Pax Animae

In honor of Mexican Independence Day, we present this work by one of Mexico’s most celebratory poets.

09-16 Najera
Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera
Mexican
1859 – 1895

 

Speak not a word of wild, blaspheming grief!
Be proud, be brave, though fallen in the strife,
And gaze, oh poet, with supreme disdain
On all the dark injustices of life!

Thou shalt not seek for constancy in love,
Nor aught eternal from frail mortals ask;
To rear sepuchral monuments on high
From all thy griefs, O artist, be thy task!
Chisel thy statues out of marble white,
Forms chaste of mien, though naked to the air;
And let speech slumber on their sculptured lips;
Let them stand deeply sad, yet silent there.

A name! A sounding echo on the air,
Fleeting and frail, its life a moment’s span!
A dreamer’s foolish idol! Name and fame!
This is the last sad vanity of man.
Why should we justice seek, or clemency.—
If our own comrades here deny our plea—
From the indifference, mute and icy-cold,
Of unknown men, to live in days to be?

Tardy compassion why should we implore
From strangers hid in shadows, one and all?
The echoes sleep within the darksome wood,
And no one, no one answers to our call.

The only consolation in this life
Is to remember happy hours and fair,
And lift our eyes on high to view the skies
When skies are blue or stars are shining there;

To flee the sea, and on the sleeping lake
Enjoy the water’s calm, the peaceful time;
To sleep—to dream—our wizard strong, the Dream,
Is a deceiver holy and sublime!

‘Tis true, alas, that in the honest breast
The fresh wound calls for vengeance and for strife;
But yet—forgive the evil they have done!
All suffer from the malady of life.

The very men who crown themselves with flowers
Are born to sorrow, and to perish, too.
If those you love the most betray your trust,
Forgive them, for they know not what they do!

Perhaps those instincts they inherited,
And they avenge unknowingly to-day
Races that gathered on their hapless heads
All griefs and hatreds ere they passed away.

Are thou perchance the judge—the sinless one?
Do justice and sweet mercy meet in thee?
Ah, who is not a fugitive, that bears
The weight of crimes unpunished, guiltily?

Who has not feigned to love, dared with false vows
Into a maiden’s holy soul to steal?
Who can be sure that he has never killed?
Who is the just man, that may justice deal?

Pity and pardon for all those that live!
So, full of love, in mild and gentle mood,
We shall be tender and compassionate,
And haply, haply, some time shall be good!

Friend, dost thou suffer? Seek thy sweetheart fair
In deathless beauty, free from pain and fear—
Live leaning on thy sadness, as of old
On young Cordelia leaned the wandering Lear.

See, far and farther ebbs the dying day!
How good it is to rest! In shade obscure
The woodland lulls us with a music soft;
Virgin the water is, the air is pure.

Weary, her eyes the light is closing now;
Sad murmors sound, and many a mournful sigh.
The night, descending, to the earth says, ‘Come!
‘Tis over. Go to sleep, and do not cry!’

To recollect—forgive—have loved, believed,
And had brief happiness our hearts to bless,
And soon, grown weary, to recline against
The snowy shoulder of forgetfulness!

To feel forevermore the tenderness
That warmed your youthful bosoms with its flame,
Receiving happiness, if it should come,
Like a glad visit from some beauteous dame;

To hold still hidden that which most we love—
Smiling forgiveness on our lips to keep—
Until at last, O earth! we come to thee
In the complete abandonment of sleep:

This ought to be the life of him who thinks
How transient all things are that meet his eyes,
And, wisely, stops before the wide expanse
Of falsehood’s ocean that around him lies.

Gather the flowers, while there are flowers to pluck;
Forgive the roses for their thorny guise!
Our sorrows also pass away and fly,
Flitting like swarms of dark-winged butterflies.

Love and forgive! Resist with courage strong
The wicked, the unjust, the cowardly.
The silent night, when it settles down,
Pensive and sad, is beautiful to see!

When sorrow dims my spirit, on the heights
I seek for calmness and for shining light.
Upon the frozen summits of my soul
Infinite pity spreads its hue of white.

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