In the Uruguayan Night


José Cuneo Perinetti (1887-1977) ‘Rancho y Luna’, oil on canvas on board, 57 x 38.5 inches. Private collection.

I have not been able to ascertain whether the painter José Cuneo Perinetti and the poet Genaro de Vergara ever actually met. Both were born on the same day, September 11, 1887, and in the same city, Montevideo, Uruguay. But they had very different lives. Cuneo travelled early to Europe to pursue his artistic education, making occasional trips home to Uruguay, and gradually achieved recognition and success as an artist, in Uruguay and abroad. De Vergara, however, spent much of his life in Uruguay and remained virtually unknown in his lifetime. Even his date and place of death are unknown, but that will have to be the subject of another post. Here I merely wish to briefly introduce them, and to illustrate de Vergara’s poem ‘La Noche es un Jabardillo’ (‘The Night is a Swarm’) with the characteristic painting by Cuneo shown above. My English translation, which I believe to be the first, is followed here by de Vergara’s Spanish original. I hope to post more of my translations of Genaro de Vergara’s poems in the future, along with a bit about his life. Like so many other Uruguayan writers, he remains much lesser known outside his own country than within it. But even among Uruguayans he is still considered to be obscure. José Cuneo Perinetti, on the other hand, is one of his country’s most celebrated national treasures.


The night is a swarm of presences,
A dragnet of bramble and mint,
Of panting willow even, and open.

When I plunge my ears into this grail,
My past, that little hare, appears
Inviting me to follow him ahead.

Suddenly here I am entangled
Among the bramble and fragrant mint,
A summerhouse of jasmine, of the beloved.

From my window inconstant and pasturable,
I hear now crows, now tiny nightingales,
And in swollen nights the eagerness of friends.


La noche es un jabardillo de presencias,
Un jabeca de zarza y de menta verde,
Aun de salguera jadeante y abierta.

Cuando zampuzo mis oidos en este grial,
Mi pasado lebroncillo se aparece
Y me invita a seguirlo en adelante.

De repente aquí estoy enmarañado
Entre la zarza y el olor de menta verde,
Un cenador de jazmin y de seres queridos.

De mi ventana veleidosa y pacedera
Oigo ora cuervos, ora roncalitos,
Y en las noches llenas ansias de amigos.



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