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Cite this page: Matt Cohen and Rachel Price. Introduction to Walt Whitman, Poemas, by Álvaro Armando Vasseur. 2006. The Walt Whitman Archive. Gen. ed. Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price. Accessed 26 February 2018. <http://www.whitmanarchive.org>.
1918 (Santiago, Chile) – 2005 (Walnut Creek, California, U.S.A.)
As Americanist scholarship increasingly incorporates work on literatures of the Americas, publishers are re-editing or translating for the first time important Latin American authors long-neglected by U.S. readers and scholars. Joint consideration of the Americas, North and South, has elucidated connections and divergences between the two continents' literatures. Less common has been scholarly attention to the criticism of English-language literatures by scholars based in Latin America and writing in other languages, principally Spanish. Yet surveys of scholarship on Walt Whitman produced outside the United States have long identified Latin American critics as among the more astute readers of the Good Gray Poet.1
This digital edition of Álvaro Armando Vasseur's 1912 selection and translation of Leaves of Grass seeks to make widely available not a book of criticism about Whitman but a nonetheless extremely influential text for Latin American readers—the first substantial collection of Whitman poems in Spanish. Scholars have identified Vasseur's translation as instrumental in accelerating Latin American poetry's shedding of its "modernista" tendencies (modernismo was less like Anglo-American modernism than something approximating French symbolism) in favor of franker, less precious, and often more explicitly socially and politically engaged verse.2
Access to this seminal Spanish-language volume of selections from Leaves of Grass will aid in understanding Whitman's reception and influence in the Spanish-speaking world. "Every society brings to literature its own form of expression, and the history of the nations can be told with greater truth by the stages of literature than by chronicles and decades," wrote the Cuban poet, journalist, and revolutionary José Martí in his 1887 homage to Whitman. Martí's was the first known piece published in Spanish on the North American poet, written after Martí had heard Whitman deliver his lecture on Abraham Lincoln in New York.3 Martí thus argued to his Latin American readers that insight into nineteenth-century U.S. culture was to be gleaned from reading Whitman. We hope that this digital edition of Vasseur's translation may similarly provide insight not only into Whitman's treatment in Latin American and Spanish letters, but also into an important moment in Latin American and Spanish literary history.
I. WALT WHITMAN IN LATIN AMERICA AND SPAIN
Whitman remained all but untranslated into Spanish until Vasseur's 1912 edition, even though his work had long been known to Spanish-language critics who encountered it in the U.S. (as was the case for Martí) or in translation into other European languages (as was the case for the Guatemalan writer Enrique Goméz Carillo, who read Whitman in French and wrote about him in 1895). In attempting to convey Whitman's import for U.S. literature and culture, Martí had rhetorically queried his readers, "[b]ut what can give you an idea of his vast and fiercely burning love?"4 A translation might clearly have accomplished this. Yet, despite his own vocation as poet, critic, and translator of, among others, Emerson, Longfellow, and Poe, Martí did not translate any Whitman. (When he died it was discovered that he had planned a book on Whitman and other American poets.)5 Following Martí's piece, Rubén Darío, the famous Nicaraguan modernista who would later write an anti-imperialist ode "To Roosevelt," dedicated a glowing sonnet to Whitman in his 1888 book Azul. Yet similarly, Darío did not attempt a translation. A Mexican, Balbino Dávalos, translated only a few of Whitman's poems on the occasion of the second American International Congress held in Mexico City in 1901.6
Spanish author Miguel de Unamuno translated a few poems in 1906.7 In 1909, three years before Vasseur's edition, a Peninsular translation of twenty-four of Whitman's poems was published—but in Catalan, by Cebrià Montoliu, who was himself following upon J. Pérez Jorba's 1900 Catalan study of Whitman. (It is striking that Pérez Jorba's study had proposed that the American poet displayed the "philosophical sensibility of Nietzsche," an aspect Vasseur too would highlight in the preface and footnotes to his translation.)8
In 1910 a Spanish journalist under the pseudonym "Angel Guerra" published a short article in the journal La Ilustración Española y Americana on "Walt Whitman's Lyric." Guerra would go on to write an enthusiastic preface to the 1939 edition of Vasseur's translation. In the 1910 article, occasioned by the publication of both the Italian translation of Leaves of Grass and a study by famous French Whitman commentator León Bazalgette, Guerra lamented the lack of curiosity in Spain about the American author. Only with Vasseur's subsequent 1912 translation did Whitman become available and important to generations of Latin American poets, from the residual modernistas to the region's major twentieth-century figures, including Peruvian vanguardist César Vallejo, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and the Argentine Jorge Luís Borges.9 Following Vasseur's edition, selected poems by Whitman continued to be translated anew by writers such as the Cuban poet José de Armas y Cárdenas and Chilean author and critic Arturo Torres-Rioseco. Complete translations of Leaves of Grass into Spanish followed in the post-war era, beginning with Concha Zardoya's 1946 full translation with additional selections of Whitman's prose, entitled Obras Escogidas.10
II. ÁLVARO ARMANDO VASSEUR (1878–1968)
Vasseur was born in 1878 to French immigrants in Montevideo, Uruguay. He grew up in the small town of Santa Lucía, Canelones, about thirty miles outside of the capital, and left at the age of twenty for Buenos Aires, Argentina. There he mingled with prominent modernista writers Rubén Darío and Leopoldo Lugones, and greatly admired the Argentine poet "Almafuerte" (Pedro Bonifacio Palacios), with whom, however, Vasseur would later have a violent falling out. During this period Vasseur is said to have translated some Oscar Wilde and, writing under the portentous pseudonym "Americo Llanos" (the name defies exact translation but suggests "American Plains"), to have composed poetry that oddly mixed modernista aestheticism with what was called "social" verse—a poetry concerned with what U.S. writers of the same period might have called "the social question." While in Buenos Aires, Vasseur grew increasingly interested in Nietzsche, Marx, and scientific materialism, the latter of which provided him with the tools to combat what he later called, witheringly, the "sentimental socialism" he had previously known (Infancia y juventud, 59).
In 1901 Vasseur returned to Montevideo, dropped his pseudonym, and threw himself into a host of projects. He took up journalism for newspapers such as the Montevideo-based El Tiempo, oversaw the Constitutional Manifesto of the Uruguayan Socialist Party, and gave lectures in favor of divorce. He also soon published several books of poetry, including Cantos Augurales (1904), Cantos del Nuevo Mundo, and A Flor de Alma (both 1907). As Uruguayan critic Hugo Achugar points out, Cantos del Nuevo Mundo exhibits a paradoxical kind of regionalist universalism typical of the period, and exalts a pan-Americanist utopia of Progress. In this, then, Cantos del Nuevo Mundo was already perhaps a bit Whitmanesque; indeed, the book included lines of Whitman verse taken from an Italian translation as prefaces to Vasseur's own poems (Poesía y sociedad, 153).
