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Rosalia de Castro

Born María Rosalía Rita de Castro
February 24, 1837(1837-02-24)
Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Spain
Died July 15, 1885 (aged 48)
Padrón, Galicia, Spain
Occupation Poet
Nationality Spanish
Writing period Romanticism
Literary movement Rexurdimento
Spouse(s) Manuel Murguía

Rosalía Castro de Murguía, better known as Rosalía de Castro (Santiago de Compostela, 24 February 1837 – 15 July 1885), was a Galician romanticist writer and poet.

Writing in the Galician language, after the Séculos Escuros (Dark Centuries), she became an important figure of the Galician romantic movement, known today as the Rexurdimento ("renaissance"), along with Manuel Curros Enríquez and Eduardo Pondal. Her poetry is marked by 'saudade', an almost ineffable combination of nostalgia, longing and melancholy.

Statue of Rosalía de Castro at Padrón.

She married Manuel Murguía, member of the Galician Academy, historian, journalist and editor of Rosalía's books. The couple had seven children: Alexandra (1859-1937, unmarried), Aura (1868-1942), twins Gala (1871-1964) and Ovidio (1871-1900, without having married nor descendants), Amara (1873-1921), Adriano (1875-1876) and Valentina (stillborn, 1877). Though Aura married in 1897 and Gala in 1922, they left no children and thus today there are no living descendants of Rosalía de Castro and her husband. Her son Ovidio was a good painter, but his early death cut his career short.

The date she published her first collection of poetry in Galician, Cantares gallegos ("Galician Songs"), May 17, 1863, is commemorated every year as the Día das Letras Galegas ("Galician Literature Day"), an official holiday of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, and dedicated to an important writer in the Galician language since 1963.

Relative poverty and sadness marked her life, although she had a strong sense of commitment to the poor and to the defenseless. She was a strong opponent of abuse of authority and defender of women's rights. She suffered from cancer of the womb and died of this illness. Her contemporary was Emily Dickinson, an American, who also wrote poetry. Her image appeared on the 500 peseta Spanish banknote.


Dichotomy of response in Galician society

Rosalía de Castro is today the unquestioned Poet Laureate of Galicia (Spain). Highly educated, expected to speak and write Spanish only, she took the bold, unconventional step of writing her early poems in the Galician language. Her defiance earned her the contempt and spite of that segment of the population for whom Galician was a dialect fit only for the illiterate and the churlish; but Rosalía's gallant gesture won her the love and admiration of the rest. Schools in Galicia,[1] in Spain[2] and abroad,[3] libraries at home,[4] in Spain[5] and abroad,[6] cultural associations at home,[7] in Spain[8] and abroad,[9] prizes at home,[10] in Spain[11] and abroad,[12] parks,[13] folklore groups,[14] choirs,[15] albums,[16] compositions of her poems,[17] a Galician polka,[18] sports teams,[19] monuments at home[20] and abroad,[21] a theater,[22] restaurants,[23] a label of white wine,[24] hotels,[25], rural lodgings,[26] a money bill formerly in circulation,[27] a postage stamp,[28] a FS98 Iberia Airbus A340,[29] a sea-rescue plane,[30] and streets in Galicia,[31] in Spain[32] and abroad[33] have all taken her name.

International Reputation

Although she remains relatively unknown outside Spain, her first volume of poetry was translated into Japanese by Takekazu Asaka in 2009[34] and is available from DTP Publishing (Tokyo). In the nineteen-nineties Katsuyo Ohata wrote two articles in the journal "The Review of Inquiry and Research" of Kansai Gaidai University (Osaka, Japan) on the Galician poet: "El inconsciente creativo de Rosalía de Castro"[35] and "En las orillas del Sar: El mundo íntimo de Rosalía de Castro." In 2007 Shearsman Books published a paperback of selected poems translated by Michael Smith.[36] In 2003 Folle Avoine published a French anthology of Galician poems translated by José Carlos Gonzalez.[37] In 1991 the State University of New York Press published an English anthology edited and translated by Anna-Marie Aldaz, Barbara N. Gantt and Anne C. Bromley.[38]


Each year links to its corresponding year-in-poetry article or year-in-literature article:

In Galician

  • Cantares gallegos (1863)
  • Follas novas (1880)
  • Contos da miña terra I (1864)

In Spanish

  • La Flor (1857)
  • A mi madre (1863)
  • En las orillas del Sar (1884)
  • La hija del mar (1859)
  • Flavio (1861)
  • El cadiceño (1863)
  • Ruinas (1866)
  • Las literatas (1866)
  • El caballero de las botas azules (1867)
  • El primer loco (1881)
  • El domingo de Ramos (1881)
  • Padrón y las inundaciones (1881)

Sample of poetry from Cantares Gallegos

Adiós ríos, adios fontes (Good-bye rivers, good-bye fountains)


The poem recounts the drama of the farmer forced to leave his homestead by the crisis of 1850-1860.

