I’m explaining a few things

January 31, 2007 at 2:05 pm 4 comments

Pablo Neruda

Listen (in Spanish)

Listen (in English)

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I’ll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille’s dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
Everything
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings —
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

(translated from the Spanish by Nathaniel Tarn)

The original in Spanish:

EXPLICO ALGUNAS COSAS

PREGUNTARÉIS: Y dónde están las lilas?
Y la metafísica cubierta de amapolas?
Y la lluvia que a menudo golpeaba
sus palabras llenándolas
de agujeros y pájaros?

Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.

Yo vivía en un barrio
de Madrid, con campanas,
con relojes, con árboles.

Desde allí se veía
el rostro seco de Castilla
como un océano de cuero.
Mi casa era llamada
la casa de las flores, porque por todas partes
estallaban geranios: era
una bella casa
con perros y chiquillos.
Raúl, te acuerdas?
Te acuerdas, Rafael?
Federico, te acuerdas
debajo de la tierra,
te acuerdas de mi casa con balcones en donde
la luz de junio ahogaba flores en tu boca?
Hermano, hermano!
Todo
eran grandes voces, sal de mercaderías,
aglomeraciones de pan palpitante,
mercados de mi barrio de Argüelles con su estatua
como un tintero pálido entre las merluzas:
el aceite llegaba a las cucharas,
un profundo latido
de pies y manos llenaba las calles,
metros, litros, esencia
aguda de la vida,
pescados hacinados,
contextura de techos con sol frío en el cual
la flecha se fatiga,
delirante marfil fino de las patatas,
tomates repetidos hasta el mar.

Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo
y una mañana las hogueras
salían de la tierra
devorando seres,
y desde entonces fuego,
pólvora desde entonces,
y desde entonces sangre.
Bandidos con aviones y con moros,
bandidos con sortijas y duquesas,
bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo
venían por el cielo a matar niños,
y por las calles la sangre de los niños
corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.

Chacales que el chacal rechazaría,
piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo,
víboras que las víboras odiaran!

Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre
de España levantarse
para ahogaros en una sola ola
de orgullo y de cuchillos!

Generales
traidores:
mirad mi casa muerta,
mirad España rota:
pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo
en vez de flores,
pero de cada hueco de España
sale España,
pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos,
pero de cada crimen nacen balas
que os hallarán un día el sitio
del corazón.

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía
no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas,
de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver
la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver la sangre
por las calles!

An old favourite. Who but Neruda could make indignation so lyrical? Could make anger and bitterness sing so exquisitely? I love the way this poem starts with a kind of gentle nostalgia, only to build into a frenzy of outrage. I love the ending – the unforgettable repetition of a single line that seems to go on and on even when the poem is over, like the judgement of history, echoing through time. I love the intense colour of the verses, the repeated images of blood and fire that seethe through the entire poem. But most of all (as always with Neruda) I love the phrase making – the sheer heartbreak of “and the blood of the children ran through the streets / without fuss, like children’s blood”. This is why war poetry is written – not because the poet has something to say, but because of all that cannot, must not, be left unsaid.

[falstaff]

Notes:

Spanish audio version from

Entry filed under: Falstaff, Nathaniel Tarn, Pablo Neruda, Spanish, War Poetry. Tags: .

A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest Lament to The Spirit of War

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Revealed  |  January 31, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    More!

    Reply
  • 2. Space Bar  |  February 1, 2007 at 1:30 am

    I have the Donald D. Walsh translation of Reseidencia en la Tierra and the second line reads ‘and the metaphysical blanket of poppies’; which I prefer infinitely to ‘and the poppy-petalled metaphysics’.

    But yes, this portion of the whole poem is my favourite. It makes sense of the list-making of the rest of it.

    Reply
  • 3. natnit  |  February 15, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Howdy!

    I stumbled across your blog while searching for a good audio recording of Neruda’s “Poema Veinte”. I absolutely love what you’ve done with the place, and was wondering if you have a link to one somewhere; I’d definitely pay credit where it is due.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  • […] and the blood of children ran through the streets without fuss, like children’s blood. […]

    Reply

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