In 1901 Vasseur was also involved in a rather sordid exchange of calumny with his contemporary and author Roberto de las Carreras, a notorious exponent of free love. On June 1, 1901, in the newspaper El Tiempo, Vasseur called de las Carreras' sensibility "exaggerated like that of an androgynous decadent" and accused him of sharing, with Enrique Gómez Carillo (ironically, the early commentator on Whitman noted above) a "cosmic vanity and feminine ill-will." De las Carreras responded in kind, flinging some thirty slurs at Vasseur, calling him everything from a "rube" to the "miserable product of a stale marriage, in whose stupefied features is etched the slight yawn with which he was conceived."11 Such literary gossip allows us to glimpse Vasseur's anxious relationship to gender and sexuality. If in some ways it was unremarkable for the time, in the self-consciously liberal environment in which de las Carreras and Vasseur moved, it was notably reactionary. It may also offer insight into Vasseur's later decisions to "straighten" some of Whitman's sexual language in Leaves of Grass.
Petty disputes like that of 1901 were the more trivial side of a lively intellectual climate in Uruguay in the late nineteenth century, which was first centered about Montevideo's Ateneo, a liberal cultural and educational center and the seat of the nation's Academic and Romantic authors. With fin-de-siècle socio-political ferment and the turn towards both socialism and modernismo, the scene moved to a series of more informal watering holes such as the Polo Bamba café, the Café Moka, the "Carlos Marx" and "Emilio Zolá" Clubs, and the International Center for Social Studies, this last founded in 1898 by a group of workers and artisans to foster intellectual and political activity through courses and lectures.12
At the turn of the century neo-Romanticism and criollismo (local color) reigned in River Plate literature, giving way to modernismo (again, a sort of aestheticism) and eventually to more "social" poetry. It is not surprising, given the character of both the Ateneo—whose members included ministers, senators, diplomats, and Presidents of the Republic—and the syndicalist International Center for Social Studies, that the poetry issuing from both would be of a more "political" nature. Vasseur, emerging from such a climate, found Whitman's rhetoric of democracy consonant with the overlap between politics, civic culture and art historically more typical of Latin- than of North American letters. It is significant, then, but not incongruent, that the press responsible for the diffusion of European revolutionary thinkers such as Max Stirner, Karl Marx, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Georg Büchner and Friedrich Nietzsche would be the press to publish Vasseur's translation of Whitman: the editorial house Sempere, based in Valencia, Spain.13
III. VASSEUR'S WALT WHITMAN, POEMAS
In 1907, at age 29, Vasseur was named a consul to San Sebastián, Spain by Uruguayan president José Batlle Ordoñez. Five years later Vasseur published his Spanish translation of selections from Whitman's Leaves of Grass, entitled Poemas. Much later, in a preface written for the book's sixth edition, Vasseur would recall that he had first encountered Whitman when he was still living in Uruguay, through Italian translator Luigi Gamberale's selections from Leaves of Grass.14 It has been assumed that Gamberale's complete translation Foglie di Erba (1900; 1907), rather than the English original, served as Vasseur's source text.15
Whitman's route into Spanish was even more circuitous than this, however. It had been French critics who initially brought Whitman to the attention of Italian writers. One of those writers was Girolamo Ragusa-Moleti, a Sicilian who encountered Whitman's work in 1872. Ragusa-Moleti encouraged his friends to write about the American poet; one friend, Enrico Nencioni, obliged with a piece on Whitman in 1879. Another friend was Luigi Gamberale, whose 1887 and 1890 selected translations from Leaves of Grass were followed by a complete translation in 1900, a reprint in 1907, and a revision in 1923.16
Gamberale based his translation on two different Whitman editions: the poems translated before 1885 used Wilson and McCormick's 1884 Glasgow edition, while poems translated later were based upon the 1890 Small, Maynard edition of Leaves of Grass. Gamberale's complete 1900 edition was based on David McKay's 1892 so-called "deathbed" edition.17 Vasseur's edition, though not a complete translation, thus is based indirectly on Whitman's of 1892.
In an essay entitled "The Accidental Tourist: Walt Whitman in Latin America," Enrico Mario Santí begins the work of documenting the complex history of the Vasseur translation. In tracing its genealogy, Santí picks up on Vasseur's admission, in his preface to the sixth edition of Poemas, that the Uruguayan translator "was never able to take in 'Anglo-Saxon words and tones,'" and that Vasseur's wife and son assimilated the language better. Yet Santí concludes rather too hastily from scant and evasive words that therefore "all translations from the original English were done by [Vasseur's] wife and son."18
In fact, however, the preface to the sixth edition, published almost forty years after the initial translation, is much less conclusive about sources consulted and translation methodology. Vasseur does write that he never grew comfortable with the sounds of English, as Santí notes, and that, despite Vasseur's consultation of exercise books and dictionaries, it was his "wife and son [who] assimilated it better." Yet Vasseur concludes the passage with an enigmatic sentence: "In general, when I needed to translate, I did so well-accompanied." This ambiguous phrase suggests he received assistance from his family or friends, and certainly underscores Vasseur's need for aides, human or bibliographic, in the translation process. It does not, however, indicate that Vasseur was not the principal translator of any English texts consulted, nor that his wife and son were. In fact, elsewhere in the same introduction Vasseur claims that the process involved, in his words, "making myself read the original, verifying the versions, choosing the most rhythmical."19 As we will suggest below, some, if tenuous, textual evidence does seem to confirm that Vasseur had access to an English edition, or at least to someone able to check the English, during the writing of the translation.
IV. COMMENTARY ON VASSEUR'S TRANSLATION
Chilean scholar Fernando Alegría's pioneering 1954 study Walt Whitman en Hispanoamérica [Walt Whitman in Hispano-America] offers one of the most comprehensive and cogent readings of the Vasseur translation, and has served as the foundation for all subsequent studies. Its exhaustive textual analysis of the work remains indispensable, though Santí's essay, cited above, offers a more detailed genealogy of the translation, as well as some new insights into it. Bringing the history of the translation up to date, Santí points out, for example, that despite the 1954 date of Alegría's study, the Chilean scholar seems not to have been acquainted with the preface to the sixth edition, in which Vasseur owns up to having used other translations as his source. (Alegría writes that Vasseur's translation is based, presumably directly, upon Whitman's 1892 edition). There too, Vasseur describes his free-handed stylistic approach to both the structure and the content of the poetry: "Purifying, pruning, and at times enriching it with some spark."20
Still, Alegría's painstaking analysis of Poemas provides the necessary figures on the translation: it tallies up the total of 83 poems included from Leaves of Grass, many in abbreviated forms, and lists the titles of the 16 poems whose names Vasseur changed, often drastically (Walt Whitman, 351, see Appendix A below for a full list). Alegría further compares, section by section, Vasseur's version of "Song of Myself" with Whitman's, listing by subsection each omission made by Vasseur (some 750 verses in total) and tracking Vasseur's strange reordering of sections of the poem.21 Alegría critiques what he sees as Vasseur's inconsistencies and occasional sloppiness, as, for example, the decision to translate "Song of the Answerer" as "Canto del Poeta" ["Song of the Poet"].22
Such inconsistencies indeed can do more than irritate: at times they undermine the sense of the book as a whole, as in "Song of the Exposition," for example, when Vasseur leaves "Columbia" unchanged in the Spanish ("Columbia"), whereas in the poem "Spain, 1873-1874" ["España 1873-1874"], appearing earlier in the collection, he inexplicably renders the same word "America." This curious change may owe something to the Americanist voice typical of Vasseur's own poetry. Such a perspective emerges more strongly at times than even the oft-strident Whitman's—as, for example, when Vasseur amplifies Whitman's "new garden of the West," from the poem "Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals," into "the new Eden, the great West of my race" [el nuevo Edén, el gran Oeste de mi raza]. "Raza," or race, does not have in Spanish quite the racialist connotation it does in English, meaning something more like a nationalist sentiment, or a sense of a "people." Here it has the unmistakable ring of celebratory pan-Americanism. And in a comic moment that Alegría dryly glosses, a regionalist chauvinism overtakes Vasseur when he changes Whitman's "wait at Valparaíso, Rio de Janeiro, Panama" to "wait at Valparaíso, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Montevideo" (from "Salut Au Monde"), and again, later in the same poem, "I see the Amazon and the Paraguay [rivers]" to "I see the Amazon, the Paraguay, the River Plate" (Walt Whitman, 359).23
Vasseur abbreviated poems according to his own taste, almost invariably eliminating Whitman's signature catalogues (Vasseur's translation of "Salut au Monde" is the only exception, rendered in its entirety).24 The problematic features of what Vasseur termed his "adaptation" include but are not limited to outright errors; the completion of sentences Whitman had deliberately rendered opaque; the omission of Whitmanesque gerunds; and, perhaps most glaringly, a tendency to cover over Whitman's homosexuality with, in the most benign cases, a vague rhetoric of brotherly love.25 In the most radical instances of Vasseur's censoring, the translator changes originally homoerotic or at least ambiguous phrases into expressions of clearly heterosexual desire.
