On that peak there a white rock guards the pines
in the misty, melancholy moonlight.
You, Old Shepherd of the crow-haunted wastes,
where by day the lark distils sun to song,
have watched your flocks for two thousand years
in the thickness of pines and winter snow,
in the misty, melancholy moonlight
You saw passing eagles and wolves on heat,
You saw the blood of your flock spurt forth,
You saw it gushing out in floods and saw
the years go by, a hundred peoples.
We were humble folk, we were the workers,
all those put upon and abused by Pride,
all those who cried and crying suffered.
You watched us passing by, year after year,
and you also cried, you, old rocky peak
when you saw your flocks’ blood spurt forth.
The sorrowing air in the pinewoods stilled
and you were quiet then, silent and sad,
watching the hours fall into silence
… and the crows haunted the moonlight still
in the solemn, mystic peace of wastelands.
This poem by Daniel Pernas Nieto comes from his small volume Fala D’As Musas, which was published in 1936, just when the Civil War was breaking out. I have used the edition edited by Armando Requeixo and published by the Xunta de Galicia in 2014.
Pernas Nieto was a priest. This explains how a collection of poetry in Galician got past the censor at a time when the Nationalists were clamping down on any expression of regional identity. Perhaps once the repression had gathered force the censors might have paused at this poem and wondered what the poet was getting at. It puts the poet on the side of the labourers and humble folk.
I have just finished reading The Spanish Holocaust, by Peter Preston, which gives a disturbing and immaculately documented account of the murders, violence and state-sponsored terror that took place during and after the Spanish Civil War. The Nationalists were supported by the church but, particularly in the Basque Country, had no qualms about killing priests who favoured the “Reds”.
Daniel Pernas Nieto must have felt very sure of his position to present this poem for publication.