Sousândrade, translated by Vincent Katz
Channeling Wandering Guesa (Tow’ring Inferno)
(Guesa, having crossed th’Antilles,
believes himself free of the Xeques,
Voice in the Desert)
Orpheus, Dante, Aeneas, to th’inferno
Descended; th’Inca must ascend …
Ogni sp’ranza lasciate
Che entrate …
Swedenborg, is there a world to come?
(Xeques arise laughing, disguised as Railroad-managers,
Stockjobbers, Pimpbrokers, etc., etc., proclaiming:)
Harlem! Erie! Central! Pennsylvania!
A million! Hundred million! Thousand million!
Young is Grant! Jackson,
Vanderbilts, Jay Goulds, dwarves!
(The Voice hard to hear amid the thunder:)
Fulton’s Folly, Codezo’s Forgery…
Fraud is the clamor of the nation!
They don’t get odes
Wall Street: parallel to Chatham…
. . .
(GUESA writing personals in the HERALD
consulting the SIBYLS of NEW YORK)
Young-Lady of Fifth Avenue
In the Church of Grace…
Such a catch —
Only almighty dollar snatches.
(Thanksgiving to the process,
Colonel Miss Claflin)
Elected by my regiment
Election ensures rights:
In the convex skies
War not … there reigns peace.
(Democrats and Republicans)
To Tilden the majority;
To Hayes th’inauguration!
This side, revolutionary
Beyond, the one-god Mammon!
Strike! From the Atlantic to the Pacific!
To the banks! To th’ Treasury-tutor!
Strike, Arthur! Mob
Burn, assault! (Reign of horror!)
(McDonald, Schwab, Donahue:
Pickpockets for the universal revolution:)
From the asphalt the air is carried!
Hurricane! Lightning strikes!
From long ago
Vast storm-god in July-Fourth!
. . .
(Freeloves meditating on free-burglars fine arts:)
Rome began with robbery;
New York robs with no end,
Newark… all legs in the air…
The author, born Joaquim de Sousa Andrade in São Luís, Maranhão state, Brasil, in 1833, studied literature and engineering at the Sorbonne. He created the name Sousândrade for himself, traveled in Europe, and lived for several years in New York, where he published his first poems in 1874. He returned to Maranhão, teaching Greek in a secondary school. He traveled throughout Amazónia, the Andes, and Central America, and became increasingly interested in the history and plights of indigenous peoples. He devoted himself to an epic poem, entitled “Guesa errante,” which treats the story of an indigenous South American, an Incan, and the obstacles he encounters. It is written using collage techniques, in several languages, presenting the story of the Inca, with whom Sousândrade identified, as he travels to environs that threaten to subsume him. Such is the case, in particular, in the section entitled “The Wall Street Inferno.” Sousândrade died in poverty, and his work lay in neglect until the brothers Augusto and Haroldo de Campos discovered it and published a definitive edition in 1964. Here, I present my versions of 9 of the 176 strophes [1-3, 35-39, 71]. Three dots indicate ellipses. Xeques are priests who enact the ritual sacrifice of Guesa.
These notes are based on those found in re visão de sousândrade (São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva, 2002), third edition, revised and expanded, edited by Augusto de Campos and Haroldo de Campos.
Vincent Katz is a poet, translator, and teacher. He is the author of eleven books of poetry and two books of translation. He curated an exhibition on Black Mountain College and was the editor of Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art, published by MIT Press in 2002 and reprinted in 2013. He is the translator of The Complete Elegies Of Sextus Propertius (Princeton, 2004) and the author of Alcuni Telefonini, a book of poems in collaboration with painter Francesco Clemente, published by Granary Books in 2008.