Saturday, July 11, 2020

Altazor, Canto II ... in English

One of the most beautiful poems ever written in Spanish is Altazor by Vicente Huidobro. I really love it and feel identified with its beauty and from time to time I love to share it with friends, particularly, the Canto II, a truly amazing love poem. Last week I wanted to share it with someone who does not speak Spanish whatsoever but English, so I tried to find a good translation in the internet. It became evident that there is only a couple of translations that I didn't quite like, but hey, is a Huidobro's poem and any attempt of translation is epic. I decided to try doing it by myself and I believe the result is acceptable... I have decided to share it here, so it is available for free to English speaking people, I hope you enjoy it as I do every time I read it.

Canto II

Woman, the world is furnished by your eyes.
The sky goes higher when you are here,
the earth extends from rose to rose
and the air extends from dove to dove.

When you go away, you leave a star in your stead.
You drop your lights like the passing ship
while my haunted song follows you,
like a faithful and melancholic serpent.
And you turn your head from behind a sun.

What battle is waged in the space?
Those spears of light among planets,
reflection of merciless armors.
What bloodthirsty star does not want to give way?
Where are you, sad night walker?
Giver of infinity
who walks in the forest of dreams?

Here I am, lost between deserted seas
Alone like the feather, falling from a night bird.
Here I am in a tower of cold
sheltered by the memory of your maritime lips,
the memory of your surrender and your hair.
Bright and unleashed, like mountain rivers.
Were you going to be blind so God gave you those hands?
I am asking you again.

The crossbow of your eyebrows tensed for your eyes’ weapons,
in the winged triumphant offensive, reassured with flower pride.
The beaten rocks speak to you on my behalf,
the waves of heaven-less birds speak to you on my behalf,
the colour of landscapes without wind speak to you on my behalf,
the flock of silent sheep speak to you on my behalf.
Asleep in your memory,
the exposed stream speak to you on my behalf.
The surviving grass bound to adventure,
adventure of light and blooded horizon.
Without more covering than a withering flower
if there is a bit of wind.

The plains are lost under your frail grace.
The world is lost under your visible pace
because everything is not real when you appear
with your dangerous light,
innocent harmony without fatigue nor oblivion.
Fragment of a tear that rolls inwards,
built with proud fear and silence.
You make time and heaven doubt
with instincts of infinity.
Away from you everything is mortal.
You send agony throughout a night-humbled earth.
Only what thinks about you tastes like eternity.

Here is your star passing by
with your breathing of distant fatigues,
with your gesturing and your way of walking,
with the magnetic space greeting you,
keeping us separated like night-leagues

Yet I warn you, we are sewn
to the same star.
We are sewn by the same music stretching
from one to the other.
By the same giant shadow shaken like a tree.
Let’s be that piece of heaven,
that fragment where the mysterious adventure unfolds.
The planet’s adventure that explodes in dream petals.

You would try in vain to escape my voice
and to climb over the walls of my praises.
We are sewn by the same star,
you are tied to the nightingale of moons,
which has a sacred ritual in its throat.

The night’s signs, their roots and funeral echoes in my chest
don’t matter to me.
I don’t care about the shinning enigma
or the signs shedding lights on the randomness.
I don’t care about those islands traveling in chaos, without destiny, towards my eyes.
I don’t care about the flower-like fear in the void.
I don’t care about the name of the emptiness,
the name of the infinite desert,
or the will and randomness they represent.
And if in that desert every star is the desire for sanctuary,
alas! flags of premonition and death.

I’ve got my own atmosphere within your breath.
The mighty security of your gaze with its intimate constellations.
With your own seeded language,
your bright forehead, like one of God’s ring.
Stronger that everything in heaven’s flora,
without the restless universe’s whirlpools,
like a horse due to its shadow upon the air.

I’m asking you again:
were you going to be mute, so God gave you those eyes?

I have your voice for every defense,
that voice that comes from you as heartbeats.
That voice in which the eternity falls
and breaks into fragments of phosphorescent spheres.

What would be life if you were not born?
A comet without a cloak dying of cold.

I found you like a tear in a forgotten book.
With your sensitive name from before my chest.
Your name made from the doves’ noise, flying.
You bring with you the memory of other, higher life,
from a god found somewhere.
And deep inside yourself you remember it was you
the ancient bird in the poet’s key.

