Ya que de la esperanza, para la vida mía,

Here is a poem full of melancholy and sadness from Rosalia de Castro, a poem in which the sense of coming to the end of life dominates, and end of life in which the poet, following the examples of other creatures only wishes to find lone refuge in a hidden place. The hope of the title is in its final phases of decline…

Ya que de la esperanza…

Ya que de la esperanza, para la vida mía,

triste y descolorido ha llegado el ocaso,

a mi morada oscura, desmantelada y fría,

tornemos paso a paso,

porque con su alegría no aumente mi amargura

la blanca luz del día.

Contenta el negro nido busca el ave agorera;

bien reposa la fiera en el antro escondido,

en su sepulcro el muerto, el triste en el olvido

y mi alma en su desierto.

From <https://theinkbrain.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/rosalia-de-castro-selected-poems/>

It is a touching poem, with the poet seeking solitude as her hop ebbs away. She wants to return to her dark, untidy and cold house, fleeing the light of day, so that it doesn’t cheer her up. Just as the bird goes back to its dark nest, just as the wild animal curls up in its hidden burrow, just as the corpse rests in its vault, the poet’s soul seeks its deserted place. This is a poem of the end of hope, of renunciation and the realisation that nothing really matters outside one’s own state of mind.

The Poetry Dude

Vendéronlle os bois,

This poem, written in Galician, by Rosalia de Castro is a moving testimony to the hardships and deprivations of life in Spain in the late nineteenth century, which spurred emigration to the New World. The experience would have been quite similar to that of the Irish in the period following the famines of the late 1840s when so many Irish peasants and country folk left everything and went to the USA, firstly to the slums of New York and Boston. In this case, the Galicians are going to Havana, in Cuba, presumably seeking some cultural and linguistic continuity. But the tone is not one of hope, or optimism or expectation of a better life. Rather it is a tone of despair and disillusion, the people are being driven to this as a last resort because of poverty and misery.

Going to Havana – adventure or misfortune?


¡Pra a Habana!

I
Vendéronlle os bois,
vendéronlle as vacas,
o pote do caldo
i a manta da cama.
Vendéronlle o carro
i as leiras que tiña;
deixárono sóio
coa roupa vestida.
“María, eu son mozo,
pedir non me é dado;
eu vou polo mundo
pra ver de ganalo.
Galicia está probe,
i á Habana me vou…
¡Adiós, adiós, prendas
do meu corazón!”

II
Cando ninguén os mira,
vense rostros nubrados e sombrisos,
homes que erran cal sombras voltexantes
por veigas e campíos.
Un, enriba dun cómaro
séntase caviloso e pensativo;
outro, ó pe dun carballo queda imóvil,
coa vista levantada hacia o infinito.
Alǵun, cabo da fonte recrinado,
parés que escoita atento o murmurío
de augua que cai, e eisala xordamente
tristísimos sospiros.
¡Van a deixá-la patria…!
Forzoso, mais supremo sacrificio.
A miseria está negra en torno deles,
¡ai!, ¡i adiante está o abismo…!

III
O mar castiga bravamente as penas,
e contra as bandas do vapor se rompen
as irritadas ondas
do Cántabro salobre.
Chilan as gaviotas
¡alá lonxe…!, ¡moi lonxe!,
na prácida ribeira solitaria
que convida ó descanso i ós amores.
De humanos seres a compauta línea
que brila ó sol adiántase e retórcese,
mais preto e lentamente as curvas sigue
do murallón antigo do Parrote.
O corazón apértase de angustia,
óiense risas, xuramentos se oien,
i as brasfemias se axuntan cos sospiros…
¿ÓNde van eses homes?
Dentro dun mes, no simiterio imenso
da Habana, ou nos seus bosques,
ide ver qué foi deles…
¡No eterno olvido para sempre dormen!
¡Probes nais que os criaron,
i as que os agardan amorosas, probes!

IV
“¡Ánimo, compañeiros!
Toda a terra é dos homes.
Aquel que non veu nunca máis que a propia,
a iñorancia o consome.
¡Áńimo! ¡A quen se muda Dio-lo axuda!
¡I anque ora vamos de Galicia lonxe,
verés desque tornemos
o que medrano os robres!
Mañán é o día grande, ¡á mar, amigos!
¡Mañán, Dios nos acoche!”
¡No sembrante a alegría,
no corazón o esforzo,
i a campana armoniosa da esperanza,
lonxe, tocando a morto!

V
Éste vaise i aquél vaise,
e todos, todos se van.
Galicia, sin homes quedas
que te poidan traballar.
Tes, en cambio, orfos e orfas
e campos de soledad,
e nais que non teñen fillos
e fillos que non tén pais.
E tes corazóns que sufren
longas ausencias mortás,
viudas de vivos e mortos
que ninguén consolará.

