Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...



Songs

by Antonio Machado

English version by Ivan M. Granger

I
     Against the flowering mountain,
the wide sea surges.
The comb of my honeybees
has gathered grains of salt.

II
     Against the black water.
Scent of sea and jasmine.
Malaga night.

III
     Spring has come.
No one knows what has happened.

IV
     Spring has come.
White hallelujahs
from the brambles in flower!

V
     Full moon, full moon,
so pregnant, so round.
This serene March night,
honeycomb of light
carved by white bees!

VI
     Castile night;
the song is said,
or, better, unsaid.
When all sleep
I'll go to the window.

VII
     Sing, sing in clear rhyme,
the almond's green arm
and the river's double willow.

     Sing of the mottled oak,
the branch the ax cut,
and the flower no one sees.

     Of the garden pear's
white flower, the peach tree's
rosy blossom.

     And this perfume
the wet wind plucked
from the blossoming beans.

VIII
     The fountain and the four
acacias aflower
in the plaza.
The sun burns no more.
Twilight bliss!
Sing, nightingale.
This is the hour
of my heart.

IX
     White lodge,
traveler's cell,
with my shadow!

X
     The Roman waterway,
-- sings a voice from my homeland --
and the love we have for each other,
little one, what strength!

XI
     With words of love
a bit of exaggeration
just feels right.

XII
     In Santo Domingo,
the high mass.
Even though they call me
heretic and Mason,
praying with you,
what devotion!

XIII
     Celebrations in the green pasture
-- fife and drum.
With his flower-draped crook
and golden sandals a shepherd came.

     Down from the mountain I came,
only to dance with her;
to the mountain I'll return.

     Among the bower
there is a nightingale;
it sings of night and of day,
it sings of the moon and the sun.

     Husky from song:
to the garden goes the girl
and a rose she will cut.

     Between the black oaks,
there is a fountain of stone,
and a clay pitcher
that is never full.

     By the oak wood,
with the white moon,
she will return.

XIV
     With you in Valonsadero,
Feast of San Juan,
morning in the Argentine plain,
on the other side of the sea.
Keep faith in me,
that I will return.

     Tomorrow I'll be the wind upon the plain
and my heart itself will go
to the banks of the High Douro.

XV
     While you are dancing in a circle,
girls, sing:
The fields are already green,
April in his splendor has come.

     At the riverbank,
near the black oaks,
his silver sandals
we've seen shine.
The fields are already green,
April in his splendor has come.

-- from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by Francois Schnell /

View All Poems by Antonio Machado


This is one of my favorite selections by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. It has a joyous, exuberant sense of springtime, but there is an underlying melancholy, as if the spring celebrations are just a bit forced to overmaster some quiet grief...

The implied woman he addresses in this poem is his wife.

and the love we have for each other,
little one, what strength!


She was raised in a traditional Catholic family, where only a churchgoer was considered a suitable match. When he was courting her, Machado started going to church regularly.

In Santo Domingo,
the high mass.
Even though they call me
heretic and Mason,
praying with you,
what devotion!


He says playfully, "praying with you / what devotion!" We can just picture his eyes turned from the altar to catch a glimpse of her face, as if she was the true altar in his private church. "Even though they call me / heretic and Mason..." Being a young poet and a freethinker in conservative Catholic Spain, he constructed an apparent faith, but his worship was reserved for her.

Sadly, Machado's wife died as a young woman, soon after they were married. In Machado's poetry, she takes on a ghost-like quality, haunting his memories, calling to him, perhaps becoming even more consciously an image of the Divine as a result. Machado seems to be deliberately cultivating a mystical connection with her otherworldly presence through the very pain of separation. His longing is itself the connection.

And so we get the painful irony of spring each year, a renewal of life, vibrancy, an irrepressible joy rising up from the earth itself, even when death is such a blunt reality. We get these beautiful lines--

Spring has come.
White hallelujahs
from the brambles in flower!


But we are in some sense haunted by them. He seems to be struggling against death, exhorting his own spirit to revive and join with the world's celebration:

Sing, sing in clear rhyme,
the almond's green arm
and the river's double willow.

Sing of the mottled oak,
the branch the ax cut,
and the flower no one sees.


He tells the young girls to dance, to savor this blossoming moment when life has become new and filled with possibility. Is it because he sees the shadow of death hovering about even them, or because he sees in this glorious spring day and in the vital moment itself a sense of victory over death? I suspect the poet sees both.

And so we get a sense of bewilderment at even the existence of springtim, both hopeful and heartrending.

Spring has come.
No one knows what has happened.


And despite the terrible grief that weighs down on the world, we have the renewal of life and the reawakening of hope.

The fields are already green,
April in his splendor has come.



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/ Photo by SaxX69 /

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