Appetence

Got another good one from Poetry Daily. This one resonated with me for a few different reasons. First, the seniors are reading Beowulf, which – like “The First Solitude” – has the flow of a story-song, that propensity of an epic poem toward tangential back-story and allusion. Secondly, I’m reading a book about Christopher Columbus, and it occurs to me on my 5th or 6th look at this poem that it is quite possibly talking about Columbus and the conquest of the New World. Thirdly, I like to learn something new, and this poem taught me a new word. Appetence is a strong desire, natural affinity, or tendency. Personified, it is the hero-villain of this excerpt of Luis de Góngora poem, “The First Solitude,” the first stanza of which I now offer up to you:

Appetence now is pilot, not of errant
trees, but of entire, mutable forests,
and first to leave Ocean, the father of waters
—of whose vast royal domain
the Sun, who day after day
is born in his waves and in his waves finds death,
does not wish to know boundaries or extent—
with hair turned white by the spume greed leaves behind,     
though he admits no second
in professing those limits to the world.

Or, in the original Spanish:

Piloto hoy la Codicia, no de errantes
árboles, mas de selvas inconstantes,
al padre de las aguas Océano
—de cuya monarquía
el Sol, que cada día
nace en sus ondas y en sus ondas muere,
los términos saber todos no quiere—
dejó primero de su espuma cano,
sin admitir segundo
en inculcar sus límites al mundo.

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