He Died in Paris After All

Peruvian Poet César Vallejo

Peruvian Poet César Vallejo

Since I’ve been reading so much about Peru, I felt bad that I had not read any Peruvian poetry. According to what I’ve read, the national poet of that land was César Vallejo (1892-1938). I took a fancy to the following poem, which I present in both English and Spanish:

Black Stone on Top of a White Stone

I shall die in Paris, in a rainstorm,
On a day I already remember.
I shall die in Paris—it does not bother me—
Doubtless on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.

It shall be a Thursday, because today, Thursday
As I put down these lines, I have set my shoulders
To the evil. Never like today have I turned,
And headed my whole journey to the ways where I am alone.

César Vallejo is dead. They struck him,
All of them, though he did nothing to them,
They hit him hard with a stick and hard also
With the end of a rope. Witnesses are: the Thursdays,
The shoulder bones, the loneliness, the rain, and the roads…

Here is the original Spanish:

Piedra Negra Sobre Piedra Blanca

Me moriré en París con aguacero,
un día del cual tengo ya el recuerdo.
Me moriré en París—y no me corro—
tal vez un jueves, como es hoy, de otoño.

Jueves será, porque hoy, jueves, que proso
estos versos, los húmeros me he puesto
a la mala y, jamás como hoy, me he vuelto,
con todo mi camino, a verme solo.

César Vallejo ha muerto, le pegaban
todos sin que él les haga nada;
le daban duro con un palo y duro

también con una soga; son testigos
los días jueves y los huesos húmeros,
la soledad, la lluvia, los caminos…

It’s a rather somber poem about a man who dies alone in exile, after having been beaten with a stick and the end of a rope. And who are his witnesses? Thursdays, shoulder bones, loneliness, rain, and the streets. I would like to know more about the poet’s life, but I’ll just have to content myself for now with his lonely death on the streets of Paris.