock mid-day, but I think and hope we can all make this experience happen for ourselves at any hour – just stand still and let the beauty of the world raise our hearts and replenish our optimism.

LAS DOCE EN EL RELOJ

Jorge Guillen

Dije: Todo ya pleno.

Un álamo vibró.

Las hojas plateadas

Sonaron con amor.

Los verdes eran grises,

El amor era sol.

Entonces, mediodía,

Un pájaro sumió

Su cantar en el viento

Con tal adoración

Que se sintió cantada

Bajo el viento la flor

Crecida entre las mieses,

Más altas. Era yo,

Centro en aquel instante

De tanto alrededor,

Quien lo veía todo

Completo para un dios.

Dije: Todo, completo.

¡Las doce en el reloj!

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/jorge-guillen-las-doce-en-el-reloj.htm>

The key to the poem, for me at least, are the two expressions of plenitude, in the first line “Todo ya plenp” and in the next-to-last line, “Todo completo”. The poet is experiencing and communicating complete, transcendental harmony with his surroundings and nothing could conceivably add to the depth and beauty of his experience. He acknowledges of course that it is an entirely personal experience – in both cases, the phrase is preceded by “Dije” – I said. Each person has to be open to receive the beauty of the world, and this is also a reminder that we can all make ourselves open to this kind of experience.

The rest of the poem are the wonderfully and economically described examples of the beauties of nature which the poet becomes conscious of, this midday, using his heightened awareness – the willow tree gently shaking in the breeze, the silvery leaves changing in colour from green to grey as the light catches them in a different way, the bird singing as it flies in the wind. All these convey love, and it is with a sense of wonder that the poet realises that he is in the center of so much beauty and able to recognise and appreciate it. Like a god.

We should all take five minutes or so every day and just open up our senses to our surroundings, without reflection, without judgement, just to appreciate and become one with our world.

The power of poetry….

The Poetry Dude

Claro cisne del Betis que, sonoro

There are many poems in which great poets pay tribute to other great poets, either in recognition of following their tradition, or to acknowledge their influence and inspiration or perhaps to put themselves in the company of poets known to be masters of their art. Here , we have a poem by Lope de Vega in praise of his almost exact contemporary, Luis de Gongora. They could have been rivals, but this poem looks a genuine appreciation of the great Gongora’s poetic gift.

In some ways, I think of Lope de Vega as the closest Spanish equivalent of Shakespeare, for his mastery of both theatre and poetry, and his willingness to push the envelope, particularly in dramatic themes (think for example of Fuenteovejuna, or El Caballero de Olmedo).

With all that as background, here is the sonnet (of course), which one genius, Lope, wrote to celebrate another genius, Gongora…

A don Luis de Góngora

Lope de Vega

Claro cisne del Betis que, sonoro

y grave, ennobleciste el instrumento

más dulce, que ilustró músico acento,

bañando en ámbar puro el arco de oro,

a ti lira, a ti el castalio coro

debe su honor, su fama y su ornamento,

único al siglo y a la envidia exento,

vencida, si no muda, en tu decoro.

Los que por tu defensa escriben sumas,

propias ostentaciones solicitan,

dando a tu inmenso mar viles espumas.

Los ícaros defienda, que te imitan,

que como acercan a tu sol las plumas

de tu divina luz se precipitan.

From <http://ciudadseva.com/texto/a-don-luis-de-gongora/>

This is a poem of two halves (Brian)… In the first half, Lope praises Gongora’s musicality, the fact that the words of his poems elevate the qualities of the musical instruments or choral arrangements which might accompany them. In the second half of the poem, Lope points the finger at those who write praises of Gongora just to make themselves well-known – like Icarus, as they approach Gongora, the glue that holds their feathers together will melt and they will fall back to earth.

Which leaves Gongora and Lope alone at the pinnacle of their accomplishments.

The Poetry Dude