marvelous error

“Last Night As I Was Sleeping”
by Antonio Machado

Translated by Robert Bly:

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.

Translated by Armand F. Baker:

Last night when I was sleeping,
I dreamed—blessed illusion!—
there was a fountain flowing
deep within my heart.
Water, tell me by what hidden
channel you come to me,
with a source of new life
I never drank from before.

Last night when I was sleeping,
I dreamed—blessed illusion!—
I had a beehive
deep within my heart;
and the golden bees
were using old
bitterness to produce
white wax and sweet honey.

Last night when I was sleeping,
I dreamed—blessed illusion!—
a blazing sun was shining
deep within my heart.
It burned because it gave off
heat like a red hearth;
it was a sun that illumined
and also made me cry.

Last night when I was sleeping
I dreamed—blessed illusion!—
it was God that I felt
deep within my heart.

Antonio Machado (1875-1939), a school teacher and philosopher and one of Spain’s foremost poets of the twentieth century, writes of the mountains, the skies, the farms and the sentiments of his homeland clearly and without narcissism: “Just as before, I’m interested / in water held in; / but now water in the living / rock of my chest.” “Machado has vowed not to soar too much; he wants to ‘go down to the hells’ or stick to the ordinary,” Robert Bly writes in his introduction. He brings to the ordinary, to time, to landscape and stony earth, to bean fields and cities, to events and dreams, magical sound that conveys order, penetrating sight, and attention. “The poems written while we are awake are more original and more beautiful, and sometimes more wild than those made from dreams,” Machado said.

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