Thursday, September 16, 2021




By Luis Cernuda

Translated by Hardie ST. Martin

As evening comes down, the boy
Buried in thought behind the glass
Watches it rain. The glow from a burning
Stretlamp makes the white rain
Stand out against the darkened air.

The room he has to himself
Wraps him in its warmth
And the thin curtain, guarding
The window like a cloud, whispers to him
That the moon has things under a spell.

School fades from his mind. This is
A break for him, with the book
Full of stories and pictures
Under the study lamp, the light,
Sleep, hours that weigh nothing.

The boy is living in the heart
Of his small power, with no desires
So far, no memories, never suspecting
That time waits out there,
With life, ready to spring.

The pearl is taking form in its shadow.

Born in Seville in 1902, LUIS CERNUDA was part of what came to be known in Spain as the Generation of 1927, which included Garcia Lorca, Rafael Alberti, and Vicente Aleixandre. Of these poets, Cernuda was the most cosmopolitan, totally familiar with European and American literary traditions. It was he who introduced the work of more recent English and American poets into Spanish poetry.

Although not so well known to readers of modern poetry in Spanish as other members of the Generation of ’27, Cernuda, as a poet if not as a person, has always been highly esteemed. His poetry is unabashedly direct. In a sense, almost all his poetry can be read as a soliloquy, even when the speaker seems to be addressing others. A maniacally self-absorbed individual, Cernuda wrote to discover himself, to justify himself and to console himself. He derived some consolation from the beauty of the natural world and from music and painting. He was a profoundly alienated character, alienated socially and, in a sense, alienated even from his own body. He was haunted by the image of a lost childhood paradise, like in the above poem, a paradise from which he was cast out by his sexual orientation and by a concomitant introversion. The moments of epiphanic transcendence which occur in his poems are of reunion with a whole, uninhibited self.

How beautifully the poet has conceived the bliss of childhood with no memories (and its associated pain or sweetness)! The life ready to spring seems ominous like the attack of everything waiting to spoil his innocence. Perhaps, after a lot of rubbing in the shadows, we too may turn out to be pearls.

Source: Roots& Wings: Poetry from Spain