Fields of Castile
Fields of Castile
by Antonio Machado
THE LITERARY WORK
A collection of poems based upon the poet’s reflections on the landscape of Castile, Spain. First published in Spanish (as Campos de Castilla) in 1912; revised in 1917; selected poems published in English in 1959.
The poet explores his inner self, the destiny and identity of Spain, and the fundamental question of life as he observes and comments on the landscapes of Castile.
Born in Seville, Spain, on July 26, 1875, Antonio Machado y Ruiz would come to be regarded as one of the finest poets of his generation and one of the most important Spanish writers of the twentieth century. The Machado family moved to Madrid when Antonio was eight, and he later attended the Institution Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institution of Learning) there. Machado married Leonor Izquierdo in 1909. He went on to labor briefly as a translator in Paris, France, and more permanently as a French teacher in various parts of Spain. Written in Soria, Spain, Campos de Castilla, his third book of poetry, was published the same year his young wife died of tuberculosis. Shaken by his wife’s death, Machado moved to Baeza, where he composed an additional section published in a revised edition of this third book in 1917. Literary critics agree that Campos de Castilla represents a transition from the poetic intimacy of Machado’s earlier collection, Soledades (1903; Solitudes) to the poetry of the objective, external world. Machado would publish a corpus that in its entirety included several collections of poetry and numerous dramas and essays. In his later career, he delved into metaphysical and philosophical poetry and aphorisms in the tradition of Spain’s distinguished medieval writer of proverbs, Rabbi Shem Tov, producing works such as Juan de Mairenea: Sentencias, Doñaires, apuntes y recuerdos de un profesor apócrifo (1936; Juan de Mairena: Proverbs, Witty Commentaries, Notes, and Memoires of a Counterfeit Professor). Machado participated in the Civil War on the side of the anti-Francoist forces, and after their defeat escaped into exile across the French border. On February 22 he died of pneumonia and other complications, leaving behind poetry that evokes his love for Spain and its traditions as well as the pain and isolation of the human experience.
The bulk of Castile sits in the middle of Spain and is predominantly formed by a high mesa of arid, rocky terrain. Today the once-powerful kingdom is separated into two autonomous regions: Castile-León and Castile-La Mancha. The capital of Spain, Madrid, has traditionally been the most important city in Castile. Other cities of note are Toledo, Segovia, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Avila, Valladolid, Burgos, León, and Soria. The latter, a central focus of Fields of Castile, is located in the northeast of the autonomous region Castile-León.
Castile came into existence as a kingdom in 1035 when Sancho III of Navarre crowned his son Fernando I ruler of the former county of Castile, which had been created in the eighth century as a buffer zone by the Christian kingdom of Asturias to protect itself against the Muslim Moors to the south. Fernando proceeded to defeat the king of León, Vermudo III, in battle in 1037, thereby becoming the monarch of a new and powerful Christian kingdom, Castile-León. He would remain the reigning monarch until his death in 1065 (the realm would eventually absorb other kingdoms and counties and ultimately take the name Castile).
With a fanatical religious fervor, a growing economic base from which to draw, and the largest population of any Christian kingdom on the Iberian peninsula, Castile succeeded in pushing south over the next four and a half centuries, gaining victory after victory over the Muslims during the Reconquest. Meanwhile, Castile engaged in constant warfare with other Christian kingdoms, especially Portugal, Navarre, and Aragon. The fall of Toledo, a major defeat for the Moors, helped cement Castile as the dominant Christian kingdom of Spain. The Christians put their bitter infighting on hold in 1212, when thousands of soldiers banded together to march against al-Andalus, as the Moorish territory on the peninsula was called. In the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, the Christians soundly routed the Muslim forces, and Castile claimed the territory as its own. During the thirteenth century, it captured the rest of the Moorish lands on the peninsula except for 1) the kingdom of Granada, which would remain an independent Muslim enclave for more than two centuries; 2) the province of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, which Aragon reconquered; and 3) the southern half of present-day Portugal, which the Portuguese kingdom would regain a few decades later when it expelled the Moors in 1249. For the next two centuries, the political configuration of the peninsula experienced little change.
