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“A profound shudder”

4 September 2008

Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío wrote for

The America of Moctezuma and Atahualpa,
the aromatic America of Columbus,
Catholic America, Spanish America,
the America where noble Cuauhtémoc said:
“I am not on a bed of roses” —our America,
trembling with hurricanes, trembling with Love…

In 1905 America trembled not with hurricane and Love, but with the boom of gunboats.  President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904 had signed off on the “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine, with which the United States unilaterally declared its right to use military force to “police” Latin America.

Although the fashion of late has been to “outsource” the military forces, and to sell equipment that can be used to “police” Latin America,  the warnings to the Americas in “To Roosevelt” still need to be heeded.

The voice that would reach you, Hunter, must speak
in Biblical tones, or in the poetry of Walt Whitman.
You are primitive and modern, simple and complex;
you are one part George Washington and one part Nimrod.
You are the United States,
future invader of our naive America
with its Indian blood, an America
that still prays to Christ and still speaks Spanish.
You are strong, proud model of your race;
you are cultured and able; you oppose Tolstoy.
You are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar,
breaking horses and murdering tigers.

(You are a Professor of Energy,
as current lunatics say).
You think that life is a fire,
that progress is an eruption,
that the future is wherever
your bullet strikes.
No.

The United States is grand and powerful.
Whenever it trembles, a profound shudder
runs down the enormous backbone of the Andes.
If it shouts, the sound is like the roar of a lion.

(Translation by Lysander Kamp)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ... permalink
    4 September 2008 9:46 pm

    If you clamor, it is heard like the roaring of a lion.
    Hugo already said it to Grant: The stars are yours.
    (The Argentine sun, ascending, barely shines,
    and the Chilean star rises…) You are rich.
    You join the cult of Hercules to the cult of Mammon,
    and illuminating the road of easy conquest,
    Liberty raises its torch in New York.

    But our America, that has had poets
    since the ancient times of Netzahualcoyotl,
    that has walked in the footprints of great Bacchus
    who learned Pan’s alphabet at once;
    that consulted the stars, that knew Atlantis
    whose resounding name comes to us from Plato,
    that since the remote times of its life
    has lived on light, on fire, on perfume, on love,
    America of the great Montezuma, of the Inca,
    the fragrant America of Christopher Columbus,
    Catholic America, Spanish America,
    the America in which noble Cuahtemoc said:
    “I’m not in a bed of roses”; that America
    that trembles in hurricanes and lives on love,
    it lives, you men of Saxon eyes and barbarous soul.
    And it dreams. And it loves, and it vibrates, and it is the daughter of the Sun.
    Be careful. Viva Spanish America!
    There are a thousand cubs loosed from the Spanish lion.
    Roosevelt, one would have to be, through God himself,
    the-fearful Rifleman and strong Hunter,
    to manage to grab us in your iron claws.

    And, although you count on everything, you lack one thing: God!

    (This is the rest of the poem, translated by Bonnie Frederick. Some readers might be interested, I think. At least I was “where’s the rest? where’s the rest?)

  2. .... permalink
    4 September 2008 9:48 pm

    The original also says: “one part of Washington and four parts of Nimrod”

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