In the first stanza, the emigrant sells his possessions, all the humble artefacts and livestock he has left to pay for his passage across the Atlantic. For Galicia is poor and surely he can do better elsewhere. But in the second stanza he looks around and everywhere he looks he sees downcast, somber faces, suffering in the present but also fearful of the future. This is not an easy choice.
The longer third stanza sees the travelers at sea, packed into a boat at the mercy of the winds and the waves. They are not joyful, they are anxious, people are sighing, probably regretting their departure. For after one month they could be in the cemetery in Havana, forgotten. The poet pities the parents that have raised them and the lovers they have left behind. In the fourth stanza, the travelers try to raise their spirits by thinking that one day they could return and be again in the beloved countryside of their homeland in Galicia. But it is clearly a forlorn hope.
The final stanza focusses on a picture of Galicia emptied of its men, its most productive people, reverting to a state of nature with no-one to work the land, and widows who will get comfort from nobody.
It is a bleak picture, with emigration driven by lack of opportunity in people’s own land. Rosalia de Castro has done us a service by capturing it with sympathy and compassion. Where are the poets of the great migrations of our own age?
The Poetry Dude

Tú para mí, yo para ti, bien mío

Here is a poem written by Rosalia de Castro in Castilian Spanish, rather than her native Galician. Just as football is a game of two halves, Brian, this piece is a poem of two stanzas. The title proclaims the intent to be a love poem, and the first stanza bears this out, blazing with tender passion. And then the second stanza fast forwards to give a stark description of what the passage of time does to the loving couple. Life happens, I guess.

 
Tú Para Mí, Yo Para Ti, Bien Mío

de Rosalia de Castro

I
Tú para mí, yo para ti, bien mío
-murmurábais los dos-
«Es el amor la esencia de la vida,
no hay vida sin amor» .
¡Qué tiempo aquel de alegres armonías!…
¡Qué albos rayos de sol!…
¡Qué tibias noches de susurros llenas,
qué horas de bendición!
¡qué aroma, qué perfumes, qué belleza
en cuanto Dios crió,
y cómo entre sonrisas murmurábais:
«¡No hay vida sin amor!»
II
Después, cual lampo fugitivo y leve,
como soplo veloz,
pasó el amor…, la esencia de la vida…;
mas… aún vivís los dos.
«Tú de otro, y de otra yo» , dijísteis luego.
¡Oh mundo engañador!
Ya no hubo noches de serena calma,
brilló enturbiado el sol!…
¿Y aún, vieja encina, resististe? ¿Aún late,
mujer, tu corazón?
No es tiempo ya de delirar, no torna
lo que por siempre huyó.
No sueñes, ¡ay!, pues que llegó el invierno
frío y desolador.
Huella la nieve, valerosa, y cante
enérgica tu voz.
¡Amor, llam inmortal, rey de la tierra,
ya para siempre, adiós!

From <http://www.poemasde.net/tu-para-mi-yo-para-ti-bien-mio-rosalia-de-castro/&gt;

The title and first line show the opening gambit on many a love affair, when young lovers are smitten. Nothing else exists in their universe, all that counts is being with their loved one. They think the idyll will go on for ever. And the whole of the first stanza reverberates with the exuberance of young, starry-eyed love – the harmony, the days in the sun, the romantic nights, the perfumes and sensual beauty, the ultimate realisation that life is love.

But the second stanza focusses on the time after the first impulses of love have faded. It is longer than the first stanza, indicating that the consequences and aftermath of passionate love usually last a lot longer than the passion itself. Love has faded, but the couple lives on, aware of each other’s shortcomings and infidelities. Old age is approaching, winter is coming but the couple has said goodbye to love.

No rose-tinted glasses in this poem.

The Poetry Dude

-Escoitá: os algoasiles

Here is a poem of protest from Rosalia de Castro, a cry of anger at the tax collectors coming round to poor villagers who can hardly get enough money for a roof over their heads and food for their family. It is written in the Galician language, and I hope it is reasonably accessible to those with a good grasp of Castilian Spanish.

The title “Why?”, and the first word, “Listen:”, grab the reader’s attention, create a sense of momentum and urgency which conditions how we read the rest of the poem. The meat of the subject is then revealed – the tax collectors are coming to the village.

¿Por qué?

-Escoitá: os algoasiles
andan correndo a aldea;
mais ¿cómo pagar, cómo, si un non pode inda pagar a renda?

Embargaránnos todo, que non teñen
esas xentes concencia, nin tén alma.
¡Quedaremos por portas,
meus fillos das entrañas!

¡Mala morte vos mate
antes de que aquí entredes!
Dos probes, ao sentirvos,
os corazós, ¡cál baten tristemente!

-María, se non fora
porque hai un Dios que premia e que castiga,
eu matara eses homes
como mata un raposo a unha galiña.

