Pablo Neruda

The War (1936)

 Spain, wrapped in sleep, waking
 like hair among wheat-spikes,
 I saw you born, perhaps among brambles
 and darkness, peasant,
 saw you rise among oaks and mountains
 and travel the air with your open veins.
 But I saw you attacked in the corners
 by the ancient bandits.  They walked
 masked, with their crosses made
 of vipers, with their feet mired
 in the glacial swamp of the dead.
 Then I saw your body freed
 from thickets, broken
 on the bloodied sand, open,
 abandoned, goaded in agony.
 Still today the water of your stones
 flows among the dungeons, and you endure
 your crown of thorns in silence,
 to see who lasts longer, your silence
 or the faces that pass without looking at you.
 I lived with your dawn of rifles,
 and I long for people and gunpowder
 to shake the dishonored branches again
 till the dream trembles and the divided fruits
 are reunited in the earth.


Song on Some Ruins

 This that was created and tamed,
 this that was moistened, used, seen,
 rests - poor handkerchief - among the waves
 of earth and black sulphur.
                                             Like the bud or the breast
 that rise to the sky, like the flower that climbs
 from the ruined bone: so the forms
 of the world appeared.  Oh eyelids,
 oh columns, oh scales.
                                       Oh profound materials
 gathered and pure: so much till you're bells!
 so much till your're clocks!  Aluminum
 of blue proportions, cement
 glued to the dream of men!
                                              The dust gathers,
 the rubber, the mud; the objects grow
 and the walls rise
 like grapevines of dark human skin.
                                              There inside in white, in copper,
 in fire, in abandon, the papers grew,
 the terrible weeping, the prescriptions
 carried at night to the drugstore
 while someone lay ill,
 the dry mental temple, the door
 built by man
 never to open again.
                                 Everything's gone, fallen,
 brutally withered.
                               Wounded utensils, nocturnal
 membranes, filthy foam, justly-spilled
 urine, cheeks, glass, wool,
 camphor, circles of thread and skin, all,
 all by a wheel turned to dust,
 to the disorganized dream of the metals,
 all the perfume, all fascination,
 all joined in nothingness, fallen all,
 never to be reborn.
                                 Heavenly thirst, doves
 with flour waists: epochs
 of pollen and cluster: see how
 the wood is ravaged
 till it comes to grief; there are no roots
 for man: all rests barely
 on a tremble of rain.
                                    See how the guitar
 has rotted in the mouth of the fragrant bride:
 see how the words that built so much
 are extinction now: over the lime
                                                    and between the ruined ivory
 watch the track -- now mossgrown -- of the sobbing.


Landscape after a Battle

 Space corroded, crowd scrubbed
 against the cereals, horseshoes broken,
 frozen among frost and stones,
    harsh moon.

 Wounded mare moon, charred, wrapped
 in exhausted thorns, menacing, sunken
 metal or bone, bitter cloth, absence,
    gravedigger smoke.

 Behind the sour halo of nitrates,
 of substance in substance, water in water,
 rapids like threshed wheat,
    burned and eaten.

 Casual crust smoothly smooth,
 black ashes scattered and absent,
 now only hateful materials of rain,
    sonorous cold.

 May my knees guard it buried more
 than this fugitive terrain,
 my eyelids hold it till name and wound,
 my blood protect this taste of shadow
    so there'll be no forgetting.


To Miguel Hernandez,
Murdered In The Prisons Of Spain

You came to me straight from the East. You brought me,
shepherd of goats, your wrinkled innocence,
the scholasticism of old pages, a fragrance
of Fray Luis, of orangebloom, of fertilizer
burned on the mountains, and in your mask
the cereal harshness of the reaped oats
and a honey that measured the earth with your eyes.

You brought also the nightingale in your mouth.
A nightingale stained with oranges, a thread
of incorruptible song, of stripped strength.
Aí, lad, the gunpowder burst into the light;
and you, with nightingale and rifle, walking
under the sun and the moon of the struggle ...

Now you know, my son, how much I could not do, now you know
that for me, from all of poetry, you were the blue flame.
Today I place my face to the earth and hear you,
I hear you, blood, music, dying honeycomb.

