I Have Walked Down Many Roads
by Antonio Machado
I have walked down many roads
and cleared many paths;
I have navigated a hundred oceans
and anchored off a hundred shores.
All over, I have seen
caravans of sadness,
pompous and melancholy men
drunk with black shadows,
and defrocked pedants
who stare, keep quiet, and think
they know, because they don’t
drink wine in the neighborhood bars.
Bad people who go around
polluting the earth . . .
And all over, I have seen
people who dance or play,
when they can, and work
their four handfuls of land.
If they turn up someplace,
they never ask where they are.
When they travel, they ride
on the backs of old mules,
and don’t know how to hurry,
not even on holidays.
When there’s wine, they drink wine;
when there’s no wine, they drink cool water.
These are good people, who live,
work, get by, and dream;
and on a day like all the others
they lie down under the earth.
—Translated from the Spanish by Don Share
(from AGNI 27 & 56)
Antonio Machado is one of Spain’s most highly esteemed poets. He lived from 1876–1939. (1988)
Don Share is translating the poems of Miguel Hernandez. He has work forthcoming in The Paris Review. (1988)
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This is the poem I considered giving to George's widow at the memorial service yesterday. I decided it didn't really fit George, because I believe this is a poem about the workers of the world, the factotums, the day laborers. I heard it, rather than read it, first. The man who recited the poem gave it a nuanced, dramatic reading, and even then all of us Berkeley liberals in the audience cringed a little upon hearing verses two and three, probably because there were some actual 'pedants' in the audience, translated as 'academicians' just in case they might not recognize themselves, but possibly simply because, as liberals, we don't believe there are any 'bad' people in the world. Just kidding. I have to thank Dave the Bontasaurus over at Via Negativa for finding this poem in an English translation. He gave me the title.
Anyway, it seems appropriate to publish this poem on Labor Day.
And now, a word about our weather. It is bitingly cold outside today, the first day of the Labor Day Weekend. It's always amazing to me how slowly winter plods along, while the summer just zips by. Maybe it's because we don't get much true summer weather in the San Francisco Bay Area. So many days are dominated by cold grey fog off the ocean, it makes it seem as if our summers are sharply curtailed. No wonder they always seem so short.