By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection, an interesting preface to selected works of Luis Cernuda by the acclaimed poet and translator Michael Smith, followed by the work itself and some biographical material.
Luis Cernuda (1902-1963), versions by Michael Smith
Luis Cernuda was born in Seville in 1902. His father, Bernardo Cernuda Bousa, was a Puerto Rican settled in Seville, a commander of an Engineering Regiment; his mother, Amparo Bidon y Cuéllar, was a Sevillian of middle-class background. The poet had two sisters, Amparo and Ana. The father was a disciplinarian whose strictness was supported by the mother. The domestic ambience was very traditional and claustrophobically restrictive. Cernuda’s homosexuality seems to have manifested itself early in his life, even if not clearly to Cernuda himself until he was about fourteen. His confusion about his sexual orientation was at least a major cause of him retiring into himself, and his early life, in particular his teens, seems to have been lonely and even tormented.
After finishing his secondary schooling, Cernuda entered the University of Seville where he began the study of Law. There he met Pedro Salinas who had recently taken up the Chair of Spanish Language and Literature. Cernuda attended Salinas’s courses and became friendly with him. Salinas encouraged his literary efforts, invited him to his home and put him in touch with modern French poetry, with Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé, Reverdy, etc. Later on, the reading of Gide would have a profound influence on Cernuda, helping him to reconcile himself to his homosexuality.
Although his father died in 1920, Cernuda continued his university studies for two more years, without achieving any distinction – this was at least partially due to his then timid character. From 1920 to 1924 he did his military service and then began writing the short poems of his first book, Perfil del aire (‘Profile of the Air’). He came to know Juan Ramón Jiménez. Also around this time he became a dandy, dressing with ostentatious finesse. He established relationships with Lorca and Aleixandre.
On the death of his mother in 1928, Cernuda decided to abandon his native Seville. He sold the family house and, assisted by Salinas, he obtained a lectureship in Spanish Language and Literature in the University of Toulouse. But in 1929 he returned to Madrid and was again confronted with the need to earn a living. He managed, however, to find decent employment in the bookshop of León Sánchez Cuesta.
In 1934 he collaborated on the magazines Héroe and Octubre: an Organ of the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Art during which he became a member of the Communist Party for the Defence of Culture, a magazine founded by Alberti, in which he published poems and prose. This period marks Cernuda’s short-lived political engagement during which he became a member of the Communist Party. He travelled throughout Spain on behalf of the Republican Government, giving lectures and writing for Heraldo de Madrid.
In 1935 he made what was for him the great discovery of the poetry of Hölderlin, and with the help of a German poet-friend, Hans Gebser, he managed to read the great German in the original and even to translate some of his poems which were published later on in 1936 in Cruz y Raya whose editor, José Bergamín, published in the same year all the poetry which Cernuda had written up till then, to be collected in book form later and issued as La Realidad y el Deseo. On the occasion of the book’s publication, Lorca dedicated an homenaje to Cernuda which was attended by the most important members of the Generation of ’27. This can be said to mark first phase of Cernuda’s career. The next stage is that of exile without return, exilio sin vuelta.
In 1936 Cernuda went to Paris as secretary to Álvaro de Albornoz who was taking up his appointment as Spanish Ambassador in the French capital. Later in the same year, however, he returned to Madrid where he stayed until the beginning of 1937. From there he moved to Valencia at the eruption of the Civil War. In Valencia he established with Alberti, Juan Gil-Albert and other poets, the magazine Hora de España. In February of 1938 he left again for Paris, and from there, with the help of his friend Stanley Richardson he made his way to England on the pretext of giving some lectures there. Cernuda would never return to Spain.
Cernuda stayed in Britain (in Surrey, in Glasgow, in Cambridge and finally in London) until 1947 when he accepted an invitation from his friend Concha de Albornoz to take up a teaching position in Mount Holyoke, Mass. He worked hard there as a teacher and made a relatively good living. Then, in 1949, he made his first trip to Mexico on his summer holidays and immediately fell in love with the people and the country (reminding him of his native Seville). Every summer he returned to Mexico on his holidays. There, in 1951, when Cernuda was 49, he fell in love with a young man, and in the first great outburst of erotic love he wrote Poemas para un cuerpo. In 1952 he decided to leave Mount Holyoke and live in Mexico permanently, taking up residence in the home of Concha Méndez, the estranged wife of Manuel Altolaguirre.
