back toJacket2

César Vallejo: Two poems

translated by Clayton Eshleman

César Abraham Vallejo (1892–1938) is one of Peru’s most important twentieth-century poets.

‘The Book Of Nature’ and ‘Let the Millionaire Walk Naked’ are translations of poems by César Vallejo to be published as part of The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo by University of California Press in the Northern Fall of 2006.

The Book Of Nature

   Professor of sobbing — I said to a tree —
staff of quicksilver, rumorous
linden, at the bank of the Marne, a good student
is reading in your deck of cards, in your dead foliage,
between the evident water and the false sun,
his three of hearts, his queen of diamonds.

   Rector of the chapters of heaven,
of the ardent fly, of the manual calm there is in asses;
rector of deep ignorance, a bad student
is  reading in your deck of cards, in your dead foliage,
the hunger for reason that maddens him
and the thirst for dementia that drives him mad.

   Technician of shouts, conscious tree, strong,
fluvial, double, solar, double, fanatic,
connoisseur of the cardinal roses, totally
embedded, until drawing blood, in stingers, a student
is reading in your deck of cards, in your dead foliage,
his precocious, telluric, volcanic, king of spades.

   Oh professor, from having been so ignorant!
oh rector, from trembling so much in the air!
oh technician, from so much bending over!
Oh linden, oh murmurous staff by the Marne!

                                            21 October 1937

Let the millionaire walk naked

   Let the millionaire walk naked, stark naked!
Disgrace for whoever builds his death bed with treasures!
A world for whoever greets;
an armchair for whoever sows in the sky;
sobbing for whoever finishes what he makes, keeping the beginnings;
let the spur-wearer walk;
no duration for the wall on which another wall is not growing;
give to the wretched all his wretchedness,
bread, to whoever laughs;
let the triumphs lose, the doctors die;
put milk in blood;
add a candle to the sun,
eight hundred to twenty;
let eternity pass under the bridges!
Scorn whoever gets dressed,
crown feet with hands, fit them in their size;
let my personality sit next to me!
To weep having fit in that womb,
blessed is he who observes air in the air,
many years of nail for the hammer stroke;
strip the naked,
make the cape put on pants,
let copper gleam at the expense of its plates,
majesty for whoever falls from the clay into the universe,
let the mouths weep, the looks moan,
prevent steel from enduring,
thread for the portable horizons,
twelve cities for the stone path,
a sphere for whoever plays with his shadow;
a day made of one hour for the husband and wife;
a mother for the plow in praise of soil,
seal liquids with two seals,
let the mouthful call roll,
let the quail be,
let the race of the poplar and the tree be;
let the sea, contrary to the circle, defeat his son
and weeping, gray hair;
leave the asps alone, gentle sirs,
furrow your flame with seven logs,
raise the height,
lower the deepage deeper,
let the wave accompany its momentum walking,
the crypt’s truce succeed!
May we die;
wash your skeleton daily;
pay no attention to me,
a lame bird for the despot and his soul;
a dreadful stain, for whoever goes it alone;
sparrows for the astronomer, for the sparrow an aviator!
Give off rain, give off sun,
keep an eye on Jupiter, on the thief of your gold idols,
copy your writing in three notebooks,
learn from the married when they speak, and
from the solitary, when they’re silent;
give the sweethearts something to eat,
the devil in your hands something to drink,
fight for justice with your nape,
make yourselves equal,
let the oak be fulfilled,
the leopard between two oaks be fulfilled,
let us be,
let us be here,
feel how water navigates the oceans,
take nourishment,
let the error be conceived, since I’m weeping,
accept it, while goats and their young climb the crags;
make God break the habit of being a man,
grow up...!
They’re calling me. I’ll be back.

                                                       19 November 1937

October 2005  |  Jacket 28  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |
about Jacket | style guide | bookstores | literary links | 400+ book reviews |