I dream a submerged dream.
Your tied hair makes the day,
your untied hair makes the night.
Life is beheld in the oblivion.
Only your eyes are alive in the world,
the only unstoppable planetary system.
Serene skin, anchored in heights,
devoid of all webs and tricks.
In its force of self-absorbed light,
behind you, life is afraid
because you are the depth in everything.
The world becomes majestic when you pass.
Falling tears from heaven can be heard
and you erase the sleepy soul,
the bitterness of being alive.
The orb becomes lighter on the back.

My happiness is hearing the sound of the wind within your hair
(I recognize such noise from the distance).
When the boats capsize and the river drags tree trunks,
you are a flesh lamp in the storm
with your hair unleashed in the wind.
Happiness is seeing you alone on the world’s divan,
like the hand of a sleepy princess
with your eyes evoking a piano of fragrances.
A paroxysmal drink,
a flower no longer fragrant.
Your eyes hypnotize the solitude,
like the wheel that continues spinning after the catastrophe.

My happiness is looking at you when you listen.
Such beam of light walking towards the bottom of the water
and you stay motionless for a long time.
So many stars going through the sea’s sieve.
Therefore nothing has a similar emotion,
neither a mast begging for wind,
nor a blind airplane feeling the infinite,
nor the emaciated dove sleeping on a sorrow,
nor the rainbow with sealed wings,
more beautiful than a verse’s parable.
The parable laid in a nocturne bridge from soul to soul.

Born in every place I put my eyes,
with a raised head
and all the hair in the wind.

You are more beautiful than the cry of a stallion in the mountain,
more beautiful than the siren of a ship yielding all its soul,
more beautiful than a lighthouse in the fog trying to find someone to save,
more beautiful than a swallow pierced by the wind.
You are the sound of the sea in summer,
you are the sound of a full street, full of admiration.

My glory is in your eyes,
dressed in your eyes’ luxury and their inner shinning.
I am seated in the most sensitive corner of your gaze,
under the static silence of motionless eyelashes.
An omen is coming from the bottom of your eyes
and an oceanic wind curls your pupils.

Nothing compares to this seeded legend left by your presence.
Nothing compares to that voice searching for a dead sun rather than coming back to life.
Your voice sets an empire in the space
and that hand raising on you as if you were going to hang suns in the air.
And that glare writing words in the infinite
and that head bending to listen a murmur in the eternity
and that foot, which is the party of chained roads
and those eyelids where the ether’s sparks strand themselves
and that kiss swelling the prow of your lips
and that smile like the banner at the front of your life
and that secret driving your chest’s tides,
sleeping in the shadow of your bosom.

If you were going to die,
the stars, despite of their switched-on light
would lose their path.
What would happen to the universe?

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Indeed there is an element of continuity with the past in every single aspect of modern life even if we don't noticed. In many cases, this can be tracked clearly way back, in many others, the actual connection is usually forgotten by most of us, generating the idea that something is supposedly new or random. Let's talk about something supposely random... anyone knows what is the standard train gauge? It happens to be exactly four feet and eight inches! It is also a perfectly reasonable width in its context, back from the time of the train development: in the begining carriages began to be made by.... horse carriage builders! The natural width to then use was the width of the standard horse carriage... rounded within the imperial units (which they have a lot of continuity stories on their own, beyond the scope of this argument anyway). How about language? I am not going to go in much detail here as we all (I hope) know about this etymology bussines, which helps to have good spelling and so on; for example, it turns that romans soldiers were paid with bags of salt hence the word "salary"... lots of this stuff can certainly fill an enjoyable trivia evening! A subtle language I am going to explore in a bit more detail here is the one of music, in particular, the way occidental music works. The main questions here: why a piece of music sounds "good" and another not quite good or bad? What is the foundation for modern music and how it is assessed as "good" or "bad"? It turns that this continuity bussiness has lots to do with it and reasons can be track easily at least to the Gregorian chant. This ancient form of music was originally designed to be sang by a human voice based on a written text. Melodies were in fact an extension on the inflections in the text and phrasing, pitches well defined by a singing voice. As a matter of fact, many centuries later, these simple constrains evolved into rules of good melody creation, and still we divide any melody (even those that are not to be sang but played by an instrument) in phrases and motives. In a nutshell, effective melodies are of course those easier to sing! So it turns that continuity somehow develops what is good or bad; godness what is been laid out by tradition, badness what wonders out too far from it. Having said that, little by little, things change; after all we don't compose Gregorian chants anymore! This is usually done in little unnoticeable steps since bigger steps wouldn't be allowed easily as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring proved at the beginning of 20th century. And the most important idea of this post, backed up by modern musicians: nothing really sounds bad! It is all a matter of getting used to new sounds, providing that there is an structure of a kind under (I give credit to the intention of making music! Long life to the structuralism!). In summary, I am pointing out something broader than music or languages here, as the concept of good or bad are linked with continuity. in that context, moral not just has the breadth of the struggle between subject and society (as claimed in a previous post), it has also the problem of context or continuity related to how a moral idea has evolved in a particular society.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

