María José Prieto
The harsh Castilian landscapes always accompanied Antonio Machado. The poet discovered in Soria a pure nature, accompanied by the fruitful flow of the Duero River and the gray beauty of the cliffs. The book Campos de Castilla, published in 1912, explores the charm of simple things, creating some of the most moving verses in universal poetry. In this small capital, he met Leonor, the love of his life and, in her memory, treasured his stay in Castile as the happiest time of his lifetime. On 22 February 1939, the poet died exiled in Collioure, France. This year marks the 80th anniversary of his death.
The poet found in Soria the essential. The harshness of a rough landscape of immense depth. Antonio Machado arrived in the Castilian capital to take up the French Chair of the old Institute on 28 October 1907. His first impression is of the now defunct San Francisco station, an ancient structure in a Spain of sparse roads.
In the rugged city, he first settled into a guest house in the old Collado, where he lived with other tenants: a professor, a doctor and a public works draughtsman. The professor adapted well to the duties of a small provincial town, a quiet stronghold where there were hardly any problems and time passed by between classes, gatherings, cafés and leisurely walks of quiet meditation.
Two months after his arrival, he moves into another family guest house, that of Doña Isabel Cuevas, in the old Plaza de Teatinos. The illusion bursts head-on into the poet’s face. The owner’s daughter, Leonor Izquierdo Cuevas, awakening Machado’s attraction.
They start their relationship in secret. In 1909, the 34-year-old and fourteen-year-old Leonor make their feelings public to her parents’ shock. But it is not only the parents who disapprove of the affair, but many are also appalled by their obvious age difference. The professor is a disheveled, introvert, who looks older than he is. Leonor is a brittle, delicate girl, dazzled by the poet’s image and work. On July 30, 1909, barely a month after Leonor fifteenth’s birthday, they marry in the church of La Mayor in Soria.
Machado found in the Castilian canvas the freshness of pure nature. A haven of peace and quiet scenery. Birds, flowers, elms and ashen cliffs join the poet in his walks. His afternoons, spent between San Polo and San Saturio, delving into the fertile banks of the Duero, weave an intense admiration for his wife’s land. This is how the verses in Campos de Soria arise: “The farmlands, like patches of brown stencils, the little orchard, the beehive, the pieces of dark green in which the merino grazes, among leaden rocks, sow the joyful dream of infantile Arcadia.”
The professor delves into the rugged terrains, travels to the source of the Duero, the Pico de Urbión and from there to the Laguna Negra. From this experience, the romance “La Tierra de Alvargonzález” is born. The profound impact of his stay in Soria will accompany him throughout his life.
A space of pure air
In 1911, Antonio applies for a scholarship in France, and the excited couple travels to Paris. In the mornings, the poet fulfills his academic duties, while they spend their afternoons strolling around Paris, discovering a city full of light. Suddenly, the young woman contracts tuberculosis. The doctor advises Leonor to find a place of pure air, a place to rest. Soria returns to their lives.
In the spring of 1912, Machado rentes a small house on the road to El Mirón, from where he undertakes light walks with his wife, now reclining in a wheelchair. Her tired and sickly appearance heralds the worst endings. She dies on August 1st. And there she lies, in the small Soria cemetery, a few meters from the dry elm. Inconsolable, accompanied only by the sadness and heartbreak caused by the loss of the loved one, he leaves the Castilian capital for Baeza.
The professor returned to Soria to receive the title of the adoptive son with which the City Council paid tribute to him in 1932. Machado humbly takes up the nomination: ” Soria owes me nothing, I think, and if it owed me anything it would be very little in proportion to what I owe it: for here I have learned to feel Castile, which is the closest way of feeling Spain. The adopted son of your city adopted Soria as an ideal homeland many years ago.”
The poet’s eyes on the panoramic view of the Parador
Toda la ciudad evoca la pasión por Machado. La esencia del poeta se respira en cada rincón, en el carácter moderado y frugal de sus calles y gentes. En el Parador de Soria también. Desde lo alto del Parque del Castillo, donde se ubica, sus amplios ventanales dejan entrar el paisaje soriano, que no deja indiferente a ningún visitante.
The whole city evokes a fascination with Machado. You can breathe the essence of the poet in every corner, in the modest and frugal nature of its streets and people. In the Parador de Soria too. From the top of the Castle Park, where it stands, its large windows invite in the Soria landscape, leaving no visitor unmoved. The panoramic view of the city is unique, asking you to contemplate it peacefully from your rooms or sitting at the restaurant table. There, Carlos Aldea’s cooking team lovingly prepares traditional Soria dishes such as beans, migas, roast lamb or garlic soups combined with the most groundbreaking dishes such as boned and pressed suckling pig or lamb ribs.