Flow

Commentary

Nuestras vidas son los rios,
que van a dar a la mar,
que es el morir. ¡Gran cantar!

“Our lives are rivers
and rivers flow and move to the sea,
which is our dying.” Marvellous lines!

Among the poets I admire
I love Manrique the most.

A sweet voluptuousness of living:
tough knowledge of leaving,
blind flight to the sea.

After the fright of dying.
the joy of having arrived.

Great joy!
But – the terror of returning?
Great grief!

Antonio Machado
translated by Robert Bly

Castilian poet Jorge Manrique was meditating upon metaphors in the 1460’s when he penned Coplas a la muerte de su padre (Verses on the death of Don Rodrigo Manrique, his Father).

Life – like rivers that flow and move to the sea.

I’ve been watching rivers do that this week – keeping company with a poet of the 1400’s, and with another, Antonio Machado, who was born in 1875 and who died in 1939, and with another, Robert Bly, who translated him, and with my wife, and with friends and acquaintances, and with a host of unknown persons, flowing in their hundreds and thousands.

Flowing rivers, all of us, making intricate but temporary little artworks in the constantly washed, and shifting, and warmed white sand. All of us flowing towards the great sea from whence we came. And sometimes in the watching the heart aches for the beauty of it all, and for the poignancy of the departing. But there is to be a joy in arriving, and then, keeping empathetic company with Lazarus, we shall doubt that we want to return.

Poets across the ages unite ages unto eternity.

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