“You are up early this morning!”
Said Xan de Ventrances to Martiño
Finding him with a stony face
Early in the morning out on a path.
“I was never a layabout,”
Martiño replied rudely,
Because Martiño is short with his words,
“Well, mate, that’s the way of things
Everyone goes about their own business first…”
“Leave off… What do you want…?
If all men were like you then everyone…”
“Look, don’t take what I’ve said the wrong way,
But… well, you are not so good with women.”
“Xan, I am in a hurry
Because I have things to do in the fields.
I’m going to Porta de Outeiro
But even if I wasn’t, mark my words:
There is a lot I need to say to you
About this matter and others I have kept quiet.
Yes, a lot but better not say it now…”
“What? Are you angry already?
Ay, Martiño, anyone who overheard you
Even if they didn’t know you personally,
Would say you don’t have your head on right
By dint of thinking too much all day long.
Getting back to what I was saying
There isn’t a woman around who doesn’t laugh
At you for how silly you have been…”
“I don’t understand what you are saying.
Speak clearly if you even know how to.
Well the devil himself can take me
But, since you have been telling these important things
To me, I’ve been shivering like it was snowing.
Why then… do you say the girls in the area
Gossip about me? Watch out for the devil!
Since he is well served…!
Because what I am given to understand
Is that your friendship is like
The friendliness of the wolf to the lamb.
What can we do about it? And I who thought
That anyone who spoke about me would…”
“But…wait!! You are being deceived
Just last night
A local woman told me,
Speaking about your infatuation,
That more types than you have had her,
An ugly, wizened old man,
With bandy legs and a fierce face.
-And this is as much as you can say-
is what that girl said-
After the cat had carried her off
Is when he went in search of the sardine…”
“Shut up, Xan. Leave me alone. It is early
In the morning for me to fight with you.
Don’t make the wound deeper…
Don’t talk any more of that secret
That weighs on me like the plague…
Don’t make me want to fight.
Wasn’t what you said to me yesterday enough?
Go away, Xan, go away, quick now, soon.
Don’t let anyone know it or suspect it.
When I you need me I will find you…
Because there is something I would have out…
You bark well… You will be angry
But, if you had as much strength as malice,
You would show me proof of what you say,
Without waiting for your throat to be twisted.”
“So you believe it then, Martiño?
I would like to think that you are brave,
Because there are those who say- the things people say!-
That when you found out you shat yourself.”
“Whoever told you that, tell him he lies…
I was never a fan of blowing my own trumpet,
Nor do I start fights nor do I play around
But what that one girl did to me- watch what I say-
I would like to pay her for it later, or not.
If you don’t want to believe me,
That’s your lookout, but I promise you
That if you don’t give me in a month from today
The name of the girl who told you this secret about Rosa’s honour
I shall have to nail your tongue on a post
As a sign and warning to everyone!”
“Are you sure about what you say?”
“I won’t repeat it.”
“Well then… until August.”
“What I said…is said.”
Having spoken in this way
Xan de Ventrances and the unhappy Martiño
Went off in different directions
And without saying anything more
They both went their separate ways,
Martiño sad, Xan whistling.
The day was getting brighter.
The sun was beginning to shine
And a yellow fringe extended
Across the high clouds.
A breeze blew through the briar roses
And up there in the sky- a hanging star-
A lark made its warbling call.
From the side of the rising sun,
A floating pavilion of shadow and light,
A cloud runs softly, gently tripping
Covering the horizon- a black cloud-
And there in front of it
A dark rain shower burning with fire
Spreading a moist smell over the hot earth.
Sadder and sadder as he went as fast as he could.
How many tears he shed
As he took his way across the highlands.
“To love a beautiful and pure young woman;
To ask her to marry you with all due courtesy;
To start saving for the wedding and the priest;
To look out for her day after day;
To respect her and wildly adore her;
To jump up with joy for her;
And, when you are wrapt, blinded
By the fever of love,
To hear one night on the road:
“Don’t get married, Martiño,
If you don’t want to be given cat meat for rabbit…”
“To work your whole life
To always be struggling with this hoe,
To conserve untarnished the noble
And clean reputation I inherited from my parents,
And suddenly to hear in someone’s mouth
One morning while I am on the road,
“Watch what you are doing, Martiño,
They are laughing at you all round the village…”
“Ay, compared to these
The torments of the condemned are nothing!
Can it be true, Xan de Ventrances? Tell!
Take pity on me, on these tears of mine,
This hell in which I groan,
Eaten up by claw-like teeth.
