The International Literary Quarterly

May 2010


Luis Cernuda
Sally Cline
Christine Crow
Paul Scott Derrick
Paulette Dubé
Sarah Glazer
Tomás Harris
Philippe Jaccottet
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Peter McCarey
Deborah Moggach
Vivek Narayanan
Georges Perros
Tessa Ransford
Sue Reidy
Daniel Shapiro
Rebecca Swift
John Taylor
Yassen Vassilev
Alan Wall
Stephen Wilson
Tamar Yoseloff
Karen Zelas

Volta: A Multilingual Anthology
(One poem: 93 languages)

Issue 11 Guest Artist:
Catherine McIntyre

President: Peter Robertson
Deputy Editor: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
Art Editor: Calum Colvin

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boulossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Laurie Maguire
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Sari Nusseibeh
Tim Parks
Molly Peacock
Pascale Petit
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Élisabeth Roudinesco
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
Rebecca Swift
Susan Tiberghien
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Associate Editor: Jeff Barry
Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Eclogue, Elegy, Ode (1927-1928) by Luis Cernuda, translated from Spanish by Paul Scott Derrick  

This group of poems forms the second section of Cernuda’s retrospective edition of his poetic output, La realidad y el deseo [Reality and Desire]. As did Walt Whitman with Leaves of Grass, Cernuda gradually accumulated La realidad y el deseo through successive editions, constantly revising, reordering and editing his own work. The final edition of the book, on which the versions translated here are based, is considered to be one of the masterpieces of modern Spanish poetry.

These four poems are rather astonishing for their marriage of highly complex structure with profound (if somewhat questionable) philosophical content. This is not the kind of work that avant-garde poets of the late 1920s were normally engaged in. And in fact, shortly afterwards Cernuda turned toward much more open free-verse forms, using a conversational tone and surrealistic imagery. But these poems remain as eloquent witnesses to one poet’s extraordinary technical skills.

This poetic sequence offers a fascinating challenge for translation. Octavio Paz wrote that Cernuda’s “early poems seem […] to be an exercise whose perfection does not exclude affectation, a certain manneredness from which he never entirely freed himself.” This balanced assessment might be read as an assignment-sheet for the translator. The formal perfection here is an ever-receding goalpost to strive for. The abstract thought is a difficult prey to capture. And the mannered affectation is a subtle visitor to flirt with.



Eclogue, Elegy, Ode (1927-1928) *


No myrtle leaves. No laurel. The wall extends
its vast domain – insatiable arc
across the gloom. Out of the darkness
a ripple. A vibration. Pulsing sound ascends.

A poignant voice, extinct, without the plumes
that vested it in living white,
arises, agitated from the night,
in bursts of its ancient tune.

A rumour, softly preening –
after the sound has gone, it wants. It longs.
The solid silence hearkens to those songs,
resonant with harmony and meaning.

Though time amass oblivion in iron hand,
strangling the chanting breath, it cannot kill.
That never-aging voice throbs and pulses still,
singing to the world of men.

And what has become of the joyous
mortal flight? Its ecstasy undone,
it rests beneath the weight of stone,
sombre in this melancholy light.

What solitude, what sterile peace. It quells
that muted life, receding in the distance.
But always, with beautiful insistence
the ceaseless human undercurrent swells.

Here – the crystal clarity – coherence
moulded into momentary sound.
But after – an echo. It isn’t bound
to him who minted its magnificence.



As high as heaven’s vault
waving with easy grace
the branch reaches up to the blue –
so high, light can’t assault
this sombre space
or break its holy solitude.
A single bird intrudes
to deepen contemplation
with a tenuous trill.
Could other song fulfil
its own culmination,
subtle as a ripple where it grows,
like lonely silence, garnered as it flows?

The rose alone imparts
its perfect presence now,
yearning from the branch to the sky.
Or doubtful, it darts
into the leafy bough –
delicate, adolescent, shy.
These branches don’t deny
the glory of the spring –
bent beneath its crown.
Not a flower flutters down.
Tenderly they cling
resisting for a day
the impulse and the urges of early May.

And if the breezes tremble
through those slender stems
with only the slightest push,
then all the blooms resemble
a revolt of diadems
excited, scurrying through the bush,
rose-tinted whirlwinds, a rush
of living nymphs in flight
toward the quiet grove.
But afterward, the treasure-trove
reveals them in its shifting light,
rapt in the tremulous leaves,
captives of the bough’s resilient weave.

