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Rubén Darío

1867–1916

Rubén Darío was born Félix Rubén García Sarmiento on January 18, 1867, in Metapa, Nicaragua. He began publishing poems under the name Rubén Darío at an early age. He left Nicaragua in his late teens and moved to El Salvador and later Chile, where he published Azul, a collection of poems and short stories, in 1888. This book is often considered to mark the beginning of the Spanish-American modernist movement.

Darío left Chile the following year and returned to Central America, where he married his first wife in 1890. After her death in 1893, he married again but divorced soon after. Later in 1893, he was appointed the Colombian Consul to Buenos Aires, where he became increasingly active in the literary community and the modernist movement. He published his second poetry collection, Prosas profanas y otros poemas (Imprenta Pablo E. Coni), in 1896.

In 1898, Darío left Buenos Aires for Europe, where he served as a correspondent for the Argentinian newspaper La Nación. He spent the next several years traveling around the continent, and he published many books of poetry and prose during this time, including Cantos de vida y esperanza (Tipografía de Revista de Archivos y Bibliotecas, 1905) and Poema del otoño y otros poemas.

Of his work, Octavio Paz writes, “Darío was not only the richest and most ample of the Modernist poets: he was one of the great modrern poets. At times, he reminds us of Poe; at other times, of Whitman. Of the first, in that portion of his work in which he scorns the world of the Americas to seek an otherworldly music; of the second, in that portion in which he expresses his vitalist affirmations, his pantheism, and his belief that he was, in his own right, the bard of Latin America as Whitman was of Anglo-America.”

Darío left Europe in 1914, at the beginning of World War I. After a brief period in New York City, he returned to Nicaragua, where he died on February 6, 1916.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
A Bilingual Anthology of Poems by Rubén Darío (1867–1916) (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2016)
Selected Writings (Penguin Books, 2005)
Selected Poems (University of Texas Press, 1965)
Poetic and Prose Selections (D. C. Heath, 1931)
Prosas Profanas and Other Poems (Nicholas L. Brown, 1922)

Prose
Short Stories from the Spanish (Halderman-Julius, 1923)

Rubén Darío

By This Poet

3

A Sonnet on Cervantes

translated by Thomas Walsh and Salomón de la Selva

In all my days of troubled loneliness
And fretted grief Cervantes is to me
A faithful friend, and none so true as he,
That brings me precious gifts of quietness.

All nature his, and life. Of his largesse
My dreams, that are knight-errants bold and free,
Have golden casques to crown them gloriously.
He is, for me: sigh, prayer, joyousness.

He speaks as runs a brook, so amorous
And very gentle is this Christian knight,
Ever undaunted. And I love him thus,

Beholding how the world, by fate’s design,
Reaps, from his deathless sorrow, rich delight,
And laughter from a madness so divine!


Soneto a Cervantes

Horas de pesadumbre y de tristeza
paso en mi soledad. Pero Cervantes
es buen amigo. Endulza mis instantes
ásperos, y reposa mi cabeza.

El es la vida y la naturaleza;
regala un yelmo de oro y de diamantes
a mis sueños errantes.
Es para mí: suspire, ríe y reza.

Cristiano y amoroso caballero
parla como un arroyo cristalino.
¡Así le admiro y quiero,

viendo cómo el destino
hace que regocije al mundo entero
la tristeza inmortal de ser divino!

To Roosevelt

It is with the voice of the Bible, or verse of Walt Whitman,
that we should reach you, Hunter!
Primitive and modern, simple and complicated,
with a bit of Washington and a bit of Nimrod.
You are the United States,
You are the future invader
the naive America who has Indian blood,
that still prays to Jesus Christ and still speaks Spanish.

You are a proud and strong exemplar of your race;
you are cultured, you are clever, you oppose Tolstoy.
And breaking horses, or murdering tigers,
you are an Alejandro Nebuchadnezzar.
(You're a professor of energy,
as today's madmen say.)
You think life is fire,
that progress is eruption;
where you put your bullet
you put the future.

No.

The United States is strong and big.
When it shakes there is a deep tremor
through the enormous vertebrae of the Andes.
If you clamor, you hear the roar of the lion.
Hugo said to Grant: "The stars are yours."
(Just shining, rising, Argentine sun
and the Chilean star rises ...) You're rich.
Join Hercules' cult to Mammon's;
and lighting the path to easy conquest,
Liberty raises her torch in New York.

But our America, which had poets
from the old days of Netzahualcoyotl,
you have saved in the footsteps of the great feet of Bacchus
panic in the alphabet learned a while;
who consulted the stars, that knew Atlantis,
whose name comes to resonate in Plato
Since the ancient times of your life
living light, fire, perfume, love,
America's great Montezuma, from the Inca,
redolent of America by Christopher Columbus
Catholic American, Spanish American,
The America where noble Cuahtemoc said:
"I'm not a bed of roses" that America
trembles in hurricanes and lives in Love,
men of Saxon eyes and barbarous soul lives.
And dreams. And loves, and vibrates, and is the daughter of the Sun
Be careful. Live the American Spanish!
There are thousand of puppies loose Leon Spanish.
Be required, Roosevelt, being God himself,
Rifleman the terrible and strong Hunter,
order to keep us in your tight grip.

And, You may count it all, missing one thing: God!

Poets! Towers of God!

Translation by Thomas Walsh and Salomón de la Selva.

Poets! Towers of God
Made to resist the fury of the storms
Like cliffs beside the ocean
Or clouded, savage peaks!
Masters of lightning!
Breakwaters of eternity!

Hope, magic-voiced, foretells the day
When on the rock of harmony
The Siren traitorous shall die and pass away,
And there shall only be
The full, frank-billowed music of the sea.

Be hopeful still,
Though bestial elements yet turn
From Song with rancorous ill-will
And blinded races one another spurn!
Perversity debased
Among the high her rebel cry has raised.
The cannibal still lusts after the raw,
Knife-toothed and gory-faced.

Towers, your laughing banners now unfold.
Against all hatreds and all envious lies
Upraise the protest of the breeze, half-told,
And the proud quietness of sea and skies…

----

Torres de Dios! Poetas!
Pararrayos celestes,
que resistís las duras tempestades,
como crestas escuetas,
como picos agrestes,
rompeolas de las eternidades!

   La mágica Esperanza anuncia el día
en que sobre la roca de armonía
expirará la pérfida sirena.
Esperad, esperemos todavía!

   Esperad todavía.
El bestial elemento se solaza
en el odio a la sacra poesía,
y se arroja baldón de raza a raza.
La insurrección de abajo
tiende a los Excelentes.
En caníbal codicia su tasajo
con roja encía y afilados dientes.

   Torres, poned al pabellón sonrisa.
Poned ante ese mal y ese recelo,
una soberbia insinuación de brisa
y una tranquilidad de mar y cielo…