Historical background

Apparently due to unusually cold winters throughout the decade of 1850-1860 and due to the prevalence of subsistence agriculture many family farms of Galicia went bankrupt.

The weather of the decade is sometimes likened to a mini Ice-Age. In January 1850 there was notable snowfall over much of Spain and by February a large number of wolves roamed the countryside. In February 1853 the Galician port cities of Ferrol and A Coruña reported heavy snowfall, a highly unusual event. February 1854 was again very cold—on the fourteenth Madrid registered a nighttime temperature of -8°C. January 1855 was again very cold and snowy over Northern Spain.

The winter of 1856-57 was especially hard,

Official reports in the official bulletin of the Spanish government La Gaceta de Madrid highlighted the frostiness of the winter. From Puigcerdá (Girona), "For more than a month the countryside has been snow-covered." From Biscay, "As a consequence of the copious snows that have fallen over our region during the past days, especially on the peaks of the Valley of Carranza, there has appeared down in the valley a strong pack of wolves that is inflicting great losses on herds of sheep and cattle." Announcements of planned wolf culls were numerous during those cold days of 1857…The snow fell over all of northern Spain from Galicia to Catalonia…On February 4 the province of Santander had spent three months without links with the interior, completely snowed in. "Noone remembers such a prolonged spell of bad weather."[39]

To compound the problem the main domestic industry also went into crisis.

From the second half of the nineteenth century onward Galicia's textile industry suffered a severe crisis brought on by the legal importation and the smuggling in of foreign fabrics, and many families endured hardship because there was no alternate source of employment. To make matters worse, the agricultural sector went into crisis between the years 1850-1860, destabilizing the rural economy. The composite crisis forced the population to look for a better life overseas.[40]

The economic downturn accelerated already-existing rates of emigration.

There is evidence of a strong current of emigration from the year 1810 to 1853 that is difficult to quantify because the Spanish government did not condone emigration officially. Consequently some authors refer to this obscure period as the period of clandestine emigration.

But from 1836 onward Spain began to grant official recognition to her newly independent colonies. Mexico was the first former colony to be recognized in 1836 and Uruguay, Chile and Argentina followed soon thereafter. As a result emigration intensified…In December of 1836 there appeared the first commercial advertisement offering transatlantic passage—aboard the [slave-ship] General Laborde—from A Coruña to Montevideo, Buenos Aires and other destinations in Mar del Plata. The offer of transatlantic crossings increased progressively. The majority of the crossings was made on sailing ships. In 1850 the brigantine Juan departed from Carril advertised as a first-class steamer. Relatively reliable data suggest that 93,040 Galicians left between the years 1836 and 1860.

The Spanish government legalized emigration in 1853, and this made the count reliable: 122,875 people left Galicia between the years 1860-1880.[41]

The proportion of people leaving was staggering. The census of 1857 gave a count of 1,776,879 inhabitants for the region.[42] Therefore, according to all these figures, over 12% of the population left Galicia during the period 1836-1880.

The drama of emigration continued well into the twentieth century, and although noted Galician writer and politician Alfonso Castelao (b. 1886, d. 1950)—himself an expatriate twice, during his childhood and after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936—chose to see in emigration both an economic imperative and the affirmation of a dauntless spirit, the reality of leaving one's homeland was unpleasant for most, whether in the nineteenth or twentieth century, as the photographs of Manuel Ferrol attest.[43]

Musical adaptation

Troubadour and songwriter Amancio Prada (b. 1949) recorded a solo adaptation of this poem in 1975, and twenty-two years later he re-recorded it accompanied by the Galicia Symphony Orchestra.[44]

Adiós ríos, adios fontes

Adiós, ríos; adios, fontes;
adios, regatos pequenos;
adios, vista dos meus ollos:
non sei cando nos veremos.