Among the roses – shimmering
beads of dew, serene and grave,
absorbed in their own magnificence.
No reflections glimmering
from the passage of that wave,
adamant and cruel with tenderness.
These mystic recesses
won’t unseal their locks.
They only copy from the sky
some vibrant flurry passing by
that doesn’t pause to look
at this unparalleled abundance.
Empty joy, monotony, redundance.

Now the present slumbers.
Languid hours refine
into a dream, and settle deep.
Pure delight. Unencumbered
with disturbance or desire,
the indecisive moment is asleep.
What song is this that leaps –
unfolding far away
from an impure flute?
With rain that bares the root
a syncopated melody
advances through the leaves, and sprays
the air with sudden streaks of grey.

Perhaps that falling sound’s
a revenant. The stealth
of echoes, issued from a frozen stream
in caverns underground
that liquefies itself
to complement the quiet boughs with green.
This music, like a dream,
resides among the reeds.
Its echo, murmuring
from lips whose breathing
nurtured it, recedes,
stealing it away, deferring
to the air that follows after, softly stirring.

Air of idyllic trees,
sweet with primal innocence
and worthy of divine inhabitation.
But what cold signs are these,
rising from the somnolence
in sudden chilling gusts of agitation?
A secret incantation
of distant voices
threatens on the wind.
Other springs extend,
with pitiful insistence,
a fragrance almost dying
to the spring that now, among the trees, is sighing.

Contentment slips away.
Refuses – needs to shun
the waiting promise of fulfilment.
Fickle as the changing day,
where has it gone –
indistinct, untaken and impatient?
Look. Asleep. Unhastened
in a dream
of future happiness.
Here – confused and motionless
the shifting, tinted scene,
where fading lights now cast
a lingering glow of sadness from the past.

Above the peaceful brook,
a muted mirror made
of silver foam, without a sound
the dusk comes down to look
for its reflection in the shade.
It settles where its idle plumes are drowned.
And as the haze draws round
this barren weariness,
another presence grows.
Absence comes to interpose
its void into awareness,
while shadows gather high
to wipe away the contours of the sky.

Silence. Now the lights
that warmed the day are lost.
The world is still. No movement breaks
the deepening night.
Gone – the winds that tossed
the daylight blue with passing wakes.
And what invisible wall takes
shape, and gravely closes in
around the spirit, sadly clinging?
Heaven stops its singing.
The surface of eternity ceases to attend
to the light, the waiting blooms,
and oversees the horror
of the deep nocturnal gloom.



This garden, braced against the fall
of light as conquering night moves on,
breathes unnoticed before the dawn,
silent and content within its walls.

Sloth, night and love: the quiet lair
appeals beneath a dying glow.
The splendour of the day burns low
into a secret, languid atmosphere.

And in the pallid lantern-light:
roses, veins of blue, the half-heard moan
of a naked form, held there alone,
tenuous in the arms of night.

Roses, tender and warm against the hand
a sweet urge presses to the vine,
vessels of burning blue; all of a lifetime
given to that heartless dream in vain.

Alive, or a shade? Or marble reclined
in immortal repose? Or a faultless presence
offering its sterile air of indolence,
as cruel as a shiver in the spine?

Slowly the figure seems to rise
with the fickle breeze. It starts –
and a hidden wave expands from heart
to lip, where it comes to life, and dies.

Ambiguous delight. That grace
will not bestow itself on any man.
It passes on, disdainful, through a landscape
of dreams – unreal river and unreal space.

Fleeing from a stubborn love,
it breaks those delicate bonds.
What's this purity that will not respond
to the mortal caress it was prisoner of?

Amorous solitude. In idle display
the youthful body lies – perfect, slow.
A melancholy pause. In sudden snow
the sovereign ardour melts away.

And what can you expect, when all is told?
Boredom and dregs – the age-old weariness,
tears falling hopelessly, the sadness
of the half-made bed, clumsy and cold.

Ephemeral garden, burning deep
where the fruit of eternity hung –
and the docile lip, at a taste, was stung
from a vast and indifferent sleep.

Out of that dream where universes swirled,
a distant sleeping form remains –
fertile possibility, but hollow and vain
in the lonely silence of the world.

This ravenous gnaw of bitterness,
thistle to the lover’s blind affection –
is this what clouds the perfection
of the night, angelic and motionless?

