The Dark Swallows

The dark swallows will return
to hang their nests on your balcony
and once more, wings at your windows
playfully call to you.

But those who paused in their flight
to contemplate your beauty and my fortune,
those who learned our names…
they will never return.

The dense honeysuckles
will scale your garden wall once more
and in the afternoons, more beautiful than before
open wide their flowers.

But those, laden with dew
whose drops we watched tremble
and fall, like tears of the day…
they will not return.

The burning words of love
will echo once more in your ear.
Your heart from its profound slumber
will, perhaps, once more awake.

But mute and absorbed, on bended knee
as one adores God at His altar,
the way I loved you…. Have no illusions—
they will not love you like that.


LIII*

Volverán las oscuras golondrinas
en tu balcón sus nidos a colgar,
y otra vez con el ala a sus cristales
jugando llamarán.

Pero aquellas que el vuelo refrenaban
tu hermosura y mi dicha a contemplar,
aquellas que aprendieron nuestros nombres...
ésas... ¡no volverán!

Volverán las tupidas madreselvas
de tu jardín las tapias a escalar,
y otra vez a la tarde aún más hermosas
sus flores se abrirán.

Pero aquellas cuajadas de rocío
cuyas gotas mirábamos temblar
y caer como lágrimas del día...
ésas... ¡no volverán!

Volverán del amor en tus oídos
las palabras ardientes a sonar;
tu corazón de su profundo sueño
tal vez despertará.

Pero mudo y absorto y de rodillas,
como se adora a Dios ante su altar,
como yo te he querido... desengáñate,
nadie así te amará.


* Poems were numbered but not given titles in Rimas, a book compiled by friends 
after the poet’s death. The work is in the public domain.

 

Volume 12.1 - June 2019

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870) is Spain’s greatest Romantic poet and one of the best-loved writers in the Spanish-speaking world. Although he died young and in poverty, his single collection, Rimas, became the foundation of modern Spanish poetry.

Dan Veach is the founder of Atlanta Review and author of Elephant Water and Lunchboxes. His translations from Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon have won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Independent Publisher Book Award. Editor of Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq (Michigan State University Press, 2008), Dan has performed his poetry worldwide, including Oxford University, People’s University in Beijing, the American University in Cairo, and the Adelaide Festival in Australia.