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EDITORIAL

EPIFANIO RECOMMENDS

MY RECORD COLLECTION
Mark Young

IN MUNTINLUPA PRISON
August Künnapu

A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN LATVIAN PAINTING
Maija Rudovska

IMPRESSIONS OF NEPAL
Vilen Künnapu

THE TWO TOWNS: A TRANSFORMATION OF TOWNSCAPE IN MODERN CHINA
Peteris Ratas

HARRY PYE'S POSTCARD FROM LEEDS
Harry Pye

LEO GIDON'S WANDERING MIND
Mehis Heinsaar

ANTONIO MACHADO
Lauri Sommer

TEAM

ANTONIO MACHADO

Antonio Machado (1875-1939) is one of the most popular Spanish poets of the 20th century. He lived a rather inward-looking and quiet life. He was born in Seville, but his family moved to Madrid when he was seven. He started his studies in the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (a school of enlightened education, apparently something similar to a Waldorf school), where he made progress under the encouragement of his teacher Francisco Giner. His father died when Antonio was eighteen. Amidst the lively literary life of Madrid he stared writing articles and poems with his brother Manuel. The Civil War of 1989 shattered him too, and among several of his contemporaries, Antonio started searching for the ‘new Spain’ in the ruins of the devastated country, finding it in nature poetry and aphoristic sentiments, as well as patriotic statements.

Drawing: August Künnapu

His most important trip abroad was visiting Paris at the age of twenty four. A few years later he went there once again. He worked for a publisher, tried a brief career in acting and came into contact with Symbolist poets and artists as well as Oscar Wilde who had got out of prison, and he brought that Modernist essence back home with him too. The ideas of Henri Bergson, the philosopher of time, accompanied Machado in his oeuvre. There were also several influential compatriots in the artistic centre – Juan Ramón Jiménez became his friend for life. However, realising that he must dedicate himself to writing, Machado moved to the province, to achieve his goal. There he contemplated and pondered, and rather quickly went through the epigonian aestheticism, remnant of the fin-de-siècle.

It is an ancient truth that love wakens a poet. In Soria where he lived and worked as a French teacher, Antonio met young Leonor, the daughter of his housekeeper, who was only thirteen at the time. A couple of years later they were married. The beauty of that young woman is reflected in the book The Lands of Castile (1912, its latter, expanded version includes other shades, but inspiration continued there too). When Leonor was diagnosed with tuberculosis, it was the beginning of an ordeal. Antonio nursed his wife with immense care, and on the last summer of her life rolled her in a wheelchair to view the majesty of mountains. Leonor died at the age of only eighteen. On the verge of suicide, Antonio left, and after a while settled down in Baeza, the town with old-fashioned architecture.

On the outside, he continued teaching, studied philosophy, wrote verse dramas with his brother and was known in the town as a slightly neglected character, obliviously sitting in cafés and making long observing walks. He did not sentimentalise over his loss, and he was even able to make dry and aphoristic jokes on other subjects, as well as gradually produce twelve heteronyms for himself, but the pain did not go away easily. In his inner solitude he kept writing slightly sacral-sounding lamentations to his late wife for years, until finally realising that the eyes the colour of which he had already forgotten in his long yearnings, were watching him from somebody else’s living face.

In 1926 Antonio found his second big love, the poetess Pilar, divorced wife of a diplomat and a mother of three, whom he referred by the name of Guiomar. Their late-blooming passion was discrete and platonic; they were seeing each other secretly in a small restaurant in Madrid, until they were torn apart by the war. Also written for Guiomar is the poem I Will Give You My Song that is published here – one of the last known poems by Machado.

Escaping from the advance of Franco’s army, Antonio left Barcelona where he had published patriotic articles. In the chaos of crossing the border he lost his suitcase containing his unpublished manuscripts from the last two years, among them Guiomar’s Songbook. His already poor health deteriorated further. In Collioure, Southern France, the critical phase arrived. As his last thing Antonio’s made a walk was to the seashore, where, looking at the fishermen’s houses, he sighed and said that he would like to live a live free of worries there. Antonio Machado’s mother passed away only a couple of days after his son. They were buried together. After Antonio’s death his brother found a paper in the pocket of his jacket, saying “Blue days of the childhood and the sun”.

