to be

A fathomless abyss is human pain!
Whose eye has ever pierced to its black depths?
To the shadowy gulf of times that are no more
incline your ear… Within there falls
the eternal tear! To the defenceless mouths
that in another age life such as ours
inspired, curious draw nigh…. A groan
arises trembling from the whitened bones!

Life is pain. And life persists,
obscure, but life for all that, even in the tomb.
Matter disintegrates and is dispersed;
the eternal spirit, the underlying essence
suffers without pause. It were in vain
to wield the suicidal steel.
Suicide is unavailing. The form is changed,
the indestructible being endures.

In thee, Pain, we live and have our being!
The supreme yearning of all existing things
is to be lost in nothingness, annulled,
deep in dreamless sleep… And life continues
beyond the frozen confines of the tomb.

There is no death. In vain you clamour for death,
souls destitute of hope. And the implacable
purveyor of suffering creatures ravishes
us to another world. There is no pause.
We crave a single instant of respite
and a voice in the darkness urges: ,,On!”

Yes, life is an evil
and an evil that never ends. The creating God
is the creature of another terrible God
whose name is pain. And the immortal
Saturn is insatiate. And space,
the nursery of suns, the infinite,
are the mighty prison, issueless,
of souls that suffer and that cannot die.

Oh implacable Saturn, make an end at last,
devour created things and then,
since we are immortal, ruminate our lives!
We are thine, Pain, thine for evermore!

but pity for the beings that are not yet,
save in thy mind that hunger stimulates. . .
Pity, oh God, have pity on nothingness!
At last be sated, that the eternal womb,
begetter of the seed of humankind,
turn barren and that life come to an end. . .
And let the world like a dead planet whirl
amid the waveless oceans of the void!

Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera

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when the day comes

I want to die when day is fading,
on the high seas and with my face to the sky;
where the agony may seem like a dream
and the soul a mew on soaring wing.

At the last, to hear no other voice,
alone already with the sky and sea,
no other voice, no other sobbing knell,
than the mighty heaving of the deep..

To die when the melancholy light
withdraws its golden nets from the green waves,
and be as yonder slowly expiring sun,
a thing of exceeding brightness, perishing.

To die, and young; before the pleasant crown
is brought to nothing by perfidious time;
while life is still saying ,,I’m yours’’,
although we know well that she is betraying us.

Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera

rondel

Love, happiness and content
are birds of passage that
travel the blue of the firmament in a floating line,
breathe out a lament to the air,
and disperse in swift flight.

What are the thousands upon thousands
of generations that shine and sink at sunset,
that are born and succumb in millions?
Birds of passage.

Oh unhappy souls, it is useless
to bind yourself to the world with roots.
Powerful and mysterious impulses
carry us among shadows, aimlessly;
for we are, alas, but eternal wanderers.
Birds of passage.

Manuel González Prada

the poet and the king

One day, a solitary man
was brought before the King.
From the dazzling throne
the Monarch looked down upon him
and wanted to know
what elements made up the life
of this strange being…

Indulgent and patriarchal,
the King began with a gentle question:
Do you have a name?
,,No, Sire.”
A homeland, by any chance?
,,The whole world is where I live.”
Why does such bitterness
blossom in your voice?
Are you a free man or a slave?
,,I am free, yes, but, sad to say,
Sire, I am a poet!”

Rubén Darío

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

symphony in grey major

The sea like some giant crystal of quicksilver
reflects the metal plate of a sky of rolled zinc.
Far away there are flocks of birds forming a stain
on a polished background of a pale shade of gray.

The sun, a piece of glass, both rounded and opaque,
walks toward its zenith with a sick person’s steps.
The breezes from the sea take a rest in the shade,
using as a pillow what their black trumpets play.

The waves, moving their bellies made of lead,
seem to be moaning under the great wharf.
Sitting on a cable and puffing on his pipe,
there is a mariner, thinking about beaches
in some distant country, lost on a foggy day.

That sea-wolf is ancient. The burning rays of light
from the Brazilian sun toasted him to a crisp.
The harshest typhoons on the South China Sea
found him drinking his gin in a protected bay.

Iodine and nitrate fecundate the sea-spray
that has known his red nose for a very long time,
and his curly hair, too, and his athlete’s biceps,
his hat made of canvas, his shirt ripped in a fray.

In the midst of the smoke from clouds of tobacco
the old man can discern the country lost in fog,
where on one afternoon that was golden and warm,
the brigantine weighed anchor and then sailed away.

Tropical siesta. The sea-wolf is sleeping.
The gamut of the gray enshrouds everything now.
It seems like some gentle and huge stump of paper
for shading the lines that frame the curved sky today.

Tropical siesta, and the old cicada
practices its guitar so hoarse and so senile.
The cricket tries out a monotonous solo
on the one-stringed violin it knows how to play.

Rubén Darío

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