Financially pressed, Cernuda returned to the United States in 1960 as a teacher and lecturer, this time in Los Angeles. In 1963 he returned finally to Mexico. He was now embittered, disillusioned and alone – as indeed he mostly had been throughout his adult life. He died suddenly in the same year.
Although not so well known to readers of modern poetry in Spanish as other members of the Generation of ’27, Cernuda, as a poet if not as a person, has always been highly esteemed. His poetry is unabashedly direct. In a sense, almost all his poetry can be read as a soliloquy, even when the speaker seems to be addressing others. A maniacally self-absorbed individual, Cernuda wrote to discover himself, to justify himself and to console himself. He derived some consolation from the beauty of the natural world and from music and painting. He was a profoundly alienated character, alienated socially and, in a sense, alienated even from his own body. He was haunted by the image of a lost childhood paradise, a paradise from which he was cast out by his sexual orientation and by a concomitant introversion. The moments of epiphanic transcendence which occur in his poems are of reunion with a whole, uninhibited self.
All in all, Cernuda was a man who was ill-at-ease with the world in which he found himself. His prickly aloofness and irascibility were devices to shield an acute sense of his own vulnerability. He was not, by all account, a very lovable man. No doubt his upbringing explains a lot, as does his tormented homosexuality. But more positively, I would say, and as a warning not to read his poetry in a reductively homosexual context, his poetry speaks poignantly of the loneliness of the human condition, and it offers the reader a deeply human, if painfully frank companionship.
Note on the Generation of ’27 to which Cernuda belonged:
At its crudest, the label Generación de 27 refers to the year in which a group of young Spanish poets and literary figures, most notably, Gerardo Diego, Lorca, Dámaso Alonso, Rafael Alberti, Luis Cernuda, Jorge Guillén, Chabás, José Bergamín, Manuel Altolaguirre, came together to celebrate the third centenary of the great Spanish baroque poet Luis de Góngora in the Ateneo of Seville under the patronage of the rich and cultured torero Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. Although many of them were close friends, they did not constitute an homogeneous group with a common agenda. Many of them were associated with the progressive educational institute in Madrid, the Institución Libre de Enseñanza and its associated school, the Residencia de Estudiantes. In general it may be said that they were against the old repressively traditional Spain dominated by the oligarchy of Church, landed gentry and the high bourgeoisie. They ranged from free-thinking liberals like Dámaso Alonso and José Bello to political extremists like Alberti and devil-may-care rebels like Buñuel and Dalí. They were forward-looking and non-dogmatic. It seemed to them that a new Spain was in the making and they were enthusiastic about that. An entertaining and very personal account of what it was like to be part of the Generation of ’27 was given in an interview which José Bello gave to Javier Rioyo in the cultural supplement to El País (El País Semanal, Numero 1.251, Domingo 17 de septiembre de 2000).
– Michael Smith
To go again to the sealed garden
that hides, behind a mud wall
and arches, among magnolias,
lemon trees, its waters’ charm.
To hear again in the silence,
alive with birdsong and leaves,
the cool sighing of the wind
where old souls are floating.
To see again faraway
the deep sky, the slender tower,
such a flower of light on the palms:
all things always beautiful.
To feel again, as then,
the sharp thorn of desire,
while past youth
returns. Dream of a timeless god.
(Ir de nuevo al jardín cerrado …)
* This poem evokes Cernuda’s homesickness in exile from his native Seville, its gardens and fountains. The tower referred to in line 10 is the Giralda.
Impression of Exile
It was last spring,
almost a year ago now,
in a lounge in the old Temple*, in London,
with old furniture. The windows looked out,
over the old buildings, into the distance;
among the grass, the grey sheen of the river.
Everything was grey and exhausted
like the iris of a sick pearl.
