María Rosalía Rita de Castro  was a Galician romanticist writer and poet.Writing in the Galician language, after the Séculos Escuros (lit. Dark Centuries), she became an important figure of the Galician romantic movement, known today as the Rexurdimento ("renaissance"), along with Manuel Curros Enríquez and Eduardo Pondal. Her poetry is marked by saudade, an almost ineffable combination of nostalgia, longing and melancholy.

She married Manuel Murguía, member of the Galician Academy, historian, journalist and editor of Rosalía's books. (Her married name was Rosalía Castro de Murguía.) The couple had seven children: Alexandra (1859–1937), Aura (1868–1942), twins Gala (1871–1964) and Ovidio (1871–1900), Amara (1873–1921), Adriano (1875–1876) and Valentina (stillborn, 1877). The only two that married were Aura in 1897 and Gala in 1922; neither they nor their siblings left any children, and thus there are no living descendants of Rosalía de Castro and her husband. Their son Ovidio was a good painter, but his early death cut his career short.

The date she published her first collection of poetry in Galician, Cantares gallegos (gl) ("Galician Songs"), 17 May 1863, is commemorated every year as the Día das Letras Galegas ("Galician Literature Day"), an official holiday of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, and has been dedicated to an important writer in the Galician language since 1963.

Relative poverty and sadness marked her life, although she had a strong sense of commitment to the poor and to the defenseless. She was a strong opponent of abuse of authority and defender of women's rights. She suffered from uterine cancer and died of this illness. Her image appeared on the 500 peseta Spanish banknote.
 

Translated by Eduardo Freire Canosa

eduardofreire@hispavista.com

*

Blessed Saint Anthony,
Grant me a man
Even if he kills me,
Even if he skins me.


My saintly Saint Anthony,
Grant me a greenhorn
Though he be the size
Of a grain of corn.


Bring him, my saint,
Even if he has lame feet
Or both arms missing.


A woman without a man—
Blessed saint!—
Is a frail, soulless frame—
Feast without wheat—
Fresh bread gone stale—
That wherever it goes
Goes walking-stick kale.


But with a greenhorn for mate—
Virxe do Carme!—
The world isn't big enough
For relaxation;
Bowlegged or knock-kneed
It's always good to have a man
For a remedy.


I know of someone whom to see
Is to covet,
Spare of body,
Red and ruddy,
Smooth skin of cream
And words as sweet
As counterfeit.


For him I ache by day,
By night ache I,
Brooding over his eyes
The colour of sky,
But he, already savvy,
Knows a lot about love,
Little about getting married.


Bring him to me,
My Saint Anthony,
To marry me,
A maiden child;
I bring for dowry
A spoon of iron,
Four of boxwood,
A new baby brother
Who has teeth already,
A dear old cow
That doesn't give milk...


Please, my cherished saint!
Bring it about
As I ask you.

Blessed Saint Anthony,
Grant me a man
Even if he kills me,
Even if he skins me.


Bowlegged or knock-kneed
It's always good to have a man
For a remedy.


#

"Conversation With a Pumpkin On All Hallows' Eve"

Girl: My Dear Saint, my Great Saint,
My pretty pumpkin face.
I will lend you my earrings,
I will lend you my necklace,
I will lend them to you, pretty face,
If you show me how to stitch.


Pumpkin: Dear obsequious seamstress,
Hoe the earth in the meadow, thresh in the field,
Wash by the river, go gather up
Dry gorses in the pine forest.
That's how a working lassie learns
The stitches by and by.


Girl: My Dear Saint, such advice would come
From someone who wished me ill.
The hands of a lady, the hands of a squire
Sport dear all the seamstresses,
A queen's palate, a lady-in-waiting's figure,
Silk becomes them, they run from the mire.


Pumpkin: My dear girl! You have gid:
Silk for girls who sleep in the rye!
Flee from the mire who was born in it!
May God forgive you, poor Emmanuelle,
Mire with integrity doesn't soil a bit
Nor does silk cleanse a sullied reputation.


Girl: Saint, Great Saint, you are not genteel
Saying things that hurt.
Talk to me about the jigs only,
About those spinning turns,
About those dancing steps they do now,
Swing in, swing out.


Pumpkin: Dear seamstress of the oak forest,
Pick up a needle, pick up a thimble,
Sew the tears of whoever has them
For God does not decree walking about in tatters.
Sew, child, those many rips
And don't think now about the dancing steps.


Girl: My Great Saint, my dear saint,
I do not have a needle, I have no thread
Or thimble for away at the fair
A dude stole them from my pouch
Saying, "The loss of the careless
Is the bounty of the canny."


Pumpkin: A poor seamstress who talks to dudes!
Soul of copper, choker of silver,
Youth laughing, old age weeping...
Go on, child, tend the livestock.
Mind the grassplot in your pasture:
You'll own a needle, you'll own a thimble.


Girl: Forget the pasture, what I wanted was
To go with the others to the romería
And there whirl round and round with the air!
Eyes lowered, limber leg,
Nimbly nimble feet, straight back,
But my Dear Saint...I can't hack it!
Don't go and act the preacher,
Make me now a fair dancer.
Go on, hurry and from up there
Do the dancing steps and I'll do the learning.
Go on, I pine for the heartaches...
See, I beg you crying seas.


Pumpkin: Woe to the child! Woe to her who weeps!
Woe for she wants to become a dancer!
Once she is laid to rest in the graveyard
Her enemies will terrify her
Dancing on the mute grass
To the sound of Judas' black bagpipe
And that body which in days past
Partied so much at the romerías
Will roll over and over with the damned
To the sound of the wildest winds.
Poor seamstress, I won't be, I won't be the one
Who gives you such evil instruction.


