Blanco Amor: Saudade

I set off one early morning
Maybe never to return
Brown autumn leaves were milling
And rolling over the ground
Brown leaves of autumn lying beneath my walking feet.
I set my sight on the distance
Without once turning my head.
Those who don’t look into the distance
Will never be able to leave
Because the snares of the Earth
Will always have them ensnared.
In the spreading chestnut trees
The blackbirds were singing
The moon like a knife
Drew the horizon sharp
The stars over the flat lands
All set loose and swimming
The still-sleeping trees
Were all stretching out their limbs
There were jewel-decked blankets
Spread over wheat fields and heath
The hundred ways of the sea
Were full of little golden specks
Rainbows were burning
And dancing over the waves
Through the valley paths of the day
My thoughts were rowing out.
My soul, the soul of a pilgrim

Like a blood-coloured arrow
Towards the heart of dawn
Set out on its pilgrimage
Behind me, all sadness
In front of me, the sea.
I set out early one morning
Maybe never to return
The night was dropping drizzle
The morning was weeping snow
And the sky was weeping pearls
And the pinewood wept mists
The golden oriole wept
Its cry of colours into the air
The sun was weeping sunlight
And the countryside, sadness
And as everything was weeping
I also started to cry!
I set out early one morning
Maybe never to return
But I did not entirely leave
Over the pathways of the sea
I left my teardrops scattered
All over the mother earth
And in the month of May they bloom
With the other valley flowers.

This poem by Eduardo Blanco Amor deals with saudade, that particular kind of sadness that is typical of Portuguese and Galician philosophy and aesthetics.  It was very popular in the middle years of the twentieth century to associate styles with peoples.  Emilio Orozco in Spain, for example, suggested that there was something essentially Baroque about the Spanish national temperament and was able to trace the traits of this expression into prehistoric times.  If there is a style that goes with Galicia it is lyrical saudade which frequently expresses homesickness for the mother country: morriña.

Emigration has been a significant phenomenon in Galicia for two centuries.  This poem paints a picture of an emigrant leaving his country but Blanco Amor’s taste for symbolism is unmistakeable: the sea represents more than a simple journey.  In other poems he has the sea stand for death and light stands for love and redemption.  We are left with an image of redemption in the final lines of the poem which teasingly suggest that the death and the emigration are both symbolic of the dying year.

About Jason Preater

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2 Responses to Blanco Amor: Saudade

  1. Lovely poem, almost brings tears to my eyes literally, and I’m sure it’s even more moving in the original. What I appreciate is not just the lyricism but the way the poet has expanded on this his personal predicament, has universalised it without stripping it of what is personal — precisely what modern poets are incapable of doing. I see the mention of ‘pilgrimage’ as suggesting an even larger perspective than the translator notes in his commentary, of someone not only ’emigrating’ from his native land but from the physical world itself. Incidentally, the association of images with poetry, which usually does not work, is here very successful, it adds something while not detracting from the words. Congratulations! Sebastian Hayes

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  2. That is very astute. Blanco Amor has other poems that build on that idea of ’emigrating’ from the physical world itself. I shall have to put one up. Thanks for the kind words!

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