They were old gentlemen, old ladies,
dusty feathers in their hats;
a whisper of voices there in the corners,
beside tables with yellow tulips,
family portraits and empty teapots.
The shadow that fell
with an odour of cat
awakened noises in the kitchens.
A silent man was
near me. I saw
at times the shadow of his long profile
appearing abstracted at the rim of the cup,
with the same weariness
of the dead man who might return
from the tomb to a worldly party.
On someone’s lips,
there in the corners
where the old were whispering together,
heavy as a falling tear,
a word suddenly burst out: Spain.
An indefinable exhaustion
went round in my head.
They lit the lights. We left.
After long stairs almost in darkness
I found myself then in the street,
and at my side, on turning round,
once more I saw that silent man,
who said something vague
in a strange accent,
a child’s accent in an agéd voice.
Walking on he followed me
as if he were alone under an invisible weight,
dragging the stone of his tomb;
but then he stopped.
‘Spain?’ he said. ‘A name.
Spain has died.’ There was
an abrupt corner on the street.
I saw him fading into the damp shadow.
( Fue la pasada primavera)
* Cernuda has in mind the origin of London’s ‘Temple’ as referring to churches founded by the Templars.
Child Behind a Window
At the fall of evening, absorbed
behind the window pane, the child looks
at the rain. The light lit
in a lamp forms a contrast
of the white rain with the dark air.
The lonely room
gently envelops him,
and the lace curtain, veiling
the window pane, like a cloud,
whispers a lunar charm to him.
The college becomes distant. It is now
truce time, with the book
of stories and engravings
under the lamp, the night,
sleep, the endless hours.
He is living in the breast of his tender strength,
without desire still, without memory -
the child – and without presage
that, outside, time with life
is waiting in ambush.
The pearl is hardening in his shadow [his name?].
(Al caer la tarde, absorto)
Autumn is raining still green as then
above the old marbles,
with an empty fragrance, opening dreams,
And the body becomes abandoned.
There are transparent shapes in the valley,
daze in the fountains,
and amid the vast pallid air now shine
some heavenly wings.
Behind the fresh voices the virginal
halo of death remains,
nothing counts won or lost.
Memory stirs languidly.
Everything is true save hatred, inert
like that grey film of cloud
vainly passing above the gold,
turned irate shadow.
(Llueve el otoño aún verde como entonces)
The street, lonely at midnight,
echoes your footstep.
The corner reached, it was the moment;
quick weapon, space.
It was you who left,
you were the first to break,
just so the soul breaks alone,
terrified to be free.
And night, its vacant vastness,
the stuff you’re made of,
entered you, stripped you of such
a cherished body as was one with you.
(La calle, sola a medianoche)
For You. For No One
Since memory is inept,
while there is time still,
someone who departs
turns his head back,
or the one now gone
seeks in a small possession,
a letter, a portrait,
the material traits,
the loyal presence
with earthly reality,
and I, this unknown
Luis Cernuda, who lasts
just the brief spell
of a hopeful of love,
before life’s decline
towards your image so dear
here, in thought,
and though you shall not see them,
to speak with your absence
I write these lines
only to be with you.
(Pues no basta el recuerdo)
Shadow of Myself
I well know that this image
forever fixed in my mind
is not you, but a shadow
of the love that exists in me
before time finishes.
Thus you seem to me visibly my love,
endowed by me with that same grace
that makes me suffer, weep, despair
sometimes of everything, other times
it raises me to the sky in our life,
sensing the sweetnesses that are kept
only for the chosen beyond the world.
And though I know that, then I think
that without you, without the rare
chance you gave me,
my love, come forward in all tenderness,
would stay inside me even today
asleep waiting for
someone who, at his call,
would make him finally pulsate with pleasure.
Then I thank you and say to you:
for this I came into the world, to wait for you;
to live for you, as you live
for me, though you don’t know it,
for this deep love I bear for you.
(Bien sé yo que esta imagen)
The Lover Waits
And how much I plague you,
Lord, beseeching you to give me back
what is lost, lost ever again before
and retrieved by you for me, so that it seems
impossible to keep it.
I call on your compassion, since it is
the only thing I love well, and you are
the only help I can count on.
