Poems from ‘The Still Beloved’

(‘La Amada Inmóvil’)

by Amado Nervo (1870-1919)
translated from the Spanish by Alan Steinle

The poems below are selections from the book La Amada Inmóvil: Versos a Una Muerta (The Still Beloved: Verses to a Dead Woman). This Spanish book was written by the Mexican author Amado Nervo and published posthumously in 1922. Nervo wrote the poems after the death of his wife of ten years.

“A new sorrow, the most formidable of my life, has dictated [these poems],” said Amado Nervo in the preface to The Still Beloved, concerning the death of his wife.

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay “Compensation,” “The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or a style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character.”



Sleight of Hand

Your disappearance was so quick,
that still it doesn’t want to click.
My shock’s so great, my thoughts demand
that it was only sleight of hand,
illusion, or a parlor trick.

Perhaps I daydream of your death,
and very soon I’ll see you here.
You’ll say, “I still have life and breath!
I haven’t died. Wake up and clear
your tearful eyes, and kiss me, dear!”



Who Knows Why!

I lost your presence, dear.
I’ll find it, never fear,
for secret science tells
your holy presence dwells
upon a higher plane,
which someday I’ll attain.

While I was on my way,
you just appeared one day.
The only lover who
I never sought, but you
brought me your noble gift
into my tent to lift
my spirits to the sky.
__Who knows why!

Chimeras were my aim,
which I could not attain.
But then I found you here,
my sweet, beloved dear.
I found you at my side,
my fine and holy bride.
__Who knows why!

You came and loved me, dear,
for ten amazing years.
You filled my life with light.
Your faith lit up the night.
You cooed to me, my love,
just like a gentle dove.
__Who knows why!

And then, one day, you left.
I’m gloomy and bereft,
but secret science tells
your holy presence dwells
upon a higher plane,
which someday I’ll attain.



Blessings for France

I bless you, France, for giving love to me!
In your enchanting Paris, I soon found
a coat for warmth, a light by which to see,
for my ideals, a rich and fertile ground,
a woman, too, quite unexpectedly!

For that sweet woman, France is recognized
with gratitude for all that I received.
My dear gave only good, and how I prized
the tenderness and closeness we achieved!
The light we shared was clear and undisguised!

What demiurge removed her from my life
and filled my world with sudden grief and pain?
Now only France can heal me of my strife.
On your maternal lap, I can complain,
and in your shelter, I can mourn my wife.
I’ll rest beneath the trees that fill your land,
and maybe take some honey from your hand!


Original Spanish:


Con tu desaparición
es tal mi estupefacción,
mi pasmo, que a veces creo
que ha sido un escamoteo,
una burla, una ilusión.

Que tal vez sueño despierto
que muy pronto te veré,
y que me dirás: «No es cierto,
vida mía, no me he muerto;
ya no llores… bésame!».


¡Quién sabe por qué!

Perdí tu presencia,
pero la hallaré,
pues oculta ciencia
dice a mi conciencia
que en otra existencia
te recobraré.

Tú fuiste en mi senda
la única prenda
que nunca busqué;
llegaste a mi tienda
con tu noble ofrenda,
¡quién sabe por qué!

¡Ay! por cuánta y cuánta
quimera he anhelado
que jamás logré…
y en cambio, a ti, santa,
dulce bien amado,
te encontré a mi lado,
¡quién sabe por qué!

Viniste, me amaste;
diez años llenaste
mi vida de fe,
de luz y de aroma;
en mi alma arrullaste
como una paloma,
¡quién sabe por qué!

…Y un día te fuiste,
¡ay triste! ¡ay triste!
…pero te hallaré;
pues oculta ciencia
dice a mi conciencia
que en otra existencia
te recobraré.


Bendición a Francia

¡Bendita seas, Francia, porque me diste amor!
En tu París inmenso y cordial, encontré
para mi cuerpo abrigo, para mi alma fulgor,
para mis ideales el ambiente mejor
…¡y además una dulce francesa que adoré!

Por esa mujer noble, tuyo es, Francia querida,
mi reconocimiento; pues que, merced a ella,
tuve todos los bienes: el gusto por la vida,
la intimidad celeste, la ternura escondida,
¡y la luz de la lámpara y la luz de la estrella!

Yo no sé qué demiurgo la sustrajo a mi anhelo
tras una amputación repentina y cruel,
y ya tú sola, Francia, puedes darme consuelo:
con un refugio amigo para llorar mi duelo,
tu maternal regazo para verter mi hiel,
la sombra de algún árbol en tu florido suelo…
¡y acaso, en tus colmenas, una gota de miel!



Alan Steinle, originally from Oklahoma, is a writer, editor, and translator.

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22 Responses

  1. Joshua C. Frank

    These are good; a good choice of poems, and they look as if they had originally been written in English, which is what a translation is supposed to do.

    One thing, though: having done some translations from French poetry, I’m surprised you decided not to keep the rhyme scheme or the meter. (My rule of thumb is to make sure the original and the translation could be sung to the same melody.) I’m curious about the reason behind this decision.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Thanks, that makes sense.

