Manuel Rivas, "Ferrol"
Translated from the Galician
by Jonathan Dunne


A Rafael Bárez

Dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Abebera o sol nas fontes,
de rego en regodela brinca a luz
e rola a montaña de infancia e herba brava.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Entre cima e ceo vai a aguia do mar,
o ronsel dunha nave irredenta:
non hai perda no inmenso.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Penso no norte, sen cazador
nin lei que protexa a morte.
Penso nas vidas que non fun e que me agardan ao norte.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Feliz, felices tempos!
Eu sei onde atopalos.
Ninguén bailará sobre as cinzas dos tempos felices.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Sen o tambor do home,
sen a lenda tecida a carón do lume,
sen o alento garimoso da tribo,
sen o deus dos pequenos que canta contra o escuro,
sen o mal, sen bondade,
dóeme o silencio da ría.



for Rafael Bárez

The estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

The sun drinks at the springs,
the light leaps from brook to stream
and childhood, wild-grass mountain rolls.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

Between peak and sky the sea-eagle goes,
the wake of an unrepentant ship:
nothing to lose in the vast expanse.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

I think of the north, no hunter
or death-protecting law.
I think of the lives I was not, waiting for me in the north.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

Happy, and happy times!
I know where to find them.
No one will dance on the ashes of happy times.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

Without man’s drum,
without legend woven next to the fire,
without the tribe’s warm breath,
without the god of little ones singing against the dark,
without evil, without goodness,
the estuary’s silence hurts me.


Manuel Rivas (Coruña, Spain, 1957) has published six collections of poetry: Carnival Book (1980), Anisia and Other Shadows (1981, with Xavier Seoane), (1985), Mohicania (1987), Ballad on the Western BeachesNo Swan (1989) and Death Coast Blues (1995). His collected poems were published under the title From Unknown to Unknown by Espiral Maior in 2003. He has also written a play, The Hero (2005), six novels and six collections of short stories, three of which have appeared in English: The Carpenter’s Pencil (2001), In the Wilderness (2006) and Vermeer’s Milkmaid & Other Stories (2008). His latest novel, Books Burn Badly, an epic of some 700 pages, is due out in English translation in 2010. His poems have appeared in Absinthe, Modern Poetry in Translation and Poetry Wales. He is a regular contributor to the Spanish daily El País. Rivas is also an active environmentalist, helping to found Greenpeace in Spain and spearheading the protests in Galicia over the oil spill and subsequent sinking of the Prestige in 2002 and the Spanish government’s handling of the catastrophe. This culminated in 100,000 protesters congregating in Santiago de Compostela’s main square with empty suitcases.

The poems in this selection are taken from a forthcoming anthology of Manuel Rivas’ poetry in English translation, also entitled From Unknown to Unknown and to be published in early 2009 by Small Stations Press (

Jonathan Dunne studied Classics at Oxford University and holds advanced diplomas in Spanish and Galician from Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela Universities. He has translated five books by Manuel Rivas: The Carpenter’s Pencil (2001), In the Wilderness (2006), Vermeer’s Milkmaid & Other Stories (2008), From Unknown to Unknown and Books Burn Badly (both forthcoming). The Carpenter’s Pencil was nominated for the 2003 International IMPAC Award, In the Wilderness for the 2004 Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize. He also translates from Spanish (Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas was nominated for the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), from Catalan and from Bulgarian. His study of word connections in the English language, The DNA of the English Language, in effect a translation of English, came out in 2007. More information can be found on the website


Anonymous said...

This is one of the most important thing.

Unknown said...

It's like a magic tour to the Country of Poetry:) I'm thankful to you for sharing this information with us. It's nice that you decided to make it available for us, your regular visitors and followers! Our writing service is a great chance to succeed!