The catalyst for change came in 1469, in a marriage between two heirs to their respective thrones, Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon. In due course the heirs became the monarchs of their domains. With the quasi-unification of Castile and Aragon by the now king and queen in 1479 (the two kingdoms never merged into one but kept their separate identities), Castile solidified its position as the most important region in the peninsula due to the fact that it was by far the largest geographically and the most populated. In addition, it had a strong army and efficient political leadership under Isabel. Fernando and Isabel waged war on the Moorish kingdom of Granada, which finally fell in 1492 and was absorbed by Castile. At this point, there was no doubt as to Castile’s hegemony on the peninsula. The kingdom would soon lead the way in maritime discoveries and conquests in the Americas and in imperial victories in Europe, thereby confirming and augmenting its status. The global prominence would not last, however, and even the hegemony within the peninsula would dwindle somewhat. At the end of 1580, Spain had managed to incorporate Portugal into its fold in a union between the two countries that dissolved in 1668, after decades of Portuguese wars of independence and liberation.
By the late 1600s, Spain, with Castile still its most powerful province, had begun to fade as a global power, and by the eighteenth century it figured as only a second-rate player in European politics. At home the picture looked brighter. With the reign of Felipe V from 1700–46, Castile at last consolidated its power in Spain and forced Aragon and Valencia to give up their quasi-independent status and use its language and laws in official matters; thus, the regions of Spain were united in an uneasy arrangement. By the nineteenth century, Castile was one of several provinces in the nation, but it retained its position of superiority because of its history and because its largest city, Madrid, was also Spain’s capital. The ensuing century witnessed political chaos and economic stagnation. Nineteenth-century politics tore at the nation, dividing it into “two Spains,” one half liberal and the other half conservative. In the twentieth century, through the times in which Machado’s poems were composed and translated, Madrid, along with peripheral regions of Spain, would play a dynamic role in the nation’s modernization. Along with the rest of Spain, Castile would endure two separate periods of dictatorship before the nation finally adopted a democratic form of government after the fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975.
In 1912, when Campos de Castilla was first published, Castile was the most powerful of the Spanish provinces. Its geographic extension, however, had shrunk greatly since it was a kingdom composed of the areas now known as the autonomous regions of Castile-León, Castile-La Mancha, Andalusia, Murcia, La Rioja, the Basque Nation, Asturias, Cantabria, Extremadura, and Galicia. By 1912 the province consisted only of Old Castile and New Castile, composed of Castile-León and Castile-La Mancha, respectively.
Spain in 1912 was a country in crisis. It had just lost the rest of its overseas colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam) to the Americans in the Spanish-American War. The war sprang from the United States’ concerns over the presence of Spanish troops in Cuba following a year-long revolt by Cubans, who wanted complete independence. In the eyes of U.S. politicians, Spain’s domination of Cuba constituted a threat to the possibility of U.S. expansion in Latin America. The American government sent the battleship Maine to Cuba allegedly to protect American interests on the island. On February 15, 1898, the ship blew up, and Spain was immediately blamed for the incident (although later investigation identified the true cause as spontaneous combustion of fuel). Spain was not ready for war. The country had an ill-equipped navy, including few seaworthy battleships, and its finances were poorly managed. The war erupted in May 1898 in the Philippines when American naval forces sank several Spanish ships in Manila Bay. Then, in one of the worst military defeats in modern history, Americans destroyed the Spanish navy at Santiago de Cuba, after which Teddy Roosevelt and his men rushed up San Juan Hill to declare victory. After three months of fighting, Spain surrendered. At the end of the year, the Treaty of Paris was signed, stripping Spain of the rest of her colonies and reducing it to a third-rate power. The decadence that had characterized Spain for two centuries reached its lowest point in 1898. Spaniards immediately began to agonize over what caused a nation that 300 years earlier had been the most powerful in the world to plummet to such a low depth.
