Monday, October 29, 2018

The Black Heralds (Los Heraldos Negros), by Cesar Vallejo

I am fascinated with the process of translating poetry from Spanish to English, or vice versa.  It is a challenge, which ultimately is what draws me in.  To simply change the words of a poem from Spanish to English is easy, but to capture the soul of the poem, that is difficult.  It is the job of the translator to not just translate the words, but to find the power of the original poem and to implant it in the new version.  The translator must choose new words that convey the old meaning.  That is my goal--I'm not saying I'm good at it--but I enjoy the attempt.  Following is my translation of "Los Heraldos Negros" by Cesar Vallejo (published in 1918).  The original poem follows a rhyming scheme, which I did not attempt to replicate in English.  I am not that skilled.

The Black Heralds
By Cesar Vallejo
Published in 1918
English translation by Kevin Wasden

There come blows in life, so formidable . . . I do not know!
Blows, as if hated by God; as if standing before them,
the surge of all that is suffered
pools within our being . . . I do not know!

They are few; but they are . . . They open dark ditches
on the fiercest of faces and the strongest of backs.
They are, perhaps, the colts of savage Atilas;
or the black heralds dispatched by Death.

They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul
from some revered faith that Destiny blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the searing crackle
of the bread that burns us in the oven door.

And the man . . . Poor . . . poor! He turns his eyes, like
when we are greeted with a slap on the shoulder;
he turns his raving eyes, and all he has experienced
forms a pool, a puddle of guilt, in his glare.

There come blows in life, so formidable . . . I do not know!

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