To Roosevelt, by Rubén Darío

Reply Thu 10 Apr, 2003 05:38 pm
Theodore Roosevelt was the individual who most represented the US incursions into Latin America that outraged even nonpolitical poets such as Rubén Darío (Nicaragua, 1867-1916). Latin Americans had admired the energy, wealth, and democracy of the United States, but now they feared the bullying of their northern neighbor. President Roosevelt supported a 1903 revolution in Panama that resulted in the annexation by the U.S. of territory for the Panama Canal, and in 1904 proclaimed a coorollary to the Monroe Doctrine which justified the use of the U.S. military to "police" Latin America.

To Roosevelt

It is with the voice of the Bible, or the verse of Walt Whitman,
that I should come to you, Hunter,
primitive and modern, simple and complicated,
with something of Washington and more of Nimrod.

You are the United States,
you are the future invader
of the naive America that has Indian blood,
that still prays to Jesus Christ and still speaks Spanish.

You are the proud and strong exemplar of your race;
you are cultured, you are skillful; you oppose Tolstoy.
And breaking horses, or murdering tigers,
you are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar.
(You are a professor of Energy
as today's madmen say.)

You think that life is fire,
that progress is eruption,
that wherever you shoot
you hit the future.


The United States is potent and great.
When you shake there is a deep tremblor
that passes through the enormous vertebrae of the Andes.
If you clamor, it is heard like the roaring of a lion.
Hugo already said it to Grant: The stars are yours.
(The Argentine sun, ascending, barely shines,
and the Chilean star rises...) You are rich.
You join the cult of Hercules to the cult of Mammon,
and illuminating the road of easy conquest,
Liberty raises its torch in New York.

But our America, that has had poets
since the ancient times of Netzahualcoyotl,
that has walked in the footprints of great Bacchus
who learned Pan's alphabet at once;
that consulted the stars, that knew Atlantis
whose resounding name comes to us from Plato,
that since the remote times of its life
has lived on light, on fire, on perfume, on love,
America of the great Montezuma, of the Inca,
the fragrant America of Christopher Columbus,
Catholic America, Spanish America,
the America in which noble Cuahtemoc said:
"I'm not in a bed of roses"; that America
that trembles in hurricanes and lives on love,
it lives, you men of Saxon eyes and barbarous soul.
And it dreams. And it loves, and it vibrates, and it is the daughter of the Sun.
Be careful. Viva Spanish America!
There are a thousand cubs loosed from the Spanish lion.
Roosevelt, one would have to be, through God himself,
the-fearful Rifleman and strong Hunter,
to manage to grab us in your iron claws.

Translated by Bonnie Frederick
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Reply Sat 12 Apr, 2003 09:05 pm
The tasty morsel ...
There are many people/countries throughout the world who see the tasty morsel held out to them by "the iron claws." Thinking they have but to reach for it and it's theirs without cost, the harsh reality of the price to be paid often comes too late.[/color]
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Reply Sat 12 Apr, 2003 10:43 pm
Lovely poem, Fbaezer. wish I spoks Spanish...
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Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2003 09:18 pm
Thanks for your replies.
Darío is considered one of the greatest Latin American poets of the XX Century.
A romantic, he reflects a political ideology that was popular in the subcontinent in the first half of the century. "They have the power, we have the centuries-old culture". A type of regionalism that has done us more harm than good.
Plus I also find a right-wing "Gott ist mit Uns" flavor.
Yet, as poetry, it's beautiful.
Who were the "cubs loosed from the Spanish lion"? The first one that comes to mind is Ché Guevara. But, next to that figure we have some farsical ones, like Eva Perón, Alán García or Hugo Chavez.

While I disagree with the political content of the poem, from what it implicitly proposes for Latin America, there are some lines I find extremely accurate for today:

You think that life is fire,
that progress is eruption,
that wherever you shoot
you hit the future.


...You are rich.
You join the cult of Hercules to the cult of Mammon,
and illuminating the road of easy conquest,
Liberty raises its torch in New York...
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Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2003 09:16 pm
A Google search brought up a number of sites for this poem. Looking at just two of them, there was immediate notice that there is a missing last line here:

And, although you count on everything, you lack one thing: God!

Translated by Bonnie Frederick


This line does add another dimension to the poem. Actually, I was looking for interpretations of the various phrases. In my opinion, there is much more than meets the eye as far as Dario's word usage and meanings. HEAVY! And more than I have time to delve into at the moment. Very thought provoking! Thank you for posting it!!!
[/color] Smile
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