Antonio Machado’s “Retrato”

machadobaston“Retrato” is one of the first and more significative poems by Antonio Machado. More than a autobiographical poem, it’s a statement of aesthetics and philosophical principles. Oftentimes, many people have wanted to see a certain prophetical sense in his last strophe, because, at the defeating of the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War, he crossed the border with France «lightweight luggage (…),/ almost naked, like the children of the sea.» Machado’s thoughts might change a little as time goes by, but he was loyal to the most of these lines. It was published in 1906 in the newspaper El Liberal, and later compiled in his book Campos de Castilla (Fields of Castile, 1912). The poem was musicalized and sung by Argentinean songwriter (who was living in Spain) Alberto Cortez, in his 1968 album Poemas y canciones. Volumen II

Again, a cover of this song was performed by Joan Manuel Serrat in his 1969 album Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta:


Mi infancia son recuerdos de un patio de Sevilla,
y un huerto claro donde madura el limonero;
mi juventud, veinte años en tierras de Castilla;
mi historia, algunos casos que recordar no quiero.

Ni un seductor Mañara, ni un Bradomín he sido
—ya conocéis mi torpe aliño indumentario—,
más recibí la flecha que me asignó Cupido,
y amé cuanto ellas puedan tener de hospitalario.

Hay en mis venas gotas de sangre jacobina,
pero mi verso brota de manantial sereno;
y, más que un hombre al uso que sabe su doctrina,
soy, en el buen sentido de la palabra, bueno.

Adoro la hermosura, y en la moderna estética
corté las viejas rosas del huerto de Ronsard;
mas no amo los afeites de la actual cosmética,
ni soy un ave de esas del nuevo gay-trinar.

Desdeño las romanzas de los tenores huecos
y el coro de los grillos que cantan a la luna.
A distinguir me paro las voces de los ecos,
y escucho solamente, entre las voces, una.

¿Soy clásico o romántico? No sé. Dejar quisiera
mi verso, como deja el capitán su espada:
famosa por la mano viril que la blandiera,
no por el docto oficio del forjador preciada.

Converso con el hombre que siempre va conmigo
—quien habla solo espera hablar a Dios un día—;
mi soliloquio es plática con ese buen amigo
que me enseñó el secreto de la filantropía.

Y al cabo, nada os debo; debéisme* cuanto he escrito.
A mi trabajo acudo, con mi dinero pago
el traje que me cubre y la mansión que habito,
el pan que me alimenta y el lecho en donde yago.

Y cuando llegue el día del último vïaje**,
y esté al partir la nave que nunca ha de tornar,
me encontraréis a bordo ligero de equipaje,
casi desnudo, como los hijos de la mar.


My childhood are memories of a patio in Seville,/ and a clear orchard where the lemon tree matures;/ my youth, twenty years in lands of Castile;/ my story, some cases that I don’t want to remember.// Neither a seductive Mañara (1), nor a Brandomín (2) I was/ –you already know my clumsy dressing attire-,/ but I received the arrow that Cupid assigned to me,/ and I loved as much as they might have of hospitable.// There are in my veins Jacobean (3) blood drops,/ but my verse sprouts from a serene wellspring; and, instead of an usual man who knows his doctrine,/ I am, in the best sense of the word, good.// I worship loveliness, and in the modern aesthetics/ I cut the old roses of Ronsard’s orchard,/ but I don’t love the makeups of the present cosmetics,/ neither I am a bird of those of the new gay-chirping (4).// I disdain the romanzas of the hollow tenors/ and the choir of crickets tthat sing to the moon./ I take a halt to distinguish voices from echoes,/ and I’m only listening, among the voices, one.// Am I classic or romantic? Don’t know. I wish to leave/ my verse, as the captain leaves his sword:/ famous by the manly hand that brandished,/ not valued by the learned office of its balcksmith.// I converse with the man who always comes along with me/ –who talks alone hopes to talk with God any day-;/ my soliloquy is chating with this good friend/ that taught me the secret of philantropy.// And after all, I owe you nothing; you owe me all that I wrote./ I come up to my work, with my money I pay/ the suit that coats me and the mansion I dwell,/ the bread that feeds me and the bed where I lie.// And when might come the last trip day,/ and the ship that never shall return were ready to depart,/ aboard lightweight luggage you will find me,/ almost naked, like the children of the sea. 

Antonio Machado, 1906


This translation musts to be taken as an aproximation. Although its simple appearance, Machado’s poems (as any other one) are hard to translate: for that reason, I have choose a simple way instead of a literary one.

* Archaism.

** This is not an ortographical sign, but literary. This diaresis is used in classical Spanish poetry to keep the rythm of the verses, so the hiatus becomes in two syllables.

(1) Miguel Mañara Vicentelo de Leca (Seville, 1627-1679) was a charitable Spanish aristocrat. Due to a kind of testimony by his own with a smear campaign, he got fame o seductive, almost like Don Juan. Antonio and his brother Manuel shall write a play named Miguel Maraña, released in 1927, inspired in the fame of this real character.

(2) Marquis of Bradomín is the main character of Ramóm María del Valle-Inclán tetralogy Sonatas (1902, 1903, 1904 and 1905), that tales the story of this aristocrat who is described as “ugly, catholic and sentimental”. The Marquis of Bradomín, beside incarnate the reactionarism (he is a Carlist), is also a conqueror.

(3) Machado believed he had French ascendancy; beside this, he always was a convinced republican.

(4) Don Antonio never was too friendly to new literary vanguards, neither with a hollow and vain classical poetry. He always thought poetry should be as people as possible.

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