Wednesday, 28 May 2008

antonio machado

The Ephemeral Past

Habitué of a small-town club, this man
who saw Carancha poised one day
to take the bull,
has a withered skin, hair going grey,
eyes dim with disenchantment, and beneath
the grey moustache, lips bent
in nausea and a look
that’s sad – yet sadness it is not
but something more, and less: the void
of the world in the hollow of his head. He still
sports a jacket coloured currant-red
in a three pile velvet, breeches
booted at their extremities and a caramel
Córdoba hat, turned and furbished well.
Three times he inherited, and then lost the lot
Three times at cards and twice
Was widowed. An illegal round of chance
Alone will make him brighten
Sprawled at the green baize table;
Once more the blood begins to flow
As he recollects a gambler’s luck
Or the afternoon of some torero,
Drinks in an episode from the life
Of a daring bandit of the road
Or the bloody prowess of a knife.
He satirizes with a yawn the government’s
Reactionary politics and then
Predicts the liberals will come to power
Again, just as the stork returns to the bell-tower.
Something of the farmer still, he eyes
the heavens, fears them and at times will sigh
thinking of his olives and, disconsolate,
watches for weather-signs when rain is late.
For the rest, boredom. Taciturn, hypochondriac,
shut in the Arcadia of the present,
and to his brow
only the movement of the smoke gives now
its look of thought. The man is neither
of yesterday nor tomorrow
but of never. Hispanic stock, he’s not
the fruit that grew to ripen or to rot,
but shadow-fruit
from a Spain that did not come to be,
that passed away, yet, dead,
persists to haunt us with a greying head.


trans by charles tomlinson and henry gifford

1 comment:

ioannus said...

wow this reads so well, i am tempted to have a go