Miércoles de ceniza / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Ash Wednesday

     She stands out amidst the contest of the naïve faithful for the severe majesty her faded beauty enacts. The final gala of youth appears with the sorrowful splendor of the afternoon, and her hair grows dry and is turned white by the implacable autumn that tears out the tremulous leaves. The melancholic memories of her youthful years suggest the nostalgia of splendid celebrations in a stately, abandoned castle, and to darken her eyes with tears comes, in the antechamber to old age, a message from the radiant past in the memory of antiquated music.
     Oblivion, relentless sentinel, guards her window, and before her no longer succumb the pleading demands, like murmuring and humble waves at the foot of an inaccessible rock. Her soul avoids mundane agitation, and moderated by disappointment, flies like the swallow in mourning to gather itself in the mystical atmosphere of the temple. There she remains captive to the music that surges and dilates like the slow smoke of the incense, and she abominates the century amidst a rumor of funereal Latin.
     Her soul has been occupied by the thought of what is divine and immortal since the mirror for her faded beauty received the pessimistic censure of the skull, and since then she dresses with the somber colors that symbolize the desolation of our life and are proper for lamenting the unavoidable ruin of time. The insult of the years does not darken the mirror of her eyes that shine with living splendor, as though by virtue of a perennial rite. They lend her face a religious gravity and exhibit it exhausted and penitent as though her life extenuated the cult of a dour numen.
     Repentant of profane colloquies and avid for sorrows, she keeps the confidence of her troubles for the inflexible cross. By wishing for her forehead, in pious imitation, the crown of bloody thorns she drives away the memory of celebrations. To expiate mundane illusions she satisfies the extreme of the amendment and elevates above the desert of her life, to light the rest of her journey, the candle of cadaveric light.

Translator’s Note: This poem was first published on 21 October 1917 in the Caracas magazine La Revista.

La torre de Timón (1925)

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

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