Monday, April 11, 2011

Estoy Contento

It means, “I’m happy.” We’ve been taking Spanish since Thanksgiving. We thought it would an entertaining and useful thing to try and take up a second language. And it has been.

Our teacher recommended we read Spanish poetry to help us appreciate the rhythm and beauty of the language. We chose Antonio Machado since he wrote one of our favorite poems, which we find quite absurd.

We picked up Borders of a Dream, a bilingual edition of collected poetry translated by Willis Barnstone and proceeded to read.

This edition features some biographical commentary in the beginning and we warmed up to Machado immediately. John Dos Passos writes of him: “He gave the impression of being helpless in life’s contests and struggles, a man without defenses… Long ago he accepted the pain and ignominy of being what he was, a poet, a man who had given up all hope of reward to live for the delicately imagined mood, the counterpoint of words, the accurately recording ear.”

Juan Ramon Jimenez writes: “A poet of death, Antonio Machado spent hour after hour meditating upon, perceiving and preparing for death… All our life is usually given over to fearing death and keeping it away from us, or rather, keeping ourselves away from it. Antonio Machado yielded to it in large measure…”

And finally, Barnstone writes that of the Spanish poets of the 20th century, Machado is “the least pretentious.” Also, that “the poet read and loved philosophy.”

It shows in many thoughtful poems:

“Learn to wait. Wait for the tide to flow,

as a boat on the coast. And don’t worry

when it buoys

you out. If you wait, you will know


for life is long and art a toy.

And if life is short

and the sea doesn’t reach your galleon, stay

forever waiting in port,

for art is long, and never matters anyway.”

Or this:

“In my solitude

I have seen very clear things

that are not true.”

Or this:

“One day we sat down by the road to wait.

Our life is time and now our only care

is all these desperate poses we must bear

waiting for her. But she won’t skip the date.”

Or this absurd snapshot:

“Empirical faith. We’re not nor will be.

All our life is on loan. We brought nothing.

With nothing we leave.”

Machado’s poetry drifts over dreams and the blurry line between them and memories of experience, of the temporal nature of both… of landscapes, remembered and imagined, as allegories of human existence and emotions. And there many poems around traveling and wandering along roads.

The greatest of these is the one that begins simply,

“Caminante, son tus huellas

el camino, y nada más;

caminante, no hay camino…”

“Walker, your footsteps are

are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road…”


  1. Easy contento . . . no entrieso for three plus weekso . . . absurd, no?

  2. Yes, very.

    We were just talking about the blog at one our routine afternoons on the sunny patio of our favorite alehouse, which we dub Absurd HQ.

    We have ideas, we just have to work up the energy to write 'em...

    More soon!


  3. I'll take quality over content any day.

    Post when you're good and ready!

  4. David--

    Don't enable them.