Alegría's comprehensive enumeration of Vasseur's changes lays important groundwork for a more interpretive analysis of Vasseur's departures from the original. On the whole, Vasseur's translation is not unfaithful, but changes in elements as seemingly minor as punctuation, for example, have cumulative effects on the style and sense of the work as a whole. Vasseur often adds a fervid exclamation mark where Whitman has none. Vasseur converts commas into periods—a surprising echo of what more typically marks translation from the more clausal, long-winded Spanish into the curter English—reducing Whitman's penchant for catalogues to a more brusquely prosaic style and removing some of his biblical rhythms. Further, Vasseur unfortunately either misjudges the significance of or dislikes too much to preserve Whitman's lyric "I." Instead, he makes the most of the ability to drop pronouns in Spanish. This loss of the repetition of "I"s does disproportionate damage to the cadence and sense of the poems. And Vasseur's occasional insertion of parentheses within lines sometimes dulls Whitman's frankness, turning bold statements into qualifications, or worse, into seemingly unnecessary elaborations. Taken together, these subtle editing choices can make Whitman less strange than he is in the original. In one instance, for example, Vasseur turns Whitman's unusual locution "not-day"—a neologic negation—into the quotidian, positive term "noche" [night].
In analyzing Vasseur's changes one must bear in mind that his may be either principally or entirely a second order translation from not the English but Gamberale's Italian. Thus before drawing conclusions about the significance of Vasseur's changes it is first necessary to make sure they are indeed Vasseur's own doing, and not the passive reproduction of Gamberale's changes or errors. That said, it is striking that in our comparisons, glaring innovations in Vasseur's translation are almost invariably his own departure from the Italian, the latter of which is unusually, even at times detrimentally, literal.26
Vasseur's handling of the sexual thematics of Whitman's poetry offers a good example. Here the translator vacillates between muted renditions of Whitman's sexual openness and versions that may push Whitman's suggestiveness beyond its original bounds. This is particularly the case when the passages involve issues of race or gender—concepts whose framing ideologies vary considerably across Latin America as well as between Latin America and the United States. In the case of Whitman's famous "fugitive slave" passage from "Song of Myself," Vasseur's rendition makes an important amendment to the original scene: Whitman (1892):
The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him. . . .
El esclavo fugitivo se aproximó á mi choza, deteniéndose en el umbral,
Por la entreabierta puerta de la cocina, lo vi tambalearse y sin fuerzas:
Fuí hacia el tronco de árbol en que se había sentado, lo cogí entre mis brazos, y lo llevé adentro;
[The fugitive slave approached my hut, stopping at the threshold,
Through the half-open door of the kitchen, I saw him tottering and weak:
I went toward the stump where he had sat, I held him in my arms, and I carried him inside. . . .]
The addition of "held him in my arms" opens up this passage to more erotic readings than did Whitman's original. In another passage substantively amended by Vasseur, the body of the black male slave is made to resonate historically with the violent restriction of women's bodies:
La madre de antaño condenada por bruja y quemada sobre haces de leña seca, á la vista de sus hijos,
El esclavo, perseguido como una presa, que cae en mitad de su fuga, todo tembloroso y sudando sangre,
[The mother of old condemned as a witch and burned over dry firewood, before her children's eyes,
The slave, persecuted like an imprisoned woman, who falls mid-flight, all atremble and sweating blood.]
Here is Whitman's original from 1892: The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood,
her children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blow-
ing, cover'd with sweat. . . .
Vasseur's direct comparison of the slave to a woman is based, presumably, on their common lack of power, but it also creates cross-gendered possibilities that turn the passage in new ways. Whitman had distinct units—separate lines—for the witch and the hounded slave. An association could be made between them because of their juxtaposition; yet that association is not insisted on in the English original. Vasseur turns the suggestion of a link into an unmistakable link, associating racial slavery with all the irrationality of religious persecution (invoking, perhaps, the spectre of the Inquisition). That church-sponsored terror might in turn remind informed Hispanophone readers of the widespread support of slavery by some religious organizations in the United States (bitterly denounced in Frederick Douglass's narrative and in others'). Such a reading is remotely perceptible in Whitman's original, but in Vasseur's it rises to the surface.
Still, this dynamic of reaching across boundaries of gender, race, and sexuality does not uniformly characterize Vasseur's translation. Whitman's identification with the slave in his 1892 passage concludes with the declaration, "All these I feel or am." Vasseur's Spanish, however, renders this identification less close: "All this I feel and suffer as he does." The tension here may be rooted in racist boundaries; Vasseur's version of Whitman, it might be argued, seems to allow for homoeroticism in the case of a black subject, while at the same time, it stops short of permitting empathy across racial lines.
