by Antonio Machado

English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Spanish

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

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

     Spring has come.
No one knows what has happened.

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

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

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

     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.

     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.

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

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

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

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

     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.

     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.

     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

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/ Image by Francois Schnell /

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

As with most of his poetry, the land itself is his primary subject. For Machado, the countryside is always alive, still, very present, awakening a deeper, but somewhat melancholy awareness of all that is.

The woman he refers to in this poem is probably his wife. 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. She was his Beloved, she became the embodiment of the Divine for him. He says ironically, "praying with you / what devotion!" You can just picture his eyes turned from the altar to catch a glimpse of her face.

Sadly, she 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.

"Even though they call me / heretic and Mason..." Some of his poetry hints at an even more specific mysticism, some familiarity with freethinking European mystical traditions, and maybe even Spanish Sufism. A couple of his other poems use overt symbols that draw on European alchemical thinking, for example.

I like the immediate nature mysticism of these lines:

Spring has come.
No one knows what has happened.

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

Recommended Books: Antonio Machado

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado Border of a Dream: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado
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