Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Throw Yourself Like Seed

~Scowls Meaningfully at Blogger~

Roger Housden sometimes has some interesting things to say about poetry. This week, I’m reading “Ten Poems to Set You Free” and, in honor of Atrios’ trip to Spain, thought I’d share with you what Housden says about the Spanish poet Miguel de Unamuno.

When the fascist General Milan-Astray stormed into the University of Salamanca to confront the elderly professor and poet-philosopher Miguel de Unamuno over his criticism of Franco and the fascist cause, Unamuno said to him: “At times to be silent is to lie. You will win because you have enough brute force. But you will not convince. For to convince you need to persuade. And in order to persuade you would need what you lack: reason and right.”

The general shouted, “Death to intelligence! Long live death!” and drove the ailing poet out of the university at gunpoint. The poet suffered a heart attack and died within the week.
Here is Unamuno’s poem “Throw Yourself Like Seed.” I’m still working on what I think the last verse is really all about.

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
Sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
That brushes your heel as it turns going by,
The man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
Which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
But to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
Is the work; start there, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
Don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
And do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
For life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.