Pablo Neruda called the Spanish Golden Age poet Francisco Quevedo (1580-1645) the greatest of them all, saying that reading his poems were a “lived experience” transcending words on a page.
With Quevedo, in Springtime was written as the gravely ill Neruda watched spring return while his own life reached its winter.
With Quevedo, In Springtime
Everything has flowered in
these fields, apple trees,
hesitant blues, yellow weeds,
and in green grass the poppies thrive.
The inextinguishable sky, the new air
of each day, the invisible shine within,
that gift of a wide and vast springtime.
But spring hasn’t come to my room.
Diseases, dubious kisses,
that stuck like the church’s ivy
to the black windows of my life,
and love alone is never enough, not even the wild
and expansive fragrance of spring.
And to you, what can these mean now:
the orgiastic light, the evidence unfolding
like a flower, the green song
in the green leaves, the presence
of the sky with its goblet of freshness?
External spring, do not torment me,
unleashing wine and snow in my arms
corolla and battered bouquet of sorrow,
just for today give me the sleep of nocturnal
leaves, the night of the dead, the metals, the roots,
and so many extinguished springtimes
that awaken to life every spring.
by Pablo Neruda, from Winter Garden, 2002
translated from the Spanish by William O’Daly