nocturno

A night,
a night quite full of murmurs, of perfumes,
and the music of wings:
a night
when the fantastic glow-worms burn
in the nuptial, humid darkness,
and, along the flowery path which crosses the field, you walked,
silent and pale, pressed up against me,
as if a presentiment of infinite bitterness
was troubling the most secret depths of your heart;
and the full moon scattered her
white light
through the bluish,
infinite and profound skies;
and your shadow,
agile
and graceful,
delicate
and languid,
and my shadow, projected by the moonbeams
across the sad sands of the path,
joined and were one,
and were one,
and were one
and were one single long shadow,
and were one single long shadow,
and were one single long shadow …

Tonight,
alone; the soul
full of the infinite bitterness and agonies
of your death,
separated from you yourself by time,
by the tomb and distance,
by the black infinitude
where our voice will not carry,
dumb and alone
I walked along the path,
and the barking of dogs to the moon,
to the pallid moon,
was heard,
and the croaking of the frogs…
I felt chill. It was the chill which, in your bedroom,
was held in your cheeks, in your brows, and your beloved hands,
amongst the snowy whitenesses of your burial-sheets.
It was the chill of the sepulcher, it was the ice of death,
it was the chill of nothingness…
And my shadow,
projected by the moonbeams,
passed on alone,
passed on alone,
passed on alone through the solitary plain,
and your shadow, agile and graceful,
delicate and languid,
as on that warm night of that dead spring,
as on that night full of murmurs, perfumes,
and the music of wings,
came up to and walked with mine,
came up to and walked with mine,
came up to and walked with mine…
Oh, the embraces of shadows!
Oh, the shadows of the bodies
which join the shadows of the souls!
Oh the shadows which seek each other
in the nights of sorrows and tears!…

José Asunción Silva

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summer

You [the sun] whose course the Eternal Spirit has marked out,
you who give growth and feeling to matter,
who measure out time and mete out the day,
king of the wandering worlds who compose your court,
bright and noble image of the God who guides you:
the seasons, their gifts, our riches, are your work.

You prepared the earth to be fertile
when you clothed it with grace and beauty;
soon you mounted to the height
of the heavenly vault and hotter beams,
shed about your path, penetrated the atmosphere,
the depths of the earth and of the seas
from the equator to the pole.

They give birth to innumerable beings,
everything stirs, organizes itself, and is conscious of existence.
Are the sand and the mud filled with life?
In the woods, in the waters, on the burning mountains,
the germs of birds, fish, reptiles,
burst out all at once from their fragile prisons.
Here, the nimble fawn plays with the lamb;
there, the young steed bounds near the kid;
on the opposite edges of those light leaves,
tribes dwell which are foreign to one another;
the calyxes of the flowers, the fruits, are inhabited;
in humble clods of turf, cities spring up;
and an inanimate drop of rain-water
contains an atomy people, an invisible multitude.

As a wave disappears beneath the following wave,
a being is replaced by the being it produces.
They are born, O mighty God, when your life-giving voice
calls them in their turn on to the stage of the world.
Devoured by each other, or destroyed by time,
they have served your purpose for a few moments.

Jean François de Saint-Lambert

the ways of nature

Toward the sun’s path
Hollyhock flowers turning
In the rains of summer.

Matsuo Bashō

symphony in grey major

The sea like a vast quicksilver mirror
reflects the metal sheet of a zinc sky;
far-away flocks of birds stain
the polished background of pale grey.

The sun like a round, opaque window-pane
climbs to the zenith at a sick man’s pace;
the sea-wind rests in the shadows,
using its black trumpet for a pillow.

The waves that move their leaden bellies
seem to moan beneath the quay.
Seated on a cable, smoking his pipe,
is a sailor thinking of the beaches of a vague,
far-away, misty land.

This sea-dog is an old man. The fiery beams
of Brazilian suns have scorched his face;
the violent typhoons of the China seas have
seen him drinking his bottle of gin.

The foam that reeks of iodine and saltpetre
has known from of old his red nose,
his curly hair, and his athlete’s biceps,
his canvas cap and his drill blouse.

In the midst of the smoke-cloud that rises from his tobacco,
the old man sees the far-away misty land
for which one hot and golden evening
his brigantine set out with all sails set.

The tropical siesta. The sea-dog sleeps.
Now the scale of grey enfolds him complete.
It is as if a soft and enormous charcoal pencil
would rub out the line of the curved horizon.

The tropical siesta. The old cicada
tries out his hoarse and ancient guitar,
and the grasshopper strikes up a monotonous
solo on the single string of his violin.

Rubén Darío

rivers

With the Rhine, the Rhone, the Ebro,
my eyes are filled.
With the Tiber, the Thames,
the Volga, the Danube,
my eyes are filled.

But I know the Plata,
and I know the Amazon bathes.
But I know the Mississippi,
and I know the Magdalena bathes.
I know the Almendares,
and I know the San Lorenzo bathes.
I know the Orinoco,
I know they bathe lands of bitter slime where my voice blooms,
and languid jungles chained by bloody roots.
America, I drink from your cup,
from your tin cup,
great rivers of tears!
Oh, leave me, leave me,
leave me now
…close to the water.

Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista

the vanity oh human wishes

My child, Zeus the deep-thundering holds the ends of all
actions in his own hands, disposes as he will
of everything. We who are human have no minds,
but live, from day to day, like beasts and nothing know
of what God plans to make happen to each of us.
But hope and self-persuasion keep us all alive
in our unprofitable desires. Some watch the day
for what it brings, and some the turn of years, and none
so downcast he will not believe that time to come
will make him virtuous, rich, all his heart’s desire.
But other things begin to happen first; old age,
which no one wants, gets one before he makes his goal.
Painful diseases wear down some; others are killed in battle,
and death takes them under the dark earth.
Some, battered in the sudden hurricane on the sea,
where waves crowd big across the blue salt water, drown
and die, when all they looked for was some way to live.
Some loop (a dismal way to die) the noose around
their necks and go self-murdered from the sunlight. Thus
no evil thing is missing. In their thousands stand
bad spirits, and innumerable griefs, and pains
about our life. If men would take advice from me,
we should not long for what is really bad, nor buy
our heart’s own torment for our hard work done in vain.

Semonides

pax animae

Speak to me no more of earthly pleasures
which I do not wish to savor. My heart
is already dead, and only the ravens of death
will enter its opened chambers.

I have no traces of the past upon me,
and sometimes I am not sure of whether I exist,
since to me life is a desert
peopled with spectral figures.

I see only a planet darkened
by the mists of drizzling twilight,
and, in the silence of profound drowsiness,

My ears only discern something
strange, indistinct, mysterious,
which drags me very far from this world.

José Julián Herculano del Casal y de la Lastra