Saturday, April 17, 2010

Agostina Storni: Letanías de la tierra muerta -- translation

Litany for the Dead Earth, by Alfonsina Storni

A day will come when the human race
Will have dried, as a vain plant desiccates.

And that old sun up in space will be
A carbonized torch snuffed out uselessly.

A day will come when the world around's
Lugubrious, silent and profound:

Great black shadow will surround the sphere,
And spring never come to the hemispheres;

A dead world like a blinded eye,
Forever restless sails the sky,

But fumbling in shadow and all alone
Not a song nor a cry nor a prayer intone.

Alone, with the creatures it preferred
In its breast worn out and in sleep interred.

(A mother moving on with venom pressed
from the children, dead now, in her breast.)

Not a city erect…just ruin and soot
Will shoulder the dead no longer afoot.

From way up there, black in the sky
A mountain will watch with baleful eye.

The sea, perchance a darkened block
Of ice like all else hard as rock.

And so, in hard anxieties
It will dream of ships on billowing seas,

And pass the years in hoping vain
For a single ship to plow the main.

And there where earth is all a dune,
Its beaches will dream about the moon,

And nothing from this desire will come,
For the moon’s just another mausóleum.

In vain it will want, this icy block,
To suck men under with the rocks

To hear the horrid screech of it,
As the shipwrecked beseech the infinite:

Nothing will remain; from pole to pole
The wind will sweep it all up whole:

Voluptuous Latin palaces
Miserable Beduoin refuges;

Eskimos in dark igloos,
Fine, luxurious cathedrals, too;

Black and yellow and copper skin,
White and Malay all mixed in

Will see each other beneath the earth
And ask forgiveness for so much war.

Holding hands, though underground
They’ll circle the earth as they go around.

And groaning in chorus they will sing:
¡Oh, vain and stupid suffering!

The earth was a rose garden all the time
Full of cities in their prime;

Some on the banks of rivers lay,
Others by forest lake and bay.

Between them the finest rails went
As if in hope, and confident,

Fields in flower all the while,
On plains so fresh they seemed to smile;

And instead of men who understand,
Brother against brother, knife in hand;

Women who gossip and berate,
A world that merchants populate;

Everyone against the good
Hurling mud, poisoning their food…

And now, we’re white bones in the ground
Circling in fraternal round.

And so, of the human flame bereft,
Above the ground there’s nothing left!

* * *

But who knows if some statue, mute,
Lonely stands, yet still afoot.

And thus, in deep shade, it may be the
Final refuge of the idea.

The ultimate refuge for the form
God wanted to define the norm.

And, though by subtlety oppressed,
Unknowing loveliness expressed.

A tender star perchance may see,
And sweetly question, who is she?

Who’s that brave girl stands her ground
Alone, as the dead world circles 'round?

And love her so by heaven’s instinct
Until she's fallen off her plinth.

Some nameless mercy for mankind,
And for poor earth may someday find

A passing beam an errant sun
Will come to shine, and a bright one,

Insinuating, “Tired sphere:
Dream a moment spring is here!

—Absorb my spirit, if you will
I'm the changing Universe, never still…

How beneath the earth they’ll stir
Those dead ones in its breast interred!

¡As if to reach the light divine
They'll want to fly up to its shine!

But their dead eyes will search in vain
For those red rays unseen again.

In vain! In vain! The layered stone’s
Too thick, oh, lying on those bones!...

Heaped up, defeated, now they rest,
And cannot leave their ancient nests,

And should some star espy their haunt,
There's no man left can cry: “I want!...”

Autora : Alfonsina Storni
Translated by Elwin Wirkala

There Will Come Soft Rain, by Sarah Teasdale
I post this because it's evocative of Alfonsina Storni's Litanies for the Dead Earth, and because it's evocative in itself...thanks to Simran Khurana's poetry blog, where I read it some days ago:

Here's something similar written by Sarah Teasdale.

There Will Come Soft Rain

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone

- Sarah Teasdale

See also Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" story.

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