To the Flower of Gnido

We present this work in honor of the 485th anniversary of the poet’s death.

10-14 De La Vega
Garcilaso de la Vega
Spanish
1501 – 1536

 

I
Had I the sweet resounding lyre
Whose voice could in a moment chain
The howling wind’s ungoverned ire,
And movement of the raging main;
On savage hills the leopard rein,

II
The lion’s fiery soul entrance,
And lead along with golden tones
The fascinated trees and stones
In voluntary dance,
Think not, think not, fair Flower of Gnide,

III
It e’er should celebrate the scars,
Dust raised, bloodshed, or laurels dyed
Beneath the gonfalon of Mars;
Or borne sublime on festal cars,
The chiefs who to submission sank

IV
The rebel German’s soul of soul,
And forged the chains that now control
The frenzy of the Frank.
No, no! its harmonies should ring
In vaunt of glories all thine own,

V
A discord sometimes from the string
Struck forth to make thy harshness known;
The fingered chords should speak alone
Of Beauty’s triumphs, Love’s alarms,
And one who, made by thy disdain

VI
Pale as a lily dipt in twain,
Bewails thy fatal charms.
Of that poor captive, too, contemned,
I speak, his doom you might deploreIn
Venus’ galliot-shell condemned

VII
To strain for life the heavy oar.
Through thee no longer as of yore
He tames the unmanageable steed,
With curb of gold his pride restrains,
Or with pressed spurs and shaken reins

VIII
Torments him into speed.
Not now he wields for thy sweet sake
The sword in his accomplished hand,
Nor grapples like a poisonous snake,
The wrestler on the yellow sand;

IX
The old heroic harp his hand
Consults not now, it can but kiss
The amorous lute’s dissolving strings,
Which murmur forth a thousand things
Of banishment from bliss.

X
Through thee, my dearest friend and best
Grows harsh, importunate, and grave;
Myself have been his port of rest
From shipwreck and the yawning wave;
Yet now so high his passions rave

XI
Above lost reason ‘s conquered laws,
That not the traveller ere he slays
The asp, its sting, as he my face
So dreads, or so abhors.
In snows on rocks, sweet Flower of Gnide,

XII
Thou wert not cradled, wert not born,
She who has no fault beside
Should ne’er be signalized for scorn;
Else, tremble at the fate forlorn
Of Anaxarete, who spurned

XIII
The weeping Iphis from her gate,
Who, scoffing long, relenting late,
Was to a statue turned.
Whilst yet soft pity she repelled,
Whilst yet she steeled her heart in pride,

XIV
From her friezed window she beheld
Aghast, the lifeless suicide;
Around his lily neck was tied
What freed his spirit from her chains,
And purchased with a few short sighs

XV
For her immortal agonies,
Imperishable pains.
Then first she felt her bosom bleed
With love and pity; vain distress!
Oh what deep rigors must succeed

XVI
This first sole touch of tenderness!
Her eyes grow glazed and motionless,
Nailed on his wavering corse, each bone
Hardening in growth, invades her flesh,
Which, late so rosy, warm, and fresh,

XVII
Now stagnates into stone.
From limb to limb the frost aspire,
Her vitals curdle with the cold;
The blood forgets its crimson fire,
The veins that e’er its motion rolled;

XVIII
Till now the virgin’s glorious mould
Was wholly into marble changed,
On which the Salaminians gazed,
Less at the prodigy amazed,
Than of the crime avenged.

XIX
Then tempt not thou Fate’s angry arms,
By cruel frown or icy taunt;
But let thy perfect deeds and charms
To poets’ harps, Divinest, grant
Themes worthy their immortal vaunt;

XX
Else must our weeping strings presume
To celebrate in strains of woe,
The justice of some signal blow
That strikes thee to the tomb.

The Musical Ass

We present this work in honor of the 230th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Tomas de Iriarte y Oropesa
Spanish
1750 – 1791

 

The fable which I now present,
Occurred to me by accident:
And whether bad or excellent,
Is merely so by accident.