In other moments involving Whitman's gay poetics a certain squeamishness is evident in Vasseur's choices. Alegría notes that Vasseur twists key words that Whitman uses to express particularly homosexual desire, relationality and coupling into less physical, even cerebral terms—his prime example is Vasseur's rendering of "adherence" as "trust."27 Additional examples are plentiful. In "City of Orgies" Vasseur changes "lovers" to "friends" [amigos]. In the translation of "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing," "manly love" becomes the slightly tamer "male affection" [afecto viril]. In "Song of Myself," Vasseur translates "the atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless/ It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it" as, to back translate it as literally as possible, "The atmosphere is not a perfume, it tastes of no essences, it is odorless,/ My mouth breathes it in vital gasps; I love it madly, as I would a woman." The Italian contains no such insertion of loving a woman; this addition is Vasseur's. Strangely enough, elsewhere in the translation Vasseur omits references to women: for example, in his version of "Give Me Your Silent Splendid Sun," the line "give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman of whom I should never tire" is eliminated, as is, in Vasseur's version of "From Pent-up Aching Rivers," the phrase "of the woman that loves me and whom I love more than my life."28
The Whitmanian word Camerado presents an interesting challenge to Vasseur's vaguely homophobic sensibilities, and perhaps represents something of a cop-out in his attempts to maneuver around openly gay love. Camerado is a defunct term borrowed from Renaissance Spanish, and is the root of the English comrade, Whitman's basic denotation. But Vasseur's frequent equivalent, the contemporary Spanish word camarada, is unusual insofar as it is functionally neutral, but suggests a feminine subject because of its female-gendered ending, "-a" (camarada is in fact grammatically a collective feminine.) A little-used term, camarada is derived from the Spanish cámara, or chamber, and a camarada was originally a group sharing a chamber, or sharing a bed. Hence it first meant bedfellow, then more generally a companion or friend.
In "An Oak in Louisiana," a poem focusing on male love, Vasseur opts for camarada. He does translate the phrase "without a friend" as without an amigo (male/neutral). But Vasseur translates "lover" as "camarada," a dodging of the issue. It is possible that Vasseur is here influenced by the Italian rendition, which chose camarata for camerado. The Italian camarata, however, is a more common word for companion, interchangeable with the unambiguously male/neutral compagno, and indeed carries militaristic, masculine connotations despite its apparent gender. In another passage from "Song of Myself," Gamberale translates Whitman's "bed-fellow" as "compagno di letto" in the lines "the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,/ Leaving me baskets cover'd with white towels swelling the house with their plenty." Vasseur makes the loving bedfellow the more muted "caressing, affectionate camarada," rather than, say, compañero de cama. The Italian bedfellow kisses and hugs, and fills the house with white towels. The Spanish companion is merely affectionate and caressing, and leaves white towels that brighten (alegran), rather than more sensually "swell[ing]," the house with their plenty. It is, of course, possible that Vasseur simply finds camarada the best translation for bedfellow. The gender agreement for "caress" does indicate that the bedfellow is male.29
At times Vasseur's changes evince a general fidelity to the integrity of Leaves of Grass, but remain puzzling. Why, for example, does he render "Endless unfolding of words of ages!/ And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse," the last word faithfully maintained in French in the Italian translation, as "Infinite unfolding of words in time!/ Mine is a modern word: the word multitude!"? Multitude is in keeping with Whitman's famous lines about contradiction, but the very use of multitude later in the original suggests Whitman meant something particular in choosing "En-Masse" in the earlier line. The choice is the more puzzling because in his version of "Song of Myself" Vasseur uses the term "en masa," an equivalent of en masse, to describe the killing of captured soldiers in the poem's thirty-fourth section (1892 ed.).
As evidenced in Vasseur's insertion of additional exclamation points, something of his Romantic stylistic tendency persists and breaks through at moments. As Alegría puts it wonderfully, "Whitman as much as Vasseur expresses . . . a sentimentalist indignation typical of nineteenth century Romantic, liberal philanthropism. But Vasseur laments two times where Whitman does once" (358). These flourishes can be almost comical, as when Vasseur adds to Whitman's line "my faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths" the superfluous addition "like the tail of a comet."
An additional trilingual comparison of the Whitman, Gamberale, and Vasseur versions offers intriguing evidence that Vasseur was working with an English edition as well. We reproduce the three versions below to illustrate what appears to be a correction on Vasseur's part back to the English meaning of a word erroneously translated into the Italian: Whitman (1892):
I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured
and never will be measured.
Io so di avere il meglio del tempo e dello spazio, e che esso non fu misurato mai, nè sar misurato mai.
[I know I have the best of time and space, and that this was never measured, nor ever will be measured]
Sé que soy superior al tiempo y al espacio, sé que nunca he sido medido, que no lo seré jamás.
[I know I am above time and space, I know I have never been measured, that I never will be.]
Here, although Vasseur inexplicably changes "have the best of" to "above," he reinstitutes the "I" as that which is not subject to measure, which Gamberale had turned from the subjective to the objective immeasurable "best of time and space."
In her study of Gamberale's translation, Grazia Sotis points out that some of the idiosyncratic or more streetwise English words give the Italian translator trouble (52). The famously barbaric yawp, for example, becomes a mere shriek or scream in the stanza that ends "I, too am untranslatable," which Gamberale faithfully renders "intraducibile." But in the Spanish, as if Vasseur were making a subtle yet bold commentary on these challenges of translation, the same section concludes with an "I" not untranslatable but "inexplicable" [inexplicable]. Perhaps Vasseur was, in the very act of translation, refuting Whitman's claim, and honoring Whitman's "dearest dream" for "an internationality of poems and poets binding the lands of the earth"?30 Though not all of Vasseur's changes may be "explicable," the wider availability of this important translation may help encourage further study of the "internationality" of Whitman's works.
List of poems from Vasseur's translation Poemas, 1912, each followed by a literal translation and Whitman's 1892 title.
Note that we have rendered both the nouns canto and canción as "song"; Vasseur may well intend a distinction here, as canción is closer to the English sense of "song," while canto can refer to a chant or hymn as well as the classical "canto."
