July 3, 2011

Leopoldo Lugones

Leopoldo Lugones [Argüello] [Argentlina]

Born on June 13, 1874 in Villa de María de Río Seco, in Argentina's Roman Catholic heartland, Leopold Lugones belonged to the landed gentry.

His first job was as a writer for the newspaper La Montaña, in which he supported the aristocratic Manuel Quintana to be president of Argentina, which, in turn, brought him to Buenos Aires, where he quickly became involved in the literary scene.

In 1896 he married Juana Agudelo, with whom he had a son, Polo Lugones, who would later become an infamous chief of the Federal Police under the dictaatorship of José Félix Uriburu.

Writing work influenced by the Parnassian poets, as well as Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe, and Paul Verlaine, Lugones' work has been described as representing an "arrogant gallantry."

As a close friend of Rubén Darío, Lugones emerged as an important Vanguardist and an advocate of free poetic expression. His first book was Las montañas del oro (1897), followed by Los crepúsculos del jardín (1905, Twilight of the Garden). Also in 1905 the writer published and densely and richly written historical novel La Guerra Gaucha.

The same year as his second publication Lugones traveled to Europe, repeating trips in 1911, 1913, and 1930. In 1930 supported the coup d'état against the Radical part president, Hipólito Yrigoven.

Lugones also published collections of short stories in 1906 and 1926. Further collections of his poetry include Lunario sentimental (1909, Sentimental Calendar), Odas seculares (1910, Secular Odes), and Romancero (1924, Balladeer).

For most of his life, Lugones served as the director of public education in Argentina.

In early 1938, despairing and disillusioned with life, Lugones committed suicide through a mixture of whisky and cyanide at the river resort of El Tigre in Buenos Aires. He was 63. The writer Jorge Luis Borges dedicated his El hacedor (Dreamtigers) to Lugones.


La montañas del oro (1897); Los crepúsculos del jardín (1905); Lunario sentimental (1909); Odas seculares (1910); El libro fiel (1912); El Payador (Buenos Aires: Otero Impresores, 1916); El libro de los paisajes (Buenos Aires: Otero y García, 1917); Las horas doradas (Buenos Aires: Babel, 1922); Romancero (Buenos Aires: Editorial Babel, 1924); Poemas solariegos (Buenos Aires: Bibloteca Argentina de buenas ediciones literarías, 1928); Romances del río seco (Buenos Aires: Francisco A. Colombo, 1938); Obras poéticas completas (Madrid: M. Aguilar, 1948); Obras completas (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Pasco, 1999)


selections in Stephen Tapscott, ed. Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, trans. by Julie Schumacher (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996)


The afternoon, with light strokes
that lit the peace of our asylum,
sketched in chrysoberylic shades
a subtle violet decoration.

The moon surged enormous in the thicket;
the leaves increased their secret;
and a spider, on the point of its thread,
was weaving hypnotized above the spheric moon.

Bats filled the crooked arc
of sky, as on a Chinese screen;
your bloodless knees against the plinth

revealed our motionless delight,
at our feet a sapphire river
ran in silence toward it death.

—Translated from the Spanish by Julie Schumacher

(from Lunario sentimental, 1909)

White Solitude

In calm of sleep,
lunar calm of luminous silk.
the night, as if it were
the white body of silence,
lies sweet in that great space.
And looses
its hair,
the lavish foliage
of poplars.

Nothing is alive except the eye
of a clock in a dark tower,
uselessly fathoming infinity
like a needle in the sand.
revolving on the wheels
of clocks
like a car that will never come near.

The moon carves a white abyss
of silence, socket in which
objects are corpses
and shadows alive like ideas.
And one frightened at how near
death is, within that whiteness,
at how beautiful the world is
in the age of that full moon.
And the sad desire to be loved
trembles in the aching heart.

There's a city in the sky,
suspended and nearly invisible,
whose restless profile
in the clear night shines transparent,
like rays of water on a sheet of paper,
in crystal polyhedral shapes.
A city so distant
its absurd presence is disconcerting.

Is it a city or a ship
we'd leave the earth in,
silent and happy,
so pure
that only our souls
would survive the full whiteness?

Suddenly an errant
tremor cuts the calm light.
The lines are undone,
the great space turns to white stone,
and in the melancholy night
all that remains is the fact of your absence.

—Translated from the Spanish by Julie Schumacher

(from Lunario sentimental, 1909)

Gray Waves

It rains above the sea in gentle murmurs.
The wind is moaning so, one feels its grief.
The days is long and sad. The rain
sleeps deeply on the sand.

It rains. The languid drops transcend
their smell of cold, bleak flowers.
The day is long and sad. One understands
that death is like that..., life is like that.

The rain continues. The day is long and sad.
Within the grayish distance one is lost.
It rains.... And nevertheless one wishes
the rain would never stop.

—Translated from the Spanish by Julie Schumacher

(from El libro de los paisajes, 1917)

For a discussion of Lugones by Jorge Luis Borges, click on the lick below:


English language translation copyright ©1993 by Julie Schumacher. Reprinted from Stephen Tapscott, ed. Twentieth-Century Latin American Poets: A Bililngual Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).

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