I have seen no race so brilliant as yours,
no roots so strong, nor such soldier hands,
I have seen nothing so alive as your heart
burning in the purple of my true flag.

A youth forever, you live, yesteryears's commoner,
flooded by germs of wheat and spring,
crumpled and dark like native metal,
waiting the moment your armor will rise.

I'm not alone since you died. I'm with those who seek you.
I'm with those who some day will come to avenge you.
You will recognize my steps among those
who will fling themselves over the breast of Spain
crushing Cain, so he'll give us back
our buried faces.

Let those who killed you know they will pay with blood.
Let those who tortured you know they will see me some day.
Let the tricky ones who today include your name
in their books - the Da'masos, the Gerardos, the sons
of bitches, silent accomplices of the murderer -
let them know that your martyrdom will not be erased, that your death
will eclipse all their moon of cowards.
And those who, in their rotten laurels, disowned you,
on American earth, on the space that you cover
with your fluvial crown of bloodless rays,
let me myself give them scornful oblivion,
for they wanted to torture me with your absence.

Miguel, far from Osuna prison, far
from cruelty, Mao Tse-tung dedicates
your ravaged poetry in the struggle
toward our victory.
                                     And murmurous Prague
building the sweet beehive you sang,
green Hungary cleans her granaries
and dances beside the river that woke from dream.
And from Warsaw rises the naked siren
that builds, displaying its crystalline sword.
And further off the earth enlarges,
                                                         the earth,
 that your song visited, and the steel
 that defended your heartland stand firm,
 advancing over the firmness
 of Stalin and his sons.
                                      Now the light
 draws near your dwelling.
                                            Miguel of Spain, star
 of blasted lands: my eyes had scarcely closed
 when I found in myself not lament
 but the inexorable
           Wait for them!  Wait for me!



A plate for the Bishop, a plate chewed and bitter,
A plate of steel scraps, of ashes and tears,
A plate brimming over with fallen walls and sobs,
A plate for the Bishop, a plate of Almería's blood.

A plate for the banker, a plate of cheeks
of children from the happy South, a plate
of explosions, mad waters, of ruins and terror,
a plate of broken ankles and trampled heads.

Each morning, each murky morning of your life,
you'll have it steaming and hot on your table:
you'll push it back a bit with your soft soft hands
so as not to see it, not to eat it so often;
you'll push it back a bit between the bread
and the grapes, this plate of silent blood
that will be there each morning, every

A plate for the Colonel and the Colonel's wife,
at a garrison party, at every party,
over curses and spit, with the dawn's light of wine,
so you'll look out over the world, trembling and cold.

Yes, a plate for you all, rich ones everywhere,
ambassadors, ministers, atrocious dinner-guests,
ladies with comfortable tea and bottoms:
a plate destroyed, overflowing, filthy with the blood of the poor,
each morning, each week, forever and ever,
a plate of blood from Almería before you,



Eulogy For Federico García Lorca

       How to dare to spotlight one name from this immense jungle of our dead! All the humble farmers and the miners slain in Asturias; and the carpenters, the bricklayers, the wage-earners of city and country, and each of the thousands of murdered women and destroyed children: each of these burning shadows has the right to appear before you as testament of that great wretched country, and has, I believe, a place in your hearts if you are free from injustice and evil. All these terrible shadows have names in our memory, names of fire and loyalty: pure names, names that are flowing, ancient and noble, like the names of salt and water. And, like salt and water, they have been lost again in the earth, in the infinite name of the earth. For the sacrifices, the sorrows, the purity and strength of the Spanish people are clearer in this purifying struggle than in any other battle: in a panorama of plains, wheat and stones, in the middle of winter, in the depths of a harsh planet disputed by snow and blood.

       Yes, how to dare to choose one name, one alone, among so many silent? But the name I will pronounce to you has behind its dark syllables such a mortal richness, is so heavy and pierced with meaning, that on speaking it the names of all those who fell defending the subject of his songs are spoken, for he was the melodious guardian of the heart of Spain.

