Entre chien et loup

We hate mysteriousness that suggests more than what it really covers. This is why we, in a quite uncouth way, explain that the title literally says “between dog and wolf”, and in a figurative meaning it refers to that moment of early morning twilight when

minus abnuerit noctem desisse viator,
Quam coepisse diem.

when the traveler already knows that the night is over
but he is not sure whether the new day is breaking.

We have translated into Hungarian these two verses of Silius Italicus in the early 90's, when we already knew more or less that the night was over. That the new day is not breaking, that we would have to get through twenty and probably even much more years between wolf and dog, that we did not yet know. But these two verses, the horror of this no-man's-moment has since then accompanied us in thought.

* * *

Arabo-Andaluzian poetry has an unforgettable image that was fixed in our memory long before Emilio García Gómez dedicated a study to it. These verses say the dawn separates lovers in that very moment when the jewels of the beloved woman suddenly turn cold. The cruel cold of the dawn marks the moment when one has to begin a new life, or – more humbly – a new day. There is something paradoxical in this expression. The dawn, the birth of the new day is marked with the signs of the cold and of the death. This metaphor has been applied on various political transitions from a long dictatorship into democracy. Or into who knows what.

* * *

It is the same word, “alba”, with its vocales so open, its deep internal whiteness and its ephemeral life, with its renewed objects, misty outlines and silver horizon that evocates a sudden cold. Spanish literature is born in this very word. The albadas with the impression of broken dreams and, in the same times, of conquest. From the jarchas and zéjeles, cantigas, villancicos, estribillos, full of cold springs, deers, shirts hung out on the air, hasty or broken embraces, to the agonizing “adónde te escondiste, amado, y me dejaste con gemido” (where have you hidden, my beloved, leaving me with crying”) of the Cántico espiritual of Saint John of the Cross, or to the inclusion of so many popular expressions in the best theatre of Lope de Vega: “Si os partiéredes al alba, / quedito, pasito, amor. / No espantéis al ruiseñor” (If you leave in the dawn / my little, my sweethart, my beloved / do not wake up the nightingale). A world of dawns, sometimes happy, sometimes broken. Full of hurry, of loss, and in some – very few – cases, of hopes.

This line of tradition is followed by that “unofficial hymn” of the still predemocrática, and therefore deeply uncertain Spain which was created with the Al alba of Luis Eduardo Aute.

This night, speaking among friends coming from opposite fines terrae about those experiences and those years, the political symbologies of the Spanish Transición and the East-European “change of regime” were subtly superposed on each other.

Poem and music by Luis Eduardo Aute

I told you my love that I
fear the coming of the dawn.
I don’t know what kind of stars
are these roaring so wild, and why
the blade of the moon is so bloody.

I feel that the night is followed
by another, much longer night, and I
want to keep you tight, very tight
my love, in the dawn
in the dawn, in the dawn,
in the dawn, in the dawn,
in the dawn, in the dawn,
in the dawn, in the dawn.

Our never born children are hiding
in the cloacas, they will devore
the last flowers, as if they knew
that the new day is nearing with hunger.

I feel, that the night... (etc.)

Thousands of silent vultures
open wide their wings, but you,
my love, don’t bother with this
soundless dance, with the damned
dance of the dead, the dust of the

I feel, that the night... (stb.)
Letra y música de Luis Eduardo Aute

Si te dijera, amor mío,
que temo a la madrugada...
No sé qué estrellas son estas
que rugen como amenazas,
ni sé qué sangra la luna
al filo de su guadaña.

Presiento que tras la noche
vendrá otra noche más larga,
quiero tenerte muy cerca,
amor mío, al alba.
Al alba, al alba,
al alba, al alba,
al alba, al alba,
al alba, al alba.

Los hijos que no tuvimos
se esconden en las cloacas...
Comen las últimas flores.
Parece que adivinaran
que el día que se avecina
viene con hambre atrasada.

Presiento que tras la noche... (etc)

Miles de buitres callados
van extendiendo sus alas...
No te destroce, amor mío,
esta silenciosa danza,
¡Maldito baile de muertos,
pólvora de la mañana...!

Presiento que tras la noche... (etc)

* * *

How much more strong-minded and optimistic is the poem of the Iranian Mehdi Akhavan Sales, how much more it is as we would have liked to see ourselves. Even with the lack of skill of the music (2005) and clip of Soheil Nafissi. “Strange, such a hard poem with such a soft melody”, Kata says. Yes. But it is just like listening to Okudzhava with his four chords. And as the beautiful Persian girl appears, on the one hand it is like a camouflage, as if this was a love poem, and on the other hand her face, her flaming red rusari, her black hair falling from under the rusari, all her behavior is a mutiny. And this small mutiny is enough for that public to understand the big one, like it was for us some thirty or forty years before.

Poem by Mehdi Akhavan Sales
Music by Soheil Nafissi

Of a mutiny against darkness speaks the dawn.
The night is gone and with daybreak speaks the dawn.
The sheep of darkness left the shepherd's constellation,
Of the mutinous and the departed speaks the dawn.

Rust slyly ate away at the shield of the night,
Of drawn blades speaks the­ dawn.
Of the scorching of the grayish grove of daybreak
Speaks the torch-holding dawn.

Of stars and mysteries and coquetry of the night,
Of the heard and the seen speaks the dawn.
Of the many falling stars in darkness,
Of shrouds torn by shooting stars speaks the dawn.

What was that loss of color and how come
The dawn speaks of pale visages?

The songstress of the choir of hope,
Of a mutiny against darkness speaks the dawn.
شهاب‌ها و شب‌ها
شعر مهدی اخوان ثالث
موسیقی سهیل نفیسی

از ظلمت رمیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
شب رفت و با سپیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
از اختر شبان رمه شب رمید و رفت
از رفته و رمیده خبر می‌دهد سحر

زنگار خورد جوشن شب را به نوشخند
از تیغ آبدیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
باز از حریق بیشه خاکسترین فلق
آتش به جان خریده خبر می‌دهد سحر

از غمز و ناز و انجم و از رمز و راز شب
از دیده و شنیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
بس شد شهید پرده شبها شهاب‌ها
وان پرده‌ها دریده خبر می‌دهد سحر

آه آن پریده رنگ چه بود و چه شد کزو
رنگش ز رخ پریده خبر می‌دهد سحر
چاووش‌خوان قافله روشنان امید
از ظلمت رمیده خبر می‌دهد سحر

P.S. Later we have translated this poem by Sales with some more detailed comments as well. You can read it here.