Generation of 1898
The agony of Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War echoed in the field of arts and letters under the tutelage of the Generatión del 98 (Generation of 1898), a group of young Spanish writers and intellectuals who expounded on the identity and destiny of Spain. Their key message was that Spain was a country in crisis: where had Spain gone wrong? How could the nation’s problems be resolved? The Generation of 1898 mused about the humiliating military defeat at the hands of the Americans and reacted against the political incompetence and corruption that were undermining Spain’s progress. They criticized as well the social and cultural norms of the nation, especially those of the dominant class.
Antonio Machado was a central figure in this artistic group. Along with the other members of the Generation of ’98, Machado fought against the conservative faction in Spain and adopted a liberal ideological position similar to that of other contemporary European writers. He, like the others, believed passionately that Spain needed to be liberalized and modernized to align it with other European countries. The focus on bourgeois life, so common in realism, was abandoned by these writers, replaced by an obsessive preoccupation with the Spanish spirit and identity. The Generation of ’98 adopted a more innocent idealism that recalled Romanticism. However, mixed with this idealism was anxiety and doubt over religious, moral, and patriarchal values.
The first fundamental worry the intellectuals of ’98 all had in common concerned the identity of Spain in the modern world. Again they asked themselves, what had happened to the nation and where was it heading? What was it about Spain that had once made it so powerful and prosperous? How could that be recaptured? The second worry had to do with the very nature of life itself. The Generation of ’98 pondered the question of existence, faith, and time. In their philosophical approach to these issues, they exhibited a tremendous curiosity about the metaphysical aspect of the human experience.
In attempting to tackle the identity question, the Generation of 1898 utilized words to create vivid images of native landscapes, which they felt contained the spirit of the nation and its people.
BARREN LAND, BARREN GOVERNMENT—THE REIGN OF ALFONSO XIII
Crowned king of Spain in 1902, Alfonso XIII inherited a very messy social and political reality. During his reign, which lasted through the writings of Fields of Castile until 1931, there were a total of 33 different parliamentary governments. Both parliament and the constitution limited Alfonso’s powers. Still, anarchism and socialism were on the rise, and the two movements put increasing pressure on Alfonso XIII to step down. After another humiliating defeat of the Spanish military, this time by Berber forces in Morocco in 1921, the parliament investigated how the king could have permitted such a calamity to take place. The investigation was a disgrace to the king and, more importantly, it undermined his powers as a monarch. In 1923 General Primo de Rivera led a successful uprising in favor of the king. For all intents and purposes, the general proceeded to run the government dictatorially, eliminating the parliament. When Spaniards voted overwhelmingly for a republican form of government in April 1931, Alfonso XIII abdicated and went into exile. He would never rule Spain again.
The majority of these thinkers expressed an emotional connection to the Castilian countryside, which they found to be somber and austere. They did not, however, perceive this landscape in an objective manner, but rather in a subjective and idealistic way. The writers, including Machado, attempted to capture and reflect the reality of the dry topography and, through it, the soul of Castile and its people. Machado’s writing describes the relationship between the barren Castilian land and the past and present of Spain: “The [river] Duero crosses the oaken heart / of Iberia and Castile. / Miserable Castile, triumphant yesterday, clad in its rags, disdaining the unknown way” (Machado, “The Banks of the Duero,” (Fields of Castile in Dream Below the Sun, p. 49). The desolate countryside that the poet witnesses is matched by the decadence of Spanish life, as opposed to Castile’s successful history. Tradition, landscape, time, and identity are all constant themes throughout his poetry.
In the fundamental 1912 edition Machado observes the land and its people, especially in and around Soria, and from that springs poetry preoccupied with the destiny of Spain, the character of Spaniards, and the problematic experience of human existence. In 1917 Machado released a complete collection of poetry, Poesías completas, which included an updated version of Fields of Castile. The 1917 edition contained about 60 new poems, most of which he wrote after his wife died when he resided in Baeza (in Andalusia).