But beseeching you
so, I know it is a sin,
an occasion of sin that I seek,
and yet I will not hush,
nor bow to final resignation.
So many years lived
in loneliness and tedium, in tedium and poverty,
brought after them this blessing,
so deep for me that I can now
justify the past with it.
And so I insist, Lord, so I come
again to you fearful and even sure
that if I blaspheme you will pardon me.
Give me back, Lord, what I have lost,
the only being for whom I wish to live.
(Y cuánto te importuno)
waves with rain;
air of music.
Malibu, A word,
and in it, magic.
* The beach in Los Angeles (California). Cernuda return in 1960 from Mexico to the United States where he obtained work at the University of California.
Once More, With Feeling
I did not believe that I would once more
invoke the memory of your ancient friendship,
the one which a whole tribe, strange to you
and no less strange to me perhaps,
had taken possession of.
But one of that tribe,
a professor and, according to himself and others
from over there (how fallen our country is!),
a poet, has called you ‘my prince’.
And I ask myself what you did that
you can consider yourself his prince.
Academic vacuity? Vacuity commonly occurs
in his writings. But his rhetorical rapture
does not make clear to our understanding
what is secret in your work, though they also call him
critic of our contemporary of poetry.
The appropriation of you who were nothing
or wished to be nothing to him while you lived,
is what has awakened my amazement.
You, prince of a toad? Is it not enough
that your countrymen murdered you?
Now stupidity follows the crime.
(Ya no creí que más invocaría)
who were never companions of my life,
who will never be companions of my life,
A lifetime separates us
on one side youth free and smiling;
on the other side old age humiliating and inhospitable.
When young I didn’t know
how to see beauty, to desire it, to possess it;
as an old man I have learnt
and I see beauty, but I desire it in vain.
An old man’s hand stains
the young body if it tries to caress it.
In solitary dignity the old man
must spend a long time in slow temptation.
Kissed lips are fresh and desirable,
more fresh and desirable seem lips never kissed.
What solution, friends? What solution?
I well know: there is none.
How sweet it would be
to live for a time in your company:
to bathe together in the waters of a warm beach,
to share drink and food at a table.
to laugh, to chat, to stroll,
to look close up, in your eyes, at that light and that music.
Go on, go on so, so carelessly
attracting love, attracting desire.
Don’t mind about the wound your beauty and grace open
in this passer-by seemingly immune to them.
Goodbye, goodbye, clusters of graces and charms.
Since soon I must go, confident,
to where, the broken thread tied, I may say and do
what is lacking here, what once I didn’t know how to say or do.
Goodbye, goodbye, impossible companions.
Only just now I am learning
to die, desiring
to see you again equally beautiful
in some other life.
The Second of November
Today the bells
still early, the air,
steel cold, reaches
Your blood inside.
You recall those
who went this year
leaving you alone.
Now you maintain
only the memory:
the remote hearth,
with you to oblivion.
The blue of the sky,
promises, so clear,
a gentle air later.
And in the market,
where the flowers are
in abundant bunches,
you breathe a smell,
a smell, but not an aroma,
of earth, of a beauty
ancient and comforting.
Despite the weather,
substance and senses,
as always, relieve
the soul, in life.
(Las campanas hoy)
The lamp and the curtain
shut out the outside world with their shade.
if you can, if you are contented
with dreams, as you lack
You are here, on your return
from the world, yesterday alive, today
a body in pain.
around you, friends
and their voices.
Be quiet and listen. No. You hear
nothing except your blood,
and you note something else
It is the timber, that creaks;
it is the radiator, that whistles.
A pause. And you check the clock:
for you to go to bed.
You pick up a book. But you think
you have read too much
for your eyes,
and at your age it makes better
reading to remember
some old books,
but in a new sense.
What to do? Because there is time.
The whole of winter is waiting for you,
and then the spring.
You have time.
A lot? How much? And how much time
has a man got to last him?
‘No. It’s late,
It’s late,’ someone inside you,
who is not you, repeats.
And you sigh.
Life is alive in time,
your eternity is now,
there will be time
Time winds out. But when?