       Federico García Lorca! He was popular with a guitar, merry, melancholy, profound and clear as a child, as the people. If you were to search painstakingly, bit by bit in every corner, for someone to sacrifice as a symbol is sacrificed, you could choose in no person or object someone so vitally Spanish in breadth and depth as was this man. Those who have wished to shoot the heart of their people have chosen well the man to execute. In order to break and martyrize Spain, to drain her of her most volatile fragrance, to crush her in her most vehement breath, to prune her most indestructible smile, they chose him. Before this death the two most irreconciliable Spains have been experimented with: the green and black Spain of the terrible diabolic hoof, the buried and damned Spain, the Spain crucified and poisoned by the great dynastic crimes; and, before her, the Spain glowing with spirit and inner pride, the meteoric Spain of intuition, tradition, and discovery, the Spain of Federico Garci'a Lorca.

       He will lie dead, offered like a white lily, a wild guitar, beneath the dirt his murderers kicked over his wounds: but, like his songs, his race definds itself, afoot and singing while whirlwinds of blood leave its soul, and so they will stay forever in the memory of man.

       I don't know how to make his memory precise. His face, now torn and extinguished, was illuminated for only a moment by life's violent light. But in this long moment of his life his figure shone with a solar light. Thus: since the time of Gongora and Lope there had not appeared in Spain such creative elan, such fluidity of form and language. Since that time in which the Spaniards of the villages kissed Lope de Vega's habit, the Spanish tongue had not known a poet with so great a popular appeal. All that he touched, even the scales of mysterious aestheticism, which, like a great learned poet, he could not deny without betraying himself, all that he touched became filled with profound essences, with sounds that reached to the depth of the multitudes. When I mention the word aestheticism, let us make no mistake: Garcia Lorca was the anti-aesthete in the sense of filling his poetry and his theater with human dramas and the storms of the heart; but not by this did he renounce the original secrets of the poetic mystery. The people, with marvellous intuition, took possession of his poetry, which was sung and still is sung as anonymous in the villages of Andalucia; but he did not flatter in himself this tendency to profit, far from it: he sought avidly both within and outside himself.

       His anti-aestheticism is perhaps the source of his great popularity in America. Of this brilliant generation of poets -- such as Alberti, Aleixandre, Altolaguirre, Cernuda, etc. -- he was perhaps the only one over whom the shadow of Gongora did not exercise its dominion of frost, which by 1927 had sterilized aesthetically the great young poetry of Spain. America, separated by centuries of ocean from the classical fathers of the language, recognized as great this young poet irresistibly drawn to the people and blood. I have seen, some three years ago in Buenos Aires, the greatest height of fame to which a poet of our race has risen: the great multitudes hearing with emotion and tears his tragedies, with their unheard-of verbal richness. In them, gaining a new phosphoric brilliance, the eternal Spanish drama was renewed: love and death dancing a furious dance, love and death, masked or naked.

       His memory, to trace at this distance his likeness, is impossible. He was a physical lightning, an energy in continual motion, a joy, a splendor, a tenderness completely superhuman. His person was magical and dark, and brought happiness.

       By a curious and insistent coincidence the two great young poets of reknown in Spain, Alberti and García Lorca, have resembled each other greatly, almost to the point of rivalry. Both Dionysiac Andalucians, musical, exhuberant, secret and popular, drawing together on the origins of Spanish poetry, the millenial folklore of Andalucia and Castilla, gradually bringing their poetics from the airy, vegetable grace of the origins of language to the superaction of grace and entrance into the dramatic forest of their race. Then they separate: while one, Alberti, generously devotes himself totally to the cause of the oppressed and lives solely by virtue of his magnificent revolutionary faith, the other turns more and more in his writing towards his earth, towards Granada, until he turns completely, until he dies there. Between them existed no true rivalry; they were firm and brilliant brothers; and thus we see what, on Alberti's final return from Russia and Mexico, Federico offered him in the great homage that took place in his honor in Madrid: that magnificently-worded reunion. A few months later García Lorca left for Madrid. And there, by strange destiny, death awaited him, the same death the enemies of the people were saving for Alberti. Without forgetting our great dead poet let us recall for an instant our great living comrade, Alberti, who, with a group of poets Serrano Plaja, Miguel Hernandez, Emilio Prados, Antonio Aparicio -- was at that moment in Madrid defending the cause of their people and their poetry.

