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Poems from “Trilce” (1922): César Vallejo

Dernière mise à jour : 29 avr. 2021

Translated from the Spanish by Michael Lee Rattigan, with Mario Domínguez Parra.

Translators’ notes:

To translate a collection which, in Vallejo’s own words, effectively fell “into a void” soon after its publication, means that the translator should at the very least be prepared to leap into one! The intransigence of the original, its refusal to be rounded off, but rather “squared to three silences”, must be respected if the act of translation is to be accomplished at all. The aim of this translation of Trilce is to be exacting in terms of fidelity to Vallejo’s poetry, while not shying away from any of the Wake-like suggestion within it, however awkward and incongruous that might feel. Mario Domínguez Parra and I are endeavouring to bring out the lurking and nigh-on impossible to render nuances of the original – Vallejo’s inveterate shadow-play and suggestion. A rare kind of obduracy and flexibility is required “in this most butting of jousts”, if the translator and the poet are to “leap through the needle’s eye”.

Michael Lee Rattigan

When Michael, whose work as a poet I have relished and translated, proposed me to work on Trilce as his co-translator, the flame of working with extremely difficult classic texts was rekindled. I have translated some juvenilia by James Joyce and Nikos Kazantzakis, both authors extremely exacting in their re-constructions of English and Greek words, either by using sixty to seventy languages or by creating thousands of Greek neologisms in a desire for Homerian completeness. But Trilce, oh my, Trilce: we are dealing with one of the acmes of Spanish poetry, its audacities preceded the Joycish language, with just one speaker in the world, in seventeen years. How could I say ‘no’? The Wake is our guide: “the few fly the farbetween!”

Mario Domínguez Parra


El traje que vestí mañana

no lo ha lavado mi lavandera:

lo lavaba en sus venas otilinas,

en el chorro de su corazón, y hoy no he

de preguntarme si yo dejaba

el traje turbio de injusticia.

A hora que no hay quien vaya a las aguas,

en mis falsillas encañona

el lienzo para emplumar, y todas las cosas

del velador de tánto qué será de mí,

todas no están mías

a mi lado.

Quedaron de su propiedad,

fratesadas, selladas con su trigueña bondad.

Y si supiera si ha de volver;

y si supiera qué mañana entrará

a entregarme las ropas lavadas, mi aquella

lavandera del alma. Que mañana entrará

satisfecha, capulí de obrería, dichosa

de probar que sí sabe, que sí puede


azular y planchar todos los caos.


The suit I wore tomorrow

my laundress hasn’t washed:

she washed it in her Otiline veins,

in the stream of her heart, and today I don’t have

to ask myself if I left

the suit grimy with injustice.

Now there’s no one who goes to the waters,

on my guidelines she aims

to fledge the cloth, and everything

the nightstand holds from so much of what’ll become of me,

there all not mine

by my side.

They remained her property,

smoothed-out, sealed with her dusky kindness.

And If I knew she would return;

and if I knew on what morning she will come

to hand me the clean clothes, that one

the laundress of my soul. On what morning she will come

satisfied, vestry rum-cherry, happy

to prove she knows, that she can


blue-dye and iron out all the chaoses.



Rumbé sin novedad por la veteada calle

que yo me sé. Todo sin novedad,

de veras. Y fondeé hacia cosas así,

y fui pasado.

Doblé la calle por la que raras

veces se pasa con bien, salida

heroica por la herida de aquella

esquina viva, nada a medias.

Son los grandores,

el grito aquel, la claridad de careo,

la barreta sumersa en su función de


Cuando la calle está ojerosa de puertas,

y pregona desde descalzos atriles

trasmañanar las salvas en los dobles.

Ahora hormigas minuteras

se adentran dulzoradas, dormitadas, apenas

dispuestas, y se baldan,

quemadas pólvoras, altos de a 1921.


I shuffled nonchalant down the enamelled street

that I know. All as usual,

truly. And I latched onto such things,

and I was past.

I took the street one rarely

walks with a good outcome, heroic

exit from the wound of that

live corner, a-swim at half-mast.

It’s about grandeurs,

that cry, the clear confrontation,

the lever drowned in the right now! –


When the street is haggard with doors,

and proclaims from barefoot lecterns

to procrastinate salvoes inside knells.

Now minute-marking ants,

go in dulcified, drowsy, barely

able, and collapse,

burnt powders, penthouses 1921 each.


Editor’s note: Two other poems from Trilce, translated by Michael Lee Rattigan, were published in issue 5 of The Black Herald.


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