Friday, December 25, 2015

César Vallejo: Trilce XVI (with English Translation)

     Tengo fe en ser fuerte.
Dame, aire manco, dame ir
galoneándome de ceros a la izquierda.
Y tú, sueño, dame tu diamante implacable,
tu tiempo de deshora.

      Tengo fe en ser fuerte.
Por allí avanza cóncava mujer,
cantidad incolora, cuya
gracia se cierra donde me abro.

      Al aire, fray pasado. Cangrejos, zote!
Avístase la verde bandera presidencial,
arriando las seis banderas restantes,
todas las colgaduras de la vuelta.

      Tengo fe en qué soy,
y en que he sido menos.

      Ea! Buen primero!

César Vallejo

Trilce XVI

I hold fast to faith
in being strong.

Give me, one-armed air--
give it me to go on, braiding
myself alive from zeros to the left.

And you, dear sleep and dream,
give me your unyielding diamond,
your time undivided into hours.

I hold fast to faith
in being strong.

Yonder strides ahead
hollow woman, colorless quantity,
whose gracefulness closes in on itself
where mine opens out.

Forward--to the air, Brother Yesterday! Crabs, dummy!
Behold the fresh green and presiding banner of the banquet,
lowering the rest of the hebdomad--
all the hangings of the return trip.

I hold fast to faith
in what I am and in which
I have been less than now.

Ay—a good start and splendid
first cipher!


E. A. Costa 25 December, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua 
N.B.: César Vallejo is notoriously difficult to translate and 
thorough-going literalness will leave most readers at sea. In this
translation into English one has added a few key items, unstated
but iimplicit in the original, the most of important of which
is "banquet", which is a banquet of picnickers before the hanged.
Some years ago in correspondence with the estimable Peruvian
poet Roger Santiváñez one pointed out the obvious reference
of Vallejo to both François Villon and Arthur Rimbaud in
the use of "manco".  This "manco" is the key to the Old World
of the poem, but it also gives another key to the New World,
here specifically the past of Peru. A critical discussion
quickly becomes complex and layered, and too lengthy to be
adequately sunmarized in a note.  Those who thoroughly
know the great Vallejo surely will get at least part of the drift,
and those who don't, from the hints of the English translation
may be encouraged to follow it through not only into the 
Spanish original, but into a new universe, East and West, 
North and South, of poesis.  

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