Spain – Take this chalice from me

If Spain falls

sons of warriors, just for now,
hush your voices, since Spain’s energy at this very moment
is being parcelled out among the animal kingdom,
tiny flowers, comets and humankind.
Hush your voices, for she is
close to death, which is very grave, not knowing
where to turn, and there in her hand
the skull spouting words words words
the skull, the braided skull,
the skull, the skull of life!

Hush your voices, I beg you;
Hush your voices, the syllables of song, the weeping
of matter and the slightest murmur from the pyramids, and even
from those temples that walk with two stones!
Hush your breath, and if
your forearm droops,
if the vicious rulers ring out, if it is night,
if the heavens are squeezed between two terrestrial limbos,
if there’s noise in the sound of doors,
if I delay,
if you see no one, if you are afraid
of blunt pencils, if mother
Spain falls — you know, I’m just saying —
go out, children of the earth, go out and find her!

Above is a fragment from a poem by the great, antifascist Peruvian poet, César Vallejo (1892-1938), written during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The parallels with the violent Russian assault on Ukraine, which jeopardises the security of the whole of Europe, are all too clear. Translation by John Lyons.


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