Antonio Machado was a Sevillian poet born in 1875 who left a great legacy within Spanish Modernism. He was part of the so-called Generation of ’98, and was chosen as a member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

Among his published books, some of them stand out, such as “Solitudes” (1907), “Fields of Castile” (1912) and “The War” (1937). In this article we propose you the 20 best poems by Antonio Machado (and their meaning).

The 20 best poems by Antonio Machado (and their meaning)

Therefore, we present some of Machado’s most outstanding poems , and briefly explain their meaning or interpretation.

1. To a dry elm

To the old elm, cleft by lightning

and in its rotten half,

with the April rains and May sunshine

some green leaves have come out.

The ancient elm on the hill

to lick the Duero! A yellowish moss

stains the whitish bark

to the dusty, gnawed-out trunk.

It shall not be, as the singing poplars

who guard the road and the shore,

inhabited by nightingale browns.

Army of ants in a row

is climbing through it, and in its bowels

their gray webs are spider-woven.

Before I strike you down, elm of the Duero,

with his axe the woodcutter, and the carpenter

turn you into a bell’s hair,

cart or cart yoke spear;

before red at home, tomorrow,

burn in some miserable hut,

at the side of a road;

before I take a whirlwind from you

and cut off the breath of the white saws;

before the river to the sea pushes you

through valleys and ravines,

elm, I want to write down in my wallet

the grace of your greenish branch.

My heart awaits

also, towards the light and towards life,

another miracle of spring.

  • Poem written in 1912, date in which Machado suffered the death of his wife Leonor . The poem has a very marked cadence; at first it has a very pessimistic tone, which gradually leads to a more hopeful one. There is a clear parallelism between the poem and Machado’s vital moment. In this poem Machado uses many adjectives, many negatives, marking the pessimistic character of the initial verses.

2. Last night when I was sleeping

Last night when I was sleeping

I dreamed, blessed illusion!

that a fountain was flowing

inside my heart.

Say: why hidden ditch,

water, you come to me,

spring of new life

where I never drank?

Last night when I was sleeping

I dreamed, blessed illusion!

that a beehive had

inside my heart;

and the golden bees

were making in it,

with the old bitterness,

white wax and sweet honey.

Last night when I was sleeping

I dreamed, blessed illusion!

that a burning sun was shining

inside my heart.

It was hot because it gave

heats of home red,

and it was sunny because it gave light

and because it made you cry.

Last night when I was sleeping

I dreamed, blessed illusion!

that it was God who had

inside my heart

  • The poem speaks of a dream, more specifically, of a yearning to which one aspires and which ends up not being . Three main elements can be considered: heart, source and beehive, which provide life, food and energy.

3. Portrait

My childhood are memories of a courtyard in Seville

and a light garden where the lemon tree ripens;

my youth, twenty years in the land of Castile;

my history, some cases I don’t want to remember.


but my verse springs from a serene spring;

and, more than a common man who knows his doctrine,

I am, in the good sense of the word, well.

I love beauty, and in modern aesthetics

I cut the old roses from Ronsard’s garden;

but I don’t love current cosmetic shaving

and I’m not one of those new gay-trina birds.

I disdain the romances of the hollow tenors

and the chorus of crickets singing to the moon.

To distinguish between voices and echoes,

and I hear only one among the voices.

Am I classic or romantic? I don’t know. I’d like to leave

my verse as the captain leaves his sword:

famous for the virile hand that wielded it,

not by the learned craft of the precious forger.

I talk to the man who always goes with me

-who speaks only hopes to speak to God one day;

my soliloquy is talk with this good friend

who taught me the secret of philanthropy.

And after all, I owe you nothing; you owe me what I have written.

To my work I go, with my money I pay

the suit that covers me and the mansion I inhabit,

the bread that feeds me and the bed where I lie.

And when the day of the last journey arrives

and be to leave the ship that shall never return,

you will find me on board lightweight luggage,

almost naked, like the children of the sea.

  • This poem speaks of Machado’s past; childhood and youth, from a nostalgic tone . Elements of love, of death, and also of self-consciousness appear.

4. Prelude

As the shadow passes from a holy love, today I want

put a sweet psalm on my old lectern.

I will agree on the notes of the stern organ

by the fragrant sigh of the April fife.

The autumn pomegranate aroma will mature;

myrrh and frankincense shall chant their scent;

the rosebushes will exhale their fresh scent,

under the peaceful shade of the warm blossoming garden.

To the low slow chord of music and aroma,

the only old and noble reason for my prayer

will take off in a gentle pigeon flight,

and the white word will rise to the altar.