|En el mar, sobre las naves [At sea, on ships]||In Cabin'd Ships at Sea|
|A una locomotora [To a locomotive]||To a Locomotive in Winter|
|Chispas emergidas de la rueda [Sparks from the wheel]||Sparkles from the Wheel|
|Desbordante de vida, ahora [Overflowing with life, now]||Full of Life Now|
|Canto de la vía pública [Song of the open road]||Song of the Open Road|
|Ciudad de orgías [City of orgies]||City of Orgies|
|El Himno que Canto [The Hymn I Sing]||Still Though the One I Sing|
|Una marcha en las filas [A march in the ranks]||A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown|
|Apartando con las manos la hierba de las praderas [Parting by hand the prairie grass]||The Prairie-Grass Dividing|
|Ciudad de los navíos [City of ships]||City of Ships|
|En las praderas [On the prairies]||Night on the Prairies|
|A ti, vieja causa [To you, old cause]||To Thee Old Cause|
|Imperturbable [Imperturbable]||Me Imperturbe|
|Una extraña velada transcurrida en un campo de batalla [A strange evening passed on a battlefield]||Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night|
|Un roble en la Luisiana [An oak in Louisiana]||I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing|
|Silenciosa y paciente, una araña [Silent and patient, a spider]||A Noiseless Patient Spider|
|Cuadro [Painting]||A Glimpse|
|Este polvo fue antaño un hombre [This dust was once a man]||This Dust Was Once the Man|
|A los Estados [To the States]||To the States|
|España (1873-1874) [Spain (1873-1874)]||Spain, 1873-74|
|A un historiador [To a historian]||To a Historian|
|La Morgue [The Morgue]||The City Dead-House|
|Como meditaba en silencio [As I meditated in silence]||As I Ponder'd in Silence|
|¡Oh capitán! ¡Mi capitán! [Oh captain! My captain!]||O Captain! My Captain!|
|Allá á lo lejos... [Far off...]||Old Ireland|
|Dadme vuestro espléndido sol [Give me your splendid sun]||Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun|
|Hijos de Adam [Sons (or Children) of Adam]||Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals|
|Canto de la bandera, al amanecer [Song of the flag, at dawn]||Song of the Banner at Daybreak|
|¡Pioners! ¡Oh pioners! [Pioneers! Oh pioneers!]||Pioneers! O Pioneers!|
|Hacia el Edén [Towards Eden]||From Pent-Up Aching Rivers|
|Á Uno que fué crucificado [To One who was crucified]||To Him That Was Crucified|
|Del canto de mí mismo [From the song of myself]33||Song of Myself|
|Canto del hacha [Song of the axe]||Song of the Broad-Axe|
|Mira tú que reinas victoriosa [Look, you who reigns victorious]||Lo, Victress On the Peaks|
|A un burgués [To a burgher/bourgeois]||To a Certain Civilian|
|Año que tiemblas y vacilas ante mí [Year that trembles and reels before me]||Year That Trembled and Reel'd beneath Me|
|Canto del poeta [Song of the poet]||Song of the Answerer|
|Inscripción para una tumba [Inscription for a tomb]||Outlines for a Tomb|
|Canto de la Exposición [Song of the Exposition]||Song of the Exposition|
|El enigma [The riddle]||A Riddle Song|
|Á un extranjero [To a foreigner]||To a Stranger|
|La duda terrible de las apariencias [The terrible doubt of appearances]||Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances|
|Del canto al Presidente Lincoln [From the song to President Lincoln]34||When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd|
|La canción de la Muerte [The song of Death]35||When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd|
|Á cierta cantante [To a certain singer]||To a Certain Cantatrice|
|De lo más hondo de las gargantas del Dakota [From the deepest passes of Dakota]||From Far Dakota's Cañons|
|Del mediodía á la noche estrellada [From noon to starry night]36||Thou Orb Aloft Full-Dazzling|
|Los Estados Unidos á los críticos del Viejo Mundo [The United States to Old World critics]||The United States to Old World Critics|
|Hacia alguna parte [Toward somewhere]||"Going Somewhere"|
|Media noche [In the middle of the night]||A Clear Midnight|
|Espíritu que has plasmado esta naturaleza [Spirit that has shaped this nature]||Spirit That Form'd This Scene|
|La abuela del Poeta [The Poet's grandmother]37||Faces|
|La Etiopía saludando á la bandera [Ethiopia saluting the flag]||Ethiopia Saluting the Colors|
|Luna hermosa [Beautiful Moon]||Look Down Fair Moon|
|Cuando estaba a tu lado [When I was beside you]||As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado|
|¡Oh estrella de Francia! [Oh star of France!]||O Star of France|
|Paises sin nombre [Nameless lands]||Unnamed Lands|
|Un espectáculo en el campo [A sight in the camp]||A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim|
|La cantante en la prisión [The singer in the prison]||The Singer in the Prison|
|Orillas del Ontario azul [Shores of blue Ontario]||By Blue Ontario's Shore|
|A un revolucionario europeo vencido [To a defeated European revolutionary]||To a Foil'd European Revolutionaire|
|Canto del Sequoia [Song of the Sequoia]||Song of the Redwood-Tree|
|Una hora de alegría y de locura [One hour of joy and madness]||One Hour to Madness and Joy|
|Canto el cuerpo eléctrico [I sing the body electric]||I Sing the Body Electric|
|Poetas venideros [Poets to come]||Poets to Come|
|Cuando leí el libro [When I read the book]||When I Read the Book|
|Un canto de alegrías [A song of joys]||A Song of Joys|
|Saludo mundial [Salute to the world]||Salut au Monde!|
|Atravesé antaño una ciudad populosa... [I once passed through a populous city...]||Once I Pass'd through a Populous City|
|Camino de las Indias Orientales [Road to the East Indies]38||Passage to India|
|La plegaria de Colón [Prayer of Columbus]||Prayer of Columbus|
|Os he oído, suaves y solemnes armonías del órgano [I have heard you, soft and solemn harmonies of the organ]||I Heard You, Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ|
|Juventud, mediodía, vejez y noche [Youth, midday, old age and night]||Youth, Day, Old Age and Night|
|Solitario pájaro de las nieves [Solitary snowbird]||Of That Blithe Throat of Thine|
|Grave y titubeando [Grave and hesitating]||Pensive and Faltering|
|Mirando labrar [Watching the plowing]||As I Watch'd the Ploughman Ploughing|
|De los Cantos de Adiós [From Songs of Farewell]39||So Long!|
A translation of Vasseur's "Del canto de mí mismo" ["From the song of myself," pp. 71-100] back into English.
Translating into English Vasseur's Spanish version of "Song of Myself," itself based on the Italian translation of Leaves of Grass and perhaps other translations, felt like straining to hear a muffled and distant voice. Much of Whitman's meaning and even words remained surprisingly intact, however, throughout the course of the poem's linguistic transmutations. One is reminded of the mid-nineteenth century Brazilian phrasebook, English As She Is Spoke, which so charmed Mark Twain. The phrasebook, intended to provide Brazilians with common English phrases, was written by two men, José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolina, neither of whom knew English. Comedy ensued; it has been said that many of the improbable mis-translations came not from consultation of a Portuguese- English dictionary but from a French-English dictionary.
This translation is designed more to stimulate critical comparison than to be aesthetically innovative or elegant. It attempts to strike a balance between offering as literal as possible a translation (rather than trying to refract the style or flavor of Vasseur's version), and rendering words plausibly cognate with Whitman's original in that form. That is, after undertaking a first stab at back-translation, I corrected any synonyms I may have chosen that were slightly, but not meaningfully, different than Whitman's 1892 original. This should permit readers consulting this English version of Vasseur to discern the more significant changes proper to Vasseur's version.
That said, however, as much as meaning would permit, and even when a difference was as small as an article, I attempted to conserve it in the translation. Whenever possible, I have also transferred Vasseur's punctuation and layout to my translation. The layout, using paragraph instead of hanging indentation, follows Vasseur's practice in Poemas. Paragraph indentation is not uncommon for Spanish language poetry, but by Vasseur's time poets were manipulating such layout conventions as a way of making meaning. It was not possible, however, to preserve line segmentation. In cases in which Vasseur's choice of gender seemed clearly significant in relation to the original, a footnote indicates the designation. Finally, as Salessi and Quiroga note (127), Vasseur often renders Whitman's "you" in the plural form, vosotros, which, while not always mitigating the intimacy of Whitman's famous "I and you" moments, does introduce different potential meanings.
From the song of myself
I celebrate myself and sing myself,
What I attribute to myself I also want you to attribute to yourselves,
For every atom of mine could also be yours, and will be.
Poet, I invite my soul to the song,
As I loaf and stroll contemplating a tendril of summer grass.
My tongue, every molecule of my blood emanate40 from this land, from this air,
Born here, of parents whose grandparents and great-grandparents were also born,
At thirty-seven years of age, in perfect health, I begin these hymns with the hope of continuing even in death.