Although it would be possible also outline the ‘smaller’, social Machado who was concerned about his country’s politics, expressing it in somewhat impassionate manner, and had contacts with the socialists of his country, nature still plays a more important part in his oeuvre. There are very inherently Spanish, simple landscape images with elaborate details, which people merge into with their moods. We can see the life of village folk and the fading echo of the country’s earlier power and glory. Although there are differences in climate conditions and what is seen, the best nature poetry is universal in terms of its clarity, suggestiveness and power to capture. Here and there Machado’s images remind us of the depictions of rivers and mountains by Chinese poets, and from the other side, they easily reach the cognition of northerners too (The Lands of Soria 5). Having moved to another place, Machado often depicted the landscapes he had already left behind, as if to memorise their attraction. The all-enveloping light from Seville, the scarcity of Castile and fruitfulness of Andalusia were stored in his memory through poplars, acacias, flowers, rivers, hills, the sky, fields, birds, town squares and churches, windows, fountains, human figures and different intonations of folklore (ballads/romanceros). Antonio inherited his interest in folklore from his father who collected it and was also one of the first to study flamenco songs. It is high-vagabondist romanticism which does not become exuberant and retains its melancholic reservation. He sings of what is lost, showing its wondrousness. It is a distant poetry of solitude, providing a sense of home that has offered consolation to so many..

A young face one day appears

A young face one day appears
before our house.
We ask her: Why do you come back
to the old home?
She opens the window, and all the fields
in light and fragrance waft inside.
On the white road
the tree trunks grow back;
their top leaves
are green smoke dreaming far away.
The wide river
seems like a pond slipping through white mist
of the morning. Across the livid mountains
walks another mythical monster.

From the doorsill of a dream

From the doorsill of a dream they called me.
It was the good voice, the voice I loved.

“Tell me, will you come with me to see the soul?”
A caress struck my heart.

“With you always.” And I went forward in my dream
through a long plain gallery,
feeling the graze of her pure dress
and the soft quivering of her companion hand.

Fields of Soria
5

Snow. In the inn facing the open field
you see the fireplace and smoking logs
and the stewpot bubbling at the boil.
The north wind sweeps the stiffened land,
arousing the silent snow
in white whirlwinds.
Snow over the fields and roads
is falling as over a grave.
An old man shivers and coughs,
huddled over the fire. The old woman
spins her mop of wool. A young girl sews
green fringes on her scarlet serge.
The son of these old grandparents,
a muleteer, walked on the white land
and one night he lost his way
and vanished in the mountain snows.
Around the fire there’s an empty place,
and on the old man’s forehead a sullen wrinkle
like a big dark scar
- an ax blow into a log.
The woman looks at the field, as if she heard
footsteps on the snow. No one comes.
Deserted, the neighboring road;
deserted, the field around the house.
The girl is thinking of green meadows
she might race around on with other girls
on blue-and-gold mornings
when white daisies are growing.

The street in shadow

The street in shadow. The tall house hide
the dying sun. In the balconies are echoes of light.

Don’t you see in the spell of the flowery window
the pink oval of a familiar face?

The image behind the distorting glass
looms and fades like an old dauguerreotype.

In the street only the platter of your step.
The echoes of the sunset slowly burn out.

Agony! Pain hangs in my heart. Is that she?
It cannot be. Walk on. In the blue a star.

 

I will give you my song

I will give you my song.
One sings what is lost,
with a green parrot
to say it on your balcony.

Rocafort, Valencia, May, 1937

Lauri Sommer
is a musician and writer. He lives in Tartu and Räästu. His texts can be found in the previous issues of Epifanio, as well as on the Internet site www.ounaviks.ee/kago