To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Toward a Poetry & Poetics of the Americas (3): 23 verses from Sousândrade’s Wall Street Inferno


Translation from Portuguese by Odile Cisneros

[Along with Whitman & Darío, Sousândrade (Joaquim de Sousa Andrade, 1833-1902) emerges today as one of the great nineteenth-century forerunners to a full-blown poetry of the Americas.  Nearly forgotten after his own time, he was brought back through the enthusiasm of Haroldo & Augusto de Campos, to become, in Latin American terms at least, the epitome of a late experimental romanticism & a prefigurer of new poetries to come.  His masterwork, as boundary shattering & as American in its own way as Whitman’s “Song of Myself” or Pound’s Cantos, was a long poem entitled O guesa errante [The Wandering Guesa], in which in which “layout, neologisms, verbal montage, and sudden changes in tone evoke the newspapers of that period and the hectic world of the stock market.”  Thus the Cuban novelist Severo Sarduy, and Augusto de Campos further: “a trans-American periplum (with interludes in Europe, Africa) from Brazil (Maranhão) to Colombia, Venezuela, Peru … Central America, the Antilles, and to the USA.” At the journey’s center is the Guesa, a legendary figure of the Muisca Indians of Colombia, destined from childhood for ritual immolation. To escape the xeques or priests who would carry out the sacrifice, the Guesa (or Sousândrade speaking for him), makes his own pilgrimage, “to end sacrificed in Wall Street, surrounded by stockbrokers’ cries.”
               A shorter selection from O guesa errante & a more extended commentary can be found here on Poems and Poetics, & a long excerpt from Robert E. Brown’s alternative version was included in Poems for the Millennium, volume three. (J.R.)] 

1           (Guesa, having traversed the West Indies, believes himself rid
of the Xeques and penetrates  the New-York-Stock-
Exchange, the Voice, from the wilderness:) 

– Orpheus, Dante, Aeneas, to hell
Descended; the Inca shall ascend
            = Ogni sp’ranza lasciate,
                        Che entrate…
– Swedenborg, does fate new worlds portend? 

2          (Smiling Xeques appear disguised as Railroad-managers,
               Stockjobbers, Pimpbrokers, etc., etc., crying out:) 

Harlem! Erie! Central! Pennsylvania!
= Million! Hundred million!! Billions!! Pelf!!!
            – Young is Grant! Jackson,
Vanderbilts, Jay Goulds like elves! 

3          (The Voice, poorly heard amidst the commotion:)

Fulton’s Folly, Codezo’s Forgery…
Fraud cries the nation’s bedlam
                        They grasp no odes
            Wall Street’s parallel to Chatham

4                  (Brokers going on:)

– Pygmies, Brown Brothers! Bennett! Stewart!
Rothschild and that Astor with red hair!!
            = Giants, slaves
                        If only nails gave
Out streams of light, if they would end despair!... 

5                 (Norris, Attorney; Codezo, inventor; Young, Esq.,
              manager; Atkinson agent; Armstrong, agent; Rhodes,
              agent; P. Offman & Voldo, agents; hubbub, mirage;
               in the middle,  Guesa:)

– Two! Three! Five thousand! If you play
Five million, Sir, will you receive
            = He won! Hah! Haah!! Haaah!!!
– Hurrah! Ah!…
– They vanished …   Were they thieves?...

6             (J. Miller atop the roofs of the Tammany wigwam
               unfurling the Garibaldian mantle:)

– Bloodthirsties! Sioux! Oh Modocs!
To the White House! Save the Nation,
From the Jews! From the hazardous
            Goth’s Exodus!
From immoral conflagration!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

100        (Reporters.)

Norris, Connecticut’s blue laws!
Clevelands, attorney-Cujás,
            Into zebras constrained
Two by two, to one hundred Barabbas!
101         (Friends of the lost kings:)              

Humbug of railroads and the telegraph,
            The fire of heaven I wished wide and far
                        To steal, set the world ablaze
                                    And above it raise
            Forever the Spangled Star!

