May 05, 2015

The Arrival in Madrid of the International Brigades a poem by Pablo Neruda

The Arrival in Madrid of the International Brigades*


by Pablo Neruda
translated by Jodey Bateman



One morning in a cold month
In an agonizing month, spotted with mud and smoke
A month that wouldn't get on its knees, a sad
       besieged, unlucky month
When from beyond my wet window panes you could
       hear the jackals
Howling with their rifles and their teeth full of blood
       then
When we didn't have more hope than a dream
       of more gun powder, when we believed by then
That the world was full of nothing but devouring
       monsters and furies,
Then, breaking through the frost of that cold
       month in Madrid, in the early morning mist
I saw with my own eyes, with this heart which looks out
I saw the bright ones arrive, the victorious fighters
From that lean, hard, tested rock of a brigade.

Is was the troubled time when the women
Carried an emptiness like a terrible burning coal,
And Spanish death, sharper and more bitter
       than other deaths
Filled the fields which until then had been honored by wheat.

Through the streets the beaten blood of men had joined
With water flowing out of the destroyed hearts of houses
The bones of dismembered children, the piercing
Silence of women in mourning, the eyes
Of the defenseless closed forever,
It was like sadness and loss, like a spat-upon garden
             Comrades,
             Then
             I saw you,
             And my eyes even now are full of pride
Because I saw you arriving through the
Morning mist, coming to the pure brow of Spain
             Silent and firm
             Like bells before daybreak
    So solemn with blue eyes coming from far, far away
coming from your corners, from your lost homelands,
from your dreams
Full of burning sweetness and guns
To defend the Spanish city where freedom was trapped
About to fall and be bitten by beasts.

Brothers, from now on
Your purity and your strength, your solemn story
Will be known by child and man, by woman and old one,
May it reach all beings who have no hope, may it
       descend into the mines corroded by sulphuric air,
May it climb the inhuman stairways to the slave
May all the stars, all the wheat stalks of Spain and the world
Write your name and your harsh struggle
And your victory, strong and earthy as a red oak tree.

Because you have given new birth by your sacrifice
To the lost faith, the empty soul, the confidence in the earth
And through your abundance, your nobility, your deaths,
Like through a valley of hard, bloody rocks
Passes an immense river of doves
Made of steel and hope.



* The International Brigades were volunteers from a number of countries,
including the United States, who fought on the side of the left-wing
Spanish Republic in the civil war of  1936 to 1939 against the fascist
General Franco. Neruda, who worked in the Embassy of Chile in Madrid,
was in the crowds who were watching when the International Brigades arrived.

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