“Cinco anos en la tierra de Soria, hoy para mi sagrada – alli me case, alli perdi a mi esposa, a quien adoraba – orientaron mis ojos y mi corazon hacia lo esencial castellano. ” Antonio Machado’s love for Soria and the land of Castile is definitely one of the predominant issues in “Campos de Castilla”. However, one must look at the development of Machado’s life and how his mood is reflected in his poetry as well as how his influential friends had a bearing on his literary style and beliefs. The shift Machado made around 1904 in his poetry is an important one since it defines much of “Campos de Castilla”.
Geoffery Ribbans says that: “1904 produce una nueva tendencia a ocuparse de asuntos y objetos externos, si bien estos siguen estando estrechamente relacionados con su vida y sus emociones. ” Machado became more concerned with the relations between the creating self and the external world as opposed to his previous work which had been more self-absorbed and introspective. It is true that Unamuno did have an influence in this shift as well as with Machado’s search for God later on in his life; but it is evident in Machado’s earlier poetry that he made the change for himself.
A good starting point is “A Orillas del Duero” which contains many aspects of Machado’s poetry as well as being very striking. Firstly, the opening is very casual, similar to other poems such as “A Jose Maria Palacios” and “Retrato”. The fact that the narrator is climbing a hill is evidence of Machado’s use of “caminos” in many of his poems. The use of the first person singular “Yo” gives the poem an informal opening. The extensive description of his exhausted body as he climbs takes the focus away from the scenery he is about to describe and emphasizes his solitude since he is concentrating on himself alone.
Machado makes references to many humble characters which he associates with the Soria countryside, namely in this poem that of “jinetes, arrieros” and a self reference to “a guisa de pastoril”. This interest has much to do with the concept of “intrahistoria” in which the most significant part of a nation’s life takes place beneath the surface of historical events. Again, Unamuno explored this concept and Machado adopted it. What Machado describes next is a mountain bird treading on a series of herbs: “romero, tomillo, salvia” and “espliego”. These herbs are again a major feature of Machado’s poetry in “Campos de Castilla”.
The final line of the first stanza is striking and ominous: it makes the reader realise that in fact the poem’s opening is more pessimistic than was at first thought. For example, the speaker shows signs of fatigue in that he has to wipe his brow and then there is the sudden realisation that the “campos son agrios”. The fact that the reader feels in his place is important since we can now experience the change in viewpoint. Machado depicts a broad view, somewhat majestic by including the scattered armour of a historical warrior amongst the mountains.
He then concentrates on the minute figures in the distance, that of present-day characters and refers to them with affection: “i??Tan diminutos! “. This is all a prequel to the different mood of the second half of the poem – that of the present decadence of Castilla and Spain compared to their former greatness. Machado praises El Cid and the “conquistadores” but makes many references to the decline of Spain and her people. Complementing this bitter retrospective view is the present countryside which now appears to be derelict with: “campos sin arados, regatos ni arboledas” “decrepitas ciudades” and “caminos sin mesones”.
This use of the past, present and the future in Machado’s poetry enables him, in most cases, to look upon the past as being better times and the future as a chance for progress and optimism. This is characterised by the ending of the poem in which the “meson” is now open and Machado appears to be more upbeat on seeing the two weasels. Machado demonstrates a more hostile side to himself in a group of poems directed at rural life.
He says: “Y cuando se pasa… de los pueblos a las aldeas y a los campos donde florecen los crimenes sangrientos y brutales, sentimos que crece la hostilidad del medio… ” Por tierras de Espana” is a poem which associates such landscape with rural vice. Machado’s impression of such a landscape has an air of fantasy. Firstly, the extreme contrast of weather conditions gives the countryside a harsh environment. The men in this poem are depicted as having completely criminal minds; they appear to have simple emotions. Finally, the land itself is associated with crime and sin when it is associated with Cain. Other poems such as “Un criminal” and “Un loco” also depict a country in which sin is rife. “Campos de Soria” however, is a much longer poem which concerns the cycle of human life and the seasons.
