By C├ęsar Vallejo

César Vallejo

At the end of the battle,
with the combatant dead, a man came up
and told him: ‘don’t die, I love you so much!’
But the corpse, alas! Went on dying.

Two others came up and said to him again:
‘don’t leave us! Courage! Come Back to Life!’
But the corpse, alas! Went on dying.

Twenty, a hundred, a thousand, five hundred thousand ran up to him,
crying out: ‘so much love and no way of countering death!’
But the corpse, alas! Went on dying.

Millions of individuals stood around him,
with a common plea: ‘stay here brother!’
But the corpse, alas! Went on dying.

Then all the men on earth
stood round him; the sad corpse saw them, with emotion;
he got up slowly,
embraced the first man; began to walk…

Peruvian poet César Vallejo (1892 – 1938) published only three books of poetry during his lifetime but he is considered one of the great poetic innovators of the 20th century. Always a step ahead of the literary currents, each of his books was distinct from the others and, in its own sense, revolutionary. ‘Mass’ (translated by Ed Dorn and Gordon Brotherston) is the 12th poem in his epic sequence Spain, Take Away This Cup from Me, his hymn of support for the Spanish Republic. He died on the 15th April 1938. He remains all too little known in the English-speaking world. His complete works are available in translation from the University of California Press.