“Two Spains”: León Felipe and Antonio Machado

Francisco de Goya’s Fight with Cudgels (c.1820-23) can be seen
 as a premonition of the civil wars of Spain. Image from Wikipedia.

I thought that I’d post another poem by León Felipe today. Included in Ganarás La Luz, “Hay dos Españas” reflects the uncertainty and violence that surrounded the Spanish Civil War, and in particular the left-right political divisions that led to it. Here is is:

There are two Spains: that of the soldier and that of the poet. That of the fratricidal sword and that of the wandering song. There are two Spains and only one song. And this is the song of the wandering poet:

Soldier, the hacienda,
The house,
The horse
And the pistol are yours.
The ancient voice of the earth is mine.
You keep everything and leave me naked and wandering across the world…
But I leave you mute…mute!
So how will you gather the wheat
And feed the fire
If I have taken the song?

Felipe writes so beautifully, and provides so much to think about. If I had to choose, I would certainly choose poetry over violence; undoubtedly. Nonetheless, it is interesting to consider whether both concepts are natural, and vital, parts of life. Where there is life, do violence and poetry automatically follow? Out of the two, Dionysian, primitive violence automatically strikes me as the most natural. Although, perhaps there may be a cultural side to the life of animals that we don’t know about!

It is interesting to compare Felipe’s poem to Antonio Machado’s poem that also deals with the “Two Spains” concept, included in his Proverbios y Cantares. As part of the Generation of 1898, Antonio felt that one Spain was heavily Catholic, reactionary, and centrist, and the other a secular, progressive, modern, post-Enlightenment European Spain.

There is a Spaniard today, who wants
to live and is starting to live,
between one Spain dying
and another Spain yawning.

Little Spaniard just now coming
into the world, may God keep you.
One of those two Spains
will freeze your heart.

I find Machado’s poem to be very political and quite unsettling – the thought of a “Little Spaniard” growing up to such conflict and rivalry isn’t exactly positive. And then there’s the diction of “dying”, “yawning”, and “freeze”, emphasising how difficult the circumstances really were. I’d like to learn more about each poet, and understand how the civil war affected them.

I hope that you enjoy both pieces, and that you find the two interesting to compare!


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