No. With the slow revolution of morn
a tender light affects the sky with doubt.
A bird is awake on a hidden bough
and questions the horizon with a song.

The subtle rumour of the world draws near.
Beauty comes to birth beneath the dawn.
And as the constant wave moves on,
this final trace of sadness disappears.



Sadness now succumbs – an impure ghost
that dwindles on the air – with sombre
splendid indolence. Slowly it swirls
toward the distance, and is lost.
The implacable fire of summer
sends a tremor through the world.
And deeply life unfurls
as peaceful hours run,
its glorious morning sun
a whirlwind of delirious design.
Out of the light, a brilliant pathway shines.
But on that glowing path, a purer light impends:
living, lovely and divine,
a young god, smiling, descends.

From what uncanny realm above
does that immortal presence deign to come,
scion of what empyreal breed?
Made of marble limbs, it feels and loves.
Motionless, it quivers in the sun,
and quickens with the breath of shivering need.
That figure, conceived
in naked perfection,
shimmers with reflections
that glance across the shadowed light.
And raising its prodigious weight
from the depths where it lay in dream,
a powerful fate
is born into the world – a force supreme.

Is this a god? A sudden gesture
breaks across the stillness of its pose
with a note of muted melody
that floats, suspended in the air.
And while the vivid silence flows,
it lingers there, a revenant of harmony.
The god of that epiphany,
forgotten now, sleeps on.
Its echo is reborn:
a man the scattering mists reveal.
No distance’s translucence can conceal
this human beauty from the sense;
its form unveils
a universe of timeless presentiments.

Prodigious, palpitating form,
a perfect body filled with youthful might,
the ideal blossoming of human grace.
It raises a triumphant arm,
solid, yet agile and light,
and life opens out beneath the arc it has traced.
All horror that would dare deface
with shadows and distortion
such harmonious proportion
would only meet defiance.
This is the spirit of self-reliance,
hardened steel of pride and mastery;
every move expresses the alliance
of dominion and restraint with liberty.

When the beautiful power expands
in the flesh, in the amorous, thankless coiling
of the flesh; when the shivering need respires;
when, in the darkness where the blood demands,
the tension of love unsprings,
the voice, with a pulsing urge acquires
a sense of grace that inspires
an indolent form.
Against the breast it notices a warmth
of other being, a body undefended,
offering its purity, tenderness extended
like a dying swan in green and brown
reflections where the underbrush is blended,
that lives and sings, and in a frenzy, drowns.

But all of the sorrowful cares
of love that passion stubbornly claims
from those who give themselves to another –
the tender lament, the countless tears
of complaint and the shame
of boredom, hidden from the lover,
while uncertainty hovers
in a cloud of constant doubt.
Only freedom can burn out
this vehement desire,
not the ironic pyre
of those terrible, fleeting glories
that love, with its smouldering fires,
discovers in the ashes of its victories.

So on those lips a smile is sealed.
The light of joy begins to spread
across that manly face.
And the ancient sadness yields,
erasing the secret bitterness it fed,
while innocent candour takes its place.
The body’s limbs retrace
their natural disparity
with beautiful dexterity.
It ripples through the muscles, tensing slow.
And then, from the bank above the gentle flow,
the form and its image unify –
a lightning flash of snow
beneath the light from a towering sky.

Content, asleep beneath the azure gleam,
the water dreamed and slowly passed,
perpetual, spun from a secret source.
But swelling in a tumultuous stream
of broken foam, it shows at last
the swimmer in his drifting course.
That form takes sudden force,
shining in the silver mist.
The river laps and twists
in lucid, rippling swirls
as the swimmer rides its whirl
of liquid yearning, elusive diadem.
And sunlight, splendour of purest pearl,
like a lover caresses his floating limbs.

Along the stream, a whispering pervades
the wall of leaves with shifting hues
and dissipates in verdant mysteries.
Among the restive woodland shades
an enigmatic shadow now pursues
the waning light, as it flees.
The current cleaves its boundaries
with quiet water sounds.
And all the sky rebounds
the singing of a bird within the trees.
The naked body rises, listens carefully
beneath a heavy bough, whose flowers
weave a complicated tapestry
of trembling, blinding snow.

Oh new-born god. With dazzling ease
you turn your careless grace
toward the twilight in the west.
And now, the calm that whispers in the trees,
the splendid charm of summer days,
evaporates in empty idleness.
The afternoon, content to rest,
permits itself to yield
to lazy sleep; it doesn’t feel
its own serene magnificence.
Across the gleaming distances
of night, the happy body seems to fly,
and leaves this world of substances
to dream, beneath a canopy of purple sky.

