Wavering, barely discernible, language awakens. She seems never able to find her bearing in the human space that is taking hold of the creature who wakes slowly, or at once. When her awakening is sudden, space strikes at man as if it had been waiting to overwhelm him, to make him know he is only a human being and nothing more.

Meanwhile, the flow of time, always delayed, kindly takes to the creature who wakes wrapped in his own time. This time he treasures and will not surrender, lodged in it as he is with confidence. And language awakens amid this vital confidence that nests in the human heart and without which man would never speak. One could even say that this vital confidence and the source of language become mingled, or link up into a union that allows the human lot to improve.

Language is of a tame disposition. This she manifests in her awakening. Wavering, she murmurs, she babbles in broken, barely audible words. She is like a foolish bird who does not know where she ought to go, as much as she tries to rise in her feeble flight.

This nascent, wavering language comes to be replaced with words arrayed by the conscious intellect that articulates them. As if the intellect, too, were taking hold, challenging the space that relentlessly pushes into sight, confronting the day that calls for an immediate action, a single doing comprised of a whole series of deeds. Words loaded with purpose.

And so the first language retreats, returns to her silent, hidden meandering, leaving behind the imperceptible trace of her own opacity. She is not lost. As babble, as the murmuring of the indelible confidence, she will cross the range of words dictated by purpose, releasing them one by one from their chains. And during this brief dawning, one feels how language slowly grows in silence. In the soft glow of being reborn, language, at last, disentangles herself, all the while leaving her seed intact. The seed that in the pale dawning of freedom always made itself known a moment before reality broke in.

And reality remained such, nourished by freedom and propped up by language, being spoken and taking shape. For language and freedom come before reality, foreign and intrusive as it is to the creature who has not finished waking into being human.

translated from the Spanish by Motýlí Voko

El despertar de la palabra

Indecisa, apenas articulada, se despierta la palabra. No parece que vaya a orientarse nunca en el espacio humano, que va tomando posesión del ser que despierta lenta o instantáneamente. Pues que si el despertar se da en un instante, el espacio le acomete como si ahí le hubiere estado aguardando para definirle, para hacerle saber que es un ser humano sin más. Mientras el fluir temporal, en retraso siempre, se queda apegado al ser que despierta envuelto en su tiempo, en un tiempo suyo que guarda todavía sin entregarlo, el tiempo en el que ha estado depositado confiadamente. Y la palabra se despierta a su vez entre esta confianza radical que anida en el corazón del hombre y sin la cual no hablaría nunca. Y aún se diría que la confianza radical y la raíz de le palabra se confundan o se den en una unión que permite que la condición humana se alce.

Es de dócil condición la palabra, lo muestra en su despertar cuando indecisa comienza a brotar como un susurro en palabras sueltas, en balbuceos, apenas audibles, como un ave ignorante, que no sabe dónde ha de ir, mas que se dispone a levantar su débil vuelo.

Viene a ser sustituida esta palabra naciente, indecisa, por la palabra que la inteligencia despierta profiere como una orden, como si tomara posesión ella también, ante el espacio, que implacablemente se presenta y ante el día, que propone acción inmediata que cumplir, una en la que entra toda la serie de acciones. Palabras cargadas de intención. Y la palabra primera se recoge, vuelve a su silencioso y escondido vagar, dejando la imperceptible huella de su diafanidad. Mas no se pierde. Como un balbuceo, como un susurrar de la inextinguible confianza atravesará las series de las palabras dictadadas por la intención, soltándolas por instantes de sus cadenas. Y en esta breve aurora se siente el germinar lento de la palabra en silencio. En el débil resplandor de la resurrección la palabra al fin se desprende dejando su germen intacto, que en el débil clarear de la libertad se anunciaba un instante antes de que la realidad irrumpiese. Y quedaba así luego la realidad sostenida por la libertad y con la palabra en vías de decirse, de tomar cuerpo. La palabra y la libertad anteceden a la realidad extraña, irruptora ante el ser no acabado de despertar en lo humano.

About the piece: Composed in exile, in between journeys from a village under the French Alps to Rome and back, Clearings in the Wood (Claros del bosque, 1977) is the most mature work of the Spanish poet/philosopher María Zambrano.

Clearings in the Wood stands out among those of my thoughts that spilled into print, for it comes out of the writing’s own irrepressible surge that resulted in notebooks and pages no one is aware of, not even I, reluctant as I am to reread myself.

I believe this book most resonates with the “idea” that “thinking is above all—as a source and as an action—the making sense of what is being felt,” understanding by experience the “inborn feeling (el sentir originario),” a term I have been using for years.


Jan Vihan is a contributing writer for In The Fray.

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