A rather literal and only slightly tidied-up translation of a Pablo Neruda poem. I can't properly do it justice, but it is just too damn awesome not to share an attempt.


Cortez has no people, he's a cold lightning bolt,
his heart dead inside his armor.
"Fertile lands, my lord and king,
temples in which studded gold
lies in the Indian's hands."

Now arrive destroying daggers, knocking over
the low lands; the stampeding hordes--
the mountain ranges of the perfumes
stopping their troop between orchids
and coronations of pines--
running over the jasmines,
until the gates of Tlaxcala.

(Terrified brother, do not take
as a friend the pink vulture--
from the moss I tell you, from
the roots of our kingdom.
It will rain blood tomorrow,
the tears will be liable to
form clouds, vapor, rivers,
until our eyes melt.)

Cortez receives a dove,
receives a pheasant, a zither
from the musicians of the monarch,
but he wants the room of gold,
he wants another passage, and it all falls
into the chests of the voracious men.

The king leans out from the balcony:
"He is my brother," he says. The stones
of the people fly in response,
and Cortez sharpens daggers
across the betrayed kisses.

Return to Tlaxcala; the wind has brought
a deaf rumor of sufferings.


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