       But the social unrest in Federico was taking other forms, forms closer to his soul of a Moorish minstrel. With his troupe La Barraca, he covered the roads of Spain presenting the old and forgotten great theatre: Lope de Rueda, Lope de Vega, Cervantes. The ancient ballads dramatized were for him returned to the pure breast from which they came. The most remote corners of Castilla came to know his performances. Through him the Andalucians, the Asturians, the Extremadurans communicated again with their inspired poets, so recently asleep in their hearts, the spectacle filling them with astonishment but not surprise. Neither the ancient costumes nor the archaic speech shocked these peasants, many of whom never seen an automobile nor listened to a phonograph. Through the middle of the tremendous, grotesque poverty of the Spanish peasant -- whom even I, I have seen living in caves and subsisting on weeds and reptiles -- passed this magical whirlwind of poetry, carrying among the dreams of the old poets the grains of gunpowder and dissatisfaction with their own culture.

       He saw always in those dying regions the incredible poverty in which the privileged kept his people; he endured the winter with the peasants in the meadows and the dry hills, and the tragedy made his southern heart tremble with many sorrows.

       One of his memories comes to me now. Some months ago he left again for the villages. He went to present Lope de Vega's Peribanez, and Federico set off to go over the corners of Extremadura to find in them the clothing, the authentic clothing of the seventeenth century that the old peasant families still guard in their trunks. He returned with a prodigious cargo of blue and gold cloth, shoes and collars, apparel that saw light for the first time in centuries. His irresistible good nature had gotten it all.

       One night in a village of Extremadura, unable to sleep, he got up when dawn broke. The harsh Extramenan landscape was still filled with mist. Federico sat down beside some overturned statues to watch the sun grow. They were marble figures from the seventeenth century; and the place was the entrance to a feudal manor, totally abandoned like so many of the holdings of the great Spanish lords. Federico was watching the crushed statues, kindled to whiteness by the young sun, when a little lamb that had strayed from its fold began to graze beside him. Suddenly five or six black pigs crossed the road, threw themselves on the lamb, and, in a few minutes, before his surprise and terror, tore it to pieces and devoured it. Federico, prey to an indescribable fear, motionless from horror, watched the black pigs kill and devour the lamb among the fallen statues, in that lonely dawn.

       When he told me of this on returning to Madrid his voice still trembled, for the tragedy of the death had obsessed his childlike sensibility almost to delirium. Now his death, his terrible death that nothing will make us forget, brings me the memory of that bloody dawn. Perhaps, to that great poet, sweet and prophetic, life offered ahead of time, and in terrifying symbolism, the vision of his own death.

       I have wanted to bring before you the memory of our great vanished comrade. Many, perhaps, expected from me tranquil and poetic words removed from the death and the war. The very word Spain brings to many people a great anguish mixed with a deep hope. I have not wanted to increase these anguishes nor to disturb our hopes; but, having recently left Spain, I, a Latin American, Spanish by tongue and by race, could have spoken of nothing save her disgraces. I am not a politician, nor have I taken any part in the political struggle; but my words, that many might have wished neutral, have been tinged with passion. Understand me, and understand that we, the poets of Spanish America and the poets of Spain, will never forget nor pardon the murder of he whom we consider the greatest among us, the angel of the moment in our language. And forgive me, that of all the sorrows of Spain I have recalled for you only the life and death of one poet. It is because we will never be able to forget this crime, nor pardon it. We will never forget it nor pardon it. Never.


Ode to Federico García Lorca

 If I could weep with fear in a lonely house,
 if I could pluck out my eyes and eat them,
 I'd do it for your mourning orangetree voice
 and for your poetry that flies up shouting.

 For they paint the hospitals blue for you,
 and the schools and maritime districts grow,
 and the wounded angels are covered with feathers,
 and the nuptial fish are covered with scales,
 and the hedgehogs go flying to heaven:
 for you the tailorshops with their black membranes
 fill with spoons and with blood,
 swallow torn ribbons, kill themselves with kisses,
 and dress in white.