Miña terra, miña terra,
terra donde me eu criei,
hortiña que quero tanto,
figueiriñas que prantei,
prados, ríos, arboredas,
pinares que move o vento,
paxariños piadores,
casiña do meu contento,
muíño dos castañares,
noites craras de luar,
campaniñas trimbadoras,
da igrexiña do lugar,
amoriñas das silveiras
que eu lle daba ó meu amor,
camiñiños antre o millo,
¡adios, para sempre adios!

¡Adios groria! ¡Adios contento!
¡Deixo a casa onde nacín,
deixo a aldea que conozo
por un mundo que non vin!

Deixo amigos por estraños,
deixo a veiga polo mar,
deixo, en fin, canto ben quero...
¡Quen pudera non deixar!...

Mais son probe e, ¡mal pecado!,
a miña terra n'é miña,
que hastra lle dan de prestado
a beira por que camiña
ó que naceu desdichado.

Téñovos, pois, que deixar,
hortiña que tanto amei,
fogueiriña do meu lar,
arboriños que prantei,
fontiña do cabañar.

Adios, adios, que me vou,
herbiñas do camposanto,
donde meu pai se enterrou,
herbiñas que biquei tanto,
terriña que nos criou.

Adios Virxe da Asunción,
branca como un serafín;
lévovos no corazón:
Pedídelle a Dios por min,
miña Virxe da Asunción.

Xa se oien lonxe, moi lonxe,
as campanas do Pomar;
para min, ¡ai!, coitadiño,
nunca máis han de tocar.

Xa se oien lonxe, máis lonxe
Cada balada é un dolor;
voume soio, sin arrimo...
¡Miña terra, ¡adios!, ¡adios!

¡Adios tamén, queridiña!...
¡Adios por sempre quizais!...
Dígoche este adios chorando
desde a beiriña do mar.

Non me olvides, queridiña,
si morro de soidás...
tantas légoas mar adentro...
¡Miña casiña!,¡meu lar!

Good-bye rivers, good-bye fountains;
Good-bye, little rills;
Good-bye, sight of my eyes:
Don't know when we'll see us again.

Sod of mine, sod of mine,
Sod where I was raised,
Little orchard I so love,
Dear fig trees that I planted,
Meadows, streams, groves,
Stands of pine waved by the wind,
Chirping little songbirds,
Darling cottage of my joy,
Mill in the chestnut wood,
Clear nights of brilliant moonlight,
Sweet chiming bells
Of the parish church,
Blackberries in the brambles
That I used to give my love,
Little footpaths through the cornfields,
Good-bye, for ever good-bye!

Good-bye, heaven! Good-bye, happiness!
I leave the house of my birth,
I leave the hamlet that I know
For a world I haven't seen!

I leave friends for strangers,
I leave the lowland for the sea,
I leave, in short, what I well love...
Would I didn't have to go!

But I'm poor and—base sin!—
My sod is not my own
For even the shoulder of the road
Is loaned out to the wayfarer
Who was born star-crossed.

I must therefore leave you,
Little orchard I loved so,
Dear fireplace of home,
Beloved trees that I planted,
Little spring for the livestock.

Good-bye, good-bye, I'm leaving,
Hallowed blades of the churchyard
Where my father lies buried,
Sainted blades I kissed so much,
Dear land that brought us up.

Good-bye Virxe da Asunción
White as a seraph,
I carry you in my heart:
Plead with God on my behalf,
Virxe da Asunción of mine.

Afar, far away hear
The churchbells of Pomar;
For hapless me—alas—
They will never chime again.

Hear them afar, yet farther away
Every peal deals out pain,
I part alone without a friend...
Land of mine, good-bye—good-bye!

Farewell to you too, little darling...!
Farewell forever perhaps...!
I send you this farewell crying
From the precious coastline.

Don't forget me, little darling,
If I should die of loneliness...
So many leagues offshore...
My dear house! My home![45]


O Pomar (also known as O Pumar) is a hamlet in the municipality of Urdilde,[46] county of Rois, some 20 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela. It was so small that one traditional local ditty chaffs it with these words, "Although from afar the hamlet of Pumar looks like a town, it has but a carnation on the way in and a rose on the way out."[47] Another is more generous, "They say that Pumar is uncomely because its houses do not have balconies, yet it has pretty girls who steal away hearts."[47]

Virxe da Asunción. The Spanish religious icon known as the Virgin of the Assumption the patron saint of Elche (Alicante).[48]

Sample of poetry from Follas Novas

Negra Sombra (Black Shadow)


The poem reflects Rosalía's apprehension at the recurrence of sudden misfortune in her life.