102        (A rebellious sun founding a planetary center:)
– ‘George Washington, etc. etc.,
            Answer the Royal-George-Third. Depose!
                        = Lord Howe, tell him, do
                            I’m royal too…
            (And they broke the Englishman’s nose).

103          (Satellites greeting Jove’s rays:)

–‘Greetings from the universe to its queen’..
            As for bail, the Patriarchs give a boon…
                        (With a liberal king,
                                    A worse thing,
            They founded the empire of the moon).

104        (Reporters:)

– A sorry role on earth they play,
            Kings and poets, heaven’s aristocracy
                        (And Strauss, waltzing)
            At the Hippodrome or Jubilee.

105         (Brokers finding the cause  of the Wall Street market crash:)

­        – Exeunt Sir Pedro, Sir Grant,
               Sir Guesa, seafaring brave:
                        With gold tillers they endure
                                    The Moor,
            Appeased by the turbulent waves.

106        (International procession, the people of Israel, Orangians, 
               Fenians,Buddhists, Mormons, Communists, Nihilists, 
               Penitents,Railroad-Strikers, All-brokers, All-jobbers
               All-saints, All-devils, lanterns, music, excitement; 
               Reporters: in London  the Queen’s ‘murderer’ passes by
               and in ParisLot’ the fugitive from Sodom:)

               ­­– In the Holy Spirit of slaves
            A single Emperor’s renowned
                        In that of the free, verse
            Everything as Lord is crowned!

107          (King Arthur's witches and Foster the Seer on  
                Walpurgis by day :)

When the battle’s lost and won–
–That will be ere the set of sun–
–Paddock calls: Anon!–
–Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air!

108        (Swedenborg answering later:)

– Future worlds exist: republics,
            Christianity, heavens, Lohengrin.
Present worlds are latent:
            Vanderbilt-North, South-Seraphim.

109        (At the roar of Jericho, Hendrick Hudson runs 
               aground; the Indians sell the haunted island of  
               Manhattan to the Dutch:)
­– The Half-Moon, prow toward China
Is careening in Tappan-Zee…
Hoogh moghende Heeren…
            Take then
For sixty guilders Yeah! Yeah!

110         (Photophone-stylographs  sacred right to self-defense:)

– In the light the humanitarian voice:
            Not hate; rather conscience, intellection;
                        Not pornography
                                    Isaiah’s prophecy
            In Biblical vivisection!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

117         (Freeloves proceeding to vote for their husbands:)

– Among Americans, Emerson alone,
            Wants no Presidents, oh atrocious he!
                        = Oh well-adjudicated,
            Improve for you, for us, for me!

118         (Apocalyptic visions… slanderous ones:)

– For, ‘the Beast having bear’s feet,’
            In God we trust is the Dragon
                        And the false prophets
            Tone, th’ Evolutionist and Theologian!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

173          (Washington ‘blinding because of them’; Pocahontas without personals:)

       To starving bears, a rabid dog!
Be it! After the feast, bring in festoons!..
            = Tender Lulu,
                        Crying and you
 Give honey to ‘foes’, bee?… and sting poltroons?

174          (Guatemalan nose, curved into Hymenee’s torch; Dame-Ryder
heart on the poisoned window-panes of the ‘too dark’ wedding pudding:)

       Caramba! yo soy cirujano–
A Jesuit… Yankee… industrialism’!
            Job… or haunted cavern,
            ‘Byron’ animal-magnetism!..                       

175          (Practical swindlers doing their business; self-help Atta-Troll:)

       Let the foreigner fall helpless,
As usury won’t pay, the pagan!
                              = An ear to the bears a feast,
                                    Caressing beasts,
            Mahmmuhmmah, mahmmuhmmah, Mammon.

176          (Magnetic handle-organ; ring of bears sentencing the architect of the
Pharsalia to death; an Odyssean ghost amidst the flames of Albion’s fires:)

       Bear… Bear is beriberi, Bear… Bear…
= Mahmmuhmmah, mahmmuhmmah, Mammon!
– Bear… Bear… ber’… Pegasus
= Mahmmuhmmah, mahmmuhmmah, Mammon.

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