“To Silvestre Revueltas of Mexico, In His Death,” by Pablo Neruda, appeared in the Winter 1980 issue of MQR.
When a man like Silvestre Revueltas
goes back into the ground at last,
there is a rumor, a wave’s
voice and a cry that makes ready and makes known his departure.
The tiny roots tell the grains, “Silvestre died,”
and the wheat carries his name in waves to the slopes
and then the bread knows it,
and the frozen flowers of our arctic region.
Drops of water transmit it,
and the indomitable rivers of Araucania
take notice of it.
From glacier to lake, from lake to plant,
from plant to fire, and fire to smoke,
every thing that burns, sings, blooms, dances, and lives again,
every thing that lasts, high and deep in our America
pianos and birds, dreams and disturbances, the quivering net
that unites in air all our weathers,
tremble and translate the funeral chorus.
Silvestre has died, Silvestre has entered his fullest music
in his sonorous silence.
Brother of the earth, son of the earth, from here you pass into Time.
From now on your name full of music will fly up as though from a field
whenever it touches your country,
with a sound never heard, with the sound, brother, of you.
Your heart like a cathedral covers us in this instant, like the sky,
and your song, loud and magnificent, your volcanic tenderness,
fills to the roofs like a burning statue.
Why has your life run out? Why
has it spilled
like blood into this cup? Why
have you searched
like a blind angel, groping against dark doors?
Oh, but out of your name there comes music,
and out of your music, as though out of a market,
there come wreaths of fragrant laurel,
and apples of perfume and symmetry.
On this solemn day of departure you are the departed,
but you no longer hear.
Your noble face is missing as if a man were missing
a great tree in the middle of his house.
Yet the light that we see from now on is another light,
the street that doubles back is a new street,
the hand that we touch from now on has your force,
everything takes its strength in your rest,
and your purity will climb out of the stones
to show us the clarity of your hope.
Lie still, brother, your day has ended,
with your sweet and powerful soul you filled it
with a light more luminous than the day’s light,
and with a sound blue like the voice of heaven.
Your brothers and friends have asked me
to say your name again in the air of America
so that the bull of the pampa will know it, and the snow,
so that the sea will take it under, and the wind discuss it.
Now the stars of America are your country,
and from now on the Earth without doors is your home.
Translated from the Spanish by Harry Thomas
Image: Photograph of Silvestre Revueltas