I grant armistice to creeds and schools,
I consider them for a moment from a certain distance, conscious of what they are and what they mean, never forgetting that;
Directly I offer myself as an asylum for good and bad, I let all chance speak,
Unchecked Nature with her original energy.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it tastes of no essences, it is odorless,
My mouth breathes it in vital gasps; I love it madly, as I would a woman:
I will go to the slope where the forest begins, strip naked,
To enjoy its contact.
The humidity of my own breath pleases me,
The echoes, the undulations, the vague humming of the wild murmurs, love's root, silken threads, the tangles and root of the vines,
My inspiration and my respiration, the beating of my viscera, the blood and air my lungs push through,
The scent of the green leaves and of the dry leaves, of the blackened rocks all along the coast, the scent of the hay stored in barns,
The sound of my voice when I howl words and throw them into the eddies of the wind,
Some kisses on a sweet mouth, some hugs, breast to breast,
The flicker of the sun and shade on the trees when breezes rock their branches,
The happiness of solitude amongst crowds of trees in the forests or among the packed streets' multitudes,
The sensation of health, the noontime hymn, my morning song upon rising from bed and finding myself again before the sun.
Did you think one hundred hectares of land would suffice?
Did you think all the land was much?
Have you been learning to read for a long time?
Have you felt pride, penetrating the meaning of my poems?
Stay a day and a night with me; you will possess the essence of all poems.
You will possess all the good on earth and in the sun (millions of other suns exist as well),
I do not want you to keep receiving things second or third hand, nor that you look with the eyes of the dead, nor that you feed on the specters that lie between the leaves of books,
Nor do I want you to look with my eyes or receive things as if gifts from me,
I want you to open your ears to all voices, that they may impress you with their own virtue and according to your own nature.
I have heard what some minstrels told, stories with beginnings and ends:
I do not speak of the beginning nor of the end.
Never have there been beginnings other than the ones we witness each day.
More youth or more age than there is today;
Never will there be more perfection than that of our times,
Nor more heavens or hells than those that exist today.
Urge, more urge, always urge,
Urge is the incessant procreator of the world.
Equals emerge from the shadow, and develop as complements,
Always substance and multiplication, always sex;
Always a weave of identities, and of differentiations:
Always the conception, pregnancy and birth of life.
It is useless to refine; the cultured and the uncultured understand it equally.
Clean and smooth is my soul, equally clean and smooth is all that is not my soul.
If one of the two were lacking, both would lack,
The invisible is proven by the visible,
Until it is made invisible, and proven in turn.
All epochs have been forced to value "the best" and distinguish it from "the worst";
As I know the absolute justness and constancy of things, I remain silent amidst arguments, then go bathe myself and admire my body.
Welcome be every one of my organs and attributes, and those of all pure and cordial men;
Neither an inch of my being, nor an atom are41 vile,
None of them should be less familiar to me than the others.
I feel happy. I see, dance, laugh, sing;
When my caressing and affectionate comrade, who has slept
Beside me all night, departs with furtive steps at dawn,
Leaving me baskets filled with white towels that brighten42 the house with their abundance,
Will I check my acceptance and caring, concerned to know right away, to the penny,
The exact value of both, and which of the two will profit me?
My real self, inaccessible to pitches and tremors,
Enjoys its unity, satisfied, compassionate, idle,
Looks to watch the world from below, now erect, now propped against a secure, though impalpable support;
Deduces what will be from what is, watches everything with curious eyes,
Joining the game and at the same time outside it, observing it and marveling.
I see behind me the time I wandered in the fog between talkers and contenders:
I do not toss off any mockings or objections, I observe and wait.
I believe in you, my soul; the other man I am ought not abase himself before you,
As you ought not abase yourself before the other.
Come dream with me on the grass, flood my ears with the outpourings of your throat;
There is no need for words, music, rhymes or speeches, even the best.
Your murmur is enough for me, with the confidences and suggestions of your voice.
I remember one limpid summer morning we stretched out on the grass;
You rested your head between my knees, turning sweetly towards me,
You half-opened my shirt, plunging your tongue inside my chest unto my heart;
Then you stretched out, adhering to all from my beard to my feet.
Right away scattered over me the peace and wisdom that surpass all the reasoning on earth,
I knew that the hand of God was a promise for my own,
I knew that the spirit of God was my brother;
That nothing disappears; all is progress and development.
And to die is very different than what everyone imagines, and happier.
Has anyone thought being born was lucky?
I hasten to show him that to die is just as lucky.
I know it.
I agonize with the dying and am born with those that are born,
My I is not entirely contained between my shoes and my hat;
I examine the multiplicity of objects, there are no two alike, and each one is good.
The land is good, good the stars, and all that accompanies them.
I am not an earth nor the accessory to an earth,
I am the comrade of all peoples, all immortal and fathomless as am I.
(They ignore their immortality, but I am familiar with it, I know it.)
The boy sleeps in his crib,
I part the muslin and watch him a while, then silently scare away flies with my hand.
The young man and the purple-cheeked young woman move off through the bank's undergrowth,
From above, my curious gaze accompanies them.
The suicide victim lies stretched out on the room's bloody floor,
I observe the ruined hair of the corpse, I see the site where the revolver has fallen.
I love to go hunting alone in wilds and mountains,
Wander capriciously, amazed at my lightness and gaiety;
When dusk comes I choose a spot to spend the night;
I light a fire, grill the fresh-killed meat,
And fall asleep on a mountain of leaves, with my dog and my gun by my side.
The fugitive slave approached my hut, stopping at the threshold,
Through the half-open door of the kitchen, I saw him tottering and weak:
I went toward the stump where he had sat, I held him in my arms, and I carried him inside;
As I had inspired confidence in him, I filled a bucket of water for his sweaty body and his torn-up feet,
Then I steered him towards a room adjacent to mine, and gave him clean warm clothes,
I remember perfectly the gleam of his eyes and his embarrassed demeanor,
I remember having applied poultices to the sores on his neck and his ankles;
He spent a week by my side, until he grew stable and could emigrate to the North,
He ate with me at my table, while my shotgun lay in a corner.
Twenty-eight youths bathe in the river.
Twenty-eight youths, all of them comrades and friends;
And she, with her twenty-eight years of feminine life, so sadly alone!
Her house is the most beautiful one on the riverbank;
She who, most elegantly dressed, observes the bathers from across the curtains of her balcony.
Which of them might she love?
Ah! The least handsome is magnificent to her.
Where are you off to, lady? Though you remain hidden in your room I note you plunge in there, in the water!
I see you advance along the bank, dancing and laughing, beautiful bather;
The others do not see her, but she sees them, burning more and more with love.
The beards and hair of the young men gleam with the water drenching them;
An invisible hand passes over their bodies,
Lowers trembling from their temples and their pectorals.
The youth float on their backs, their white bellies soak up the sun; they do not wonder who clasps them so tightly,
They ignore she who sighs and leans toward them, suspended and curved in an arc.43
The youth do not know whom they splash with the water's mist!
Oxen that, walking, jingle the yoke and chain, or that rest in the leaves' shade, what is it your eyes express?
They seem to me to express more than all the printed lines I have read in my life.