‘Time and I for two
Others.’ Which two? Tomorrow’s
But your readers, if they appear,
and your time, do not coincide.
You are alone
before time, with your life
You were young,
but you never knew
until today that the bird
from your hand.
Youth hurts inside,
you its vengeful victim,
that, since this face does not become it
nor the white hair, it is useless
since it comes late.
Work relieves others
of what cannot be cured,
as they say.
How many years
have you worked? Twenty or more
It was work that did not buy you
generous as always,
demands of you
And you declare, then, earning
your living, not with effort,
No one teaches what matters,
one has to learn it
The best you have been,
the best of your existence, you gave
to a shadow:
to the desire of making yourself worthy,
to the desire of excelling yourself.
always for another morning
which, though late, would justify
It’s a fact that you tried
for the love
of a creature,
A youthful myth, seeking
as always, and serving it,
to be who you are.
And you found what you were.
But is the truth of man
for himself alone
like a useless secret?
Why not put life
to another purpose?
Whoever you are, it was your life;
you are not one without the other;
you know that
and it is an effort to follow, then,
even the lost mirage,
until the day
the story ends,
at least for you.
And you think
that thus you will return
to where you were at the start
of the soliloquy: with yourself
kill the light, and to bed.
(La lámpara y la cortina)
Ir de nuevo al jardín cerado,
Que tras los arcos de la tapia,
Entre magnolios, limoneros,
Guarda el encanto de las aguas.
Oír de nuevo en el silencio,
Vivo de trinos y de hojas,
El susurro tibio del aire
Donde las almas viejas flotan.
Ver otra vez el cielo hondo
A lo lejos, la torre esbelta
Tal flor de luz sobre las palmas:
Las cosas todas siempre bellas.
Sentir otra vez, como entonces,
La espina aguda del deseo,
Mientras la juventud pasada
Vuelve. Sueño de un dios sin tiempo.
IMPRESIÓN DE DESTIERRO
Fue la pasada primavera,
Hace ahora casi un año,
En un salón del viejo Temple, en Londres,
Con viejos muebles. Las ventanas daban,
Tras edificios viejos, a lo lejos,
Entre la hierba el gris relámpago del río.
Todo era gris y estaba fatigado
Igual que iris de una perla enferma.
Eran señores viejos, viejas damas,
En sus sombreros plumas polvorientas;
Un susurro de voces allá por los rincones,
Junto a mesas con tulipanes amarillos,
Retratos de familia y teteras vacías.
La sombra que caía
Con un olora gato,
Despertaba ruidos en cocinas.
Un hombre solencioso estaba
Cerca de mí. Veía
La sombra de su largo perfil algunas veces
Asomarse abstraído al borde de la taza,
Con la misma fatiga
Del muerto que volviera
Desde la tumba a una fiesta mundana.
En los labios de alguno,
Allá por los rincones
Donde los viejos juntos susuraban
Densa como una lágrima cayendo,
Brotó de pronto una palabra: España,
Un cansancio sin nombre
Rodaba en mi cabeza.
Encendieron las luces. Nos marchamos.
Tras largas escaleras casi a oscuras
Me hallé luego en la calle,
Y a mi lado, al volverme,
Vi otra vez a aquel hombre silencioso,
Que habló indistinto algo
Con acento extranjero,
Un acento de niño en voz envejecida.
Andando me seguía
Como si fuera solo bajo un peso invisible,
Arrastrando la losa de su tumba;
Mas luego se detuvo.
‘¿España?’ dijo. ‘Un nombre.
España ha muerto.’ Había
Una súbita esquina en la calleja.
Le vi borrarse entre la sombra húmeda.
NIÑO TRAS UN CRISTAL
Al caer la tarde, absorto
Tras el cristal, el niño mira
Llover. La luz que se ha encendido
En un farol contrasta
La lluvia blanca con el aire oscuro.
La habitación a solas
Le envuelve tibiamente,
Y el visillo, velando
Sobre el cristal, como una nube,
Le susurra lunar encantamiento.
El colegio se aleja. Es hora
La tregua, con el libro
De historias y de estampas
Bajo la lámpara, la noche,
El sueño, las horas sin medida.
