Help me remember a Spanish quotation about water and rivers and life
May 2, 2011 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Find a quote by a 16th or 17th century Spanish writer that metaphorically compares life with water flowing from rivers to the sea.

In a Spanish class a couple years ago, I read a short story by Horacio Quiroga entitled "A la deriva" ("Drifting"). It's about a man in the South American jungle who is bit by a poisonous snake and gets on a canoe, drifting down the Parana, hoping that he will find medical help downriver. (It's rather good, by the way, as is almost anything by Quiroga.) My professor introduced the story with an epigrammatic quotation from an early Spanish writer, which compared the unceasing flow of the world's water from the rivers to the sea with the human journey through life.

I unfortunately cannot remember the name of the writer or any particular words of the quotation, so it's not very Google-able. It's not Cervantes. It's rather poetic. We were told that the quote is rather well-known (but the extent of literary fame can be hard to judge when you're dealing with other literary traditions). Any ideas?
posted by lewedswiver to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Probably way off - not an early writer as you requested - and not epigrammatic. But Lorca's "Baladilla de los tres rios" came to mind.

El río Guadalquivir
va entre naranjos y olivos,
Los dos ríos de Granada
bajan de la nieve al trigo.
¡Ay, amor
que se fue y no vino!
El río Guadalquivir
tiene las barbas granates.
Los dos ríos de Granada,
uno llanto y otro sangre.
¡Ay, amor
que se fue por el aire!
Para los barcos de vela
Sevilla tiene un camino;
por el agua de Granada
sólo reman los suspiros.
¡Ay, amor
que se fue y no vino!
Guadalquivir, alta torre
y viento en los naranjales,
Dauro y Genil, torrecillas
muertas sobre los estanques.
¡Ay, amor
que se fue por el aire!
¡Quién dirá que el agua lleva
un fuego fátuo de gritos!
¡Ay, amor
que se fue y no vino!
Llevo azahar, lleva olivas,
Andalucía, a tus mares,
¡Ay, amor
que se fue por el aire!
posted by jph at 11:54 AM on May 2, 2011

Response by poster: It's not Lorca, but that poem makes me desperately want to go to Andalucia!
posted by lewedswiver at 11:56 AM on May 2, 2011

Best answer: Was it Jorge Manrique, Coplas por la muerte de su padre?

Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
qu´es el morir.
Allí van los señoríos
derechos a se acabar
e consumir.

posted by yarly at 12:07 PM on May 2, 2011

Best answer: The trope of life being like a river that wends inexorably to the sea (vita flumen) is a pretty common, and harks back to Heroclites. Here's an example that's earlier than your time frame, but I'll throw it out there anyhow:

Jorge Manrique, from Coplas de la muerte de su padre

Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir;
allí van los señoríos
derechos a se acabar
y consumir;
allí los ríos caudales,
allí los otros medianos
y más chicos,
y llegados, son iguales
los que viven por sus manos
y los ricos.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 12:17 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, it's Manrique!! Thanks :)
posted by lewedswiver at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2011

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