  • In this poem, the author speaks, with a very subtle language, of the illusion of a new love that Machado is present, will arrive and to which he wants to be prepared.

5. The arrow

Said a popular voice:

“Who lends me a ladder

to climb the tree

to remove the nails

to Jesus the Nazarene?”

Oh, the arrow, the singing

to the Christ of the Gypsies

always with blood on your hands

always for unlocking.

Song of the Andalusian people

that every spring

he’s asking for stairs

to get on the cross.

Song of the land of mine

that throws flowers

the Jesus of the agony

and it is the faith of my elders

Oh, you’re not my singing

I can’t sing, nor do I want to

this Jesus of the wood

but the one who walked on the sea!

  • This is a religious poem, more specifically, a criticism of the Andalusian religion . The poet does not identify with the Jesus Christ who represents God, as a static and immobile symbol, but rather with a Jesus Christ who works and develops actions.

6. I dreamt that you took me

I dreamt that you took me

by a white sidewalk,

in the middle of the green field,

towards the blue of the mountains,

towards the blue mountains,

a serene morning.

I felt your hand in mine,

your partner hand,

  • A clearly romantic poem, in which Machado addresses a love . The high use of adjectives is appreciated, with emphasis on colors (blue mountains, green field), to give more nuance to the description.
  • 7. Winter sun

    It’s noon. A park.

    Winter. White paths;

    symmetrical mounds

    and skeletal branches.

    Under the greenhouse,

    potted orange trees,

    and in its barrel, painted

    in green, the palm tree.

    An old man says,

    for your old coat:

    “The sun, this beauty

    of sunshine!…” The children play.

    Water from the source

    slip, run and dream

    licking, almost mute,

    the verdant stone.

    • Very descriptive poem, in which a park is staged with all its elements ; trees, landscape tones, water from the fountain, etc.

    8. When it’s my life…

    When it’s my life,

    all clear and light

    like a good river

    that runs happily

    to the sea,

    to the sea ignores


    full of sunshine and song.

    And when it sprouts in me

    heart the spring

    it will be you, my life,


    of my new poem.

    A song of peace and love

    to the rhythm of blood

    that runs through the veins.

    A song of love and peace.

    Just sweet things and words.


    meanwhile, keep the golden key

    of my verses

    among your jewels.

    Put it away and wait.

    • Romantic poem in which poetry is enhanced in itself ; Machado talks about keeping the key to his verses, among the jewels, giving them an undeniably high value.

    9. Tips

    This love that wants to be

    will soon be;

    but when is he coming back

    what just happened?

    Today is far from yesterday.

    Yesterday is Neverland!

    Coin in hand

    maybe it should be saved:

    the coin of the soul

    is lost if it doesn’t happen.

    • Poem that talks about a love relationship that seems to be about to pass and the will to immortalize it afterwards . He has feelings of frustration and a little bit of grief.

    10. Spring was passing…

    Spring was kissing

    gently the grove,

    and the new green sprouted

    like a green smoke.

    The clouds were passing by

    about the youth camp…

    I saw in the leaves shaking

    the fresh rains of April.

    Under that flowery almond tree,

    all loaded with flower

    -I remembered-, I have cursed

    my loveless youth.

    Today in the middle of life,

    I stopped to meditate…

    Youth never lived,

    who would dream of you again!

    • Another highly descriptive poem, following a little bit the line of the previous ones . It talks about elements of nature; clouds, fresh leaves, flowers, trees, etc.

    11. Field

    The afternoon is dying

    like a humble home that goes out.

    There, on the mountains,

    there are some embers left.

    And that broken tree on the white road

    makes you cry for pity.

    Two branches on the injured trunk, and one

    withered black leaf on every branch!

    Do you cry? …Among the golden poplars,

    far away, the shadow of love awaits you. (

    on the old shore,

    and you will find a pure morning

    tied your boat to another shore.

    • Poem that talks about the future , about becoming hopeful.

    13. To the desert square

    To the desert square

    drives a maze of alleys.

    On one side, the old shadow wall

    of a ruined church;

    on the other hand, the whitish wall

    of a cypress and palm garden,

    and, in front of me, the house,

    and in the house the fence

    before the slightly fogging glass

    his placid, smiling figurine.

    I’ll step aside. I don’t want to

    knock on your window… Spring

    comes –your white dress

    floats in the air of the dead place–;

    comes to light the roses

    red from your rosebushes… I want to see her…

    • Poem in which Machado describes a square that probably belongs to his hometown . He describes the square as deserted, a little dry. Finally the description takes us to the house where his girlfriend supposedly lives.

    14. Love and the Saw

    I was riding through the sour mountain,

    one afternoon, among ashen rocks.

