Jose Luis Galleao/Gloria Moreno-Castillo


During the Spanish Civil War, Jose Luis Gallego worked as a journalist, his eyesight preventing him from actually fighting. So it was his pen and not his sword that served the Republican side, the left-wing coalition that had won the recent general elections. At the end of the war, after a short time in the Franco-regime prisons, he tried to reorganise the "Juventudes Socialistas" (Socialist Youths) of which he had been a member. So he was imprisoned again and sentenced to death in 1945. A year later the sentence was commuted to 30 years of which he served 17. Most, if not all, his poems were written in prison though they did not become known to a wider public until 1970 (ten years after he left prison) when Prometeo XX (Twentieth Century Prometheus) was published by El Bardo, Barcelona. If I am not mistaken the poems in this book were written after the sentence was commuted, while those written when it was still hanging over him were published just after his death by his brother-in-law, Leopoldo de Luis, in Voz Ultima (Final words, literally, Last Voice) Editorial Ayuso, Madrid (though there may well have been previous publications in small magazines of which I am not aware). The sonnet beginning "Let Fate..." ("Sea el destine...") is from this book and I have titled it "Waiting" because the poet was waiting in what might be called "death row" to know whether the sentence was to be commuted. "This Weariness of Days" ("Llegada del cansancio", literally The arrival of tiredness") was written in 1948 and not published (again, as far as I know) till 1980 in Pliegos de Cordel Vallisotetanos, (Chapbooks from Valladolid - his native town). In this poem he feels drained out, hardly daring to look back to when, as a young man during the exciting times of the Second Republic, he studied journalism and enjoyed the cultural life in Madrid. In "Arrested", from Prometeo XX, he looks back to the fateful day of his second arrest; and in "It's all different", from the same book, he refers to his situation at the actual moment of writing. Jose Luis Gallego, as the readers may see for themselves, is more a private, introspective, poet than a public or political poet, more in line with the exquisite Juan Ramon Jimenez than with the popular Pablo Neruda though he has poems dedicated to both of them.

Jose Luis Gallego/Gloria Moreno-Castillo

Sea el destine en mil, aunque yo no lo quiera;
aun cuando me rebels contra sus decisiones,
igual que se rebela la ola marinera
contra el duro cantil a prueba de erosiones.

Quedara mi temura, acufiada en recuerdo
y en verso valioso como aurea medalla!
No ha de perderse, al menos, Si es que yo me pierdo
en esto que aun soy: a medias fruto y baya.

...Mi temura hacia Ellas: el Amor que me ha amado
mas que me amase nadie en el bosque del Mundo,
donde a veces he estado como un nino aterido.

.... Y mi temura hacia ese mismo Mundo - hechizado
por mil magias de un mago transparente y profundo -,
donde no existe cosa que no tenga sentido.

(Translated by Gloria Moreno-Castillo) February 1946 Cell 108

Let fate come as it will - against my will,
While I rebel and resist the sentence decreed
Like waves rebel and break against crags,
Hard, unyielding stones that will not flinch.

What will stay on is love, minted in memory,
And in these priceless lines like golden coins.
May end - barely halfway from bud to bloom.
More than I've ever received in the wood of Life
Where I've so often felt lost - a frost-stricken boy.

My love for Life itself (I feel bewitched
By thousand spells of a shrewd and wild Merlin)
Life - where nothing is that has no meaning.