29 April 2010


I think I am a very sociable person and I love being with family and friends. Wherever I go and whatever I do, there is always somebody near me: at home, at work, in the street, in the bus stop, in the tube station...However, sometimes I feel like being alone and I do enjoy every minute of the very few moments nobody is with me. I have found that those moments can be very positive, emotionally refreshing and gratifying because I can relax and think in complete silence.

Paradise Lost, Book IX: 249
by John Milton (1608-1674)

For solitude sometimes is best society

23 April 2010

Book Day

It is said that on this day in 1616 William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, Garcilaso de la Vega, and William Wordsworth died. Well, it is not entirely true if one takes into consideration the Julian Calendar and the Gregorian calendar but the fact is that UNESCO calls today "World Book and Copyright Day."

Certainly, no matter when they died, today is the perfect day to take a book and read it. Reading a book is like travelling on your own or in company to a faraway place. Reading a book is like living other people´s lives. Reading a book can be the beginning of something great. You just have to go to the shelf and take one.

Today I am including a short poem from Shakespeare, Cervantes, Garcilaso and Wordsworth. Two poems in English and two in Spanish. Beauty in both languages.

A Fairy Song
by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire!
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green;
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

Poem taken from the novel
"La ilustre fregona"

by Cervantes (1547-1616)

¿Quién de amor venturas halla?
El que calla.
¿Quién triunfa de su aspereza?
La firmeza.
¿Quién da alcance a su alegría?
La porfía.
De ese modo, bien podría
esperar dichosa palma
si en esta empresa mi alma
calla, está firme y porfía.

¿Con quién se sustenta amor?
Con favor.
¿Y con qué mengua su furia?
Con la injuria.
¿Antes con desdenes crece?
Claro en esto se parece
que mi amor será inmortal,
pues la causa de mi mal
ni injuria ni favorece.

Quien desespera, ¿qué espera?
Muerte entera.
Pues, ¿qué muerte el mal remedia?
La que es media.
Luego, ¿bien será morir?
Mejor sufrir.
Porque se suele decir,
y esta verdad se reciba,
que tras la tormenta esquiva
suele la calma venir.

Soneto III
by Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616)

La mar en medio y tierras he dejado
de cuanto bien, cuitado, yo tenía;
y yéndome alejando cada día,
gentes, costumbres, lenguas he pasado.

Ya de volver estoy desconfiado;
pienso remedios en mi fantasía;
y el que más cierto espero es aquel día
que acabará la vida y el cuidado.

De cualquier mal pudiera socorrerme
con veros yo, señora, o esperallo,
si esperallo pudiera sin perdello;

mas no de veros ya para valerme,
si no es morir, ningún remedio hallo,
y si éste lo es, tampoco podré habello.

by William Wardsworth (1770-1850).

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

11 April 2010

A time to mourn

Yesterday was one of the most tragic days in the history of Poland. Nobody remembers a catastrophic accident like the one that took place yesterday in Smolensk, Russia. Nearly 100 people died in a plane crash that will stay in Polish people´s minds for generations to come. The fatal accident killed the president of Poland, his wife and most of the political, economic, ecclesiastical and military key people of the country. Certainly, such an accident should never have occurred but now it's too late. It is not yet the right time to analyze the reasons why so many officials were flying in the same plane. It is not yet the time to find out why the pilot tried to land several times and did not opt for landing in a nearby airport. Now is the time for prayer and mourning.

I have just paid my respects to Mr Lech Aleksander Kaczyński, one of the most important and influencial political leaders Poland has ever had. Today I've seen streets crowded with people. I've seen thousands and thousands of candles lit to the memory of the political leader who led their country until a couple of days ago. I have seen thousands of youngsters placing flowers at the gates of the Presidential Palace. I've seen all kinds of people mourning the death of their president, and I have seen sadness in the faces of children, youth and adults.

Ecclesiastes 3

by King Solomon (1011 BCE-931 BCE)

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

I have taken some photographs that would like to share with you.

8 April 2010

A simple life

Sometimes I think that I wish I had been born a few centuries ago. Every day I find myself doing the same things and hastily running to and fro, queuing everywhere and getting stressed in whatever I do. I see myself like an ocean wave that comes and goes aimlessly. Certainly I miss the simple life my grandfather had (or I think he had) in his village.

Today I am including an ode written by Alexander Pope entitled "Ode on Solitude", which he took from Horace's "Epode 2". Here he praises the simplicity and innocence of country life. Words such as air, ground, fields, flocks, fire, summer, winter and quiet contrast with the daily routine of my life that could be reflected in words like car, bus, metro, rush, stress and noise.

Ode on Solitude
by Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

How happy he, who free from care
The rage of courts, and noise of towns;
Contented breathes his native air,
In his own grounds.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide swift away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unheard, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

5 April 2010

John Keats and the Pacific Ocean

Most Madrid tube stations bear the names of people who did something important in their lives and had a great influence in others. For example, there is a station called “Gregorio Marañón” dedicated to the memory of a scientific, historian, thinker and important doctor who wrote the first Spanish tract on internal medicine. Also, there is another station called “Rubén Darío” dedicated to the great Nicaraguan poet who is regarded as the initiator of the Modernism movement that appeared at the end of the 19th century.

However, this post is about a Madrid tube station called “Núñez de Balboa”. The station is in line 9 and commuters can easily recognize it in the tube map because of its vivid violet colour. The line starts in Herrera Oria (right in the north of Madrid) and it goes all the way down to the south of Madrid in a place called Arganda del Rey. Today Núñez de Balboa is regarded as the first man who “discovered” or “saw” the Pacific Ocean back in 1513 after having crossed the Isthmus of Panama.

The poem I am including today regards the discovery of the Pacific Ocean to Hernán Cortés, not to Núñez de Balboa. I do not know the reason why John Keats may have done so. Yet, his sonnet is a masterpiece. I hope you like it.

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

by John Keats (1795-1821)
Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific
— and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

(Italics are mine to indicate the reference to Hernán Cortés).
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