En días de Cartago / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

In Days of Carthage


The sands and the sea extend indefinitely beneath the tower, nailed like a dart. The watchtower feels that the salty gust around it is mixed with the vapors from the desert. Without moving from its place, it dominates the opposite routes, from where Carthage is threatened by the Roman fleet and the cavalry of the unfaithful Numidians.
     The beautiful women rise in a noisy court to await the trace of danger. Sofonisba stands out with her strange beauty, her green eyes and dark hair. She reproduces the spell of her mother, a captive purchased in a fabulous northern island.
     From her love, when it is ingenuous, hangs the fate of the homeland. According to the servant of a sanguinary divinity, the most ancient of the priests, for whom nature is transparent and the time to come frank.
     But Sofonisba’s love oscillates like a weightless balance. She alternately councils her people in favor of the enmity or support of Sifaz, and of course inverts the spirit of Masinisa, his rival.
     The two most divergent men agree on the object of passion. Sifaz fights through the arm of his captains, and cultivates politics in retreat. Masinisa tests the exquisite iron of his weapons in the burning and uncertain battles.


Carthage is bending under the disaster. Scipio threatens it with a tightened blockade. The youth have fallen with pity in Spain, the amassed and ferocious country, from whose wars there is no return. The ships idle in the port, cowed by defeat, eluding the combat they sought covered in bunting and swift. The corpses of the vanquished abound in the Mediterranean.
     Sofonisba departs in a numerous cavalcade toward Sifaz, whose astuteness the republic needs. The guardians say that Masinisa does not dare withing reach of the war machines, by which the city defends its district. For some time now they have not recognized him under the new attire of his helmet finished off with a ponytail and his cloak shaped by lion’s leather.
     The concourse advances toward the ambush, under the direction of a perfidious guide. A hundred men assault it suddenly from the rubble of a village. The guardians resist clumsily, struggling against the frightened beasts. Masinisa abducts Sofonisba and, amid the spears that stab tremulously, mocks the the clamor of her maidens.
     Scipio applauds his ally’s move, and obsequiously praises the captive, who responds with dissembling passion. In her presence he forgets the habit of severity, changes his energetic countenance, disregards the voices of the senate.
     Masinisa is sure he will irremediably lose his captive, and defrauds his rival with poison. Sofonisba dies, painlessly and in love, on a warm afternoon. That same night, the singular tumult of the winds, as it mimics the steeds’ gallop, augurs the return of combat.
     The shame of having ceded redoubles Scipio’s patriotism. In front of the victim’s corpse, he praises the fortune that definitively levels his path.

La torre de Timón (1925)

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

1 comment:


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