“A orillas del Duero” (“The Banks of the Duero”)
In this poem, the poet describes a somber and harsh Castilian landscape as he walks along the banks of the River Duero on a sunny, hot July afternoon. He presents realistic, factual information about the land that he surveys: “I discerned a sharp peak beyond far fields, / and a round hill like an embroidered shield, / and scarlet slopes over the grayish soil…” (“Banks,” Fields of Castile, p. 47). Next to the dry and rocky terrain, the river Duero snakes its way around the town of Soria. Machado emphasizes the Duero in his description of the landscape because to him it symbolizes the fluidity of life as it constantly moves across the land, forever pushing its way out to the ocean. The ocean, to Machado, is a metaphor for death because it is the final destination of rivers (life) and because it represents a seemingly infinite, dark, lonely void. (Machado borrowed the river and ocean symbols from Jorge Manrique [1440?-79], the most renowned medieval Spanish poet of the late fifteenth century and one of Machado’s favorites.)
Around the beginning of the third stanza, Machado shifts his attention away from merely describing the landscape to tying it to the past and present of the Spanish nation. We begin to understand that the panorama that he views interests him primarily for the people who live in it and are shaped by it. He compares the decadence and bleak landscape of today with the glorious past of Spain: “The mother formerly a source of captains / is now a stepmother of lowly urchins. / Castile no longer is that generous state / of Myo Cid who rode with haughty gait” (“Banks,” Fields of Castile, p. 49). Emotion and subjectivity creep into the poem in these descriptions, and from them we can sense the deep passion that Machado had for his homeland.
He finishes the poem by turning the reader’s attention back to what he observes and hears as he walks along: the setting of the sun, church bells ringing, and an inn standing alone on the road amidst the fields. Machado seems to indicate that, even in this austere natural environment, there is a sort of beauty that warms the soul of the observer and reminds him of the greatness that has come from the land, a greatness perhaps to be repeated again soon.
“Campos de Soria” (“Fields of Soria”)
Machado again discusses the decadence of Spain in this poem as he attempts to objectify the reality that he experiences. The work consists of nine sections. The first part describes the cold and arid land of Soria. We witness what the observer does as if we were looking through a camera. Soria is experiencing its first signs of spring, and the daisies stand out against the ash-colored hills. In the second stanza, the poetic voice offers the first hint of subjectivity in the verse “The land lies unrevived, the fields dream” (“Fields of Soria,” Fields of Castile, p. 57). The Sorian fields are personified: like humans, they dream, perhaps about the impending sunny days when they will be covered by a blanket of vegetation.
In the second section, it is the observer who dreams: the landscape that he describes—a small orchard, arable land, rocky slopes—are the stuff of a child’s imagination. In other words, the images that he sees are being recreated in his mind as an “innocent vision of Arcadia” (Terry, p. 34).
The third part of the poem encompasses the whole of the landscape. It is summer and one can see sunflowers dancing on the rolling fields, which are crossed by roads that hide travelers riding on brown donkeys. These people are “little figures” in the distance which “stain the gold linen of the sunset” (“Fields of Soria,” Fields of Castile, p. 59). Although humans are clearly an essential part of the landscape, they are dwarfed and made to seem insignificant by the limitless-ness and beauty of the earth.
Section four returns to the country inhabitants who cut a silhouette against the Sorian sky. It is autumn now, and two oxen plow a knoll as a man plods behind them and a woman plants seeds in the furrows. A baby’s basket hangs from the yoke. Machado emphasizes the parallel between humans and nature: there is a close connection between them concerning new life. One form of life depends on the other for its very existence. The recurring chore of plowing and planting crops underscores the idea of repetition and monotony in human life.
The next part ushers in winter by describing a snowy scene. The tone is desolate and sad, describing a solitary scene in which a family sits around a fire and stares out the windows at the snow. It impedes them from being with others and reminds them of a lost family member who was trapped in a snowstorm and buried in the sierra. A little girl dreams of the spring days when she can frolic with her friends in the green fields below azure skies. The highway nearby and the surrounding countryside are deserted.