I don’t know if I bleieve you
But… Virgin Mary!
If you are telling the truth it would kill me.
Could he be the Devil? Curse him.”
Muttering like this the miserable labourer
With no calm or peace of mind
Went up into the highlands
And armed with his hoe
Began to work without delay.
Martiño, a hardworking lad,
Had been at his labours,
For seven solid hours,
When in one moment a whirlwind
Whipped up dust from the field in front of him.
The dense dustcloud
Obscured the sun for an instant,
And shaking the valley and the oakwood
The rough sound of a tremendous thunderclap
Ripped through the dark cloud in the east.
The waterspouts of the sky
Opened up then and from its breast
Sent so much rain
That the vegetable gardens were flattened,
The river broke its banks, full,
And trees and plants lost their leaves.
In that tempest
Each drop fell like a lightning bolt.
Nothing like it had been seen before.
Martiño, all over goose-flesh,
Hid in a hollow tree trunk.
What did he care for the damage?
If the water from the skies caresses him-
Ay- what of the water that streams from his eyes?
“Could it be,” he said,
“Could it be that Rosa is deceiving me?
Rosa, for whom I would give
Everything created by God in this world,
Even a kingdom if I had the chance to win one.
It cannot be; for sure it cannot be.
Pure as crystal she said yesterday night.
Pure as crystal… When she said that
I had no reason to doubt her.”
Then there suddenly flashed
A lightning bolt in the sky
Which in one flash broke through
And cleared up the mist.
The atmosphere burned in flames
The countryside was lit up
And the tree in which Martiño had hidden
Was shattered in pieces.
From the electrical shock
That the bolt had given him,
Martin fell blinded, astonished,
Tumbling into the mud.
But then, pulling himself together
From that natural faint,
Thinking himself a dead man,
He raised his hand to his chest.
Little by little his eyelids
Began to open, and he became aware
When he saw that
Such a strong tempest had passed,
That he was safe and sound.
He raised himself from the ground
And came out of the hollow
Of the tree trunk feeling calmer now.
But then, my angel,
He had not taken more than one step
When transported by joy
He knelt down in the mud.
“I was never born!”… he said to himself
And taking up his hoe again,
A stone he hadn’t seen
Sprung up from the ground.
It was a small stony stone
It was a stony little stone
Like a chicken’s egg
Carved in fine crystal,
A handsome stone,
Elliptical, clean, pure,
Without the slightest sign
Of artifice or joints in it.
Looked at from a distance
It gleamed like a diamond,
It seemed like the lidless
Eye of some atrocious giant,
But considered from up close
He hangs it up, admires it, is stunned
To see within the stone the holy image
Of the Blessed Mother of God.
It is not a small pebble formed
By water action in the earth,
And no one could have found it
In a quarry or a mountain.
It is not a block of ice
That will be melted by heat
Nor an excresence that would have
A different form from this.
It is not a burning aerolite,
A strange piece of stone
Whose underground origin
Has yet to be found.
It is not volvanic lava,
Which would have a darker colour,
Nor a stalactite or meteorite…
Nor the devil who invented it.
This is a stonish small stone
This is a small stony stone,
So rare, so polished,
There is none other like it in the world.
It seems just like a tear
Fallen from the eyes of God
To then be converted
Into his Mother’s prison!
How beautiful she is inside it,
How beautiful is Our Lady!
With what seductive grace
Does she let her semblance be seen!
For eyes she has two bright stars,
For teeth, pearls from the sea,
For hair she has rays of sunshine,
For a laugh… a new day dawning!
Seeing so much wonder
Shut up in such a tight space,
So much of God’s greatness
In such a little palace,
Martiño, completely astounded,
Feeling the weight of the crystal
Exclaimed, “My goodness, what’s this!
My goodness what’s this…just look at it.”
He wanted to get down on his knees
He wanted to take off his cap
And stow the miraculous crystal
In his waistband.
But his thoughts came back
And assaulted him a second time
And shouted, “I’m finished!”
And he pitched it one great throw into the valley.
“No,” he went on, “God does not want
Me to reach my goal.
God does not send his Mother
To take care of lovers.
Those were other times…
And this crystal gemstone
Was no more than the spark of the bolt
That should have ripped me open!”
At this he saw night coming on
And, with his work finished,
Martiño, still grieving,
Then set out for home.
And, when he entered the town
He said, full of remorse:
“Could it be that it was a message from Heaven?
I wouldn’t want to bet on it.”