History, will you mention us
In your faded scroll?
We worked in factories, offices –
Our names were not well known.
We worked in fields, smelled strongly
Of onions and sour bread.
Through thick moustaches angrily
We coursed the life we led.
Will you at least be grateful
We fattened you with news,
And slaked your thirst so richly
With the blood of slaughtered crowds?
You’ll lose the human focus
To view the panorama,
And no one will remember
The simple human drama.
The poets will be distracted
With pamphlets, progress rates;
Our unrecorded suffering
Will roam alone in space.
Was it a life worth nothing
A life worth digging up?
Unearthed, it reeks of poison,
Tastes bitter in the cup.
We were born along the hedgerows,
In the shelter of the stray thorns
Our mothers lay perspiring
Their dry lips tightly drawn.
We died like flies in autumn.
The women mourned the dead,
Turned their lament to singing –
But only the wild grass heard.
We who survived our brothers,
Sweated from every pore,
Took any job that offered,
Toiled as the oxen do.
At home our fathers taught us:
‘So shall it always be.’
But we scowled back and spat on
Their fool’s philosophy.
We kicked the table over,
Ran out of doors, and there
In the open felt the stirring
Of something bright and fair.
How anxiously we waited
In little-known cafes,
And turned in late at night
Of something bright and fair.
How we were soothed in hoping!·
But leaden skies pressed lower,
The scorching wind hissed viciously ·
Till we could stand no more!
Yet in your endless volumes
Beneath each letter and line
Our pain will leer forbiddingly
And rise a bitter cry.
For life, showing no mercy,
With heavy brutish paw
Battered our hungry faces.
That’s why our tongue is raw.
That’s why the poem I’m writing
In hours I steal from sleep,
Have not the grace of perfume,
But brief and scowling beat.
For the hardship and affliction
We do not seek rewards,
Nor do we want our pictures
In the calendar of years.
Just tell our story simply
To those we shall not see,
Tell those who will replace us –
We fought courageously.
Spring of mine, O spring of mine so white,
as yet unlived, as yet unfeasted,
alone in visions vague yet dreamt of,
how low above the poplars do you skim,
yet without pausing in your flight.
Spring of mine, O spring of mine so white!
I know you’ll come with rain and hurricanes,
stormy and terrible, fiery, riotous.
To bring back hopes in thousands, wash out bleeding wounds.
How loud the birds will sing then in the cornfields,
how merrily will soar up to the heav’ns,
how people will enjoy their work,
how lovingly as brothers will they live.
Spring of mine… O spring of mine so white!
O once again but let me see your soaring
and giving life to squares so desolate,
O once again but let me die then on your barricades!
Fernandéz is killed!
is dead and buried
lieas in the fields
on the outskirts
He was such a good man, tell me –
why did they cut short his life?
Through my Fernandéz has perished
they shall still go out and fight.
Mother, there is only you
to whom I can my grief unfold.
You know how it is in war,
and how many tears do flow.
I look for signs of sympathy
in other women’s eyes,
but there too I find bitter grief
and tears, fresh tears arise…
Perhaps a piece of bursing shell
a loved one killed on duty,
perhaps a piece of bursting shell
has ravished youthful beauty.
perhaps like me she’s vainly hoping
and some news awaits,
but the moist earth already holds him
in her strong embrace…
Mother, you should not reproach him
that he went away to fight.
Now I even think that we
were sinning. Fernandéz was right.
He alone of us perceived
the single truth in life –
that it is best a man should die
than live the life of beasts.
Bread we had. A single loaf
was enough for two.
But for the son who will be born,
Mother, will it do?
And there’s another thing – somehow
it’s hard to understand.
They go and fight together. Why?
Is bread the only bond?
Today there was a funeral
for those trapped in a shelter.
With my own eyes I saw it all
but can’t find words to tell you.
How strange a sight it seemed to me,
how curious it was,
for on the people buried there
a wondrous radiance shone. –
I saw them only for an instant
in between the coffin planks,
through the coffin boards I saw them
stretching out their hands.
In their death they fuse together,
as one man they lie,
and the flames of happy death
burn brightly in their eyes…
All at once I understood
he had to go to war.
Fernandéz died in the battle –
I’ll see him no more.
Mother, Fernandéz has perished!
Mother, Fernandéz has gone,
Fernandéz is dead and buried!
Weep, because he died so young.
But to the old man say nothing! –
Sorrow will be his undoing.
Hide yourself somewhere, cry softly
and say nothing, nothing.
If somehow he realizes,
if somehow he should suspect it,
say that both of us are well,
and a baby is expected.
You may say to him: Dolores
is now learning fairy tales,
she and Fernandéz write asking
would you like a boy or girl.
To write you any more, dear mother,
would but cause me further sorrow.
Greeting from your loving daughter,
Dolores Maria Goya.