Girl: Ah, what a Great Saint! Ah, what a Prissy Saint!
Witch's eyes, monkey face,
Then I won't put my earrings on you,
Then I won't put my necklace on you
Since you don't want to—since you don't know how to—
Teach me to dance


#

I went on a Sunday, I went in the afternoon
With the sun that goes down behind the stands of pine—
With the white clouds sunshade of the angels—
With the butterflies that beat their wings
With an easy and gentle flutter—
Traversing dim, dappled skies,
Alien worlds that part into beams
Rich treasures of gold and diamond.


I crossed the hills, hills and valleys,
I crossed plains and moors,
I crossed the rills, I crossed the seas
With dry feet and untiring.


Nightfall caught up with me—brilliant night
With a bright moon made of jasper—
And I went down the trail with her,
With the twinkling stars to guide me
For they alone know that route.


Afterward the dawn with her semblance
Made of roses came to give me light
And I saw then through the foliage
Of elms and pines, snuggled away,
Precious white house with pigeon loft
Where the darling doves go in and out.


Sweet songs are heard within it,
Gallant lads revel inside it
With the lassies of roundabout places.
All is joy, all is leisure
While the stone that slams and slams,
Grinds and grinds, knocks and knocks,
Plays rhythms to it with lovely taste.


There is no charming place that pleases me more
Than that water mill in the chestnut forest
Where there are lassies, where there are boys
Who richly know how to spar,
Where grate until they tire
Young and old, children and grownups,
And although they don't want me to go down there,
Without anyone in the house being aware
I went to the mill of my child's godfather,
I went riding the wind, I came riding the air.
#

"The roosters sing to the dawning day.
Get up, my boon, and go away."


"How can I depart, dearie,
How can I go and leave you?


"The burning tears fall
Like glittering beads
From your lovely dark eyes
To our clasped hands.
How can I depart if I love you?
How can I go and leave you
If you send me away with the tongue
Yet with the heart draw me near?
You sheltered me fondly
In a corner of your bed,
You warmed my cold feet
With your gentle, sweet heat
And from here together we watched
Through the green foliage
How the moon tracked
Above the stands of pine.
How do you pretend that I leave you?
How can I go away from you
If you are sweeter than honey
And milder than the flowers?"


"Darling wizard, dear bewitching wizard,
Wizard who made me fall in love with you:
Go away from here, darling wizard,
Before the sun rises."


"Dearie, sleep yet a while
Amid the gentle waves of the sea.
Sleep for then you would caress me
And call out to me like a lover;
It's only with you, little girl,
That I can relax contented."


"The little birds are singing already.
Get up, my boon, it's late."


"Let them sing, Marika;
Marika, let them sing...
If you are sorry to see me go
I rave for to stay."


"You spent half the night
With me, my dearie."


"Yet while you slept
I contented myself with gazing at you
And as you slept, smiling between dreams,
I fancied that you were an angel—
And not with as much chastity
Would I have kept vigil at the feet of an angel."


"That's how I want you, my boon,
Like a saint upon the altar,
But go quickly...for the golden sun
Shows above the hilltops."


"I will, but give me a wee kiss
Before I slip away from you
For I still do not know how
Those rosy, sweet lips taste."


"I would with thousandfold love
But I must go to confession
And it would be a great shame
To own so great a sin."


"Go to confession then, Marika,
But when they marry us well married
Neither confessors nor friars
Will avail you any, little girl.
Good-bye, pretty rose face!"


"God keep you, laddie!"

#

I saw plainly the little owl perched
Atop that rocky outcrop.
I'm not afraid of you, little owl!
Little owl, I'm not afraid of you!


I

Once upon a night (night black
As the burdens I bear,
Night daughter of the dark wings
That spread feelings of fear)
On the hour when roosters sing,
On the hour when winds groan,
When witches dance, dance
Alongside the foremost devil
Uprooting green oak trees,
Tearing out roof tiles and doors—
All the witches dressed in white,
Their white hair flaring out,
Against whom the dogs howl
Foreboding sad interment—
When among the thick bushes of gorse
There can be seen gleaming
Like lighted candles
The eyes of the hungry wolf
And the masses of foliage on the hills
Murmur to each other keeping still
And the dry leaves scattered by
The unsettled airs of the night
Cluster together in whirlwinds
Of long-lasting shudder,
Going by way of the church
Alone with my thoughts,
Just past the fountain of Our Lady
Quite close to the cemetery,
After feeling a gust
That took my breath away
I saw plainly the little owl perched
Atop that rocky outcrop.


II

Goose bumps spread
All over my body
And the hairs on my crown
Gradually bristled;
Drops of sweat trickled
Steadily down my bosom
And I quivered as quivers
The water when the wind blows
Upon the bowl of the new fountain
Which is always overflowing.
That little owl abiding there
As if it were the very devil
Stared hard at me
With its scavenging eyes—
I surmised these preyed on me
From the moment I spied them afar.
To me they seemed born of fire
And I suppose that they burned me;
I suppose they were crimson firebrands
From hells' bonfire
Which entered through my pupils
And went straight to the heart.
In it was remorse
Of illicit sweet loves...
Ah, whoever has such loves
Can not find good repose!


It rained if God does store water,
It blew against all winds
And drenched to the bone
I dare not take another step
Because the little owl, staring hard,
Waits for me on that rocky outcrop,
But I remembered Our Lady
Whose keepsake I carry always with me,
I say a Hail Mary
And regaining my breath
I cross the brook swimming
Like a seabird,
I race onto the stonewall cap,
I jump down beneath the narrow gate
And from there I shout then
With all my strength:
I'm not afraid of you, little owl!
Little owl, I'm not afraid of you!


 


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