* I would like to thank Richard Barengarten and Miguel Teruel for the valuable suggestions they made during the final stage of preparation of these texts. The present translation would’ve been poorer without their helping hands.


Égloga, Elegía, Oda (1927 – 1928)



Ni mirto ni laurel. Fatal extiende
Su frontera insaciable el vasto muro
Por la tiniebla fúnebre. En lo oscuro,
Todo vibrante, un claro son asciende.

Cálida voz extinta, sin la pluma
Que opacamente blanca la vestía,
Ráfagas de su antigua melodía
Levanta arrebatada entre la bruma.

Es un rumor celándose suave;
Tras una gloria triste, quiere, anhela.
Con su acento armonioso se desvela
Ese silencio sólido tan grave.

El tiempo, duramente acumulando
Olvido hacia el cantor, no lo aniquila;
Siempre joven su voz, late y oscila,
Al mundo de los hombres va cantando.

Mas el vuelo mortal tan dulce ¿adónde
Perdidamente huyó? Deshecho brío,
El mármol absoluto en un sombrío
Reposo melancólico lo esconde.

Qué paz estéril, solitaria, llena
Aquel vivir pasado, en lontananza,
Aunque, trabajo bello, con pujanza
Aún surta esa perenne, humana vena.

Toda nítida aquí, vivaz perdura
En un son que es ahora transparente.
Pero un eco, tan solo; ya no siente
Quien le infundió tan lúcida hermosura.


Tal alta, sí, tan alta
En revuelo sin brío,
La rama el cielo prometido anhela,
Que ni la luz asalta
Este espacio sombrío
Ni su divina soledad desvela.
Hasta el pájaro cela
Al absorto reposo
Su delgada armonía.
¿Qué trino colmaría,
En irisado rizo prodigioso
Aguzándose lento,
Como el silencio solo y sin acento?

Sólo la rosa asume
Una presencia pura
Irguiéndose en la rama tan altiva,
O equívoca se sume
Entre la fronda oscura,
Adolescente, esbelta, fugitiva.
Y la rama no esquiva
La gloria que la viste
Aunque el peso la enoja;
Ninguna flor deshoja,
Sino ligera, lánguida resiste,
Con airoso desmayo,
Los dones que la brinda el nuevo mayo.

Si la brisa estremece
En una misma onda
El abandono de los tallos finos,
Ágil tropel parece
Tanta rosa en la fronda
De cuerpos fabulosos y divinos;
Rosados torbellinos
De ninfas verdaderas
En fuga hacia el boscaje.
Aún trémulo el ramaje,
Entre sus vueltas luce, prisioneras
De resistente trama,
Las que impidió volar con tanta rama.

Entre las rosas yace
El agua tan serena,
Gozando de sí misma en su hermosura;
Ningún reflejo nace
Tras de la onda plena,
Fría, cruel, inmóvil de tersura.
Jamás esta clausura
Su elemento desata;
Sólo copia del cielo
Algún rumbo, algún vuelo
Que vibrando no burla tan ingrata
Plenitud sin porfía.
Nula felicidad: monotonía.

Se sostiene el presente,
Olvidado en su sueño,
Con un ágil escorzo distendido.
Delicia. Dulcemente,
Sin deseo ni empeño,
El instante indeciso está dormido.
¿Y ese son atrevido
Que desdobla lejano
Alguna flauta impura?
Con su lluvia tan dura
Ásperamente riega y torna cano
Al aire de esta umbría
Esa indecisa, vana melodía.

Acaso de algún eco
Es riqueza mentida
Ese vapor sonoro; fría vena
Que en un confuso hueco
Sus hielos liquida
Y a la fronda tan muda así la llena.
Esta música ajena
Entre las cañas yace,
Y el eco, con su ala,
Del labio que la exhala,
Adonde clara, puramente nace,
Hurtándola, la cede
Al aire que tan vano le sucede.

Idílico paraje
De dulzor tan primero,
Nativamente digno de los dioses.
Mas ¿qué frío celaje
Se levanta ligero,
En cenicientas ráfagas veloces?
Unas secretas voces
Este júbilo ofenden
Desde gris lontananza;
Con estéril pujanza
Otras pasadas primaveras tienden,
Hasta la que hoy respira,
Una tierna fragancia que suspira.

