po·e·sy n. pl. po·e·sies 1. Poetical works; poetry. 2. The art or practice of composing poems. 3. The inspiration involved in composing poetry. [Middle English poesie, from Old French, from Latin posis, from Greek poisis, from poiein, to create; see kwei-2 in Indo-European roots.]

My Photo
Location: Canada

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17th - Becquer

Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, February 17, 1836--December 22, 1870

Of Flemish lineage, Spanish writer of poetry and prose Becquer lived much of his short life in poverty and poor health. Now considered one of the most important figures in Spanish literature, his best known work is Legends Tales and Poems. He died at the age of thirty-four, three months after the death of his beloved brother, painter Valeriano Becquer.

From Obras de Gustavo A. Becquer


"In Seville, along the Guadalquivir, and close to the bank that leads
to the convent of San Jerónimo, may be found a kind of lagoon, which
fertilizes a miniature valley formed by the natural slope of the bank,
at that point very high and steep. Two or three leafy white poplars,
intertwining their branches, protect the spot from the rays of the
sun, which rarely succeeds in slipping through them. Their leaves
produce a soft and pleasing murmur as the wind stirs them and causes
them to appear now silver, now green, according to the point from
which it blows. A willow bathes its roots in the current of the
stream, toward which it leans as though bowed by an invisible weight,
and all about are multitudes of reeds and yellow lilies, such as grow
spontaneously at the edges of springs and streams.

"When I was a boy of fourteen or fifteen, and my soul was overflowing
with numberless longings, with pure thoughts and with that infinite
hope that is the most precious jewel of youth, when I deemed myself a
poet, when my imagination was full of those pleasing tales of the
classic world, and Rioja in his _silvas_ to the flowers, Herrera in
his tender elegies, and all my Seville singers, the Penates of my
special literature, spoke to me continually of the majestic Bétis, the
river of nymphs, naiads, and poets, which, crowned with belfries and
laurels, flows to the sea from a crystal amphora, how often, absorbed
in the contemplation of my childish dreams, I would go and sit upon
its bank, and there, where the poplars protected me with their shadow,
would give rein to my fancies, and conjure up one of those impossible
dreams in which the very skeleton of death appeared before my eyes in
splendid, fascinating garb! I used to dream then of a happy,
independent life, like that of the bird, which is born to sing, and
receives its food from God. I used to dream of that tranquil life of
the poet, which glows with a soft light from generation to generation.
I used to dream that the city that saw my birth would one day swell
with pride at my name, adding it to the brilliant list of her
illustrious sons, and, when death should put an end to my existence,
that they would lay me down to dream the golden dream of immortality
on the banks of the Bétis, whose praises I should have sung in
splendid odes, and in that very spot where I used to go so often to
hear the sweet murmur of its waves. A white stone with a cross and my
name should be my only monument.

"The white poplars, swaying night and day above my grave, should seem
to utter prayers for my soul in the rustling of their green and silver
leaves. In them the birds should come and nest, that they might sing
at dawn a joyous hymn to the resurrection of the spirit to regions
more serene. The willow, covering the spot with floating shadows,
should lend to it its own vague sadness, as it bent and shed about its
soft, wan leaves, as if to protect and to caress my mortal spoils. The
river, too, which in flood tide might almost come and kiss the border
of the slab o'ergrown with reeds, should lull my sleep with pleasant
music. And when some time had passed, and patches of moss had begun
spread over the stone, a dense growth of wild morning-glories, of
those blue morning-glories with a disk of carmine in the center, which
I loved so much, should grow up by its side, twining through its
crevices and clothing it with their broad transparent leaves, which,
by I know not what mystery, have the form of hearts. Golden insects
with wings of light, whose buzzing lulls to sleep on heated
afternoons, should come and hover round their chalices, and one would
be obliged to draw aside the leafy curtain to read my name, now
blurred by time and moisture. But why should my name be read? Who
would not know that I was sleeping there?"

Poetry by Gustavo Becquer

(Spanish, followed by the English translation)



Los invisibles átomos del aire
En derredor palpitan y se inflaman;
El cielo se deshace en rayos de oro;
La tierra se estremece alborozada;
Oigo flotando en olas de armonía
Rumor de besos y batir de alas;
Mis párpados se cierran... ¿Qué sucede?
--!Es el amor que pasa!

The viewless atoms of the air
Around me palpitate and burn,
All heaven dissolves in gold, and earth
Quivers with new-found joy.
Floating on waves of harmony I hear
A stir of kisses, and a sweep of wings;
Mine eyelids close--"What pageant nears?"
"'Tis Love that passes by!"

The Viewless Atoms of the Air, translated by Mrs. Ward


Asomaba á sus ojos una lágrima
Y á mi labio una frase de perdón;
Habló el orgullo y se enjugó su llanto,
Y la frase en mis labios expiró.

Yo voy por un camino, ella por otro;
Pero al pensar en nuestro mutuo amor,
Yo digo aún: ¿Por qué callé aquel día?
Y ella dirá: ¿por qué no lloré yo?

Often when two are parting,
Each grasps a hand as friend;
And then begins a weeping
And a sighing without end.

We did not sigh when parting;
No tears between us fell;
The weeping and the sighing
Came after our farewell.

Lyrical Intermezzo, No. 55, translated by Chas. G. Leland


No sé lo que he soñado
En la noche pasada;
Triste, muy triste debió ser el sueño,
Pues despierto la angustia me duraba.

Noté, al incorporarme,
Húmeda la almohada,
Y por primera vez sentí, al notarlo,
De un amargo placer henchirse el alma.

Triste cosa es el sueño
Que llanto nos arranca;
Mas tengo en mi tristeza una alegría...
¡Sé que aún me quedan lágrimas!

I wept while I was dreaming
That thou didst buried lie;
I woke, and with my weeping
My cheeks were not yet dry.

I wept while I was dreaming
That thou hadst gone from me;
I woke, and still kept weeping
Full long and bitterly.

I wept while I was dreaming
That thou didst love me well;
I woke, and--woe is me, love--
My tears are flowing still.

Lyrical Intermezzo, no. 59, translated by Chas. G. Leland