Historical background

"Negra Sombra" was probably written shortly after the death of two of her babies, twenty-month-old Adrian who died from a fall in November 1876 and Valentina who was stillborn three months later.[49]

Musical adaptation

The Provincial Museum of Lugo holds the score of the musical adaptation of "Negra Sombra"; the sheet of music dates from 1890-1892. Its author was Juan Montes Capón (b. 1840, d. 1899) who composed twenty other pieces, among them another adaptation of a Rosalian poem, Doce Sono.[50]

This poem, "Negra Sombra," became one of the most emblematic Galician ballads ever when composer Xoán Montés Capón (b. 1840, d. 1899) fused it with an alalá[51] written down in Cruz do Incio (Lugo). The musical arrangement had its debut in Havana's Grand Theatre in 1892. The ballad is arguably one of the most beautiful and principal in the Galician repertoire; its lyrics so blend with the melody that it is no longer possible to conceive them apart.[52]

Classic choral renditions of "Negra Sombra" are particularly moving.[53] Other outstanding interpretations include those of Luz Casal and Carlos Nuñez,[54] of renowned fadista María do Ceo,[55] of renowned Italian singer Albano Carrisi[56] and the haunting instrumental rendition by Russian violinist Mijail Moriatov.[57]

Negra Sombra

Cando penso que te fuches,
negra sombra que me asombras,
ó pé dos meus cabezales
tornas facéndome mofa.

Cando maxino que es ida,
no mesmo sol te me amostras,
i eres a estrela que brila,
i eres o vento que zoa.

Si cantan, es ti que cantas,
si choran, es ti que choras,
i es o marmurio do río
i es a noite i es a aurora.

En todo estás e ti es todo,
pra min i en min mesma moras,
nin me abandonarás nunca,
sombra que sempre me asombras.

When I think that you departed,
Black shadow that overshades me,
To the hem of my head pillows
You return poking fun at me.

When I fancy that you've gone,
From the very sun you taunt me
And you are the star that shines
And you are the wind that moans.

If there's singing it's you who sings,
If there's weeping it's you who weeps,
And you are the river's rumour
And the night and the dawn.

Everywhere you are in every thing,
For and within me you live
Nor will you ever leave me,
Shadow that always shades me.[45]


To the hem of my head pillows... Probably refers to the laying of Valentina's dead body beside the mother after giving birth.


