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


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


The Patient

Doctor, a despair for life,
which is rooted and born in my innermost spirit,
the mal-de-siècle…the same illness of Werther,
Rolla, Manfred, and Leopardi.
Weariness with everything, an absolute
contempt for everything human…an incessant
abhorrence of the vileness of existence
worthy of my master Schopenhauer,
a profound malaise which grows greater
with all the tortures of analysis…

The Doctor

—It’s a question of regimen; go
for a walk first thing in the morning; get plenty of sleep;
go swimming; have a lot to drink; eat well; look after yourself;
what’s wrong with you is that you are hungry!…

José Asunción Silva


You who listen to the heart of night,
you who in persistent insomnia have heard
the closing of a door, the rumble of a far-away carriage,
a vague echo, a slight noise. …

At the moments of mysterious silence,
when the forgotten rise from their bonds,
at the hour of the dead, at the hour of rest,
you will know how to read these verses, impregnated with bitterness! …

I pour into them as into a cup my griefs
for far-away memories and sinister disasters,
and the sad yearnings of my soul, drunk with flowers,
and the sorrow of my heart, tired of merrymaking.

And repentance for not being what I might have been,
the loss of the kingdom which was meant for me,
and the thought that at one moment I might have avoided being born,
and the dream that my life has been ever since I was born!

All this comes in the midst of the deep silence
in which the night wraps the illusion of earth,
and I seem to hear an echo from the world’s heart
that pierces and moves my own.

Rubén Darío

the verb in the infinite

To be created, to beget oneself, to transform
love into flesh and flesh into love; to be born,
to breathe, and cry, and doze.
To nourish oneself to be able to cry

To be able to nourish oneself. And, one day,
to wake up to see the light, the world and hear
and begin to love and then smile and
then smile to be able to cry.

And grow, and know, and be, and have,
and lose, and suffer, and dread
to be and love, and feel oneself cursed

And forget everything when seeing a new love
and live that love until one dies
and go to conjugate the verb in the infinite…

Marcus Vinicius da Cruz e Mello Moraes


And for a moment I saw eternity.
I saw the fragile perennial, the flower that is born
and that the wind blows but never destroys.
I saw the mystery, the bright fruit
which the sun lightly touched
and made ripe forever
and caught imperishably.
She was pure and thought herself sensible to evil.
She was innocent and thought she had malice and deceit in her.
In her smile was charm itself.
In her body was held the secret
of those beings death cannot touch.

Augusto Frederico Schmidt

look at the landscape: immensity below…

Look at the landscape: immensity below,
and immensity, immensity above;
in the distant perspective the tall mountain,
sapped at the foot by a terrifying gorge.

Gigantic blocks that the earthquake
has uprooted from the living rock,
and in that brooding and forbidding savannah
not a path or a track.

Desolate and burning air,
studded with calm eagles,
like nails slowly driven home.

A tremendous silence, darkness, and fear,
which only the triumphal gallop of the deer
comes to interrupt, and hardly does so.

Manuel José Othón