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The Waterwheel

by Antonio Machado

translated from the Spanish by George Kalogeris and Gláucia Rezende

Already the afternoon light was turning to dust,
Alas, and all the time the wooden wheel
Over and over kept turning the murmuring water

To its own rhythm, slowly as those dances
People do in the country, even though the old mule
Seemed to be fast asleep, as if he was dreaming

Out of sheer exhaustion, and that dream was deep
Enough to fill the buckets that he kept drawing
Out of the murmuring shadows. The afternoon light,

Alas, was turning to dust, and who knows who
Came up with the splendid idea of taking this wheel
That never stops chafing and churning, and yoking it

To the flowing water’s sweet dreams, though I think
That genius must have been divinely inspired.
And because he also provided you with blinders,

Wretched creature, I can’t help seeing him now
As a great and maybe even a godlike poet:
One who found a way to instruct his heart

In the dark, unfathomable ways of illumination.


Along with Unamuno, Jiménez, and Lorca, Antonio Machado (1875-1939) is considered one of Spain’s greatest poets of the last century. His poetry is characterized by a quiet reserve capable of enormous tenderness, and his deeply metaphysical cast of mind is complimented by an equally keen eye for the Spanish countryside. While much of his adult life was spent as a teacher of languages in country schools, during the Thirties he emerged as an eloquent spokesman for the Republican cause.

George Kalogeris teaches at Boston University and Suffolk University. His book of poems Camus: Carnets has just been published by Pressed Wafer.

Gláucia Rezende is a Brazilian poet who is currently translating poems of Pessoa and Lorca. (2/2006)

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