symphony in grey major

The sea like a vast quicksilver mirror
reflects the metal sheet of a zinc sky;
far-away flocks of birds stain
the polished background of pale grey.

The sun like a round, opaque window-pane
climbs to the zenith at a sick man’s pace;
the sea-wind rests in the shadows,
using its black trumpet for a pillow.

The waves that move their leaden bellies
seem to moan beneath the quay.
Seated on a cable, smoking his pipe,
is a sailor thinking of the beaches of a vague,
far-away, misty land.

This sea-dog is an old man. The fiery beams
of Brazilian suns have scorched his face;
the violent typhoons of the China seas have
seen him drinking his bottle of gin.

The foam that reeks of iodine and saltpetre
has known from of old his red nose,
his curly hair, and his athlete’s biceps,
his canvas cap and his drill blouse.

In the midst of the smoke-cloud that rises from his tobacco,
the old man sees the far-away misty land
for which one hot and golden evening
his brigantine set out with all sails set.

The tropical siesta. The sea-dog sleeps.
Now the scale of grey enfolds him complete.
It is as if a soft and enormous charcoal pencil
would rub out the line of the curved horizon.

The tropical siesta. The old cicada
tries out his hoarse and ancient guitar,
and the grasshopper strikes up a monotonous
solo on the single string of his violin.

Rubén Darío



You who listen to the heart of night,
you who in persistent insomnia have heard
the closing of a door, the rumble of a far-away carriage,
a vague echo, a slight noise. …

At the moments of mysterious silence,
when the forgotten rise from their bonds,
at the hour of the dead, at the hour of rest,
you will know how to read these verses, impregnated with bitterness! …

I pour into them as into a cup my griefs
for far-away memories and sinister disasters,
and the sad yearnings of my soul, drunk with flowers,
and the sorrow of my heart, tired of merrymaking.

And repentance for not being what I might have been,
the loss of the kingdom which was meant for me,
and the thought that at one moment I might have avoided being born,
and the dream that my life has been ever since I was born!

All this comes in the midst of the deep silence
in which the night wraps the illusion of earth,
and I seem to hear an echo from the world’s heart
that pierces and moves my own.

Rubén Darío

beside Christ’s lake in Aldehuela de Yeltes, on a night of full moon

White night in which the glassy water
sleeps quietly in its lake bed,
over which watches a round full moon
that leads its army of  stars,

and a round holm-oak is reflected
in the unrippling mirror,
white night in which the water acts as cradle
for the highest and most profound wisdom.

It is a tatter of sky that Nature holds
clasped in her arms, it is a tatter of sky
which has come down

and in the silence of the night prays
the prayer of the lover resigned
solely to love, which is his only riches.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo

look at the landscape: immensity below…

Look at the landscape: immensity below,
and immensity, immensity above;
in the distant perspective the tall mountain,
sapped at the foot by a terrifying gorge.

Gigantic blocks that the earthquake
has uprooted from the living rock,
and in that brooding and forbidding savannah
not a path or a track.

Desolate and burning air,
studded with calm eagles,
like nails slowly driven home.

A tremendous silence, darkness, and fear,
which only the triumphal gallop of the deer
comes to interrupt, and hardly does so.

Manuel José Othón

the orange-trees

Those lovely orange-trees
whose flowers breathe amber
on the meadows are pomanders
in the sun’s brazier:
a perpetual and lovely emerald,
in which the loquacious nightingale
with harmonious voice
tells us a thousand tales;
among whose tender leaves
the flowers which April shaped
from short-lived stars of snow
are fragrant clusters.
The metamorphoses of time
which will sweetly transform
what are diamonds to-day
into topazes to-morrow;
to whose green liveries
crystal twigs give
handsome ornaments
and a most fragrant whiteness.
Rich mine of the valley
where shy January
gave us free gold
and showy May free silver.

Salvador Jacinto Polo de Medina

these which were pomp and delight

These which were pomp and delight,
waking at the first morning light,
will be in the evening a vain object of compassion,
sleeping in the arms of the cold night.

This blending of colours that challenges the heavens,
a rainbow striped with gold, snow, and scarlet,
will be an object lesson to human life.
So much is attempted in the limits of a single day!

The roses got up early to flower
and flowered to grow old;
they found their cradle and their tomb in a bud.

Even so have men found their fortunes,
in one day they have been born and expired;
for when the centuries have passed they were but hours.

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

on the fleetness and passage of time

With what fleet steps you run by!
Oh how you leave me, vain time!
Oh, tyrant over my fortune and my being,
how continually I feel your lordly hand!

I thought that I could stop you, but you fled past;
that I could follow you, but you went proudly away.
I wasted you in seeking you, inhuman entity,
and the more I sought you the more I lost you.

Now I know your anger; now that I am brought low
I am the spoils of your scythe,
oh bitter disillusionment unconfessed!

I lived blind and was finally disabused.
Made an Argus in my sorrow, with sad eyes
I see you fly and see that I have lost you.

Luis Carrillo y Sotomayor