May 02 2011

Juan Ramon Jimenez – Who Knows What is Going On

Published by at 8:01 am under Poetry

Who Knows What is Going On
by Juan Ramon Jimenez

English version by Robert Bly

      Who knows what is going on on the other side of each hour?

      How many times the sunrise was
there, behind a mountain!

      How many times the brilliant cloud piling up far off
was already a golden body full of thunder!

      This rose was poison.

      That sword gave life.

      I was thinking of a flowery meadow
at the end of a road,
and found myself in the slough.

      I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
and found myself in the divine.

— from The Winged Energy of Delight, Translated by Robert Bly


/ Photo by SUNION /

Who knows what is going on on the other side of each hour?

Isn’t that just a wonderful opening line? It’s one of those profound, enigmatic statements that can trip you up full stop, making the rest of the poem an afterthought.

But what is the poet saying? I think he’s encouraging us to not bring our assumptions to each experience in life. We have to encounter each experience, each hour, as it is, not as we expect it to be. This is why he turns our expectations on their head with lines like:

This rose was poison.

That sword gave life.

Every single thing holds its secret and is pregnant with surprise…

How many times the brilliant cloud piling up far off
was already a golden body full of thunder!

To approach life without the false certainty of what each experience holds requires a supreme humility. It requires us to cherish the unexpected possibilities of each encounter more deeply than our own accumulating history. It requires a silence of mind, a sense of wonder, and a restoration of our inherent innocence. But, when we truly learn to live this way, magic happens! We open ourselves and, in turn, the common things we encounter open themselves to us, revealing hidden worlds within…

I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
and found myself in the divine.

Juan Ramon Jimenez, Juan Ramon Jimenez poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Juan Ramon Jimenez

Spain (1881 – 1958) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Juan Ramon Jimenez was the son of a banker. He grew up in Moguer, a beautiful region of Spain that deeply imprinted itself on the poet. Jimenez studied painting at the University of Seville before abandoning his schoolwork to dedicate himself completely to writing.

In the early 1900s, Jimenez composed several collections of poetry, and he also translated the work of Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore into Spanish (with Zenobia Camprubi, who later became his wife). Later in his career he also became an influential literary critic. (Despite his great poetic work, in the US Jimenez first gained notoriety for his novel Platero y yo/Platero and I.)

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he was sent by the Republican faction to the US as an honorary cultural attache. When the fascist forces under Franco took control of Spain, Jimenez and his wife became exiles and settled in Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Themes of nature, depths, immensity, death, darkness, secret life, and transcendence appear in many of his poems. The spirituality reflected in his poetry is deeply personal, mystical, and transformative.

In 1956, Juan Ramon Jimenez was awarded the Nobel Prize. He died two years later in Puerto Rico.

More poetry by Juan Ramon Jimenez

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Juan Ramon Jimenez – Who Knows What is Going On”

  1. Rena Navonon 02 May 2011 at 10:28 am

    This poem just might wake us dreamers up out of our lethargy and makes us more astute.
    A quote I am using from my Edit column, “life is always a desperate improvisation”, seems to me now a warning of what can happen when we impose meaning in haste and block our our opportunities.
    Only the wretchedly fallen become “desperate”: treading under God’s supervision can lead us more prudent believers rightly and avoid life-threatening ultimata. But we should be willing to bend with resilience and obey with humility; and mainly, trust.
    “THE WINGED EMERGY OF DELIGHT” by Robert Bly is sitting here right on my shelf and I am glad to be reminded to turn to it more. It’s like a teacher who once said: “Look how many people waste time travelling and searching, and it’s within them.”
    And Spanish was my minor in the Romance Language Dep’t. Overlooking Juan Ramon Jiminez is another of my regrets as I reminisce over my lost college days.

  2. Prernaon 02 May 2011 at 11:47 pm

    this is a very beautiful poem , it makes u feel like you are in the divine water of God’s love.

    Thanks and keep sending.

    Please send ghlaib’s if possible.

  3. Jackieon 03 May 2011 at 5:52 am

    I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
    and found myself in the divine.

    Hummmm I loved the poem and your commentary Ivan. Thank you

    I also particularly like your thought for the day. Even our masks reveal us.

    Thank you

  4. sueon 05 May 2011 at 2:34 am

    Hi Ivan,
    I really like this poem and thank you for breaking it down.
    I love poems and I have not been reading much but now am really excited about getting these poems.
    I love this line;I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
    and found myself in the divine.
    Thanks Ivan

  5. [...] I was thinking of the greatness of what was human, and found myself in the divine by Juan Ramon Jimenez at http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/blog/2011/05/02/juan-ramon-jimenez-who-knows-what-is-going-on/#sthas… [...]

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply