From My Commonplace Book - 60

The Black Heralds

by Cesar Vallejo


You get knocks in life, so vicious. . . . It beats me!
Blows as if from God's hate; as if under their rain,
the backwash of everything you've suffered
stagnates in your soul. . . . It beats me!

Not many; but you get them. . . . They open up dark sluices
in the fiercest face and strongest back.
Perhaps they're the mounts of the barbarian Attilas;
or the black heralds sent to us by Death.

They're the falls to earth of the Christs of your soul,
of some worshipful faith that Destiny blasphemes.
Those bleeding blows are the crackings
of a loaf burning away on us in the oven door.

And man. . . . Wretched. . . wretched! He looks round,
as you do when a clap on the shoulder gets your attention;
he turns his mad eyes, and all the life he has lived
puddles, like a pool of guilt, in his gaze.

You get knocks in life, so vicious. . . . It beats me!


One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Cesar Vallejo (Peruvian, 1892-1938) was born in an Andean village, the youngest of eleven children. Both grandmothers were Chimu Indians and both grandfathers Spanish Catholic priests. He grew up in a pious Christian household; later, in his poetry, he would put religious language to his own uses, often to express the erotic. As a young man he witnessed the exploitation of workers on a sugar plantation and thus began his commitment to leftist politics in Peru, Spain, and France. In the spring of 1938, after weeks of fever, with what may have been malaria, Cesar Vallejo died in Paris on Good Friday.

The poem "The Black Heralds" is from the collection of the same name, from an edition translated by Barry Fogden. The Black Heralds (Los Heraldos Negros) was the first of only three poetry collections published in the poet's lifetime.

Comments

Hi, Enid.

I'm sure the poet saw much suffering in his life, that of others, and he certainly suffered himself. Yes, sad.

But joy in art, the power to create. I love the line "of a loaf burning away on us in the oven door."
 
But man wretched basically - cannot agree. It's something so missing in eastern religions and I must admit to finding the author's pessimism difficult to relate to.
 
The power of words, especially with poetry -- so few words -- I'll never get over it. And this poet's words create vivid pictures with potent metaphors and throw the emotions at you. It left me drained.

The Viet Nam war had been over nearly two decades. I knew a Cambodian woman who moved to the states. She had worked in the rice paddies, with armed guards standing over her and others, ready to shoot them in the head for any infraction. She watched many family members lose their lives to the regime. Eventually, she was sent back to Cambodia after nearly committing a violent act with a knife.

"You get knocks in life, so vicious. . . . It beats me!
Blows as if from God's hate; as if under their rain,
the backwash of everything you've suffered
stagnates in your soul. . . . It beats me!
 
Oh, hello, Brown-eyed Girl. Thank you so much for your thoughtful contribution.
 

Blog entry information

Author
Merry
Views
312
Comments
5
Last update

More entries in User Blogs

More entries from Merry