Vive el seno de su fuerza tierna,
Todavía sin deseo, sin memoria,
El niño, si presagio
Que afuera el tiempo aguarda
Con la vida, al acecho.
En su nombre ya se forma la perla.
SENTIMIENTO DE OTOÑO
Llueve el otoño aún verde como entonces
Sobre los viejos mármoles,
Con aroma vacío, abriendo sueños,
El el cuerpo se abandona.
Hay formas transparente por el valle,
Embeleso en las fuentes,
Y entre el vasto aire pálido ya brillan
Unas celestas alas.
Tras de las voces frescas quedas el halo
Virginal de la muerte,
Nada pesa ganado ni perdido,
Lánguido va el recuerdo.
Todo es verdad, menos el odio, yerto
Como ese gris celaje
Pasando vanamente sobre el oro,
Hecho sombra iracunda.
La calle, sola a medianoche,
Doblaba en eco vuestro paso.
Llegados a la esquina fue el momento;
Arma presta, el espacio.
Eras tú quien partía,
Fuiste primero tú el que rompiste,
Así el ánima rompe sola,
Con terror a ser libre.
Y entró la noche en ti, materia tuya
Su vastedad desierta,
Desnudo ya de cuerpo tan amigo
Que contigo uno era.
PARA TI, PARA NADIE
Pues no basta el recuerdo,
Cuando aún queda tiempo,
Alguno que se aleja
Vuelve atrás la cabeza,
O aquel que se ya se ha ido,
En algo posesivo,
Una carta, un retrato,
Los materiales rasgos
Busca, la fiel presencia
Con realidad terrena,
Y yo, este Luis Cernuda
Incógnito, que dura
Tan sólo un breve espacio
De amor esperanzdo,
Antes que el plazo acabe
De vivir, a tu imagen
Tan querida me vuelo
Aquí, en el pensamiento,
Y aunque tú no has de verlas,
Para hablar con tu ausencia
Estas líneas escribo,
Únicamente por estar contigo.
SOMBRA DE MÍ
Bien sé que está imagen
Fija siempre en la mente
No era tú, sino sombra
Del amor que en mí existe
Antes que el tiempo acabe.
Mi amor así visible me pareces,
Por mí dotado de esa gracia misma
Que me hace sufrir, llorar, desperarme
De todo a veces, mientras otras
Me levanta hasta el cielo en nuestra vida,
Sentiendo las dulzuras que se guardan
Sólo a los elegidos tras el mundo.
Y aunque conozco eso, luego pienso
Que sin ti, sin el raro
Pretexto que me diste,
Mi amor, que fuera astá con su ternura,
Allá dentro de mí hoy seguiría
Dormido todavío y a la espera
De alguien que, a su llamada,
Le hicera al fin latir gozasomente.
Entonces te doy gracias a te digo:
Para esto vine al mundo, y a esperarte;
Para vivir por ti, como tú vives
Por mí, aunque no lo sepas,
Por este amor tan hondo que te tengo.
EL AMANTE ESPERA
Y cuánto te importuno,
Señor, rogándote me vuelvas
Lo perdido, ya otras veces perdido
Y por ti recobrado para mí, que parece
Llamo a tu compasión, pues es la sola
Cosa que quiero bien, y tú la sola
Ayuda con que cuento.
Así, conozo que es pecado,
Ocasión de pecar lo que te pido,
Y aún no guardo silencio,
No me resigno al fin a la renuncia.
Tantos años vividos
En soledad y hastío, en hastío y pobreza,
Tajeron tras de ellos esta dicha,
Tan honda para mí, que así ya puedo
Justificar con cella lo pasado.
Por eso insisto aún, Señor, por eso vengo
De nuevo a ti, temiendo y aun seguro
De que si soy blasfemo me perdones:
Devuélveme, Señor, lo que he perdido,
El solo ser por quien vivir deseo.
Olas con lluvia.
Aire de música.
Nombre de hada.
Viento que ulula.
Bosque de brujas.
Y en ella, magia.
