The Life Removed

by Luis de Leon

English version by Aubrey F. G. Bell
Original Language Spanish

     How tranquil is the life
Of him who, shunning the vain world's uproar,
May follow, free from strife,
The hidden path, of yore
Chosen by the few who conned true wisdom's lore!

     For he, with thoughts aloof,
By proud men's great estate is not oppressed.
Nor marvels at the roof
Of gold, built to attest
The Moor's skill, that on jasper pillars rests.

     He heeds not though fame raise
His name afar on wings of rumour flung,
He cares not for the praise
Of cunning flatterer's tongue,
Nor for what truth sincere would leave unsung.

     What boots it my content
That the vain voice of fame should favour me,
If in its service spent
I find myself to be
Vexed by dull care and gnawing misery?

     O hill, O stream, O field,
O solitary refuge of delight,
Since my bark now must yield
To storm, your solace bright
I seek and flee this sea's tempestuous might.

     Sleep broken by no fear
Be mine, and a day clear, serene, and free,
Shunning the look severe,
Lofty exceedingly,
Of him whom gold exalts or ancestry.

     Me may the birds awake
With their sweet, unpremeditated song,
And those dark cares forsake
That e'er to him belong
Who lives not in his independence strong!

     I to myself would live,
To enjoy the blessings that to Heaven I owe,
Alone, contemplative,
And freely love forgo,
Nor hope, fear, hatred, jealousy e'er know.

     Upon the bare hillside
An orchard I have made with my own hand,
That in the sweet Springtide
All in fair flower doth stand
And promise sure of fruit shows through the land.

     And, as though swift it strove
To see and to increase that loveliness,
From the clear ridge above
A stream pure, weariless
Hurrying to reach that ground doth onward press;

     And straightway in repose
Its course it winds there tree and tree between,
And ever as it goes
The earth decks with new green
And with gay wealth of flowers spreads the scene.

     The air in gentle breeze
A myriad scents for my delight distils,
It moves among the trees
With a soft sound that fills
The mind, and thought of gold or scepter kills.

     Treasure and gold be theirs
Who to a frail bark would entrust their life:
I envy not the cares
Of those whose fears are rife
When the north wind with south wind is at strife.

     In the storm's strain the mast
Groans, and clear day is turned to eyeless night,
While to the skies aghast
Rise wild cries of affright
And they enrich the sea in their despite.

     But me may still suffice,
Rich only in meek peace, a humble fare;
And the wrought artifice
Be his of gold plate rare
Who dreads not o'er the raging sea to fare.

     And while in misery
Others are pledged to fierce ambition's throng,
Afire insatiably
For power that stays not long,
May I in pleasant shade recite my song;

     Yea, lying in the shade,
My brow with bay and ivy immortal crowned,
My ear attentive made
To the soft, tuneful sound
Of zither touched by fingers' skill profound.

-- from Ten Centuries of Spanish Poetry: An Anthology in English Verse with Original Texts, from the Xith Century to the Generation of 1898, Edited by Eleanor L. Turnbull

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Recommended Books: Luis de Leon

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Ten Centuries of Spanish Poetry: An Anthology in English Verse with Original Texts, from the Xith Century to the Generation of 1898 Poetry and Truth in the Spanish Works of Fray Luis de Leon Luis de Leon: The Names of Christ: (Classics of Western Spirituality) Poesias: (Spanish Language)

The Life Removed