Two Poems by Miguel Hernández

Miguel Hernandez

Miguel Hernández (1910-1942) was a goatherd as a child. He received minimal education, but became an avid reader after discovering his school library, and continued to visit the library even after abandoning classes to return to herding his father’s goats. His early work was greatly influenced by the great poets of the Spanish Golden Age. After his first visit to Madrid, both Neruda and Aleixandre served as his mentors, helping to free him from the tight classical structures which had characterized his beginning efforts as a poet. A member of the Communist party, he was imprisoned toward the end of the Spanish Civil War, and two years later died of tuberculosis in a prison at Alicante, at the age of 32. The two poems which I have translated here refer to the loss of Hernández’s infant son while the poet was in prison.

Each Time I Pass

Each time I pass
beneath your window,
I am lashed by the fragrance
which still moves through your house.

Each time I pass
by the cemetery
I am seized by the force
which still breathes through your bones.

The Cemetery Lies Near

The cemetery lies near
where you and I sleep,
among blue prickly pear,
blue aloes and children
who cry out so brightly
when the dead cloud the road.

From here to the cemetery, all
is blue, golden, clear.
Four steps and the dead.
Four steps and the living.

Clear, blue and golden,
My son there far away.

Cada Vez Que Paso

Cada vez que paso
bajo tu ventana,
me azota el aroma
que aún flota en tu casa.

Cada vez que paso
junto al cementerio
me arrastra la fuerza
que aún sopla en tus huesos.

El Cementerio Está Cerca

El cementerio está cerca
de donde tú y yo dormimos,
entre nopales azules,
pitas azules y niños
que gritan vívidamente
si un muerto nubla el camino.

De aquí al cementerio, todo
es azul, dorado, límpido.
Cuatro pasos y los muertos.
Cuatro pasos y los vivos.

Límpido, azul y dorado,
se hace allí remoto el hijo.


2 comments on “Two Poems by Miguel Hernández

  1. I missed this entry, probably because you posted it at what proved to be the busiest time of the year for me. I love these poems – slightly surreal and so poignant, almost unbearably. Really remarkable. Another sad life story, too. Thanks for the translations.

    • leifhendrik says:

      So many horrific events dominated much of the world’s attention during the 20th century that I think the Spanish Civil War got rather lost in the nightmarish mix. Meanwhile, there were some tremendous poets, most of whose lives were both tragic in some sense and literarily quite moving. You are geographically much closer to Spain than I am, and I hope you are able to visit it frequently! I was really inspired by what you wrote of your time in Granada, for example, a place which has fascinated me for a long time.

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