  1. ^ Rosalía de Castro School Association. Vigo.
  2. ^ Rosalía de Castro Public School. Majadahonda (Madrid).
  3. ^ Rosalía de Castro Center of Education. Schools number 59 and 119. Piedras Blancas (Uruguay).
  4. ^ Rosalía de Castro Library. Vilagarcía de Arousa (A Coruña).
  5. ^ Rosalía de Castro Library. Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid).
  6. ^ Rosalía de Castro Library. Centro Gallego. La Plata (Argentina).
  7. ^ Rosalía de Castro Cultural Association. Cacheiras (A Coruña).
  8. ^ Rosalía de Castro Galician Cultural Association of Cornellà. Cornellà de Llobregat (Barcelona).
  9. ^ Rosalía de Castro Cultural Centre. Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Argentina).
  10. ^ V Premio Rosalía de Castro para Experiencias Pedagóxicas. 2008-2009. Fundación Rosalía de Castro.
  11. ^ El escritor abulense Vicente Martín, Premio Rosalía de Castro de la Casa de Galicia en Córdoba. COPE Ávila.
  12. ^ Rosalía de Castro Prize. University of South Africa. Pretoria.
  13. ^ Entrance to Rosalía de Castro Park. Lugo. Panoramio.
  14. ^ Agrupación Rosalía de Castro. Centro Gallego de Madrid. Youtube.
  15. ^ Coral Rosalía de Castro de Pontevedra. Youtube.
  16. ^ Amancio Prada, 1998: "Rosas a Rosalía." Fonomusic.
  17. ^ Gary Bachlund, composer: "Dos Canciones de Rosalía de Castro."
  18. ^ Traditional polka long ago renamed "Alborada de Rosalía de Castro." Youtube.
  19. ^ Rosalía de Castro Basketball Team. Santiago de Compostela.
  20. ^ Rosalía de Castro statue. Ferrol (A Coruña).
  21. ^ Rosalía de Castro bust. Parque Independencia. Rosario (Argentina).
  22. ^ Teatro Rosalía de Castro. A Coruña.
  23. ^ Bar Restaurante Rosalia de Castro. Cornellà de Llobregat (Barcelona).
  24. ^ Vintage Rosalía de Castro 2008. Sociedad Cooperativa Arousana. Verema.
  25. ^ Hotel Rosalia de Castro. Poio (Pontevedra).
  26. ^ Hotel Gastronómico Casa Rosalia. Os Ánxeles (A Coruña).
  27. ^ Banknote with the portrait of Rosalia de Castro. Delcampe International.
  28. ^ Postage stamp with the portrait of Rosalia de Castro. Estadística Aplicada.
  29. ^ FS98 Iberia Airbus A340 Rosalía de Castro. Airliners.Net.
  30. ^ Iago del Oeste: "Es ahora cuando llega el Rosalía de Castro." La cosmovisión de un surfer. July 6, 2007.
  31. ^ Pensión Residencia Puente de los Santos. Avenida de Rosalía de Castro nº 18 bis. Ribadeo (Lugo).
  32. ^ Commemorative plaque to Rosalía de Castro. Calle Rosalía de Castro. Gijón (Asturias). Escultura Urbana.
  33. ^ Street sign in Braga (Portugal). Braguinha Blog.
  34. ^ Joel Gómez: "Chegan ao mercado xaponés 29 poemas de Rosalía de Castro." La Voz de Galicia. March 11, 2009.
  35. ^ Katsuyo Ohata, 1992: "El inconsciente creativo de Rosalía de Castro." The Review of Inquiry and Research. Kansai Gaidai University.
  36. ^ Rosalía de Castro and Michael Smith: "Rosalía de Castro: Selected Poems." Exeter, UK: Shearsman Books. 2007.
  37. ^ Rosalía de Castro and José Carlos Gonzalez: "Anthologie poétique. Edition bilingue français-galicien." Bédée, France: Folle Avoine. 2003.
  38. ^ Rosalía de Castro, Anna-Marie Aldaz, Barbara N. Gantt and Anne C. Bromley: "Poems by Rosalía de Castro." Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. 1991.
  39. ^ Sudestada: "Olas de frío, entradas frías y temporales de nieve en España 1830-1985." Contribution of July 5, 2008, 13:29:52. Meteored.
  40. ^ "La emigración española en el periódico la Voz de Galicia en el año 1913." El Rincón del Vago.
  41. ^ André Solla: "A emigración galega a América."
  42. ^ Wikipedia: "Evolución demográfica de la población de Galicia."
  43. ^ Manuel Ferrol; "Reportaje Emigración."
  44. ^ Amancio Prada and the Galicia Symphony Orchestra. Adiós ríos, adios fontes. Youtube.
  45. ^ a b "Translation from Galician to English of 11 poems by Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885)."
  46. ^ View of the surrounding countryside from Pomar. Panoramio.
  47. ^ a b Cantigas de Parroquias e Aldeas de Urdilde. Xunta de Galicia.
  48. ^ The Spanish religious icon Virgin of the Assumption. Mercabá. Web católica de formación e información.
  49. ^ Marina Mayoral: "Biografía de Rosalía de Castro." Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.
  50. ^ Benigno Lázare: "La partitura de «Negra sombra»." La Voz de Galicia. A Mariña. November 11, 2006.
  51. ^ Ondina Xana: "Alalás: The ancestral music of Galicia."
  52. ^ Casavaria: "Negra Sombra." Notes.
  53. ^ Real Coro Toxos e Froles: "Negra Sombra." Ferrol, ca. 1960. Youtube.
  54. ^ Luz Casal and Carlos Nuñez: "Negra Sombra." Youtube.
  55. ^ María do Ceo: "Negra Sombra." Youtube.
  56. ^ Albano Carrisi: "Negra Sombra." Youtube.
  57. ^ Mijail Moriatov: "Negra Sombra." Youtube.

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