Last night, I decided that enough of the semester had passed without me trying to tie Latin America in with Walt Whitman. So, going off some vague memory, I found an article writtenÂ in praise ofÂ Whitman by Cuban writer JosĂ© MartĂ (1853-1895).
MartĂ was integral in motivating Cuba to separate from Spanish rule and establish itself, so it is not surprising that he would identify with Whitman’s hopes for the United States.Â This articleÂ is very long, so I will do my best to translate the opening paragraph that reads like this in Spanish (so that Brady can correct me ):
“Â«ParecĂa un dios anoche, sentado en un sillĂłn de terciopelo rojo, todo el cabello blanco, la barba sobre el pecho, las cejas como un bosque, la mano en un cayado.Â» Esto dice un diario de hoy del poeta Walt Whitman, anciano de setenta aĂ±os a quien los crĂticos profundos, que siempre son los menos, asignan puesto extraordinario en la literatura de su paĂs y de su Ă©poca. SĂłlo los libros sagrados de la antigĂŒedad ofrecen una doctrina comparable, por su profĂ©tico lenguaje y robusta poesĂa, a la [de]âŠ este poeta viejo, cuyo libro pasmoso estĂĄ prohibido.”
ââHe resembled a god last night, seated in a chair of red velvet, the complete white gentleman, his beard on his stomach, his eyebrows like a forest, his hand on a staff.â This is what one of todayâs newspapers says about the poet Walt Whitman, an old man of 70 years whom theÂ most profoundÂ critics, who are always the fewest in number, give an exalted position in the literature of his country and his age. Only the sacred books of antiquity offer a comparable doctrine, through his prophetic language and robust poetry, to that of… this old poet whose astonishing book is banned.â
I also found a poem about Whitman by the Nicaraguan writerÂ RubĂ©n DarĂo (1867-1916). DarĂo is regarded as the father of the Latin American “modernism” movement (which pre-dated the English-language movement and vastly differed in its ideas and focuses) and this poem was published in his collection Azul, which is seen as the archetypal “modernismo” work. The idealized way in which Whitman is describedÂ is characteristic of the modernismoÂ style, which I think goes with what we’ve observed aboutÂ early Whitman poetry.Â Not surprisingly, this poem is called Walt Whitman, and reads like this in the Spanish:
And here is my attempt at translation:
In his iron country lives the great old man,
Beautiful like a patriarch, serene and holy.
In the Olympic crease between his eyebrows
He has something that prevails and defeats with noble charm.
His infinite soul is like a mirror;
His tired shoulders are worthy of a cloak;
And with a carved harp from an ancient oak,
He sings his song like a new prophet.
Priest that cheers on the divine gust,
He announces, in the future, a better time.
He says to the eagle: âFly!â: âRow!â to the sailor,Â
And âWork!â to the robust worker.
So that poet goes on his way,
With his magnificent emperorâs face!
Any thoughts or observations?
October 23 2009 04:52 pm | Uncategorized