The sixth part of the poem describes Soria as “cold,” “pure,” and “dead” (“Fields of Soria,” Fields of Castile, pp. 58–60). Machado characterizes the city this way in terms of the season, but also in relation to its present decadence visàvis its colorful past. It is a ghost of a city now, standing to remind us of its triumphant history. The poet captures the moment of observation in the verses “Cold Soria! The courthouse bell strikes one” (“Fields of Soria,” Fields of Castile, p. 61). The telling of time crystallizes the picture for the reader. The observer is a solitary figure looking upon the city in the dead of night and seeing it by moonlight. We feel a certain sense of melancholy both about the city and the observer, for both seem isolated in space and time.
The feeling of melancholy that the sixth part’s words evoke resonates in the seventh section as well. Machado opens it by listing off what he sees: silver hills, white roads, poplars by the river, and bald peaks. However, halfway through this part, there is a sudden subjective commentary: “Sorian afternoons, mystical and warlike, / today I feel a sadness for you, deep / in the heart, a sadness / that is love” (“Fields of Soria,” Fields of Castile, p. 61). Although the observer experiences sadness about Soria, it is not a negative emotion. On the contrary, he equates it with love. In other words, he has come to accept Soria for what it is: although desolate, decadent, and isolated, he loves it nonetheless and sees a deep beauty in it.
The poetic voice focuses on the poplar trees he sees on the river’s banks in part eight. The rustling sound of their dry leaves adds to the sounds of the river. On their trunks, lovers have scratched their names and the dates when they were there. The speaker then refers to the trees as poplars of love. He witnesses and narrates what he sees in the present, but he also talks of the nightingales that yesterday filled the trees’ branches and of the wind’s lyres that the trees will be tomorrow. He captures the past, present, and future by utilizing the flow of the river and the presence of the poplars as symbols of continuity. Finally, he speaks directly to the poplars, telling them that he captures them in his heart as he goes along his journey. In essence, he has internalized the landscape that he is witnessing. Even though he may leave the banks of the Duero, he will always carry the spirit and emotion of what he has seen inside him.
In the final part, from the poplar trees, the speaker expands the view to the fields of Soria, saying that he will carry them in his heart as well. He asks if the country and town scenes that he has witnessed have reached his soul or if they were there all along. By saying this, the speaker seems to imply that what he witnesses is already a part of himself, and in a dreamlike state he is only retelling what he already knows. He concludes the poem by wishing that Spain’s sun fill the hearty people of Soria with happiness, light, and wealth.
“A un olmo seco” (“To a Dry Elm”)
In this poem, Machado reflects on the passage of time and the idea of hope in spring’s eternal rebirth. The speaker describes an old, dry elm that has been split in two by lightning but which, after the rains of April and the sun of May, continues to sprout green leaves. The speaker directs his words at the elm, saying that before the tree is cut down or falls over and is washed to sea, he wants “to note / the grace of your greening leaf” (“To a Dry Elm,” Fields of Castile, p. 63). The poem, however, is not simply about the fact that the elm is old and decaying. Rather, the elm is seen clearly in relation to past, present, and future. The opening lines demonstrate the elm’s past: “The elm. One hundred years on the hill / lapped by the Duero!” (“Dry Elm,” Fields of Castile, p. 63). We have an idea of its longevity from these words, which emphasize a past but also a present existence. The present is the moment at which the speaker observes and describes the elm. It is a very transient moment marked by surprise and sadness at seeing the elm in its present condition. The future is captured by what the speaker doesn’t want to happen to the tree: being cut down or swept away by the river. The old elm is seen by the poet as a dynamic entity changing with time and the elements. Machado concludes the poem on a sentimental note: “My heart also waits hoping / —toward the light and toward life— / for another miracle of spring” (“Dry Elm,” Fields of Castile, p. 63). These last lines make us question what the whole poem is about. The subject is not so much the dying tree as the hopes and sadness that the tree brings out in the observer. Machado wrote the poem when his wife Leonor was very ill, and the sadness and hope he felt about the situation permeates his message. By expressing his desire to see the elm bloom the next spring, Machado intimates that he hopes to enjoy another spring with Leonor, although he knows sooner or later she will die.
