Sunday, July 04, 2010

Voyaging in Parnassus

—Pablo Neruda

Some people ask me that human affairs
with names, surnames, and laments
not be dealt with in the pages of my books,
not to give them space in my verses:
they say poetry died here,
some say I should not do it:
the truth is I do not want to please them.
I greet them, I tip my hat to them,
and I leave them voyaging in Parnassus
like happy rats in cheese.
I belong to another category,
I am only a man of flesh and bones,
therefore if they beat my brother
I defend him with what I have in hand
and each one of my lines carries
the threat of gunpowder or steel,
that will fall over the inhuman,
over the cruel and over the arrogant.
But the punishment of my furious peace
menaces neither the poor nor the good:
with my lamp I search for those who fall:
I soothe and close their wounds:
these are the chores of the poet
of the aviator and of the stonecutter:
we should do something on this earth
because we were born on this planet
and we must arrange man's society
because we are neither birds nor dogs.
And so, if when I attack what I hate,
or when I sing to those I love,
poetry wants to abandon
the hopes of my manifesto,
I'll follow the letter of my law
accumulating stars and armaments
and in my steadfast duty to America
one more rose does not matter:
I have a pact of love with beauty:
I have a pact of blood with my people.

(translated from the Spanish by Miguel Algarín)