(from Proverbios y Cantares – Antonio Machado) *
Oh faith of meditation!
Oh faith after deep thought!
When a heart returns to earth,
the human cup overflows, and the sea swells.
This week, The Friday Influence presents the work of the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado.
I first ran across the above poem during my first trip to Powell’s in Portland two years ago. I spied Machado’s Poesias Completas on the shelf and immediately flipped through to these lines.
I was moved by the tension between the mind and the senses implied in these lines. I mean, that’s what it’s like to be overwhelmed, to be interrupted and taken from thought to body. The sea swells! I fell in love and took the book home with me.
I see in these lines the days when I am so focused on the page that to be taken away or distracted hurts – mainly it makes me fussy. Phil Levine once said: when a poem comes, the phone can wait, the knock at the door can wait, it all can wait. Ignore it. I respect the necessity for that kind of attention. I figure: it’s my poetry – if I don’t make time for it and give it the attention it deserves, who will?
I believe this is a shade of what Keats meant when he spoke of the poet as being “the most unpoetical of any thing in existence.”
I have enjoyed this three part stint of translating. I guess four, if you count my riffing around with Goethe.
For this week’s post, I collaborated with Andrea Schreiber, a self-styled polyglot and linguist with a true love of language. She is also my girlfriend. Meaning, she puts up with me when I get fussy. And she has seen Machado’s Spain, the roads he saw, the sea… She helped steer my translations towards the spirit of the poems. I thank her.
Here are a few more from Machado:
Last night I dreamed that I saw
God and that I spoke with God;
and dreamed that God listened…
later I dreamed I had dreamed.
Everyone has two
battles to fight:
in dreams, you wrestle with God;
awake, with the sea.
It is common knowledge that cups
are used for drinking;
Sadly, it is unknown
what use we have for thirst.
Everything moves on, and everything stays;
it is our lot to move on,
move on making roads,
roads over the sea.
To die…and fall like a drop
of ocean back to the ocean?
Or, be what I never could be:
a man, without shadow, without dreams,
a man that goes forward
without roads, without mirrors?
* all poems translated by Jose Angel Araguz and Andrea Schreiber. (word to your late night conversations!)