Al pie de un cipo / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

At the Foot of a Memorial Stone

His name was José María Milá Díaz, a man who until yesterday suffered life in our oldest eastern city; he spent it singing and weeping, moved in imitation of Arnaldo de Daniel so he thus existed in the purgatory of the Gibeline bard. Because of a great misfortune one could deny that he sang, since his verse, poor in its cadence, would hurry in the manner of tight and brusque sobs. Because of all these merits, in the city of Cumaná they hurry to honor the martyr’s memory, and we fervently applaud the late offering, from here, from very far away, dispersed children of that idolatrous Jerusalem. No other behavior was possible because, among the more recent men of letters in the eastern region, Milá is august. He is so like a numen, because leprosy, the illness that shares with madness a sacred nature, had lit a nimbus of saintliness on his forehead. Since madness is of an inferior majesty, illustrious during paganism, whose reign infuriates the joy of the Bacchae and the predictions of the fortunetellers, our man of thought and sacrifice is best served by the illness known in an obscure biblical mention and which was Dantean terror in the divine inferno.
     Completely justified is the offering to the man who accepted, without groaning from pain or terror, the illness the brilliant people of Colombia accommodate with the expression from the holy book relating to death: king of horrors!
     He exhibits himself as superhuman, tormented by the illness that forces Job to curse his own birth, and inspired the pious men of the primitive Church to compare the face of the ill-fated man to that of the lion, because they were both, ill-fated man and desert lions, familiar to those saints, apostates of happiness, set apart in savage isolation. His dignity grows if we remember that he did not consecrate a single one of his complaints to the immense disgrace, like that of his predecessors in remote centuries, who were separated from society with the lugubrious song of the dead intoned by the priest and with vain and sterile ash scattered over the miserable head.
     Misfortune consecrated him in such a way, that the earth where he rests is sanctified by his corpse. He had no need for hospitality in blessed cemeteries, because every piece of earth where a grave is dug for a martyr is holy like a port that receives a shipwrecked sailor. Besides, our whole earth is blessed, and because of that receives the homage of splendid days and solemn nights. This is so true, that the stars trembling from the celestial blackness like tears of holy water in ecclesiastical ceremonies over the cloth of coffins carry out a funeral rite over our remains.
     A funerary monument should be raised over the final resting place with severe sadness, as for a bitter life and an early death. It would be appropriate if mourning foliage would shelter him, as in Heineian poetry, harmonious with evening songs, in whose shadow lovers would interrupt their dialogue to weep without knowing why, with a sudden sadness. It would speak eloquently to newcomers, if the martyr were to be represented in meditation with his face afflicted by a Nazarene affliction resting on his mutilated hand, when from the window of his sick room he would compare his confinement with the freedom of the distant sea, on whose intermittent breeze on rare occasions an unconscious knell would come to interrupt the overwhelming silence over the neighboring blazing sands. The passer-by would discover himself in front of him, as if facing a demolished and deformed god of unearthed idolatry, and many would compare his attitude to that of the man who descended to the abyss, when he was meditating upon his tremendous punishments.

La torre de Timón (1925)

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

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