OTRA VEZ, CON SENTIMIENTO
Ya no creí que más invocaría
De tu amistad antigua la memoria,
Que de ti se adueñó toda una tribu
Extraña para mí y para ti no menos
Mas uno de esa tribu,
Profesor y, según pretenden él y otros
De por allá (cuánto ha caído nuestra tierra),
Poeta, te ha llamado ‘mi príncipe’.
Y me pregunto qué hiciste tú para que ése
Pueda considerarte como príncipe suyo.
¿Vaciedad académica? La vaciedad común resulta
En sus escritos. Mas su rapto retórico
No aclara a nuestra entendimimiento
Lo secreto aen tu obra, aunque también llaman
Crítico de la poesía muestra contemporánea.
La apropiación de ti, que nada suyo
Fuiste o quisiste ser mientras vivías,
Es lo que ahí des`pierta mi extrañeza.
¿Príncipe tú de un sapo? ¿No les basta
A tus compatriotas haberte asisinado?
Ahora ña estupidez sucede al crimen.
Que nunca fuisteis campañeros de mi vida,
Que no seréis nunca compañeros de mi vida,
El tiempo de una vida nos separa
A un lado la junevntud libre y risueña;
A otro la vejez humillante e inhóspita.
De joven no sabía
Ver la hermosa, cordiarla, poseerla;
De viejo la he aprendido
Y veo a la hermosura, mas la codicio inútilmente.
Mano de viejo mancha
El cuerpo juvenil si intenta acariciarlo.
Con solitaria dignidad el viejo debe
Pasar de largo junto a la tentación tardía.
Frescos y codiciables son los labios besados,
Labios nunca besados más codiciables y frescos aparecen.
¿Qué remedio, amigos? ¿Qué remedio?
Bien lo sé: no lo hay.
Qué dulce hubiera sido
En vuestra compañía vivir un tiempo:
Bañarse juntos en aguas de una playa caliente,
Compartir bebida y alimento en una mesa.
Sonréir, conversar, paserse
Mirando cerca, en vuestros ojos, esa luz y esa música.
Seguid, seguid así, tan descuidadamente,
Atrayendo al amor, atrayendo al deseo.
No cuidéis de la herida que la hermosura vuestra
y vuestra gracia abren
En este transeúnte inmune en apariencia a ellas.
Adiós, adíos, manojos de gracias y donaires.
Que yo pronto he de irme, confiado,
Adonde, anudado el roto hilo, diga y haga
Lo que aquí falta, lo que a tiempo decir y hacer
aquí no supe.
Adiós, adiós, compañeros imposibles.
Que ya tan sólo aprendo
A morir, deseando
Veros de nueve hermosos igualmente
En alguna otra vida.
DOS DE NOVIEMBRE
Las campanas hoy
Aún temprano, el aire,
Frío acero, llega
Por tu sangre adentro.
Recueros los tuyos
Idos este años
Ahora tú sostienes
Solo la memoria:
El hogar remoto,
Contigo al olvido.
El azul del cielo
Promete, tan limpo,
Aire tibio luego.
Por el mercado,
Donde están las flores
En copiosos ramos,
Un olor respiras,
Olor, mas no aroma,
A tierra, a hermosura
Que, antigua, conforta.
A pesar del tiempo,
Al alma, en la vida,
Materia y sentidos
Como siempre alivian.
La lámpara y la cortina
Al pueblo en su sombra excluyen.
Si puedes, si te contentas
Con sueños, cuanto te faltan
Estás aquí. de regreso
Del mundo, ayer vivo, hoy
Cuerpo en pena,
Alrededor tuyo, amigos
Y sus voces.
Callas escuchas. No. Nade
Oyes, excepto tu sangre,
Y atención prestas a otra
Es la madera. que cruje;
Es el radiado, que silba.
Pausa. Y el reloj consultas:
Todavía temprano para
Tomas un libro. Mas piensas
Que has leído demasiado
Con los ojos,
Y a tus años la lectura
Mejor es recuerdo de unos
Pero con nueva sentido.
¿Qué hacer? Porque tiempo hay.
Todo es invierno te espera,
Y la primavera entonces.