-¡Silencio! ¡Non brafemes,
que éste é un valle de lágrimas…!
Mais ¿por qué a algúns lles toca sufrir tanto,
i outros a vida antre contentos pasan?

From <http://poemasderosalia.blogspot.com/search/label/As%20viuvas%20dos%20vivos%20e%20as%20viuvas%20dos%20mortos&gt;

The poem continues with the cry of despair, how can we pay our taxes if we can’t even pay the rent. But the tax collectors proceed remorselessly, without a conscience, without a soul and round everyone up.

The poet curses the tax collectors, wishing them a horrible death, and wishing she could kill them herself, like a fox kills a chicken, if only there were no God to judge everybody.

The poem finishes with a cry of protest, why do some people have nothing and suffer, while others live lives of ease and pleasure.

A poem for the 99% indeed.

The Poetry Dude

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 <http://www.poesi.as/rc8447.htm&gt;

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

Hora tras hora, día tras día, 

Today’s poem is from Rosalia de Castro, Spanish, post-Romantic, writing sometimes in Castilian, sometimes in Galician, a fine poet from the latter half of the nineteenth century. She wrote poems on nature, love and faith. This poem is called “Hora tras hora, dia tras dia”, and, as suggested by the title is a reflection on the passage of time and how we relate to it. Take the time to read it and let your impressions soak into your soul…

HORA TRAS HORA, DÍA TRAS DÍA

Hora tras hora, día tras día,
Entre el cielo y la tierra que quedan
Eternos vigías,
Como torrente que se despeña
Pasa la vida.
Devolvedle a la flor su perfume
Después de marchita;
De las ondas que besan la playa
Y que una tras otra besándola expiran
Recoged los rumores, las quejas,
Y en planchas de bronce grabad su armonía.
Tiempos que fueron, llantos y risas,
Negros tormentos, dulces mentiras,
¡Ay!, ¿en dónde su rastro dejaron,
En dónde, alma mía?

From <http://www.poesi.as/rcap012.htm&gt;

 
The poem begins with an evocation of the inevitable passage of time, relentlessly moving forward like flood waters taking our life ever onwards towards its conclusion. That is something we rarely think about against the bustle of everyday life, but it is a spur to taking stock on refocussing on what is important to us. And the next several lines are indeed a reminder to savour experience and get the most out of it, whether it be the scent of a flower, or the sounds of waves breaking on a beach. These smells and sounds will fade and die away, but they can live in on the memories of our experience and become part of us as we live our lives. The poem ends with a question – what happened to the past, its tears and joys, is torments and deceptions – the answer must be in our own souls, in our memories in our experiences. These make us who we are.

This poem, besides being a thing of beauty in itself, is a reminder to be open to experience, to acknowledge our surroundings and the language of our senses, and build a richer inner life. I will do my best.

As an aside, for anyone visiting Spain, or already there, Rosalia de Castro’s house is set up as a museum, it is very pretty, has a beautiful garden, and is well worth a visit. Details here:  http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/arte/museos/coruna_a/casa-museo_de_rosalia_de_castro.htm

The Poetry Dude

Campanas de Bastabales

Rosalia de Castro lived and worked in the region of Galicia in northwest Spain (it’s the bit just north of Portugal) and so wrote poetry both in Castilian Spanish and her regional language, Galician. Today’s poem is in Galician, which I do not speak, but anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Castilian Spanish should be able to understand it.

The bells of Bastabales, from the first line of the poem, are in an actual church in a place called Bastavales in Galicia. This poem made the church, the place and the bells famous.

Campanas de Bastabales,
cando vos oio tocar,
mórrome de soidades.

Cando vos oio tocar,
campaniñas, campaniñas,
sin querer torno a chorar.

Cando de lonxe vos oio
penso que por min chamades
e das entrañas me doio.

Dóiome de dór ferida,
que antes tiña vida enteira
e hoxe teño media vida.

só media me deixaron
os que de aló me trouxeron,
os que de aló me roubaron.

Non me roubaron, traidores,
¡ai!, uns amores toliños,
¡ai!, uns toliños amores.

Que os amores xa fuxiron,
as soidades viñeron…
de pena me consumiron.

From <http://www.arrakis.es/~joldan/cantgal1.htm&gt;

The poem recounts the emotions the poet feels when she hears the bells ringing at the church of Bastabales – loneliness, tearfulness, a pain in the stomach. The first three stanzas are taken up by these expressions of sadness and suffering brought about by hearing the bells. Why should this be?

The second half of the poem, the final four stanzas hint at the answer – within the sound of the bells, the narrator of the poem was attacked, robbed and worse, and left forsaken and alone. Love is no longer possible, only pain.

The poem evokes a state of loss, suffering and pain, without giving many details, but it succeeds in conveying these emotions and sensations in a poetic way.

The Poetry Dude