A stupid ass this morning went
Into a field by accident:
And cropped his food, and was content,
Until he spied by accident
A flute, which some oblivious gent
Had left behind by accident;
When, sniffling it with eager scent,
He breathed on it by accident,
And made the hollow instrument
Emit a sound by accident.
“Hurrah, hurrah!” exclaimed the brute,
“How cleverly I play the flute!”

A fool, in spite of nature’s bent,
May shine for once, by accident.

The Young Nation

09-12 Machado
Antonio Machado
Spanish
1875 – 1939

 

It was a time of infamy and lies.
The nation itself was dressed up
like a squalid clown to draw
attention away from our wound.

That was then. We were young:
bad weather, worse omens,
we had nightmares in our hair
as the sea swelled with wrecks.

We swore we would abandon ship.
We said that we would sail away on
a silver galleon, eschewing the shore,
rudder and sail charging to the sea.

Even in the loss of that dream—
the debt from a century of failure—
we still sought the light as sacred
ideals drowned in this confusion.

Led by our anxious convictions,
we flexed, we preened, we abandoned
armor as clean as a mirror. We said,
“It’s bad, but tomorrow will be mine.”

Today is that tomorrow. The nation
is dancing in faux gold, faux fur,
twisted as an oak and drunk
on wine like blood from a sore.

Listen. If the will to change comes,
chase it. When the fire comes,
wake up, wake and let it fill you up
the way light burns inside a diamond.

The Dusky Swallows Will Return

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 185th birthday.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
Spanish
1836 – 1870

 

The dusky swallows will return
To hang their nests beneath thy eaves,
And playing to their nestlings call
As once they called of old.

But those who checked their flight
To gaze upon the beauty and my joy,
Who learnt our names—Ah Love!
They—will return no more!

The twining honeysuckles once again
Shall scale thy garden walls;
And once again at eve, more beautiful,
Their flowers will unfold.

But those of yore, begemmed with dews
Whose drops we watched together
Tremble and fall like tears of bright day,
They—will return no more!

Once more within thine ears, the words
Of burning love shall sound,
And from its slumber deep, perchance
Thy heart will wake.

But spellbound, speechless, kneeling low,
As saints before their altars are adored,
As I have loved thee—oh! deceive thee not!
Thus shall none love thee more!

Eternal Love

We present this work in honor of the 150th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
Spanish
1836 – 1870

 

The face of the sun may darken forever;
The oceans may run dry in an instant;
The axis spinning our planet may shatter;
Like a brittle crystal.
Yes, all of that may happen! At the end, Death
May cover my flesh with his funeral shroud;
But none of it will reach within my soul and extinguish
The bright flame of your love.

The Bull-Fight

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Carolina Coronado
Spanish
1820 – 1911

 

Bravo! thou nation of a noble line!
Thou mean’st to fashion after beasts thy men.
How well thy mission thou dost now divine,
Escaping from the Latin Church’s shrine
To intrench thyself around the fighters’ pen!

New Plazas for the bull-figlit let there be;
Build them, Country! pour thy treasures free!
Ah! stranger lands are wiser far than we, —
For here we are but cowherds, we are fools:
Which do we value most, the laws or bulls?

Who cares for liberty, while he doth roar,
The hunted bull, along the spacious plain.
Or tear the arena, and his victim gore?
When swells his passion with the pricking pain,
Who sees the vision of our mournful Spain?

And when he draws his breath with hoarsest sigh,
And from his pierced heart come out the groans,
And men fall down to earth, and horses die,
How sweet to hear the rosy children nigh
Break out in merry laughter’s silvery tones!

But hark! I see before my vision rise,
Brave to uphold the war of beasts and men,
Some spirited hidalgo, listening wise.
“I glory in the speetaele,” he cries;
“The thing is Spanish, — it has always been!”

O patriotie ardor! Lot them bind
A starry crown upon the learned brow
Of every noble knight, who thinks to find
Our highest strength within the bull enshrined,
Our Spanish glory in the Picador’s bow!

With all the fairest ladies of repute
The love of country so refined has grown
They look with rapture even on this brute;
For tenderness is here a foreign shoot,
And cruelty is Spanish-born alone!