Nowadays I assume a "palma de luz" is a lamp post, as I have seen images in newspapers showing cars that have crashed into them, with the headline "choca a una palma de luz" or similar.

But I have encountered this phrase in a Ruben Dario poem (Reencarnaciones) and I doubt that this was what he meant. It was written around 1890 or so and dealt, obviously, with reincarnation.

Yo fui coral primero,
Después hermosa piedra,
Después fui de los bosques verde y colgante hiedra;
Después yo fui manzana,
Lirio de la campiña,
Labio de niña,
Una alondra cantando en la mañana;
Y ahora soy un alma
Que canta como canta una palma
De luz de Dios al viento.

Also, he speaks of "labio de niña" which I have interpreted as a type of flower which appears very much like human lips (called "Hooker's Lips" in places).

  • I found a nice translation: dariopoetry.blogspot.com - see if this resolves things for you. Apr 11 '18 at 19:13
  • Thank you for the link. It happened to be the same translation that I was already reading, though. I have this feeling that it is wrong...or better, that it might be improved. Apr 11 '18 at 20:55
  • About your flower idea -- I don't think so. I googled psychotria elata Labio de niña and didn't find that as a common name used in Spanish. I did find labio de mujer instead, which fits better culturally, actually, especially when you consider when the poem was written. If you write a separate question about your flower idea I will post this as an answer. Example source: tengasepresente.blogspot.com/2014/01/… Apr 12 '18 at 14:38
  • 1
    Thank you for your reply. It is a bit disconcerting that I cannot confirm my idea for this. Not entirely giving up. The look of the flower and the context all fit, but I still do need confirmation, which as you note is lacking. Apr 12 '18 at 20:03
  • Well, for a proper, full-fledged answer, it is better to post a separate question. // I do think it's important to take the date of publication into account. The sexualization of small girls postdates the poem by a long shot, I believe. To me, the imagine of the girl's lips in the poem make me think of the innocent girl in the overture scene of the film version of The Magic Flute. // Another advantage of posting a second question is that this would hopefully attract more attention to the second question. Apr 13 '18 at 3:48

Judging by the examples I've found I daresay that a "palma de luz" is a fire flame. See the following texts:

La miró, la miró con ojos desesperados y avarientos. Era como una copa de nácar, en quien nadie hubiese aún puesto los labios. Tenía esa hermosura de la aurora, que arroba y ennoblece. Una palma de luz era.

José Martí, "Lucía Jerez", 1885 (Cuba).

This text is poetic but it mentions the "aurora", defined by the DLE as a "pinkish light that precedes the sunrise", just before comparing a girl with a "palma de luz". But see the next text:

Un incidente llamó la atención de toda la sala, clavados ya los ojos en la escena. Del lado de ésta, y detrás de un bastidor, asomó una breve palma de luz, una lengua rojiza que salía de un mechero, como si el gas hubiese hecho estallar el tubo y se inflamara en reducidísima explosión.

La Ilustración ibérica (Barcelona. 1883). 23/6/1888, página 6.

The examples are taken from texts from the same period as your example. I suppose the meaning of "palma de luz" as a light cast by a lighter ("mechero") or a similar device was the origin of its nowadays use as a lamp post. Note also in your poem that just before saying that he is a "palma de luz" he says that he is a soul, so he is no more in the Regnum Vegetabile, and a soul is traditionally considered as something bright, with its own light (though it is notable that the author still uses an expression such as "palma de luz", as "palma" refer to a kind of tree).

  • Are you saying that the poet may have ben using "palma de luz" in two senses at the same time? I got that sense from the end of your answer but if so, I wonder if you could make that explicit. Apr 12 '18 at 14:33
  • Yes, I like this very much. He has rid himself of the "Regnum Vegetabile" and is now reaching to the higher worlds of light. Apr 12 '18 at 19:49
  • @aparente001 no, not really. I think it means that he just transcended to a higher level and is now a soul, a bright being.
    – Charlie
    Apr 12 '18 at 19:54
  • So it's not also meaning to some extent "palm tree" as well? I thought so from the second to last line. But poetry isn't my strong suit. Apr 13 '18 at 3:46
  • @aparente001 I'm sorry, you're absolutely right. I'll change my answer.
    – Charlie
    Apr 13 '18 at 5:45

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