El cortesano / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Courtier

The princess of China was telling me that afternoon the verses of a poet with an orgiastic life. He had died, not too long before, falling from a raft into the waters of a navigable river.
     The verses were decanting the repose of a saurian among the water lilies of a swamp and that same setting decorated a folding screen’s red cloth.
     I had usurped, for the purpose of listening to her, an ivory chair where the most learned and ceremonious adviser tended to accommodate himself.
     The parrot with a placid voice, poised on a wicker hoop, bristles his sonorous chest within sight of a cloud precipitated over the wooden palace. I abominated the inopportune bird.
     I announced from the terrace the advance of a throng of horsemen and the vibration of their spears amid a dust cloud.
     The princess began to jabber, fear printed on her nacre face, and she was able to tell me about the cruelty of those victors and how they would abolish their victims’ eyes, setting them in the beaks of schooled cranes.
     I heard no news of the princess in the course of the fire provoked and engineered by the horsemen. She resolved to succumb in the company of her own.
     The enemies were vociferating, inebriated by a liquor extracted from rice, and I stole away from their vigilance.
     I hid in the neighboring pagoda, untouched by the looting, and adopted the life and the habit of the bonze. I smile when I see myself wrapped in my long robe, yellow and with pompous sleeves. I remain on a plateau of my temple, festooned with flowers.
     I have managed to subtract myself from the distrust of the horsemen and insinuate myself with them.
     At some point I explore the seat of the palace transformed into ashes, from where the princess returned to the sky, original dwelling of her elders.
     I have chosen, for my devotion and seclusion, each of the spots where I reconstitute her presence and divine the vestige of her silver buskin.

Las formas del fuego (1929)

Translator’s note: This poem was first published in the only issue of the magazine válvula in Caracas in January 1928.

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

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