Historia de mi muerte / Story of My Death by Leopoldo Lugones

This entry is part 11 of 34 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Watch on Vimeo.

Story of My Death

I dreamed of death, and it was very simple:
I was cocooned in a silk thread
and at each of your kisses
another loop unwound,
and each of your kisses lasted a day
and the time between two kisses
lasted a night. Death was very simple.

And little by little that fatal thread
was unwinding. There was no longer more
than a single loop held between the fingers…
When suddenly you became cold
and no longer kissed me…
and I loosed my grip, and my life was gone.

Historia De Mi Muerte

Soñé la muerte y era muy sencillo;
una hebra de seda me envolvía,
y a cada beso tuyo,
con una vuelta menos me ceñía
y cada beso tuyo
era un día;
y el tiempo que mediaba entre dos besos
una noche. La muerte era muy sencilla.

Y poco a poco fue desenvolviéndose
la hebra fatal. Ya no la retenía
sino por solo un cabo entre los dedos…
Cuando de pronto te pusiste fría
y ya no me besaste…
y solté el cabo, y se me fue la vida.

*

Leopoldo Lugones - photo by Eduardo Vargas Machuca
photo by Eduardo Vargas Machuca

I translated this poem (with some invaluable assistance from Alicia E-Bourdin on Facebook) specifically with the intent of pairing it with that footage of cabbage white butterflies—which, when I shot it last week, I already recognized as having a certain Lugones-like feel. So it was just a question of finding the right poem. Running the Spanish and English side-by-side on the screen is a new experiment; I don’t know if anyone else has done it before. But most books of poetry in translation published in the U.S. include the original poems on the verso pages, so it’s tried-and-true approach for print.

Of all the early 20th-century Latin American poets in the Modernismo movement, Leopoldo Lugones may be my favorite. Even if he weren’t, I’d still feel obligated to include him in this series; his influence on Argentinian letters was inescapable. The English Wikipedia article on him is pretty threadbare, but the Encyclopedia Brittanica does a decent job.

Leopoldo Lugones, (born June 13, 1874, Villa María del Río Seco, Arg.—died Feb. 19, 1938, Buenos Aires), Argentine poet, literary and social critic, and cultural ambassador, considered by many the outstanding figure of his age in the cultural life of Argentina. He was a strong influence on the younger generation of writers that included the prominent short-story writer and novelist Jorge Luis Borges. His influence in public life set the pace for national development in the arts and education. […]

Lugones was director of the National Council of Education (1914–38), and he represented Argentina in the Committee on Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations (1924). He was also noted for several volumes of Argentine history, for studies of Classical Greek literature and culture, and for his Spanish translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

An introverted man who thought of himself primarily as a poet, Lugones was genuinely uneasy about the prominence that he had achieved and the public responsibilities that it entailed. He became a fascist in 1929. Under great emotional strain in later years, he committed suicide.

Series Navigation← Birds of smoke: two poems by José María EgurenLa blanca soledad / Pale Solitude by Leopoldo Lugones →

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