“Proverbs and Songs” by Antonio Machado

Dedicated to Jose Ortega y Gasset

I
The eye you see is not
an eye because you see it;
it is an eye because it sees you.

II
To talk with someone,
ask a question first,
then — listen.

III
Narcissism
is an ugly fault,
and now it’s a boring fault too.

IV
But look in your mirror for the other one,
the other one who walks by your side.

V
Between living and dreaming
there is a third thing.
Guess it.

VI
This Narcissus of ours
can’t see his face in the mirror
because he has become the mirror.

VII
New century? Still
firing up the same forge?
Is the water still going along in its bed?

VIII
Every instant is Still.

IX
The sun in Aries. My window
is open to the cool air.
Oh the sound of the water far off!
The evening awakens the river.

X
In the old farmhouse
— a high tower with storks! —
the gregarious sound falls silent,
and in the field where no on is,
water makes a sound among the rocks.

XI
Just as before, I’m interested
in water held in;
but now water in living
rock of my chest.

XII
When you hear water, does its sound tell you
if it’s from a mountain or farm,
city street, formal garden, or orchard?

XIII
What I find surprises me:
leaves of the garden balm
smell of lemonwood.

XIV
Don’t trace out your profile,
forget your side view —
all that is outer stuff.

XV
Look for your other half
who walks always next to you
and tends to be what you aren’t.

XVI
When spring comes,
go to the flowers —
why keep on sucking wax?

XVII
In my solitude
I have seen things very clearly
that were not true.

XVIII
Water is good, so is thirst;
shadow is good, so is sun;
the honey from the rosemarys
and the honey of the bare fields.

XIX
Only one creed stands:
quod elixum est ne asato.
Don’t roast what’s already boiled.

XX
Sing on, sing on, sing on,
the cricket in his cage
near his darling tomato.

XXI
Form your letters slowly and well:
making things well
is more important than making them.

XXII
All the same…
Ah yes! All the same,
moving the legs fast is important,
as the snail said to the greyhound.

XXIII
There are really men of action now!
The marsh was dreaming
of its mosquitoes.

XXIV
Wake up, you poets:
let echoes end,
and voices begin.

XXV
But don’t hunt for dissonance;
because, in the end, there is no dissonance.
When the sound is heard people dance.

XXVI
What the poet is searching for
is not the fundamental I
but the deep you.

XXVII
The eyes you’re longing for —
listen now —
the eyes you see yourself in
are eyes because they see you.

XXVIII
Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important:
waking up.

XXIX
Now someone has come up with this!
Cogito ergo non sum.
What an exaggeration!

XXX
I thought my fire was out,
and stirred the ashes…
I burnt my fingers.

XXXI
Pay attention now:
a heart that’s all by itself
is not a heart.

XXXII
I’ve caught a glimpse of him in dreams:
expert hunter of himself,
every minute in ambush.

XXXIII
He caught his bad man:
the one who on sunny days
walks with head down.

XXXIV
If a poem becomes common,
passed around, hand to hand, it’s OK:
gold is chosen for coins.

XXXV
If it’s good to live,
then it’s better to be asleep dreaming,
and best of all,
mother, is to awake.

XXXVI
Sunlight is good for waking,
but I prefer bells —
the best thing about morning.

XXXVII
Among the figs I am soft.
Among the rocks I am hard.
That’s bad!

XXXVIII
When I am alone
how close my friends are;
when I am with them
how distant they are!

XXXIX
Now, poet, your prophecy?
“Tomorrow what is dumb will speak,
the human heart and the stone.”

XL
But art?
It is pure and intense play,
so it is like pure and intense life,
so it is like pure and intense fire.
You’ll see the coal burning.

“Proverbs and Songs” by Antonio Machado, from Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly

 

 

*thanks to Ivan at Poetry Chaikhana

 

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