        I’ve seen the same debate among haiku writers: 5-7-5 as in Japanese, or 3-5-3 because 17 Japanese syllables would be equivalent to 11 English syllables? I’ve written both kinds of haiku (and had them accepted for publication) because I think both are valid, just as sonnets in English have used both the Italian Petrarchan rhyme scheme and the Shakespearean adaptation into English.

    • Monika Cooper

      Speaking of short, haiku-like forms, there are also lunes, “American haiku,” with a 5-3-5 syllable pattern. Joseph Massey is a modern master of the form. His book Breath Work is such a refreshment.

      Now I’m discovering another short form (and maybe I didn’t invent this, but I’m discovering it): the ten-syllable poem which is basically a line of iambic pentameter broken (however you want to break it) into three lines.

      At some point, a ten-syllable poem could be incorporated into a longer iambic pentameter poem, as one of its lines. Which reminds me of the idea of a haiku as the “beginning verse” of a longer poem.

    • Alan Steinle


      The meter in Spanish is usually syllabic, as in French. I used accentual-syllabic meter (specifically, iambic meter) in each of the poems. As I have come to realize, I can avoid filler words if I have fewer syllables per line than in the original Spanish because English words generally have fewer syllables than Spanish words.

      Regarding the rhyme, one poem (“Full of Grace”) that I translated from the same book by Nervo had only two rhyme sounds (“ia” and “ar”) in 25 lines (5 stanzas). This would have been impossible to copy in English poetry. Usually, I can include rhyme groups of up to 3 or 4 words in translations. Any more words than that, and other things have to be compromised, including the meaning and/or the tone.


    Really excellent work Alan and so good of you to introduce me (us) to the work of Amado Nervo. You have captured the intense sadness of the poet’s loss of his wife and it is the sense of loss that will ring in every reader´s heart and soul.
    Amado had a short life and what a pity his work was published after his death.
    Please continue to discover such poets for all of us to read.

    • Alan Steinle

      Thank you, Donald. I have translated about 15 of the 98 poems from this book of Nervo’s. He approaches love and grief from many different angles. For example, one refrain from one of the poems is “You’re not the Ghost, but rather I’m the ghost!” Widely read, Nervo included many quotations in his book (from Spanish, French, Latin, and English). However, the quotation from Emerson above is one that I had remembered and included, not Nervo.

      • Monika Cooper

        “You’re not the Ghost, but rather I’m the ghost!”


  3. Paul Freeman

    Although I’m not a Spanish speaker, I enjoyed your translated poems, Alan.

  4. Monika Cooper

    I love “Blessings for France.” I have heard of broken hearts finding the “honey of peace in old poems.” The speaker in your translation finds the same in an old city.

    I went back and looked at some of your other translations. “To Rome, Buried in its Ruins” is another so beautiful old city poem. It has an Ozymandias, Heraclitean melancholy, with joy as its coin’s other side. There’s just metaphysical consolation in reflecting on the passingness of things.

    And “Three Things” is such fun, so other-timey, but so relatable. I’m partial to eggplants and cheese myself but I call it, perhaps in error that may even be culpable from now on, eggplant Parmesan.

    All three are going in my scrapbook. Beautiful, beautiful work.

    • Alan Steinle

      Thank you, Monika. In “Blessings for France,” Nervo rhymes “miel” (“honey”) with “hiel” (“bile, bitterness”) and “cruel” (“cruel”). Nervo also rhymes “miel” and “hiel” in one of his most famous poems (“En paz”/”At Peace”), which is about his making peace with his life and his own approaching death. I’m glad you enjoyed my Spanish translations. I found Nervo in an anthology of Spanish literature.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Very nicely done, Alan. These are all quite lively pieces despite the death of the poet’s lady.

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    It is a privilege to read these beautiful translations… so smoothly done. I have just started learning Spanish, but can fully appreciate the amount of work involved in bringing these to an English-speaking readership. Thank you, Alan!

    • Alan Steinle

      Have fun learning Spanish. For a native English speaker, the many verb forms can be daunting, but with motivation they can be learned.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    These were all wonderful poems, Alan, and, strangely, they evoked moods not unlike those evoked in Fitzgerald’s translations of Omar Khayyam.

    • Alan Steinle

      I am not familiar with Omar Khayyam’s work, but I once translated a 20th century Persian poem/song with the help of a literal translation and friends from Iran.

  8. Rafa Moras


    This is masterful and beautiful. It brings back moving memories of visiting Amado Nervo’s home (now a museum) in Tepic, Mexico, his birthplace.

    One of the favorite poems in the Spanish language is Amado Nervo’s ‘En Paz’; it never fails to bring tears to my eyes every time I successfully read it out loud. I would be very eager about reading an English rendition of that sublime piece, especially if penned by you.



    Rafael Moras, Sr.
    Member of the Soc. of Classical Poets

    • Alan Steinle

      Hello, Rafa. It is good to hear from someone with connections to, and interest in, Amado Nervo. Actually, I have translated “En paz” and I just sent it in an email to your university email address. I hope my translation lives up to your expectations, although, of course, it will not equal the original, especially since the original is in your mother tongue.


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