Miguel Ángel Asturias (translation by Robert W. Lebling)

Six Excerpts from Clearvigil in Spring

Introductory note by Silvio Baldessari, from the flyleaf of Clarivigilia Primaveral (Editorial Losada, S.A., 1965), translated by Robert W. Lebling:

Paul Valéry called Miguel Ángel Asturias's Legends of Guatemala a collection of "history-dream-poems," and the same description applies to Clearvigil in Spring, a history-dream-poem in which Asturias—winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967—evokes the creation of artists by the Mayan gods, distancing himself entirely from the known texts. But these primitive artists are destroyed, according to this poem which in itself is a legend, by earthborn forces inimical to arts and magics. The earth is subjected to punishment by fire and water, and when centuries later it is reborn, the expression of artistic beauty is entrusted in painting to birds of beautiful plumage, in music and song to birds of prodigious throat, and in sculpture to rocky hills and stones shaped like animals. The Mayan gods, observing that all of these things are beautiful but do not possess magic, once again create artists, or those entrusted with magic, and to keep them from being destroyed, place them in the four corners of the sky. But these artists spend their time flattering the gods and creating works for the taste and liking of the divinities, forgetting about man. As a result, for the second time the artists created by the gods stand at the brink of destruction. Heavenly forces pursue them and wound them, and from the wounded arts emerges humanized art, the art of all for all. In this poem-legend we encounter word plays, onomatopeias and myths translated to epic form in a creation ever more American, more characteristic, more authentic, and unconnected to the literatures of Europe.

Translator's Note: Footnote quotations attributed to "MAA" are my translations of notes from another Asturias work, Leyendas de Guatemala, containing local information of value to the reader — Robert Lebling.

Introductory Note
1. A la Luz de los Oropensantes-Luceros // In the Light of the Goldthinking-Stars
2. Castigo de Profundidades // Punishment of Profundities
3. Ombligos de Sol y Copales Preciosos // Navels of Sun and Precious Copals
4. Artesanías Ocultas // Hidden Crafts
5. Andaraiz de la Flor del Aire // Movingroot of the Flower of the Air
6. El Baile de las Quimeras // The Dance of the Chimeras

Home |  EPR #1 |  EPR #2  | About EPR


© 2002 Electronic Poetry Review