Y la dicha se esconde;
Su presencia rehuye
La plenitud total ya prometida.
Infiel de nuevo, ¿adónde
Turbadamente huye,
Impaciente, entrevista, no rendida?
Está otra vez dormida,
En promesa probable
De inminente futuro.
Y deja yerto, oscuro,
Este florido ámbito mudable,
A quien la luz asiste
Con un dejo pretérito tan triste.

Sobre el agua benigna,
Melancólico espejo
De congeladas, pálidas espumas,
El crepúsculo asigna
Un sombrío reflejo
En donde anega sus inertes plumas.
Cuánto acercan las brumas
El infecundo hastío;
Tanta dulce presencia
Aún próxima, es ausencia
En este instante plácido y vacío,
Cuando, elevado monte,
La sombra va negando el horizonte.

Silencio. Ya decrecen
Las luces que lucían.
Ni la brisa ni el viento al aire oscuro
Vanamente estremecen
Con sus ondas, que abrían
Surcos tan indolentes de azul puro.
¿Y qué invisible muro
Su frontera más triste
Gravemente levanta?
El cielo ya no canta,
Ni su celeste eternidad asiste
A la luz y a las rosas,
Sino al horror nocturno de las cosas.


Este lugar, hostil a los oscuros
Avances de la noche vencedora,
Ignorado respira ante la aurora,
Sordamente feliz entre sus muros.

Pereza, noche, amor, la estancia quieta
Bajo una débil claridad ofrece.
El esplendor sus llamas adormece
En la lánguida atmósfera secreta.

Y la pálida lámpara vislumbra
Rosas, venas de azul, grito ligero
De un contorno desnudo, prisionero
Tenuemente abolido en la penumbra.

Rosas tiernas, amables a la mano
Que un dulce afán impulsa estremecida,
Venas de ardiente azul; toda una vida
Al insensible sueño vuelta en vano.

¿Vive o es una sombra, mármol frío
En reposo inmortal, pura presencia
Ofreciendo su estéril indolencia
Con un claro, cruel escalofrío?

Al indeciso soplo lento oscila
El bulto langoroso; se estremece
Y del seno la onda oculta crece
Al labio donde nace y se aniquila.

Equívoca delicia. Esa hermosura
No rinde su abandono a ningún dueño;
Camina desdeñosa por su sueño,
Pisando una falaz ribera oscura.

Del obstinado amante fugitiva,
Rompe los delicados, blandos lazos;
A la mortal caricia, entre los brazos,
¿Qué pureza tan súbita la esquiva?

Soledad amorosa. Ocioso yace
El cuerpo juvenil perfecto y leve.
Melancólica pausa. En triste nieve
El ardor soberano se deshace.

¿Y que esperar, amor? Sólo un hastío,
El amargor profundo, los despojos.
Llorando vanamente ven los ojos
Ese entreabierto lecho torpe y frío.

Tibio blancor, jardín fugaz, ardiente,
Donde el eterno fruto se tendía
Y el labio alegre, dócil lo mordía
En un vasto sopor indiferente.

De aquel sueño orgulloso en su fecundo,
Esplendido poder, una lejana
Forma dormida queda, ausente y vana
Entre la sorda soledad del mundo.

Esta insaciable, ávida amargura,
Flecha contra la gloria del amante,
¿Enturbia ese sereno diamante
De la angélica noche inmóvil, pura?

Mas no. De un nuevo albor el rumbo lento
Transparenta tan leve luz dudosa.
El pájaro en su rama melodiosa
Alisando está el ala, el dulce acento.

Ya con rumor suave la belleza
Esperada del mundo otra vez nace,
Y su onda monótona deshace
Este remoto dejo de tristeza.


La tristeza sucumbe, nube impura,
Alejando su vuelo con sombrío
Resplandor indolente, languidece,
Perdiéndose a lo lejos, leve, oscura.
El furor implacable del estío
Toda la vida espléndida estremece
Y profunda la ofrece
Con sus felices horas,
Sus soles, sus auroras,
Delirante, azulado torbellino.
Desde la luz, el más puro camino,
Con el fulgor que pisa compitiendo,
Vivo, bello y divino,
Un joven dios avanza sonriendo.

