A Song of the Road

translated by John Pierrepont Rice

The way was black,
The night was mad with lightning; I bestrode
My wild young colt, upon a mountain road.
And, crunching onward, like a monster’s jaws,
His ringing hoof-beats their glad rhythm kept,
Breaking the glassy surface of the pools,
Where hidden waters slept.
A million buzzing insects in the air
On droning wing made sullen discord there.

But suddenly, afar, beyond the wood,
Beyond the dark pall of my brooding thought,
I saw lights cluster like a swarm of wasps
Among the branches caught.
“The inn!” I cried, and on his living flesh
My broncho felt the lash and neighed with eagerness.

And all this time the cool and quiet wood
Uttered no sound, as though it understood.
Until there came to me, upon the night,
A voice so clear, so clear, so ringing sweet—
A voice as of a woman singing, and her song
Dropped like soft music winging, at my feet,
And seemed a sigh that, with my spirit blending,
Lengthened and lengthened out, and had no ending.

And through the empty silence of the night,
And through the quiet of the hills, I heard
That music, and the sounds of the night wind bore me,
Like spirit voices from an unseen world
Came drifting o’er me.

I curbed my horse, to catch what she might say:
“At night they come, and they are gone by day—”
And then another voice, with low refrain,
And untold tenderness, took up the strain:
“Oh love is but an inn upon life’s way”;
“At night they come, and they are gone by day—”
Their voices mingled in that wistful lay.

Then I dismounted and stretched out my length
Beside a pool, and while my mind was bent
Upon that mystery within the wood,
My eyes grew heavy, and my strength was spent.
And so I slept there, huddled in my cloak.
And now, when by untrodden paths I go,
Through the dim forest, no repose I know
At any inn at nightfall, but apart
I sleep beneath the stars, for through my heart
Echoes the burden of that wistful lay:
“At night they come, and they are gone by day,
And love is but an inn upon life’s way.”


La canción del camino

a Alfredo Gómez Jayme.

   Era un camino negro.
La noche estaba loca de relámpagos. Yo iba
En mi potro salvaje
Por la montaña andina.
Los chasquidos alegres de los cascos,
Como masticaciones de monstruosas mandíbulas
Destrozaban los vidrios invisibles
De las charcas dormidas.
Tres millones de insectos
Formaban una como rabiosa inarmonía.

   Súbito, allá, a lo lejos,
Por entre aquella mole doliente y pensativa
De la selva,
Vi un puñado de luces como un tropel de avíspas.
¡La posada! El nervioso
Látigo persignó la carne viva
De mi caballo, que rasgó los aires
Con un largo relincho de alegría.

   Y como si la selva
Lo comprendiese todo, se quedó muda y fría.

   Y hasta mí llegó, entonces,
Una voz clara y fina
De mujer que cantaba. Cantaba. Era su canto
Una lenta… muy lenta… melodía:
Algo como un suspiro que se alarga
Y se alarga y se alarga… y no termina.

   Entre el hondo silencio de la noche
Y a través del reposo de la montaña, oíanse
Los acordes
De aquel canto sencillo de una música íntima,
Como si fuesen voces que llegaran
Desde la otra vida..

   Sofrené mi caballo;
Y me puse a escuchar lo que decía:

   —Todos llegan de noche,
Todos se van de día…

   Y formándole dúo,
Otra voz femenina
Completó así la endecha
Con ternura infinita:

   —El amor es tan sólo una posada
En mitad del camino de la Vida.

   Y las dos voces, luego,
a la vez repitieron con amargura rítmica:

   —Todos llegan de noche,
Todos se van de día…

   Entonces, yo bajé de mi caballo
Y me acosté en la orilla
De una charca.
  Y fijo en ese canto que venía
A través del misterio de la selva,
Fui cerrando los ojos al sueño y la fatiga.
Y me dormí, arrullado; y, desde entonces,
Cuando cruzo las selvas por rutas no sabidas,
Jamás busco reposo en las posadas;
Y duermo al aire libre mi sueño y mi fatiga,
Porque recuerdo siempre
Aquel canto sencillo de una música íntima:

   —Todos llegan de noche,
Todos se van de día.
El amor es tan sólo una posada
En mitad del camino de la Vida…

Related Poems

The Phantom Horsewoman

Queer are the ways of a man I know:
            He comes and stands
            In a careworn craze,
            And looks at the sands
            And the seaward haze
            With moveless hands
            And face and gaze,
            Then turns to go…
And what does he see when he gazes so?

They say he sees as an instant thing
            More clear than to-day,
            A sweet soft scene
            That once was in play
            By that briny green;
            Yes, notes alway
            Warm, real, and keen,
            What his back years bring—
A phantom of his own figuring.

Of this vision of his they might say more:
            Not only there
            Does he see this sight,
            But everywhere
            In his brain—day, night,
            As if on the air
            It were drawn rose-bright—
            Yea, far from that shore
Does he carry this vision of heretofore:

A ghost-girl-rider. And though, toil-tried,
            He withers daily,
            Time touches her not,
            But she still rides gaily
            In his rapt thought
            On that shagged and shaly
            Atlantic spot,
            And as when first eyed
Draws rein and sings to the swing of the tide.

Love Opened a Mortal Wound

translated by Joan Larkin and Jaime Manrique

Love opened a mortal wound.
In agony, I worked the blade
to make it deeper. Please,
I begged, let death come quick.

Wild, distracted, sick,
I counted, counted
all the ways love hurt me.
One life, I thought—a thousand deaths.

Blow after blow, my heart
couldn't survive this beating.
Then—how can I explain it?

I came to my senses. I said,
Why do I suffer? What lover
ever had so much pleasure?


Con el Dolor de la Mortal Herida

Con el dolor de la mortal herida,
de un agravio de amor me lamentaba;
y por ver si la muerte se llegaba,
procuraba que fuese más crecida.

Toda en el mal el alma divertida,
pena por pena su dolor sumaba,
y en cada circunstancia ponderaba
que sobraban mil muertes a una vida.

Y cuando, al golpe de uno y otro tiro,
rendido el corazón daba penoso
señas de dar el último suspiro,

no sé con qué destino prodigioso
volví en mi acuerdo y dije:—¿Qué me admiro?
¿Quién en amor ha sido más dichoso?