César Vallejo – Trilce XXXIV

In a unique critical essay written in Paris, though published in Lima (El Comercio, 1924), Vallejo lays his cards on the table & openly discusses the shortcomings of North American in the 20’s. In that piece, he suggests that Imagists, such as Pound & Doolittle, were simply riding the coat-tails of the “artificial” vanguards of Europe & that the only hope for American poetry was through Walt Whitman (more on this elsewhere. Vallejo saw in Whitman sincerity without style and in this thread he observed Hart Crane, Gwendolyn Haste & Langston Hughes all possess “a sensibility that, without having managed to rid itself of the capitalist sin, translates nonetheless the most noble strengths and concerns of that people”. However, it would be a mistake to say that Vallejo was fond of or even support Crane, Hughes or Haste. Of this unhappy bifurcation, he explains: “in neither of these two tendencies does the hoped for aShould it rain...ccent appear, the transformative accent that, without breaking off with the profound and sane historical nexus, breaks off with artificial conventions and social errors”.

For Vallejo, this nexus is essential. It is was leads him to say that new poetry “doesn’t attract attention as to whether or not it is modern”. This principle, in my opinion, is apparent in Trilce XXXIV, where the tone likens that of the Romantic verses written in the late 1800’s, while the language itself reveals a completely new perspective on poetic expression. Below you’ll find a copy of the poem in Spanish.

XXXIV

Si lloviera esta noche, retiraríame
de aquí a mil años.
Mejor a cien no más.
Como si nada hubiese ocurrido, haría
la cuenta de que vengo todavía.

O sin madre, sin amada, sin porfía
de agacharme a aguaitar al fondo, a puro
pulso,
esta noche así, estaría escarmenando
la fibra védica,
la lana védica de mi fin final, hilo
del diantre, traza de haber tenido
por las narices
a dos badajos inacordes de tiempo
en una misma campana.

Haga la cuenta de mi vida
o haga la cuenta de no haber aún nacido
no alcanzaré a librarme.

No será lo que aún no haya venido, sino
lo que ha llegado y ya se ha ido,
sino lo que ha llegado y ya se ha ido.

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