    The leaden ball of the storm

    from mountain to mountain bouncing could be heard.

    Suddenly, in the brightness of the lightning,

    reared up, under a tall pine tree,

    at the edge of the rock, his horse.

    It turned the road upside down.

    And he had seen the cloud torn,

    and, inside, the sharp crest

    from another, softer, raised saw

    -stone lightning seemed.

    And did you see the face of God? He saw the face of his beloved.

    He shouted: “Die in this cold mountain!

    • Romantic poem in which a man (knight, on his horse) goes looking for his beloved in the mountains.

    15. Walking No Way

    Walker, it’s your footprints

    the way and nothing else;

    Walker, no path,

    it makes its way as you walk.

    As you walk, you make a path,

    and looking back

    you see the path that never

    has to be stepped on again.

    Walking No Way

    but wakes in the sea.

    • Well-known poem by Machado; it speaks of the path one takes in life . He approaches life as a blank canvas, and one has to weave it as one lives, leaving the past behind. It was set to music by Joan Manuel Serrat.

    16. Autumn Dawn

    A long road

    among craggy greys,

    and some humble meadow

    where they graze black bulls. Blackberries, weeds, pitchers.

    Is the soil wet

    by dew drops,

    and the golden avenue,

    towards the bend in the river.

    Behind the mountains of violet

    broken the first dawn:

    the back of the shotgun,

    among his sharp greyhounds, walking a hunter.

    • In this poem we can see a contrast between nature and man (hunter) that appears in it.

    17. Garden

    Away from your garden burns the afternoon

    gold incense in glittering flames,

    behind the copper and ash forest.

    There are dahlias in your garden.

    Malhaya your garden!… Today I think

    the work of a hairdresser,

    with that poor little dwarf palm,

    and that picture of cut-out myrtles…

    and the little orange tree in its barrel… The water

    from the stone fountain

    he doesn’t stop laughing about the white shell.

    • This is another poem by Machado in which the cabbages abound

      In vain yesterday will beget a tomorrow

      Empty and by chance, a passing one.

      It will be a young owl and tarambana,

      a bolero sayon,

      realistic French fashion

      a little bit to the use of pagan Paris

      and Spanish style specialist

      in the vice at hand.

      That inferior Spain that prays and yawns,

      old and dull, sordid and sad;

      that inferior Spain that prays and charges,

      when he deigns to use his head,

      you will still have a male birth

      lovers of sacred traditions

      and in sacred ways and forms;

      apostolic beards will flourish,

      and other bald spots on other skulls

      will shine, venerable and Catholic.

      The vain yesterday will beget a tomorrow

      empty and, perchance! passenger,

      the shadow of a Tarambana owl,

      of a bolero sayon;

      yesterday’s vacuum will give a fleeting tomorrow.

      Like the nausea of a drunken glutton

      of bad wine, a red sun crown

      of cloudy stools the granite peaks;

      there is a morning stomach written

      in the pragmatic and sweet afternoon.

      But another Spain is born,

      the Spain of the chisel and the mace,

      with that eternal youthfulness that is made

      of the race’s massive past.

      A relentless and redemptive Spain,

      Spain at dawn

      with an axe in the avenging hand,

      Spain of rage and of the idea.

      • Poem that talks about the future of Spain from Machado’s point of view . A rather pessimistic future, with a society that is not very hardworking and has few ambitions.

      19. Horizon

      On a clear and wide evening like boredom,

      when his spear wields the torrid summer,

      copied the ghost of a serious dream of mine

      a thousand shadows in theory, upright on the plain.

      The glory of the sunset was a purple mirror,

      was a crystal of flames, which to the infinite old

      was throwing the serious dreaming on the plain…

      And I felt the sound spur of my passage

      to have a far-reaching effect on the bloody sunset,

      and beyond that, the joyful song of pure dawn.

      • The theme of the poem the inevitable passage of time . There are moments when the pause comes, the calm. But finally everything continues, the course of things does not stop.

      20. Bad dreams

      There is the shadow square;

      dies the day.

      The bells are ringing far away.

      Of balconies and windows

      the stained glass windows are illuminated,

      with deathly reflexes,

      like whitish bones

      and blurry skulls.

      All afternoon shines

      a nightmare light.

      There’s the sunset.

      My step echoes.

      Is that you? I was expecting you…

      Aren’t you the one I was looking for?

      • Very visual poem in which it talks about a stage and specific moments, emphasizing the different shades of light (square, dark, the windows are illuminated…) It is more of a romantic poem, since at the end it addresses someone in particular and tells him/her that it was waiting for him/her, with rhetorical questions.