Rafael Alberti

Two poems by Rafael Alberti translated from Spanish by Lorna Shaughnessy
October 22, 2023 Alberti Rafael

The Good Angel I


Already, a year asleep,
some one not waiting
stood by my window.


Arise! And my eyes
saw feathers and swords.


Beyond, slopes and seas,
clouds, beaks and wings,
twilights, dawns.


Look at her, there! Her dream,
suspended from nothing.


Oh desire, fixed marble,
fixed light, fixed flowing
water in my soul!


Someone said: Arise!
And I found myself in your presence.




El ángel bueno I

Un año, ya dormido,
alguien quien no esperaba
se paró en mi ventana.


—¡Levántate Y mis ojos
vieron plumas y espadas.


Atrás, montes y mares,
nubes, picos y alas,
los ocasos, las albas.


—¡Mírala ahí! Su sueño,
pendiente de la nada.


—¡Oh anhelo, fijo mármol,
fija luz, fijas aguas
movibles de mi alma!


Alguien dijo: ¡Levántate!
Y me encontré en tu estancia.



The Good Angel II


Wide passages open up
in my chest, long corridors
sipping all the seas.


Stained-glass windows
light up all the streets.


Vantage points
bring closer all the towers.


Deserted cities
fill with people all at once. Trains
once derailed, re-coupled
run again.


Ancient shipwrecks rise to the surface.
The light dips its toe in the water.




The air spins faster.
In the hand of a little girl
the world, being world, fits.


Ring out, bells!


A letter from heaven brought down an angel.


El ángel bueno II


Dentro del pecho se abren
corredores anchos, largos,
que sorben todas las mares.


que alumbran todas las calles.


que acercan todas las torres.


Ciudades deshabitadas
se pueblan, de pronto. Trenes
descarrilados, unidos


Naufragios antiguos flotan.
La luz moja el pie en el agua.




Gira más de prisa el aire.
El mundo, con ser el mundo,
en la mano de un niña cabe.


Una carta del cielo bajó un ángel.

Rafael Alberti, (1902-1999) is regarded as one of the major Spanish poets of the 20th century. His first two collections, A Sailor Ashore, and Whitewash and Song recall the sea and landscapes of his native region of Andalusia. Concerning the Angels (1929) represents a rupture from his earlier use of traditional form and is renowned for its Surrealist features. From the 1930s, Alberti’s work became overtly political. He fought for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War and afterward fled to Argentina. Subsequent collections include Between the Carnation and the Sword, From One Moment to Another, On Painting and High Tide. He lived in Italy after 1961, returning to Spain in 1977 after Franco’s death.