“Last Night As I Was Sleeping” by Antonio Machado

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

by Antonio Machado, from Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado


Red Canna by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1924

4 thoughts on ““Last Night As I Was Sleeping” by Antonio Machado

  1. Will Grimes

    Antonio Machado is said to be a modern Spanish mystic of sorts but I am struck by the way he achieves his illustration of the divine within us through the use of very concrete symbols. In the first stanza, for example, there is his use of water (baptism?) that transforms the heart. In the third stanza, the sun not only warms him but it causes his tears. (If you look at the sun or attempt to do so, tears are not an uncommon effect.) Moreover, water and sun are traditional, if adopted, Christian symbols.
    Machado’s poem in Spanish follows a very traditional rhyme scheme with abab being repeated in the first four lines followed by cdcd in the first stanza, efef in the second, and ghgh in the third. with the abab of the final stanza repeating the exact rhyme found at the beginning of the second stanza: dormía, iluzión, tenía, corazón. For me this rhyme pattern (one that cannot easily be repeated in English as the one syllable English heart, and three syllable Spanish corazón makes clear) speaks to the conservative nature of Machado’s poesy, at the same time that it discloses the deep nature of his mystical tendencies.
    I may be wrong but it looks to me as if the translator of this poem, allows the God within to be a discovery at the end of the poem. But as I look at the Spanish, it seems to me that the God within, who is found in the final stanza, becomes a confirmation of what comes before in the poem. For example, the translator uses the phrase “marvelous error” to describe his dream, but the Spanish would allow for “blessed illusion” or, alternatively, “blessed hope” to be understood from the phrase. I think this difference (and others) suggests confirmation of the divine within rather than the discovery of the divine within.
    That said, the poem seems expansive enough to allow for either discovery or confirmation of the divine within us, much as the Indian “namaste” allows for the simultaneous recognition of the divine in the other and in ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is brilliant, Will. I’m not especially scholarred in the mechanics of poetry, though I am learning to appreciate the struggles of confinement different forms present. So I am always appreciative when a friend or reader (both) takes the time to share on such. Plus I love hearing different thoughts on analysis and connections we as casual readers may sometimes miss.

      I believe, though I could be wrong, that this was a Robert Bly translation. It was credited to him on the website I copied the poem from, but since I couldn’t verify, I left it off of my own credits.

      Funny how so much can be lost in translation, even in our best attempts. (In poetry AND in life.)

      Thank you again! -c


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