by: José Asunción Silva (1865-1896)

      PLANNED one time to perpetrate a song,
      One of the new kind, pulsing, free and strong.
      I balanced subjects tragic and grotesque,
      Conjuring all the rhythms unto my desk;
      And then the skittish metres gathered round
      Joining in shadowy swing and leap and bound
      Metres sonorous, metres potent, grave,
      Some with the shock of arms, some, bird-songs brave;
      From East and West, from South as well as North,
      Metres and stanzas bowing hurried forth.
      Chafing their golden bridles, loose of rein,
      Approach the Tercets, as if coursers vain.
      And opening up amid the gallant ring,
      Purple and gold, arrived the Sonnet king.
      And all began to sing -- Among the rabble
      There rose the spirit of a charming gabble.
      One pointed strophe wakened my desire
      With the clear tinkling of a little spire;
      So above all, I chose it for the bride
      Adding my crystal, silver rhymes beside.
      And thus I told a tale, with subtle grace,
      A tragical, fantastic, never base,--
      Though sad enough, a story straight and terse--
      Of a fair lady loved and in her hearse;
      And to sustain the mournful note I added
      Soft lisps with ex professo kisses padded:
      I decked the phrase with gold, and music rare
      Of lute and mandolin was sounded there.
      I drew the light of distances profound
      With solemn mists and melancholies bound;
      And 'mid the dim obscure, as in a feast
      Of mortals, dancers to the dance released;
      Clothed them in words that cloud like heavy veils,
      With midnight masks of satin, velvet trails;--
      And in the background interwining, wound
      The mystical and fleshly, as if bound.
      Then in my author's pride, I added there
      Heliotrope scent and light of jacynth rare--
      And brought the poem to a critic grand,
      Who sent it back -- "I fail to understand."

--Translated by Thomas Walsh

"A Poem" is reprinted from Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated from the Spanish by English and North American Poets. Ed. Thomas Walsh. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1920.




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