Searching for Spain’s identity in Castilian landscapes
The Spanish landscapes and nature that Machado observed over the course of a lifetime inspired him to write some of the finest poetry ever created in the Spanish language. They also inspired him to express his profound admiration and love for Spain. However, they reminded him as well of the decadence and problems that existed in the country at the time. Although a native of Andalusia, Machado wrote most of his poems in this collection about Castile because, like for many other Generation of 1898 writers, it epitomized the rich language, tradition, history, and power of Spain: in short, Castile was the center of the nation in that it had forged Spain and had given it its most lasting significance. In the Castilian people and landscape, Machado saw Spain at its most authentic and representative. By observing nature within the Castilian context, Machado strove to better understand those who populated the land. In almost all of his poems, Machado includes the inhabitants of the Castilian countryside in his observations of the landscape. In studying both of these, the poet attempted to come to grips with Spanish identity: what Spain was, why it existed, and who its inhabitants were. The land and the nature therein that he observes are symbolic in his poetry of the people who inhabit it and of life in general: in his poetry, the ocean represents death; the river is symbolic of life; trees stand for
MACHADO’S CONNECTION TO EUROPEAN AND LATIN AMERICAN WRITERS
In 1899 Machado made his first trip to Paris to work alongside his brother as translator for the publishing house Garnier. In 1902 Machado found himself in Paris again, this time to work as an official at the Guatemalan consulate. It is during this second stay that Machado met the already famous modernist writer Rubén Darío. His next visit occurred in 1911, when he won a scholarship to study French language and literature at the Collège de France. His residencies in France’s capital city—and one of the world’s cultural capitals—allowed him to meet writers of great stature and to keep abreast of literary styles and trends. In essence, Machado took back to Spain a deeper understanding of what was occurring in the European and Latin American Modernist movement, and he reflected that influence in his own poetic works by, among other things, creating musical verse and colorful imagery. He would afterward take advantage of his French language skills, honed during his stays in Paris, to develop a career as instructor of French at various institutes in Spain. Although Machado admired France, he wanted Spain to take its own lead in the development of ideas and cultural products. To generate such authenticity, he wrote about his own nation and people, giving the ideas he learned in Paris a uniquely Spanish twist.
continuity, life, and rebirth; routine farmers’ chores underscore the monotony of life; the seasons signal birth and infancy (spring) to youth (summer) to middle age (autumn) to old age and death (winter). When Machado observes nature, he records a complex cyclical relationship between humanity and earth, time and space, spirit and material. Although humanity and nature are governed by universal laws of entropy, the poet nonetheless offers hope of a bright tomorrow and of a new Spain. He seems to say that what he observes is not as external as it at first appears: the landscape of Spain is as internal to Spaniards as their very thoughts and dreams. Perhaps what Spaniards see in their landscape is what has already been created in their collective imagination.
Machado’s preoccupation with Spain and its character and destiny is mirrored in the other writers of the Generation of ’98. At the turn of the twentieth century, they experienced and wrote about a Spain that was entering into a new realm of existence, one for which it was not altogether prepared. The moment of patriotic crisis that these writers expressed was shared by most Spaniards. Spain entered its post-colonial phase with a new identity that it found hard to accept: as a small, weak European country being eclipsed by stronger countries around the world. What Machado and the other members of the Generation of 1898 learned, however, is that the beauty in one’s nation, in nature, in oneself, and in life in general is what one chooses to see. Machado found beauty and strength in the barren and dry landscapes of Castile because he accepted nature for what it was, and he found resilient and hopeful inhabitants who looked forward to rising with the sun the next day.
