Bajo el ascendiente de Shakespeare / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Under the Influence of Shakespeare

I alternated between the horse and the boat during my pilgrimage through the Baltic islands.
     The natives showed up officiously to point out the road for me. An attendant, muscular and naive, preceded me on foot or rowed slowly without accepting gifts or salary. He often wore leather pants and a brightly-colored shirt, augmented with a handkerchief in lieu of a tie. Cleanliness was his elegance.
     I was passing from the field of barley or hops to the sea of undefined overtones, occasionally moved in a pool the color of chalkboard.
     The hill of beeches and willows lowered its branches over the fjord and tangled them at the edge of the masts.
     I have preferred the ancient capital of an island with no beggars or drunkards and where the people of means improved the luck of the poor and bequeathed the maidens with dowries.
     The nobles stood out because of their personal merits and they conversed hand in hand with the masses. They dedicated themselves to chemistry or to the knowledge of northern antiquities and they governed behavior by alluding to passages from the Bible. They occupied reserved tribunes and boxes in the village church and that’s where they kept the ashes of their ancestors in stone tombs, which were hung with steel armor and solid swords. Their mansions had lost the feudal frown and they were now frank and hospitable.
     The tympanum of the same church showed Jesus in the company of the twelve apostles. A peasant, educated in Rome by the community, had exquisitely carved the figures.
     The church sacristan, an old man of patriarchal wisdom, led me to the palace of an extinct family. He had assumed the responsibility of guarding it against the ravage of time and from that invisible hand that is merciless with uninhabited buildings.
     The admiral from a famous century had received the castle in recompense for a victory over the Swedes. He had lost his right eye in that episode, when he was directing the deployment of arms from the foot of a mast. The admiral, in a song by the villagers, could only breathe freely amidst the canon smoke. He had been rewarded by a just and economical king, a censor of his cloakroom’s waste.
     The sacristan invited me to recline on the illustrious armchairs, covered in a tow, he showed me the uniform and the insignias of the hero gathered in an armorial case, and he told me about the fate of the descendants as he pointed out their portraits.
     The old man described for me the figure of Ophelia when he referred to the end of the lineage in a fantastic and generous virgin. She kept her hair untied and wore green, as though she were a wild fairy.
     The virgin followed my steps when I descended to the street on a granite staircase. She even came to pose on a marble plateau and gave me an attentive glance.
     The sacristan shook me from my contemplation by grabbing my arm. He didn’t turn to face me when he closed the door behind him, sounding deliberately across the enormous village.

Las formas del fuego (1929)

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

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