¿A qué cielo natal ajeno, ausente
Le niega esa inmortal presencia esquiva,
Ese contorno tibiamente pleno?
De mármol animado, quiere y siente;
Inmóvil, pero trémulo, se aviva
Al soplo de un purpúreo anhelar lleno.
El dibujo sereno
Del desnudo tan puro,
En un reflejo duro,
Con sombra y luz acusa su reposo.
Y levantando el bulto prodigioso
Desde el sueño remoto donde yace,
Destino poderoso,
A la fuerza suprema firme nace.

Pero ¿es un dios? El ademán parece
Romper de su actitud la pura calma
Con un gesto de muda melodía,
Que luego, suspendido, no perece;
Silencioso, más vívido, con alma,
Mantiene sucesiva su armonía.
El dios que traslucía
Ahora olvidado yace;
Eco suyo, renace
El hombre que ninguna nube cela.
La hermosura diáfana no vela
Ya la atracción humana ante el sentido;
Y su forma revela
Un mundo eternamente presentido.

Qué prodigiosa forma palpitante,
Cuerpo perfecto en el vigor primero,
En su plena belleza tan humano.
Alzando su contorno triunfante,
Sólido, sí, mas ágil y ligero,
Abre la vida inmensa ante su mano.
Todo el horror en vano
A esa firmeza entera
Con sus sombras quisiera
Derribar de tan fúlgida armonía.
Pero, acero obstinado, sólo fía
En sí mismo ese orgullo tan altivo;
Claramente se guía
Con potencia admirable, libre y vivo.

Cuando la fuerza bella, la destreza
Despliega en la amorosa empresa ingrata
El cuerpo; cuando trémulo suspira;
Cuando en la sangre, oculta fortaleza,
El amor desbocado se desata,
El labio con afán ávido aspira
La gracia que respira
Una forma indolente;
Bajo su brazo siente
Otro cuerpo de lánguida blancura
Distendido, ofreciendo su ternura,
Como cisne mortal entre el sombrío
Verdor de la espesura,
Que ama, canta y sucumbe en desvarío.

Mas los tristes cuidados amorosos
Que tercamente la pasión reclama
De quien su vida en otras manos deja,
El tierno lamentar, los enojosos
Hastíos escondidos del que ama
Y tantas lentas lágrimas de queja,
El azar firme aleja
De este cuerpo sereno;
A su vigor tan pleno
La libertad conviene solamente,
No el cuidado vehemente
De las terribles y fugaces glorias
Que el amor más ardiente
Halla en fin tras sus débiles victorias.

Así en su labio enamorada nace
Sonrisa luminosa, dilatando
Por el viril semblante la alegría.
Y la antigua tristeza ya deshace,
Desde el candor primero gravitando,
La amargura secreta que nutría.
El cuerpo ya desvía
La natural crudeza
En hermosa destreza
Que por los tensos músculos remueve.
Y a la orilla cercana, al agua leve,
La forma tras su extraña imagen salta;
Relámpago de nieve
Bajo la luz difusa de tan alta.

Sonriente, dormida bajo el cielo,
Soñaba el agua y transcurría lenta,
Idéntica a sí misma y fugitiva.
Mas en tumulto alzándose, en revuelo
De rota espuma, al nadador ostenta
Ingrávido en su fuga a la deriva.
Y la forma se aviva
Con reflejos de plata;
Ata el río y desata,
En transparente lazo mal seguro,
Aquel rumbo veloz entre su oscuro
Anhelar ya resuelto en diamante.
La luz, esplendor puro,
Cálida envuelve al cuerpo como amante.

Un frescor sosegado se levanta
Hacia las hojas desde el verde río
Y en invisible vuelo se diluye.
La sombra misteriosa ya suplanta,
Entre el boscaje ávido y sombrío,
A la luz tan diáfana que huye.
Y la corriente fluye
Con un rumor sereno;
Todo el cielo está lleno
Del trinar que algún pájaro desvela.
El bello cuerpo en pie, desnudo cela,
Bajo la rama espesa, entretejida
Como difícil tela,
Su cegadora nieve estremecida.

Oh nuevo dios. Con deslumbrante brío
El crepúsculo vuelve vagoroso
Su perezosa gracia seductora.
Todo el fúlgido encanto del estío
El fatigado bosque rumoroso
En reposo vacío lo evapora.
Vana y feliz, la hora
Al sopor indolente
Se abandona; no siente
Su silenciosa y lánguida hermosura.
Por la centelleante trama oscura
Huye el cuerpo feliz casi en un vuelo,
Dejando la espesura
Por la delicia púrpura del cielo.