Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Poem
by José Asunción Silva

I dreamed in those days of fashioning a poem
of nervous and novel art, daring and superior labor,

I chose between one matter, grotesque; another, tragic;
I called all rhythms with magic invocation

and the untamed rhythms came,
gathering in the shadows, running away and seeking each other,

echoing rhythms, vigor-filled rhythms, solemn rhythms,
some from the clash of weapons, others from the songs of birds,

from East to West, from South to North,
meters and forms came to royal court.

Hammering golden frames below the fragile reins
tercets crossed, like agile stallions;

breaking open a wide walkway, for among that herd,
garbed in gold and purple, the royal sonnet stepped in,

and all that sang there . . . Within the racket,
the spirit rapt me, with its flirting

one witty stanza goaded my longing
with its clear, chimed ringing,

And I picked it among the rest . . . As a wedding gift,
I gave it rich rhymes, of silver and crystal.

In it I sang a tale which, far from servile,
staged a tragic man, fantastic and subtle,

it was the sad story, disreputable and true,
of a beautiful woman, worshipped and departed,

and so my readers might feel the bitter-felt grief, I aimed
to join sweet syllables as with the taste of a kiss,

I embroidered expressions with gold, gave them eccentric music,
like mandolins accompanied by a lute,

I set a nebulous light in the deep distances
full of dampened mists and melancholies

and in the dark depths, as in a dreary festivity
agile masks cross paths, following the orchestra's compass,

wrapped in words obscure as veils,
and with black masks of satin and velvet

I joined in the background vague insinuations
of mystical sentiments and human temptations . . .

Pleased with my verse, with artist's pride,
I gave it the scent of heliotrope and the shade of amethyst . . .

I showed my poem to a marvelous critic . . .
and he read it six times and said, "I don't understand it."

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