Sources and literary context
One of Machado’s earliest influences was Francisco Giner de los Ríos, his teacher at The Institution of Free Learning and a friend of his father’s. One idea that Machado took away from his studies at the institute and one that he employed throughout his poetry was that humans must learn to appreciate nature and work to establish a peaceful coexistence with it instead of trying to destroy it. In its depiction of the Spanish countryside, Fields of Castile effects an ingenious interplay between reality and meditation. Machado succeeds in freezing time and space to capture a nostalgic vision of a simpler, if more solitary, Spain that allows for this interplay. There is a balance between what Machado observes in the external world and the metaphors he creates from those details for the speaker’s emotions. Delving further into the individual, his poetry assumes that human identity cannot be separated from dream and memory, an idea representative of Machado’s work. In sum, the poet portrays the Castilian landscapes he so carefully records as mirrors onto his soul and conscience: what he observes is not so important for its own sake as for what it reveals about himself, man in general, and the human experience. Another early influence was that of Henri Bergson, a French philosopher and professor under whom Machado studied at the Collège de France in Paris. Bergson’s ideology argued that humans can use their intuition to obtain true knowledge once they liberate themselves from the constraints of traditional conceptions of time and space. We see this ideology resonating throughout Fields of Castile. One of his central concerns is the fleeting passage of time and the representation by poetry of the fluid aspect of experience: the future turning quickly into the present and the present sliding into the past. In addition, Machado constantly reminds us of the specific space in which he finds himself in his poetry by minutely detailing his surroundings and bringing our attention to the objects or people he observes.
The modernist writers of the era, especially Spaniards, influenced Fields of Castile to some degree, although by the time he wrote this work Machado was moving away from modernism. His brother Manuel, an accomplished writer himself; Azorín, who influenced Machado with his book Castilla;, Juan Ramón Jiménez, considered one of the fathers of Spanish modernism; Miguel de Unamuno, for whom Machado wrote one of his “Elogios” (“Praises”); and the Nicaraguan Rubén Darío, the foremost modernist writer of the Spanish tongue, helped shape Machado’s ideas and style.
The death of his wife Leonor moved Machado to write several poems, most of which he included in the revised edition of 1917. These were known as the Baeza poems because of his residency in this small Andalusian town after Leonor died. Some of these are very personal in nature and recall his earlier works Solitudes and Solitudes, Galleries, and Other Poems.
The language of Fields of Castile has been described as austere, in keeping with the Castile environment. It also has been described as concise, colorful, and mellifluous. Often it reflects Machado’s thoughts and emotions, revealing the poet’s solitary and contemplative nature. The poems’ style is popular, with an emphasis on assonant rhyme and a preponderance of natural metaphors to conjure up substantive issues of human experience. Verbs and adverbs tend to dominate the verses in Fields of Castile, lending them a dynamic quality that, combined with the melancholic tone of most of the poems, stamps Machado’s indelible mark upon it.
Fields of Castile was a popular and critical success when first published in 1912, enough so for Machado to release the updated version in 1917. The poet’s overall artistic achievement is evidenced by the fact that just a decade after the publication of the 1917 version, Machado was voted in as a member of the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy). He was heralded as a Republican patriot by liberal intellectuals. Machado’s prestige reached its apex in the late 1940s and 1950s when the Generation of 1936, representing a younger group of Spanish poets, paid homage to him in an issue of the literary review Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos (Hispanoamerican Notes) published in Madrid in 1949. Outside Spain, exiled Spanish poets who fled the fascist Franco regime paid homage to him as well. Gabriel Pradal-Rodríguez wrote an important study of Machado’s life and work as part of an homage to Machado in an issue of the New York literary journal Revista Hispánica Moderna (Modern Hispanic Review) in 1949. The subsequent generation of Spanish poets, coming of age in the 1950s, regarded Machado as their primary poetic inspiration, and his impact proved enduring thereafter. Today he is celebrated as one of the greatest Spanish poets of all time both inside and outside of Spain.
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Machado, Antonio. Antonio Machado. Selected Poems. Trans. Alan Trueblood. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982.
______. Antonio Machado. Solitudes, Galleries and other poems. Trans. Richard L. Predmore. Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 1987.
______. Campos de Castilla. Trans. Arthur Terry. London: Grant and Cutler/Tamesis, 1973.
______. Castilian Ilexes. Versions from Antonio Machado, 1875–1939. Trans. C.H. Tomlinson and H. Gifford. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
______. Fields of Castile. In The Dream Below the Sun: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado. Trans. Willis Barnstone. Trumansburg, N.Y.: The Crossing Press, 1981.
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