Luis Cernuda: Versions by Michael Smith

Luis Cernuda: Versions by Michael Smith
November 10, 2014 Plume

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



Ancient Garden*

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 Feeling

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

I turn


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.


Once more

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.



entrapped water,

marine grotto.



fairy name,

spellbound force.



howling wind,

witches’ wood.


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

toll ominously:

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,

familiar shadows,


everything fated

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)



Yankee Night

The lamp and the curtain

shut out the outside world with their shade.

Dream now,

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.

Crazily waiting,

around you, friends

and their voices.


Be quiet and listen. No. You hear

nothing except your blood,

its tireless

pulsing, fearful;

and you note something else

that disturbs.


It is the timber, that creaks;

it is the radiator, that whistles.

A yawn.

A pause. And you check the clock:

still early

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.

it’s early.

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,

because later

there will be time

for nothing.

Time winds out. But when?

Someone said:

‘Time and I for two

Others.’ Which two? Tomorrow’s

two readers?

But your readers, if they appear,

and your time, do not coincide.

You are alone

before time, with your life

without living.



You were young,

but you never knew

until today that the bird

had fled

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

roughly speaking?

It was work that did not buy you



The world,

generous as always,

demands of you

another necessity.


And you declare, then, earning

your living, not with effort,

but fastidiously.

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

your presumption.


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

and nobody.

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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




Y cuánto te importuno,

Señor, rogándote me vuelvas

Lo perdido, ya otras veces perdido

Y por ti recobrado para mí, que parece

Imposible guardarlo.



Llamo a tu compasión, pues es la sola

Cosa que quiero bien, y tú la sola

Ayuda con que cuento.


Mas ragándote

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.



Agua cuativa.

Gruta marina.



Nombre de hada.

Fuerza encantada.



Viento que ulula.

Bosque de brujas.



Una palabra.

Y en ella, magia.




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

Extraña acaso.


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.




Las campanas hoy

Ominosas suenan.

Aún temprano, el aire,

Frío acero, llega


Por tu sangre adentro.

Recueros los tuyos

Idos este años

Dejándote único.


Ahora tú sostienes

Solo la memoria:

El hogar remoto,

Familiares sombras,


Todo destinado

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.

Sueña ahora,

Si puedes, si te contentas

Con sueños, cuanto te faltan


Estás aquí. de regreso

Del mundo, ayer vivo, hoy

Cuerpo en pena,

Esperando locamente,

Alrededor tuyo, amigos

Y sus voces.


Callas escuchas. No. Nade

Oyes, excepto tu sangre,

Su latido

Incansable, temeroso;

Y atención prestas a otra

Cosa inquieta.


Es la madera. que cruje;

Es el radiado, que silba.

Un bostezo.

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

Libros viejos,

Pero con nueva sentido.


¿Qué hacer? Porque tiempo hay.

Es temprano.

Todo es invierno te espera,

Y la primavera entonces.

Tiempo tienes.


¿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.

Y suspiras.


La vida en tiempo se vive,

Tu eternidad es ahora,

Porque luego

No habrá tiempo para nada

Tuyo. Gana tiempo. ¿Y cuándo?



Alguien dijo:

‘El tiempo y yo para otros

Dos.’ ¿Cuáles lectores

De mañana?

Más tus lectores, si nacen,

Y tu tiempo, no coinciden.

Estás solo

Frente al tiempo, con tu vida

Sin vivir.



Fuiste joven,

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

Por tardía.


El trabajo alivia a otros

De lo que no tiene cura,

¿Cuántos años ahora tienes

De trabajo? ¿Viente y pico

Mal contados?


Trabajo fue que no compra

Para ti la independcia

A otro menester el mundo,

Generoso como siempre,

Te demanda.


Y profesas pues, ganando

Tu vida, no con esfuerzo,

Con fastidio.

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

Tu pretexto.


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.


Y piensas

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 LorcaPablo NerudaMiguel 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 VillacañasJuan Antonio Villacañas: Selected Poems (Shearsman Books).