Thursday, May 13, 2021


My version of the "Retrato" with which Antonio Machado introduces himself in Campos de Castilla (1912, revised 1917.) At this point, trying to translate him is a lunatic venture. This poem rhymes abab, but you'll just have to imagine that part: no way am I trying to do that in English.


My childhood is memories of a patio in Seville,

and a bright garden where the lemon tree grows;

my youth, twenty years on the land of Castile;

my history, a few events I don’t care to recall.

I was not a Don Juan or a Casanova

(you know my sartorial attainments!)

but I duly received Cupid’s arrow,

and where I found a welcome, I loved.

There are drops of Jacobin blood in my veins,

but my verse flows from a serene spring;

I’m not a man who lives by a catechism,

but (in the good sense of the word) I am good.

I love what’s beautiful, and in the modern vein

I’ve cut old roses in the garden of Ronsard:

but I don’t love the current stylists’ “product”;

I’m not one who warbles with the new flock of birds.

Not for me, the romances of hollow tenors;

the chorus of crickets who sing to the moon.

I pause to tell voices from echoes,

and among the many voices, I listen to one.

Am I a Classic or a Romantic? I don’t know. I would leave

my verse as a commander leaves his sword:

known for the strong hand that wielded it --

not for the metallurgical lore of its forger.

I talk with the man who always goes with me

(the person who talks to himself hopes someday to talk to God):

my soliloquy is a heart-to-heart with this good friend

who taught me the trick of philanthropy.

And in the end, I owe you nothing. You owe me what I’ve written.

I go to my work. With my money I pay

for the suit that I wear and the house I inhabit,

the bread that feeds me and the bed where I lie.

And when the day of the last voyage arrives,

and the ship that never returns is ready to leave,

you’ll find me already aboard, traveling light;

half naked, like the sons of the sea.

1 comment:

Pica said...

Numenius has resurrected the old blogs and imagine my delight and surprise to find so many old friends STILL blogging. Nice stab at Machado, btw, an old favorite.