Miguel Hernández: Wretched Wars
Translated by A. S. Kline
Wretched Wars (1941)
when love is not our aim.
those that are not words.
that die not out of love.
Elegy for Federico García Lorca (1937)
Death traverses, with rusty lances,
bearing its cannon, the barren plains
where men cultivate roots and hopes,
raining salt, and scattering skulls.
Green of the gardens,
what skies let happiness thrive?
Sunlight rots the blood, sets it with snares,
and renders the shadows more sombre.
Grief and its cloak
come to meet us once more.
And once more into an alley of tears
rain-soaked I enter.
Ever I see myself within
the shadow of withdrawn bitterness
formed by eyes and staves,
that a candle of agony posts at the entrance
and a furious necklace of hearts.
To weep into a well,
into the one disconsolate source
of water, of sobbing,
of the heart’s longing;
where none would see my voice or image,
or would witness the rest of my tears.
I enter slowly, I bow my head
slowly, my heart is torn
slowly, and slowly and blackly
I weep again at the foot of a guitar.
Amidst all the dead of the elegies,
without forgetting the echo of any,
my tear-stained hand chooses one,
who resonates most in my soul.
he was once called: dust is his name.
Once he had his place in the sun
today he lies in a hole in the grass.
So much! So much, and now nothing!
Your joyful energy
that energised columns and rows,
you shake and uproot with your teeth,
and now you are sad, and only wish
for the paradise of the grave.
Formed as a skeleton,
dreaming of lead,
armed with indifference and respect
between your eyebrows, you I see, if I gaze.
It has blown away your dovelike life,
that circled the sky and the windows
with foam and cooing
in a torrent of feathers,
that wind, that blows the months away.
Cousin to the apples,
the worm cannot quench your sap,
the maggot cannot consume your death,
and to add fierce health to its fruit
the apple tree will elect your bones.
Though they choke the source of your saliva,
son of the dove,
grandson, of the nightingale and the olive:
you will still be, while the earth turns,
husband of the immortelle
rich soil at the root of the honeysuckle.
How simple death is: how simple,
but how unfairly won!
It can’t move slowly, and inflicts
when you least expect it, its turbid wound.
You, the strongest building, ruined,
you, the highest hawk, despoiled,
you, the loudest roar,
hushed, hushed, ever hushed.
May your joyful illustrious blood fall
like a cascade of furious hammers
on those who fatally detained you.
May saliva and sickles
fall on the stains on their brows.
A poet dies and creation feels
the hurt and the dying inside.
A cosmic tremor of icy sweats
shakes the mountains in terror,
and splendour of death the wombs of the rivers.
I hear villages moan and valleys lament,
I see a forest of eyes never dry,
avenues of mourning and veils:
in gusts of wind and leaves,
sorrows on sorrows on sorrows,
tears on tears on tears.
They will not scatter, or blow away, your bones,
volcano of sweetness, thunder of honeycombs,
poet entwined with the bitter and sweet,
who felt the warmth of kisses
between two long files of daggers,
vast love, vast death, vast fire.
To accompany your death,
peopling the corners of sky
and earth, come harmonious flocks,
bolts of blue lightening.
Rattlesnakes hail in abundance,
battalions of gypsies, flutes, tambourines,
showers of bees and violins,
storms of guitars and pianos,
irruptions of trumpets and brass.
But silence exceeds any instrument.
Silent, abandoned, caked with the dust
in the desert of death,
it seems your tongue, it seems your breath,
have shot home the bolt of a door.
As if I walked with your shade,
I walk with mine,
on earth that silence has clothed,
that the cypress would see ever darker.
Your agony grips my throat
like the iron of a gallows,
and I taste a funeral libation.
You know, Federico García Lorca,
I am of those who suffer death each day.