After I’d signed Holograms—To Ximena. May you always radiate the light of your own epiphanies. From a man who still dreams of ocean voyages under the stars, of Pedro de Sintra, Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco de Gama. Sprague Harlequin—she told me of her life in Montevideo. I then asked her to read me something from the second book she’d bought, El rosario de Eros by Delmira Agustini. I remember only an image of a marble statue with a head of fire, and I remember the poet’s story: Divorced one month after her wedding, she declared, ‘Marriage is a vulgarity’. Then, shifting from wife to lover, she began seeing her husband in a bordello. Before killing himself, the bastard shot her dead.
Yo, la estatua de mármol con cabeza de fuego,
Apagando mis sienes en frio y blanco ruego…
Engarzad en un gesto de palmera o de astro
Vuestro cuerpo, esa hipnótica alhaja de alabastro
Tallada a besos puros y bruñida en la edad;
Sereno, tal habiendo la luna por coraza;
Blanco, más que si fuerais la espuma de la Raza,
Y desde el tabernáculo de vuestra castidad,
Nevad a mí los lises hondos de vuestra alma;
Mi sombra besará vuestro manto de calma,
Que creciendo, creciendo me envolverá con Vos;
Luego será mi carne en la vuestra perdida…
Luego será mi alma en la vuestra diluida…
Luego será la gloria… y seremos un dios!
— Amor de blanco y frío,
Amor de estatuas, lirios, astros, dioses…
¡Tú me lo des, Dios mío!
I, the marble statue with a head of fire,
Extinguishing my temples in whiteness and cold, implore…
Mount in a gesture of palm tree or star
Your body, that hypnotic alabaster jewel
Carved by pure kisses and burnished by age;
Serene, like having the moon as a breastplate;
White, more than if you were the foam of the Race,
And from the tabernacle of your chastity,
Snow on me the deep lilies of your soul;
My shadow will kiss your cloak of calm,
That growing, growing will envelop me with you;
Then my flesh will be lost in yours…
Then my soul with be diluted in yours…
Then it will be glory… And we will be a god!
— Love of whiteness and cold,
Love of statues, lilies, stars, gods…
May you give it to me, dear God!
Whoever is even slightly acquainted with the life of the middle classes in Uruguay, knows that there is hardly a more monotonous, a more uniformly conventional routine of daily existence than theirs. Everything, in the life of a young girl, is selected, approved, supervised by the parents or guardians. The young girl is sent to a convento; there every word of print that comes under her eye must have been approved by the Superiora; even the classics are expurgated and duly interpreted. Leaving school, the young woman is properly chaperoned every minute of her life; not a chance for any affair or intrigue, neither inside nor outside the home; should any young hopeful gallant wish to press his suit, he must do so formally. But after all is said and done, it is the family, especially the mother, who will pick a husband for the daughter and will send her off into the stormy seas of matrimony.
Is it any wonder that to a person combining sensitiveness and brain power, like Delmira Agustini, the world was a prison, and that she built her own world inside herself, a world of imagination, ideals and vague desires?
Nobody has ever been able to explain how a seventeen-year-old girl, of middle-class parentage, who had never ventured beyond her little routine of conventionalized life habits, could write poetry with such deep insight, such elevated ideas, and such finished style and form, that it seems as if behind her lay a whole lifetime spent in artistic labors and filled with intense passions and vivid experiences. But she continued in the same environment, submitted to the same inevitable surroundings and conditions. She had very little inspiration outside herself: she barely knew anything about philosophers, doctrines, schools, theories and the like. She kept on withdrawing more and more into herself, into her emotional life and feelings until she found herself lonely and isolated from the rest of the world.
Inevitably, she begins to think of Love, sung in the literature of all times, classic, modern, lyric and epic. She wonders whether Love will satisfy all those vague desires that she feels but cannot formulate. She wants to know what Love has to offer, she wants to feel it, live it. But how?