May 20, 2015

Julio Herrera y Reissig (Uruguay) 1875-1910

Julio Herrera y Reissig (Uruguay)
Son of Dr. Manuel Herrera y Obes, and nephew of a government minister who would later become president of Uruguay, Julio Herrera y Reissig was born in Montevideo on January 9, 1985. His patrician family had notable social and political connections.
      Julio’s health, however, was precarious from early on; at age 17, a congenital heart defect, aggravated by typhoid fever, forced him to abandon his studies. He was not allowed to travel, apart from a visit to Buenos Aires, and remained confined to Montevideo and the Uruguayan interior.

To relieve his boredom, the young poet became an avid reader, and beginning in 1900, held literary gatherings at his family mansion in the penthouse nicknamed La Torre de los Panoramas due to its remarkable views of the Rio de la Plata.
      During these gatherings he transformed from a Romanticist to an avant-garde Modernist and Surrealist, becoming, along with Leopoldo Lugones, Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, and Salvador Díaz Mirón, one of the major figures of early Latin American poetry. 
       Despite his notable output, Herrera y Reissig died young, at the age of 35, with many of his works published posthumously.
      Although he wrote novels and essays as well, the poet’s reputation rests primarily upon his poetic texts, which contain a number of paradoxes in that, although Herrera y Reissig drew from Uruguayan village life, his metaphors belonged very much to the world of the French Symbolists. And although his impact was primarily within the Latin American community, his vision was primarily European in focus.


Canto a Lamartine (1898); Epilogo wagneriano a “La politca de fusion” con surtidos de psicología sobre el Imperio de Zapicán (1902); Las pascuas del tiempto (1902); Los maitines de la noche (1902);Los parques abandonados (1902-1908); La vida (1903); Los éxtasis de la montaña (1904, 1907); Sonetos vascos (1908); Las clepsidras (1909); Los peregrinos de piedra (1909); La torre de las esfinges (1909); Obras copletas (1909-1913); Los paarques abandonados (1919); Las pascuas del tiempo (1920); Las lunas de oro (1924); Poesías completes y páginas en prosa (1961); Tratado de la imbecilidad del país por el Sistema de Herbert Spencer [transcribed and published by Aldo Mazzucchelli] (2006)


         Cold, cold, cold!
         Furs, memories, and mute sadnesses.

Above the spleen of the landscape,
calm, and damp, floats a migraine;
and there in the shadows the frogs celebrate,
with a strange ventriloquism.

The mountain’s mind—its grey neurasthenia—
with a peculiar telepathy
recalls in its close and gloomy mania
a senile convent in Brittany.

To add up the sum of these illusions,
the Eucharistic flock is fused
like a Jordan of fleeces, white as snow;

and far away the pensive crow
is dreaming, maybe, of an abstract Cosmos
like a black and terrifying moon.

        trans. from the Spanish by Andrew Rosing
(Reprinted from Los maitines de la noche, 1902)

The Sorrowful Shadows

The flocks went bleating; the roads
were crowded with sorrowful crowds;
an agony of ancient holocaust
smothered-over the silent countryside.
Under mysterious elegant veils
you call forth perplexing symbols,
O Priestess, lost and claimed into the distance
with you moist and deathly gaze.

Even your evil brother joined us, but
meanwhile your hand—with an utmost confidence—
squeezed mine, speaking to me with silent touches,

and the distant rain, wailing that sorrow
that moves toward absence, stained
the lucid dreaminess of the infinite evening.

       trans. from the Spanish by Andrew Rosing

Grey Dawn

                  Grey in the sky and grey in my soul;
                  red in the East and red in my soul.

This is how it was. Lilac preoccupations
disturbed the morning’s illusions,
and a childish heron on his inane blank page
stroked backwards on the restless waves.

And a shuddering—like a Sibyl’s fit—
rattled at the windows, when all
at once a wind-minded myth
intruded, through my darkened pupils.

“Good-by, good-by,” I cried: into the sky
grey sarcasm rose, from her delicate glove,
flying like my own red jealousy,

A crow croaked Wagnerisms into the air, and the woods
felt at the very moment a complete
and cataclysmic crash.

trans. from the Spanish by Andrew Rosing

Poems reprinted from Stephen Tapscott, ed. Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996). Copyright ©1993 by Andrew Rosing. Reprinted by permission of Stephen Tapscott.

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