American in Spain

After so much everything for nothing

May 6, 2010

On today's walk I went down a street I don't normally use and found a bronze plaque I had never noticed. On it was a poem by José Hierro, one of Spain's twentieth century poets. He was born in Madrid, but then moved to Cantabria, the region where I live, when he was two years old. I don't know about Hierro's philosophy, but this particular poem is quite nihilistic. It's also just the length and has just the right amount of wordplay that I like in poems. What do you think? Vida


Después de todo, todo ha sido nada, a pesar de que un dí­a lo fue todo. Después de nada, o después de todo supe que todo no era más que nada.

Grito "¡Todo!", y el eco dice "¡Nada!". Grito "¡Nada!", y el eco dice "¡Todo!". Ahora sé que la nada lo era todo, y todo era ceniza de la nada.

No queda nada de lo que fue nada. (Era ilusión lo que creí­a todo y que, en definitiva, era la nada.)

Qué más da que la nada fuera nada si más nada será, después de todo, después de tanto todo para nada.


After everything, everything has been nothing, despite that one day it was everything. After nothing, or after everything I knew that everything was no more than nothing.

I shout, "Everything!", and the echo says, "Nothing!" I shout, "Nothing!", and the echo says, "Everything!" Now I know that the nothing was everything and everything was the ash of the nothing.

Nothing is left of what nothing was. (It was illusion that created everything and that, in short, was the nothing.)

Who cares if the nothing was nothing if it will be more nothing, after everything, after so much everything for nothing.