I love all that develops outdoors;
The men that guard troops and flocks, those that navigate the oceans, those that live in the deepest forest,
Those that construct and those that crew boats, those that wield the axe and hoe, those that break-in colts and those that hunt buffalo
I enjoy their company, week after week.
I arrive with powerful musics, between the thundering of my trumpets and of my drums,
I do not only play marches for sacred victors, I also play them for the vanquished and the victims.
Many times you will have heard how beautiful it is to gain the advantage in every expedition,
I tell you that it is also beautiful to yield, that battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won!
My drum rolls in praise of the dead,
For them my trumpet lofts its most booming and joyous notes.
Praise to those who fell!
Praise to those whose battleships sank beneath the waves!
Praise to all those who sank at sea!
Praise to the generals defeated in all the battles and to all the dead beings!
Praise to the innumerable unknown heroes, equal to the most famous and sublime heroes!
Who goes there? Hungry, gross, naked and mystical,
How is it possible I extract strength from the ox I eat?
What is a man, after all? What am I? What are you?
When I refer to myself, I want you to attribute it to yourself as well,
If there were no equivalence between you and I, your reading me would be pointless.
I do not grouse like those who go about the world lamenting themselves,
That time and nothingness are synonymous, that the earth is nothing but putrefaction.
Groaning and rampant throng, race of valetudinarians and orthodox who seek to square the circle:
As for me, I carry my hat as I wish, indoors or out.
Pray? Why? To whom? My head is not made for reverences nor my mouth for flattery.44
I know I am an immortal.
I know that the orbit I describe cannot be measured with a carpenter's compass.
I know I will not vanish like the circle of fire that a boy traces in the night with a smoldering stick.
I know I am august,
I do not torture my spirit to defend that45 nor that they may understand me,
I know that the elemental laws never beg forgiveness,
(In the end I do not judge myself more haughty than the level at which my house sits).
I exist just as I am, that is enough for me,
If no one knows it, that does not embitter my satisfaction,
And if all know it, equal is my satisfaction.
A world-the vastest of worlds for me-knows that I am myself.
And I will arrive at my ends, this very day, or within ten thousand years, or after ten million years.
I can now accept my destiny with a happy heart, or I can wait with equal gaiety.
Of granite is the base46 on which I rest my foot;
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
I know the amplitude of time.
I am the poet of the Body and the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of the Heavens accompany me, as accompany me the tortures of Hell:
Within me I have multiplied the graft from the first,
The second I translate into a new language.
I am the poet of the woman as much as the poet of the man,
I say the greatness of woman is no less than the greatness of man,
I say nothing is greater than the mother of men.
I sing the hymn of expansion and pride.
We have begged and lowered our brows too much.
I show that greatness is nothing but development.
Have you surpassed the rest? Are you President?
It is a trifle, each must go beyond that, always advance.
I am he who walks in the sweetness of dusks.
I cast forth my cries to the land and the sea, half-enveloped by the night.
Squeeze me tightly, bare-breasted night!
Squeeze tightly, magnetic and nourishing night!
Night of Southern winds, night of the great stars!
Silent night winking at me, mad and naked summer night.
Smile, voluptuous land of fresh gusts!
Land47 of misty, sleeping trees!
Land of setting sun, land of mountains whose peaks disappear in the fog!
Land of cristalline milkiness faintly blued by the full moon!
Land of rays and shadows, peppering48 the river waves!
Land of the limpid gray of the clouds, more clear and brilliant in homage to my admiration!
Land curving away until lost from sight, fertile land covered with apple orchards!
Smile, for your lover approaches.
Prodigal,49 you have given me your love. Therefore I give you mine!
Oh Love, unspeakable and passionate!
Listen, oh sea! I abandon myself also to you, I guess what you mean to tell me,
From the beach I see your curved fingers calling me,
It seems to me you refuse to go without caressing me.
We must take a turn together; wait while I undress;
Carry me soon until I lose sight of land,
Rock me in your soft cushions, disappear me in the rhythm of your waves,
Splash me with loving liquid, I will do the same with you.
Sea of unfurling waves,
Sea that breathes with a long and convulsive gasp,
Sea of the salt of life and of the tombs that no shovel opens (and that yet are always ready),
That roars and shoves you about in storms, capricious and adorable sea;
I am co-substantial with you, I also have only one face and all faces!
I am the poet of goodness, but I do not decline to be the poet of evil as well.
What is all this talk about vice and virtue supposed to mean?
Evil spurs me on, reforming evil spurs me on, but I remain indifferent,
My attitude is not that of a censor or of a rebuker,
I water the roots of all that grows.
That they have gone well in the past, or that they go well now is not surprising:
The perpetual prodigy consists in that there may be a man or an infidel below.
Infinite unfolding of words in time!
Mine is a modern word: the word multitude!
My word presupposes an inextinguishable faith, always true.
That it be realized here or in the future, matters not to me.
I entrust myself to Time without fear.
It alone is pure, perfect, rounds and completes all.
Only this disconcerting and mystical marvel completes it fully.
I accept Reality, I do not argue with it,
I begin and end impregnating myself with materialism.
Hurrah for positive science! Long live exact demonstration!
In your honor let them bring and interlace pine, cedar boughs, and flowering lilacs,
This is the lexicographer, this is the chemist, this is the linguist, decipherer of ancient inscriptions,
These mariners have guided their boat through unknown seas, sowed with reefs,
This is the geologist, that one wields the scalpel, the other is a mathematician.
Gentlemen, illustrious scientists, the highest honors correspond to you!
The facts you cite, the observations you bring, are useful; however, they are not my domain,
Amidst them I but enter in a part of my domain!
The words of my poems do not evoke the recognized properties of things,
They evoke the uncatalogued life, liberty, emancipation.
They are not concerned with neutral and brave cases, they favor men and women potently organized.
The drums of rebellion roll, they join with the fugitives, with those that plot and those that conspire.
I am Walt Whitman, a cosmos, a son of Manhattan,50
Turbulent, carnivorous, sensual, who eats, who drinks, who procreates.
(Not a sentimentalist; not one of those beings that think themselves above men and women, or apart from them).
I am neither modest nor immodest.
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors from their jambs!
He who rejects any man, rejects me.
Everything done or said bounces back to me.
Through me, as if through a fissure, inspiration passes,
Through me pass the current and the indicating needle.
I transmit the age-old password, I teach the Creed of democracy;
I make Heaven my witness! I will accept nothing that the rest cannot accept under the same conditions.
From my depths arise multiple voices silenced a millennium.
Voices of interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,
Voices of the sick and desperate, of thieves and the decrepit.
Voices from the cycles of preparation and growth,
Of children united with stars by mothers' chests and fathers' sap.
Voices of trampled rights, of the corrupt and of the inept,
Voices from the crossroads, from the jails, from the mental hospital, from the hospices and from the barracks,
Voices of idiots, of the downtrodden, of the humble.
Voices vague as if loosed in winter fog, voices of the beetles, of opprobrium and crime.
From deep within me forbidden voices rise.
Voices of the sexes and of the concupiscences whose veil I part.
Indecent voices, primordial roars, crazed cries I classify and transfigure.
I do not put my finger to my mouth.
I treat with equal delicacy bowels, head or heart.