According to Adam Smith the human being is selfish and only selfish reasons are his main motivation. Indeed, we cannot perceive reality from outside of ourselves and everything is done or assessed from that subjective perspective. Psychologically, the first human crisis is when he/she realizes that he/she is not the centre of the universe and parents won't do everything wanted! So selfishness is natural and central to explain primordial human behaviour, any other behaviour being learnt later by interaction with other human beings and reality. Under this perspective, selfishness (i.e. to put our conscience first, the remaining of reality including other beings, second) is not immoral and it is a natural consequence of our perception: everything is thought from our perspective. Now the obvious question here is in what instant selfishness becomes immoral and why. We need to broaden the original definition given by Smith. The human being is a dual entity, subjective and selfish from his/her point of view, but at the same time member of a group that exist outside of himself/herself. Humanity is the permanent struggle between being ourselves and make the effort of putting that into a social context. From that struggle morality is created and from the idea of "outside" combined with morality the idea of a higher entity follows. Because of this struggle, moral rules need to be stated and written down; the contract/compromise that we will sacrifice our subject when is time to put it in the social context, which is outside of ourselves. Because this structure cannot be proved from the subject, the idea of higher rules that are valid outside have to be introduced. I think I have answered from where comes the moral, God and the struggle, however I cannot address the moral value of being selfish because such assessment is done in the structure outside the human being and from that perspective selfishness is always immoral. Along the same lines, assessing the moral value of selfishness from the subjective perspective produce the opposite result. Because a moral system should apply in the dual perspective, it follows that it cannot assess concepts that are not part of the duality like itself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scotland's referendum

Although I usually don't blog about political issues I am going to make an exception today regarding the Scottish referendum (enough time has passed anyway). The main issue that bothered at the time was the actual motivation everybody had to actually vote yes or no! I'm not European so I couldn't vote, but still I am interested in human relations transcending a particular political aspect. In fact is back to my theme on selfishness from older posts if you really think about... All the arguments in favour or against independence were crafted around the lines of whether it was going to be better or worse for a given individual in all the possible scenarios, along the lines "you will be doomed if you do it" or not (I personally liked "you still will be able to watch Dr. Who" in the TV). Well, I believe that decisions like these shouldn't be based on arguments for the good of the individual because from my personal view the concept of a nation ought to supersede it. Or, as John Stuart Mill put it, the concept of common good is more important than personal good. Its boils down to the question "is a nation only the sum of the individuals or it is something else"? In my opinion, it is indeed something else! A nation is the synergy of current individuals plus the past individuals and the individuals to come. It also includes heritage and tradition, which in turn affect the individuals. So, it seems to be a higher value that should be considered at the time of make decisions; it is not whether a given alternative will be economically better or worse for you but along the lines of what is right or wrong in the broader context of the future of a nation. And I believe, both campaigns somehow failed presenting that mostly focussing in the pros and cons of the decision for somebody like you rather than the nation and its heritage. Politicians, should give more credibility to the public, not everybody is selfish!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Social Media

A few days ago it was my birthday. Normally I don't make a big fuss about it and generally eating out is enough treat at my, almost, fifty years hanging around. I do social media. The fact that you are reading this post proves that! I have a Facebook account, an internet web page etc. but at the same time I am a bit reserved with my personal data, particularly, my date of birth, which exposed a very interesting issue that happens with social media, which I will try to describe in this post. Facebook is an interesting beast with a very fast dynamics. For example, it is almost impossible to find the same post twice (and a humble suggestion for the developers would be to have a "search" option for posts' keywords) and particularly, birthday notifications happen at the speed of bites. This because, as many of you surely already know, one of the features of Facebook is to automatically remind you the birthday of a friend and thus, almost every day these are posted in the news feed. Consequently, the birthday boy or girl gets lots of posts of his/her friends wishing happy birthday, which, kind of loose meaning if the list is vast and thus, it becomes a formality. In any case, this is not new and social media is not particularly responsible of such formality, which I am not going to criticize here. I don't list my birthday in Facebook and as expected I didn't get posts of people wishing me a happy one. However the unexpected point is that I didn't get meaningful greetings either as I used to by any other means, and that is the aspect I am interested on commenting today. You see, lots of the greetings are meaningless whether they come from the social media or not, and now they simply get reinforced and increased by this modern technology. Hence, what social media really does is decreasing the importance of meaningful greetings by boosting the reminders of every potential greeting. In the old time, only the relevant birthdays were remembered and perhaps annotated in a diary in a proactive way, since the date was relevant. Those few greetings had meaning as the consequence of a proactive intention: I love X --> I care about X. Today, we get all the dates in a passive way; I don't need to do anything but log in to know who's birthday is today and worse, I don't care to remember the birthday of X because I am assuming the system will tell me so precisely on the right day. So, I am not surprised not getting greetings from every single friend I have in the social media, but it is really disturbing that people who used to remember proactively those dates don't do it anymore and rely on the reminders, first of all, forgetting the relevance of a date watered down among many other dates and second, rendering the relevance into irrelevance when the date is not remembered proactively. Today, we chose to transfer our brain and thinking from our heads into our pocket, inside the case of a smart phone and choose to forget what the phone can remember on our behalf. The question is what is left behind for us to remember?