¿Mucho? ¿Cuánto? ¿Y hasta cuándo
El tiempo al hombre le dura?
‘No, que es tarde,
Es tarde, repite alguno
Dentro de ti, que no eres.
La vida en tiempo se vive,
Tu eternidad es ahora,
No habrá tiempo para nada
Tuyo. Gana tiempo. ¿Y cuándo?
‘El tiempo y yo para otros
Dos.’ ¿Cuáles lectores
Más tus lectores, si nacen,
Y tu tiempo, no coinciden.
Frente al tiempo, con tu vida
Pero nunca lo supiste
Hasta hoy, que el ave ha huido
De tu mano.
La mocedad dentro duele,
Tú su presa vengadora,
Que, pues no le va esta cara
Ni el pelo blanco, es inútil
El trabajo alivia a otros
De lo que no tiene cura,
¿Cuántos años ahora tienes
De trabajo? ¿Viente y pico
Trabajo fue que no compra
Para ti la independcia
A otro menester el mundo,
Generoso como siempre,
Y profesas pues, ganando
Tu vida, no con esfuerzo,
Nadie enseña lo que importa,
Que eso ha de aprenderlo el hombre
Por sí solo.
Lo mejor que has sido, diste,
Lo mejor de tu existencia,
A una sombra:
Al afán de hacerte digno,
Al deseo de excederte,
Siempre mañana otro día
Que, aunque tarde, justifique
Cierto que tú te esforzaste
Por sino y amor de una
Mito moceril, buscando
Desde siempre, y al servirla,
Ser quien eres.
Y al que eras le has hallado,
¿Mas es la verdad del hombre
Para él solo.
Como un inútil secreto?
¿Por qué no poner la vida
A otra cosa?
Quien eres, tu vida era;
Uno sin otro no sois,
Tú lo sabes.
Y es fuerza seguir, entonces,
Aun el miraje perdido,
Hasta el día
Que la historia se termine,
Para ti al menos.
Que así vuelves
Donde estabas al comienzo
Del soliloquio: contigo
Y sin nadie.
Mata la luz, y a la cama.
*Originals thanks to the Fondo de Cultura Economica (Mexico D.F.) – whom we tried to contact without success and whose forgiveness we seek, in any case.
Michael Smith (born 1942) is an Irish poet, author and translator. A member of Aosdána, the Irish National Academy of Artists, Michael Smith was the first Writer in-Residence to be appointed by University College, Dublin and is an Honorary Fellow of UCD. He is a poet who has given a lifetime of service to the art of poetry both in English and Spanish. Smith founded New Writers Press in Dublin in 1967 (together with Trevor Joyce and his wife, Irene) and has been responsible for the publication of over seventy books and magazines. He was founder and editor of the influential literary magazine The Lace Curtain. From 1984 to 1989 he was a member of the Arts Council. He has translated into English and published some of the most difficult and exhilarating poets in Spanish, including Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Miguel Hernández (Unceasing Lightning) and the two great Spanish masters of the baroque, Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora. He has also translated Gerardo Diego‘s Manual de espumas, a Selected Poems of José Hierroand selections of the poems of Jiménez and Luis Cernuda, among others. In 2001 he received the European Academy Medal, for his translation of great Spanish poets. His own poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies of Irish poetry, including The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry. Among his most recent books are The Purpose of the Gift: Selected Poems and Maldon and Other Translations (NWP/ Shearsman). His poetry has been translated into Spanish, Polish, French and German. Among his most recent publications are Selected Poems of Rosalía de Castro, The Prison Poems of Miguel Hernández (Parlor Press) and, with Luis Ingelmo, Complete Poems of Claudio Rodriguéz (Shearsman Books), as well as Complete Poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. This year (2009), Shearsman has published his Collected Poems. With the Peruvian scholar Valentin Gianuzzi, he has translated and published (Shearsman Books) the complete poems of César Vallejo in four volumes. In 2009 he translated a selection of poems of the Spanish poet Juan Antonio Villacañas in collaboration with Beatriz Villacañas: Juan Antonio Villacañas: Selected Poems (Shearsman Books).