The Oak Wood

 Iglesia Alvariño-  As Carballeiras
Oh, my girl, how dark the rustling
our footsteps make in the oak grove!
Our feet go sinking happily
in the soft leaves, amongst the ferns.
And the wood fills up with happiness,
an old friend to soulful young men.
Now they are coming with the cart and rakes
to pick up the leaves.  The chestnut leaves
are almost dried out and fermenting
and the grass in the pastures fine.
How tender and fine comes the new moss
with the water of September all green!
In amongst the oak trees, in a clearing,
are piles of leaves, and what joy
for the children to roll about playing!
They will take it away on carts in the evening
and the oak grove will then fall deep
into the silence of sun and still water.
The ageing trees, now bid farewell,
fill up with sun amongst their branches,
silvered with moss and shining gold
with the afternoon sunlight, against the sky.
Orphaned and cold, already on the branches,
the hawk’s chicks are balancing.
Our footseps already fade away.
And the night will gently bring in its fears.


Ai, neniña, qué escuro aquel runxir
dos nosos pasos pol-o caraballido!
Vanse enterrando ledas as pisadas
na brandura da folla, entre os fieitos.
E o souto énchese todo de ledicia,
vello amigo dos mozos señardosos.
Ora veñen co engazo e cos carrascos
para apañar a folla.  A dos castiros
xa está case curtida e apodrenta
a i-herba dos pasteiros miudiña.
Qué tenro e fino ven o musgo novo
coa i-auga de setembro verdecido!
No medio dos carballos, nun relanzo,
as pilas de follascca, qué ledicia
para xogar os nenos âs rouladas!
Levarán-a nos carros â tardiña,
a afondaráse logo a carballeira
nun silencio de sol e auga parada.
As álbores velliñas, xa despidas,
enchéranse de sol por entre as gallas,
prateadas de musgo e ourilocentes
coas raiolas da tarde, contra o ceio.
Orfos e fríos, inda sobre as polas,
abanearánse os niños de buxato.
Os nosos pasos xa non terán voz.
E â noite virá o medo demansiño. 

This poem starts with “the dark rustling of feet” which fade away at the end of the day.  As you have probably noticed from the previous poems that I have translated by Iglesia Alvariño, the poet has a sharp eye and ear for detail and we are given images of soulful young men in the wood, farmhands gathering in the leaves, children happily playing and then, gradually the emptying of the woodland, leaving it gilded in evening light.

This would be a bucolic paradise if that “dark rustling of feet” did not set up the expectation of a darker conclusion: the “niños de buxato” who are left in the wood when the footsteps of the visitors have faded away.

It reminds me of a Poussin landscape: once you have seen the snake the whole thing is transformed! 


About Jason Preater

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