Sunday, August 17, 2014


In this entry I will write on one of the key aspects that seem to give shape to human behavior and society. I will not mention particulars or specific events, suffice the fact that, no matter the century or place, there is what we call injustice in the world. Since I am not religious, I will argue that this is not an absolute condition of reality, but rather the biased perception that comes from our first person witness of reality. The key point is about the duality of fairness in terms of the universe and in terms of ourselves. Imagine an infinite checkered board in which an enough large amount of pawns of different colours, not just black and white, stand filling a many of the squares. Now imagine that randomly, a finite number of these pawns are taken out of the board by an invisible hand for no particular reason, just wanted to take some pawns out of the infinite board. First of all, from the point of view of the board, nothing fundamental has changed (!!), even if the invisible hand takes the pawns from a specific corner of it and as many as it wants (remember... the board is infinite). From the point of view of a taken pawn, things are radically different, from being on the board to being dumped out of it (the chosen one!). From the pawns left on the board, the fact that a particular pawn was taken and not itself also has an implication; it has to be a reason why that particular pawn was taken instead of itself (has it?). If some higher entity is really there collecting pawns, from the point of view of them it must be of course a reason why a given pawn was collected while another was left on the board. But from the point of view of the collecting hand, independently whether there is or there isn't an entity behind, all the pawns are irrelevant, no particular reason why choosing one instead of another, only an hypothetical higher purpose concerning the overall board. The hand is not interested in the particulars of a given pawn when there is an infinite board with them to collect and move! If there is no superior entity or higher purpose; pieces are just taken in a random way one after another no need of fairness in the process. So reality (a.k.a. the positions of the pawns on the board) doesn't have a special condition that make the pawn collection fair or unfair, even if there is a higher purpose collecting the pieces; the concept solely comes from the pawns and their circumstance on the board and their relative perceptions. We have indeed trouble to perceive the reality outside of ourselves and thus, it is very difficult to avoid assessing how fair or unfair is a circumstance in the context of pure reality devoid of our own presence. The moral of the fable is simple, the fact that human beings cannot behold reality outside of themselves give them a strong bias about reality and morality. We are inherently selfish.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cynical behaviour

I am always surprised of cynical behaviour, particularly in the context of environmental and some other related issues: A tragically funny example is the legislation that counts pizza as vegetable in school lunches, on the basis of the tomato sauce. A not so funny example, when a lawyer specialized in car accidents goes to the same school to talk about car safety and give to the children pencils, t-shirts and action figures... everything with the logo "Hurt in a car... call me" Yesterday, I was thinking on this cynical behaviour related with the environment, because I noticed that the company that makes the water bottle I got from the supermarket claims that they are environmentally friendly now producing bottles with less plastic, particularly tiny tops. While it is true the new bottle contaminates a bit less (although not sure whether the process to make the new top is less or more contaminant than before) the true motivation of the company is really not very clear to me... not just saving money but using the concept as advertisement: We are cool, we care about the environment! Typical example of this is in an hotel in which they advertise that they care about the environment with the towel business (we won't wash them on a daily basis to save energy and water) and then they give you breakfast with everything disposable knife, cup, saucer. So the real question is: are these tiny, pitiful initiatives useful? the fact is there are indeed some improvements! Is it worthy? Should we better invest in a change of attitude, saving some of this cynical gathered petty cash to really produce a change beyond the crumbs represented by the wet towel hanging on a rail?