The first section depicts the Soria countryside emerging from winter. Even in April there is still snow on the mountains, shown again by the heavily clad farmers with their long capes. The signs of spring have hardly emerged; this is what Machado is so aware of when writing “A Jose Maria Palacios” in Andalucia. The land is described as sleeping – it is still too cold to produce new life or it could be dreaming of spring. In the second section, the land is in full spring. Machado uses concise phrases “el huertecillo, el abejar, los trozos de verde oscuro… ” to describe the quaint setting for Arcadia’s dream.
The third section cleverly incorporates the change of viewpoint: at first, one can only see the travellers momentarily from behind the hills. Later, the reader is taken higher up to the mountain peaks and is given a birds’ eye view. Now the land has become flat and is only distinguishable by colour. Machado’s depiction of these travellers reminds one of another recurring theme: that of “caminos”. In this case one sees the travellers at various stages of their journey disappearing and reappearing on a winding track. The arrival of winter in section five is a return to solitude and loss.
Despite the cosy interior of the home, winter affects the family in that it isolates it from others: “La vieja mira al campo,cual si oyera pasos sobre la nieve. Nadie pasa. ” Winter has also taken the life of one of the family, the members’ absence is noticeable even within the shelter of the house by the gap around the fire. It is only the optimistic youth of the girl who thinks about the coming spring. The second half of the poem becomes more emotional and personal, characterised by the use of exclamation marks. In section seven, Soria is at the bottom of his heart.
His association is such that he addresses the “campos” saying “i??conmigo vais! ” The repetition of this phrase in the final section consolidates its significance but more importantly, Machado confesses that the “campos de Soria” have touched his soul. In fact it is difficult to imagine that they hadn’t been there in the first place. The death of Leonor in 1911 obviously had a great impact on Machado’s life and his poetry. Both “A un olmo seco” and “A Jose Maria Palacios” are poems which relate to his wife, the latter being more explicit. The elm tree is being depicted in relation to the three time elements: past, present and future.
The past is what has happened to it; the present is Machado describing it and the future is the possibility of what might happen to it. The crucial phrase in the poem is “quiero anotar en mi cartera” – an intervention by Machado which makes one revise what the poem is primarily about. One could say that the tree can be paralleled with his wife since both are dying. The green leaves which have sprouted convey Machado’s hopes and therefore showing signs of life but even this description is in the past tense. The last three lines are a more personal statement made by Machado – that spring may bring a miracle of life – thus saving Leonor.
In “A Jose Maria Palacio” the description of the Soria landscape is a composition of many previous images which gives a perfection to it. For example, “los chopos del rio” appears in “Campos de Soria”. The new leaves on the elm tree mirror those in “A un olmo seco” and the herbs are similar to those in “A Orillas del Duero” and so on. In contrast to the references to the new life of spring, Machado starkly changes the tone of the poem in the last four lines to poignantly ask his friend to lay the first flowers of spring on his wife’s grave. In both these poems, Leonor has not been implied until the end.
Machado builds up a mood and raises the poem to a point of dramatic tension before breaking the built-up atmosphere of the first part. Finally, Machado’s move to Baeza in 1913 was difficult due to his attachment to Soria and his dead wife. He appeared to feel alienated in an unfamiliar landscape and found writing difficult: “Cuando se vive en estos paramos espirituales, no se puede escribir nada suave, porque necesita uno la indignacion para no helarse tambien. ” “Noviembre 1913” is a short poem which depicts the same rural lifestyle as in Soria but with an Andalucian backdrop.
There is the same interest with rural folk and the landscape but the use of a full stop in the first line “Un ano mas. ” instead of a continuous sentence gives the reader the impression that Machado is suffering and still referring to the time he left Soria. His mood is reflected by the constant grey imagery of the “pardas sementares”, the “grises olivares” and by the oncoming storm. Even when Machado looks towards the sunny Granada mountains there are only lifeless rocks. This poem demonstrates the emptiness Machado feels in Baeza after living in such a motivating place for him as Soria.
In conclusion, “Campos de Soria” is a collection of great variety which points forward as well as back. Arthur Terry writes: “there are differences (in his poetry), but there is also continuity, the continuity of a temperament which remains clear sighted even at moments of doubt and personal crisis. ” It is this temperament which allows Machado to write some of his finest poems during periods of difficulty and transition. Antonio Machado’s knowledge of Soria allows him to depict ongoing themes in his poetry – that of the seasons, the destiny and history of Spain as well as details of the countryside itself.