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Sunday, 23 August 2009

Vallejo: Dolor



Roll cloud, Las Olas Beach, Punta del Este, Uruguay: photo by Daniela Mirner Eberl, 2009

So that's that for the Stranger, with whom, late
nights, you returned parley for parley.
There won't be anybody waiting for me now,
nobody to look after me, good bad.

Finally done with: the overheated afternoon,
your great hue and cry, the small talk
with your exhausted mother finally over,
the tea steeped in the coming of night.

Finished and none too soon: the holidays,
the head leant obediently upon your breast,
your way of making me stick around the house.

And over and done with at last as well the diminutive
lion's share of my endless dolor,
and our having been born like this for no cause.

Trilce XXXIV: César Vallejo (1922): translated by TC

Roll cloud over east coast of Yucatan, Mexico: photo by Sensenmann, 15 July 2005


TC said...

Click on the roll cloud to feel the fullness of the dolor.

Delia Psyche said...

Now that's a Louisville Slugger of a cloud. It'd hit a knucklemoon out of the solar system!

TC said...

And if it laid down a bunt--tsunami!

Phanero Noemikon said...


~otto~ said...

loved the ending

TC said...

Yes, the great ending of this poem, a brilliant desolating yet liberating last minute escape from the suffocating hothouse world of romantic fallacy into the cold painful air of truth.

About Trilce, Vallejo said: "The book was born in a complete void. I am responsible for it. I assume all responsibilites for its esthetics. Today, more than ever, I feel a sacred obligation, until now unknown, weighing upon me; that of being free! If I am not free today, I will never be. I feel the arch of my forehead desiring its heroic imperative strength . . . God knows what horrifying borders I have approached, filled with fear, terrified that everything was going to die completely so that my poor soul would live . . . I want to be free . . . But being free, at times, I feel surrounded by a dreadful ridicule with the air of a child that carries a spoon in his nostrils . . ."

TC said...

As to the poem's ending, we're now privileged by the bracing corrective view of esteemed poet correspondent and eternal Muse JK, who helpfully dispatches this from the Beyond:

"hasten to inform you that cause is unstoppable
and is actually eternal delight"

She has been promised that her word will be passed along to César Vallejo the next time I run into him.

Peter said...

"The cold painful air of truth"?The last lines speak of being "over and done with" this "endless dolor" and this "having been born for no cause". Freedom seems to include freedom from despair and nihilism, no?

TC said...


If you'll look again at the comment from Vallejo on this work, you'll see that he is saying freedom is not won at an easy price. "I want to be free... But being free, at times, I feel surrounded by a dreadful ridicule..."

As the poet suggests, it is painful to recognize you've thrown away soul and feeling on a hollow conventional relationship that was never meant to be. Sometimes the truth hurts. Saying so is merely being honest.

Peter said...


First, thanks for translating this, not easy itself. I agree with everything you say about freedom being hard to win and certainly facing the truth of a hollow relationship that was never meant to be can be painful ("Se acabo todo al fin/Finally everything was finished", but I was hearing some liberation from pain and a useless life also in that last stanza ("Y se acabo el diminutivo..."). Thanks again.

Julia said...

I came here for the cloud, but ended listening to Vallejo... That's great!
About the cloud, when I first saw your picture I thought it looked just like the ones we see in our Río de la la Plata when there is a storm called "pampero". Then I found out that this cloud is from Uruguay, so it could be a typical "cigarro" cloud.

TC said...

Gracias, Julia.

There is another Vallejo -- with some crazy twisted-fibre clouds -- here.