Rosalía de Castro

Rosalía de Castro

Two poems for this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, written by the renowned Galician poet, Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885). Rosalía was born in Santiago de Compostela, in the Spanish province of Galicia and wrote both in Spanish and Galician. At the time the Galician language was considered to be inferior, a language to be used by the peasantry and not in polite, sophisticated society. However, the highly educated Rosalía de Castro, an advocate of women’s rights, was also a key figure in the Galician romantic movement, known today as the Rexurdimento, or renaissance.

The poetry is inevitably marked by the romantic mood of the day in which expressions of saudade (nostalgia) and melancholy were dominant. Nevertheless, it is for her great poetic gift in the Galician language that she is most remembered today and for that reason I have included the Galician text of the second poem translated below. Galician is a language in its own right, though closer to Portuguese than to Spanish, and the Galician people are as proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage as the Catalans of Catalonia are of theirs. Such is the enduring fame of Rosalía de Castro that a monument to her was erected in the Paseo de los poetas in a park in Buenos Aires in 1981.

Bust of Rosalía de Castro in the Parque 3 de febrero, Buenos Aires

I don’t know what I’m forever seeking

I don’t know what I’m forever seeking
On earth, in the air, or the heavens above;
I don’t know what I’m seeking;
But it’s something 
I’ve lost,
I don’t know when,
 and cannot find,
Although in dreams invisibly

It dwells within all I touch and see.
Happiness, I can never recapture you

On earth, in the air, or the heavens above

Although I know you are real
And no mere futile dream!


Cold Winter Months

Cold winter months 

That I love with all my heart;
Months of brim-full rivers

And the sweet love of the hearth
Months of storms,
Image of the pain
That afflicts young hearts
Cuts short the lives in bloom.
Comes after the autumn
That makes the leaves fall
Among them let me sleep
The sleep of not being.
And when the beautiful
April sun smiles once again
Let it shine upon my rest
No more upon my pain.

Meses do inverno fríos

Meses do inverno fríos,
Que eu amo a todo amar;

Meses dos fartos ríos

I o dóce amor do lar.

Meses das tempestades,

Imaxen da delor

Que afrixe as mocedades

I as vidas corta en frol.

Chegade e, tras do outono

Que as follas fai caer,

Nelas deixá que o sono

Eu durma do non ser.

E cando o sol fermoso

De abril torne a sorrir,

Que alume o meu reposo,

Xa non o meu sofrir.

Translations by John Lyons