February 17, 2012

Amado Nervo

Amado Nervo [Mexico]

Born in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico on August 27, 1980, Amado Nervo's life might be said to be filled with sorrow. When he was 13 years old, Amado saw his father die. His brother, Luis committed suicide, and his own wife, Ana Cecilia Luisa Daillez, died in 1912 after just 11 years of marriage. Yet Nervo's poetry, centered on his strong religious perspective, emanates a spiritual calmness found in very few poets.

     Nervo studied at the Colegio San Luis Gonzaga in Jacona, Michoacán before he prepared for the priesthood at the Roman Catholic Seminary in Zamora. There is studied science, philosophy, and one year of law, also cultivating his later interest in mystical theories.

     Economic necessities, however, forced him to leave the Seminary and accept a desk job in Tepic. Later he moved to Mazatlán working alternately as an lawyer's assistant and as a journalist for El Correo de la Tarde  (The Evening Mail).

     In 1894 he moved to Mexico City, where he talents were better appreciated. With Manuel Guitérrez Nájera, he helped to edit the magazine Blue, during which time he read the work of major Spanish-language poets of the modernist movement, including Luis G. Urbina, Tablada, Dávalos, Rubén Dario (with whom he became a close friend), José Santos Chocano, and Campoanor. He also continued as a journalist working for El Universal, El Nacional, and El Mundo, the later with whom he had a long relationship.

     Nervo also contributed to both the journal Revista Azul and the more influencial modernist journal, Revista Moderna. His earliest books of poetry began appearing in 1898 with the volume Misticas, followed by Perlas negras (1898), El éxodo y las flores del camino (1902), Lira heroica (1902), Cantos esolares (1903), Las voces (1904), and Los járdines interiores (1905). The same year as that last volume, the poet was appointed as secretary to the Mexican diplomatic delegation in Madrid, where he remained until 1918. During these years Nervo also wrote fiction.

     He was later appointed as the Mexican Ambassador to Uruguay. Nervo died in Montevideo in 1919, the Uruguayan president returning the body to Mexico aboard the cruiser Uruguay. Nervo and his poetry is still much beloved in Mexico, and highways, airports, and even schools have been named after him. In Tepic his birth home is now The Amado Nervo Museum.


Misticas (1898); Perlas negras (1898); Poemas (1901); El éxodo y las flores del camino (1902); Lira heroica (1902); Cantos esolares (1903); Las voces (1904); Los járdines interiores (1905); En voz baja (1909); Serenidad (1914); Elevación (Buenos Aires: Tor, 1916); El estanque de los lotos (1919); Obras completas de Amado Nervo (Madrid: Biblioteca nueva, 1920); Obras completas (Mexico City: Ediciones Botas, 1938)


Selection of poetry in Mexican Poetry: An Anthology, trans. by Samuel Beckett (New York: Grove Press, 1985); selection of poetry in Stephen Tapscott, ed. Twentieth-century Latin American Poetry: A bilingual Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996)

Entreaty to the Cloud

The swan bears on its neck the initial of sleep,
and like a strange white dreaming sleep it passes;
but the stranger is the cloud that goes on fire
in the grave sunset and the smiling dawn:

Cloud, visible wake of invisible wind,
thou swan a dawn, raven in the void of night;
cloud, akin to the celestial vane,
cloud, thou ocean and wave and foam and sail!

Cloud, be my protectress. Stoop in pit,
clothe in transfigurations all my doubting
all the darkness that is in my mind.
As I have sorrowed let me shine, although
the storm wind gather that will strip me bare.

 —Translated from the Spanish by Samuel Beckett

Sorrow Vanquished

Sorrow, since you cannot make me
quit God, where is your power?
"Where is thy sting?"

                                     The hours
fly, carrying away on each wing
a certain portion of your dark energy.

Sorrow, you are also a slave
of time; your potency
diminishes as the moments wear thin,
while God, sheltered inside me,
grows larger and larger, the more
I keep loving Him.

 —Translated from the Spanish by Sue Standing


 Each perfect rose that unfolded yesterday,
each sunrise I note between blushes,
fills me with deep pleasure...
I never tire of seeing with my own eyes
the perpetual miracle of life.

Long ago, I looked at the stars
in the transparent nights of Spain,
finding them more exquisite each time.
Long ago, by the sea, alone,
I heard the waves quarrelling,
and the waves' wonder stuns me.

Each time I find nature
more supernatural, more pure and holy.
For me, here, everything is beautiful
and everything enchants me equally:
the mouth of the mother, praying,
the mouth of the child, singing.

I want passionately to be immortal,
because it is marvelous, the panorama
that invites us to immense creation;
because every star calls to me,
saying with brilliant light, "here, also,
they think, here they struggle, here they love."

 —Translated from the Spanish by Sue Standing
"Entreaty to the Cloud"

Reprinted from Octavio Paz, ed. Mexican Poetry: An Anthology, trans. by Samuel Beckett. ©1985 by Grove Press.

"Sorrow Vanquished" and "Ectasy"

Reprinted from Stephen Tapscott, ed. Twentieth-century Latin American Poetry: A bilingual Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996). Translation ©1996 by Sue Standing.

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