To my eyes copulation is no baser than death.
I believe in the flesh and its appetites.
To see, hear, touch, are miracles; every particle of my being is a miracle.
Outside as much as inside me I am divine,
I sanctify what I touch, and whatever touches me,
The scent of my armpits is purer than prayer,
My head is greater than churches, bibles and creeds.
When I climb the steps to my door I often pause to ask myself if that is the case,
A morning glory glinting blue in my window satisfies me more than all the metaphysics of books.
To contemplate the dawn!
The tenuous, so tenuous clarity fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,
The taste of the air pleases my palate.
Dazzling, formidable, the sun's rising would quickly kill me
If I could not now and always project out of myself a rising sun.
We are also dazzling and formidable like the sun,
We have found what we needed, oh my soul! in the calm and freshness of the dawn.
I listen to the song of the magic soprano. (What is my work compared with hers?)
The orchestra whirls me beyond Uranus's orbit,
Arouses in me crazed burnings whose existence I had ignored,
They sail me over the sea whose indolent waves graze my feet,
A sharp and furious hail stabs at me, I lose my breath,
I feel submerged in a morphine bath that tastes of honey, my trachea closes fatally,
Finally, I feel free to feel the enigma of enigmas,
And that we call being.
I believe a leaf of grass is not inferior to the journey of the stars,
That the ant is as perfect as they are, and as is a grain of sand, and as is the kinglet's egg,
And the tadpole is a masterpiece comparable to the greatest,
And the running blackberry could adorn the salon of the heavens,
And the meanest hinge in my hand challenges all of mechanics,
And the cow chewing mash with lowered head surpasses any statue.
And a mouse is a miracle able to move sextillions of doubters.
I could go live with animals, their calm and indolence pleases me so;
I remain whole hours contemplating them.
They neither become embittered by nor lament their fate,
They do not lie awake in the dark crying for their sins,
They do not lose heart over debates about their obligations to God,
None appears discontent, the mania to possess does not make them crazy,
None kneels down before another nor before any of its kind dead thousands of years,
None lives with respectability, none exhibits his misfortune to the curiosity of the world.
So they prove their kinship with me, and as such I accept them,
They bring me testimonies of what I am, they show me clearly that they possess the highest values.
With nightfall, I climb up to the pawl, relieve the guard keeping watch in the crow's nest.
We navigate through the arctic sea, there is enough light to orient us,
Through the translucent atmosphere my gaze takes in the prodigious beauty around me,
Huge masses of ice pass before my eyes, the scenery is visible in all directions.
In the distance the bright white peaks of mountains are visible; towards them the caprices of my imagination journey,
We approach a great battlefield where soon we will have to fight,
We pass before the colossal vanguards of the army, we pass prudently in silence;
Or we may be advancing down the avenues of a great city in ruins,
The stone blocks and stricken monuments surpass all the living capitals on earth.
I am a free lover, I camp beside the fires brightening the conquerors' bivouacs,
I throw the husband out of his bed and take his place by the wife.
All night I press her passionately between my thighs and lips.
I comprehend the large hearts of the heroes,
Modern courage and prehistoric courage,
The disdain and calm of martyrs,
The mother of old condemned as a witch and burned over dry firewood, before her children's eyes,
The slave, persecuted like an imprisoned woman, who falls mid-flight, all atremble and sweating blood.
The murderous bullets that stab like needles at his legs and neck,
All this I feel and suffer as he does.
I change agonies as I do clothes.
I do not ask the wounded person what he feels, I myself become the wounded person,
His injuries grow livid in my body, as I watch him leaning on my cane.
I am the fireman with the chest crushed under the rubble,
The falling walls have covered me completely,
I breathe smoke and fire, I hear the anguished yelling of my comrades,
I hear the distant clack of their picks and shovels,
They have arrived now where I lie buried, and they gently lift me up.
I lie stretched out on the floor in my red shirt, all fall quiet around me.
I neither suffer nor despair despite my exhaustion,
Beautiful and white are the people surrounding me, with their heads freed of their helmets,
The kneeling group fades with the torch light.
Now I will narrate the murder of four hundred and twelve young warriors murdered in cold blood.
Ambushed by enemy forces nine times greater than their own, they formed a square, making a parapet of their belongings;
More than nine hundred enemy had already died,
When their colonel fell and they ran out of ammunition;
Then they entered negotiations, obtaining a dignified capitulation, signed by the respective captains,
They immediately gave up their arms and followed their captors as prisoners of war.
They were the flower of the race, the glory of Texas rangers,
Unparalleled in breaking ponies,51 singing, enjoying themselves, courting young women,
Handsome, turbulent, amiable, generous, proud,
Bearded, sun burned, dressed in a typical hunter's garb,
Not one was older than thirty.
His charges were false, and he was forced to make a retraction.
the retraction of the plane's landing gear
Then, last spring, Gabriel Arana, an editor at The American Prospect who had undergone several years of reparative therapy in his teens, called on Spitzer at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. Arana, as he wrote movingly in an essay he later published in the magazine, had been driven to depression and nearly to suicide by the treatment, before he (and his parents) came to terms with his homosexuality. When Arana asked Spitzer about the criticisms that had been leveled against his paper, Spitzer told him, “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” and then went on to ask Arana if he would print a retraction of the study so that he wouldn’t “have to worry about it anymore.” —“Brave Thinkers” P. 54, THE ATLANTIC Vol. 310 No. 4, November, 2012
Fears of magical penis loss were not limited to the Orient. The Malleus Maleficarum, medieval Europeans’ primary guidebook to witches and their ways, warned that witches could cause one’s membrum virile to vanish, and indeed several chapters were dedicated to this topic. Likewise the Compendium Maleficarum warned that witches had many ways to affect one’s potency, the seventh of which included “a retraction, hiding or actual removal of the male genitals.” (This could be either a temporary or a permanent condition.) Even in the 1960s, there were reports of Italian migrant workers in Switzerland panicking over a loss of virility caused by witchcraft. —“A Mind Dismembered” P. 61, Frank Bures, HARPER’S MAGAZINE Vol. 316 No. 1897, June 2008
He was about to speak, when the phone rang. He threw his napkin down and stood up. “That better be from the Times. If they don’t print that retraction tomorrow I’m going to be mad as a hornet.” —“Chapter Sixteen” P 289, HARRIET THE SPY, Louise Fitzhugh, Dell Yearling (1964) 2001
Also, we might remark, that very range of magical practice the demons had helped to uncover, and which allowed of such a variety of victories, allowed also of a wide choice of tolerances. Ironically, the more vague and sweeping the earlier condemnations had been, the more scope there was now for retractions which might, though belatedly, win some friends. —“The Demonisation ...” P. 338, WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC IN EUROPE, Valerie Flint [British Author], Univ. of PA Press 133.4 W17 1999
In return, Abbs avoids possible debarment and gets his rebuttal of the charges placed in the official file. The agreement also requires notification of Neurology, but not retraction of the article. Robert Daroff, the journal’s editor in chief, says: “If Abbs doesn’t, I will retract.” —“News & Comment” P. 948, Jock Friedly, SCIENCE Vol. 272, May 17, 1996