Julio Herrera y Reissig: Chiaroscuro


Pedro Figari (1861-1938). ‘En la Pampa’, oil on cardboard, 70 x 100 c.m. Private collection.

Here is my translation of a poem entitled ‘Claroscuro’, by the Uruguayan Julio Herrera y Reissig (1875-1910). The original was first published in the Buenos Aires literary journal ‘El Diario Español’ on April 2, 1905. I have made no attempt to preserve the rhyme scheme or meter of the Spanish.


In the lintel of the sky, little bells at last have rung.
Harsh voices of the muleteers rise and fall,
Echoes multiplied by a hundred cliffs and hills,
Where flocks of winged handkerchiefs beat in file.

Smoke arises from the hovels and floats in lilac air;
Maternal cattle make progress on the paths;
And, knapsacks hung on shoulders, austerest forest men
Turn dark faces toward the tranquilizing dusk.

Near the cemetery’s rest, there beyond the grange,
Twilight lays long warnings on the grass.
And vapors now exhaled from cattle and from swine

Bestow a scriptured ancient musky peace…
And memories like doves, violet, arise
From olding walls, wrinkled and obscure.


3 comments on “Julio Herrera y Reissig: Chiaroscuro

  1. This is fabulously evocative, and so interesting because I don’t know a thing about South American poetry of that era. Is there somewhere I can look at the original?

  2. leifhendrik says:

    Here’s a link to the Spanish original: http://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Claroscuro. Also, a really good site is http://www.herrerayreissig.org. A lot of the poet’s work is there, along with some interesting photos and other things, though it’s in Spanish. I too found this particular poem so evocative. The poet himself and his world really intrigue me.

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