 When you fly dressed in peach,
 when you laugh with a laugh of hurricane rice,
 when you flap your arteries and teeth to sing,
 your throat and your fingers,
 I could die for the sweetness you are,
 I could die for the crimsom lakes
 where you live in the midst of Autumn
 with a fallen charger and a bloodied god,
 I could die for the graveyards that pass at night
 like ashen rivers, with water and graves,
 between muffled bells:
 rivers dense as dormitories
 of sick soldiers, that suddenly swell
 towards death in rivers with marble numbers
 and rotten garlands, and funeral oils:
 I could die from seeing you at night
 watching the drowned crosses pass,
 afoot and weeping,
 because you weep before the river of death,
 abandoned and wounded,
 you weep weeping, your eyes filled
 with tears, with tears, with tears.

 At night, desperately alone, if I could gather
 forgetfullness, shadow and smoke
 above railroads and steamships,
 with a black funnel,
 chewing the ashes,
 I'd do it for the tree in which you grow,
 for the nests of golden waters you unite,
 and for the net that covers your bones
 telling you the secret of the night.

 Cities with damp onion fragrance
 wait for you to pass singing hoarsely,
 and silent boats of sperm pursue uyou,
 and green swallows nest in your hair,
 and snails and weeks too,
 furled masts and cherrytrees
 circle definitively when your pale head with fifty eyes
 and your mouth of submerged blood appear.

 If I could fill the mayors' posts with soot
 and throw down watches, sobbing,
 it would be to watch: when at your house
 summer arrives with broken lips,
 a crowd arrives in death-watch clothes,
 regions of sad splendor arrive,
 dead plows and poppies arrive,
 gravediggers and horsemen arrive,
 planets and maps of blood arrive,
 divers covered with ash arrive,
 masqueraders dragging virgins
 pierced with large knives arrive,
 hospitals, ants, roots, springs and veins arrive,
 the night arrives with the bed on which
 a lonely Hussar dies among the spiders,
 a rose of hatred and pins arrives,
 a yellowed embarkation arrives,
 a windy day with a child arrives,
 I arrive with Oliverio and Norah,
 Vicente Aleixandre, Delia,
 Maruca, Malva Marina, María Luisa y Larco,
 la Rubia, Rafael, Ugarte,
 Cotapos, Rafael Alberti,
 Carlos, Bebé, Manolo Altolaguirre, Molinari,
 Rosales, Concha Méndez,
 and others I've forgotten.
 Come to what crowns you, youth of health,
 gay butterfly, youth pure
 as a black lightning perpetually free;
 and talking between ourselves.
 now, when no one is left among the rocks,
 let us speak simply, as you are, as I am:
 what are the verses for, if not for the dew?
 What are the verses for, if not for this night
 in which a bitter dagger finds us out, for this day,
 for this twilight, for this broken corner
 where the beaten heart of man prepares to die?

 Over everything at night,
 at night there are many stars,
 all within a river
 like a ribbon beside the windows
 of houses filled with poor people.

 Someone they know has died,
 maybe they've lost their jobs in the offices,
 in the hospitals, in the elevators, in the mines;
 they endure their purpose stubbornly, wounded,
 and there's purpose and weeping everywhere:
 while the stars flow on in an endless river
 there is much weeping in the windows,
 the thresholds are worn by the weeping,
 the bedrooms are soaked by the weeping
 that comes in the shape of a wave to corrode the carpets.

 you see the world, the streets,
 the vinegar,
 the farewells in the stations
 where the smoke lifts its decisiive wheels
 toward where there is nothing but some
 separations, stones, iron tracks.

 There are so many people asking questions everywhere.
 There's the bloodied blind man, and the angry man,
                                                    the discouraged man,
 the miserable man, the tree of fingernails,
 the thief with envy riding his back.

 Life's like this, Federico; here you have
 the things my friendship can offer you,
 from a melancholy manly man.
 Already you've learned many things by yourself,
 and slowly you will be learning more.



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