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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Traveler, there is no road 
23rd-Oct-2008 08:27 pm
Gredos2



This is one of the most popular poems in Spain:

Traveler, your footsteps
are the road, nothing more;
traveler, there is no road,
you make the road by walking.
By walking you make the road,
and when you look back
you see the path that
you'll never walk again.
Traveler, there is no road,
only wakes in the sea.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.

The author is Antonio Machado, born in Seville in 1875. His works, first published in 1901, showed the influence of Modernists like Rubén Darío, but, after his wife's death, he found his own voice, simple and philosophic. His poems often dealt with the landscape and the people around him in lyrical language but critical terms. A gentle sorrow emerges from his frequent themes: death and time.

He worked as a teacher in several cities in Spain. He married in 1909 at age 34 to a 15-year-old, Leonor. The marriage was happy, but she died of tuberculosis in 1912, and the poems dealing with her death spurred his stylistic maturity. The poem "Caminante" appeared in a 1917 collection called "Proverbios y cantares."

That collection also included this tragic, prescient poem:

There's now a Spaniard that wants
to live and begins to live,
between a Spain that dies
and another Spain that yawns.
Little Spaniard who joins
the world, may God keep you.
One of the two Spains
will freeze your heart.

Ya hay un español que quiere
vivir y a vivir empieza,
entre una España que muere
y otra España que bosteza.
Españolito que vienes
al mundo, te guarde Dios.
Una de las dos Españas
ha de helarte el corazón.

The expression "the two Spains" may have originated with him, but not the troubling observation that Spain had split into two halves, each side hating the other half. That idea goes back a century earlier, perhaps longer. The rich-poor, leftist-rightist split eventually widened into the Fascist-Republican disaster and the vicious, bloody Spanish Civil War.

Machado was teaching in Madrid when the war began in 1936, and he and his elderly mother fled from the Fascists first to Valencia, then to Barcelona. His health deteriorated. Finally they went to France in 1939, and on February 22 he died in Collioure, where he is buried. The photo is of his bust in front of the National Library in Madrid, Spain.

More Machado

Listen to popular Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat sing "Españolito" at  http://www.poesia-inter.net/canc0034.htm

The translation of "Caminante" is mine. You may prefer another translation by Jean Craige at http://www.cha.uga.edu/bjc/machado.htm

Read many more of Machado's works in Spanish (and a few translations) at Poesía en español at http://www.poesia-inter.net/indexam.htm

And of course there's more at Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Machado

(This post is also published at my website: http://www.sue.burke.name)

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