Toward a Poetry & Poetics of the Americas (3): 23 verses from Sousândrade’s Wall Street Inferno

Translation from Portuguese by Odile Cisneros

[Along with Whitman & Darío, Sousândrade (Joaquim de Sousa Andrade, 1833-1902) emerges today as one of the great nineteenth-century forerunners to a full-blown poetry of the Americas.  Nearly forgotten after his own time, he was brought back through the enthusiasm of Haroldo & Augusto de Campos, to become, in Latin American terms at least, the epitome of a late experimental romanticism & a prefigurer of new poetries to come.  His masterwork, as boundary shattering & as American in its own way as Whitman’s “Song of Myself” or Pound’s Cantos, was a long poem entitled O guesa errante [The Wandering Guesa], in which “layout, neologisms, verbal montage, and sudden changes in tone evoke the newspapers of that period and the hectic world of the stock market.”  Thus the Cuban novelist Severo Sarduy, and Augusto de Campos further: “… a trans-American periplum (with interludes in Europe, Africa) from Brazil (Maranhão) to Colombia, Venezuela, Peru … Central America, the Antilles, and to the USA.” At the journey’s center is the Guesa, a legendary figure of the Muisca Indians of Colombia, destined from childhood for ritual immolation. To escape the xeques or priests who would carry out the sacrifice, the Guesa (or Sousândrade speaking for him), makes his own pilgrimage, “to end sacrificed in Wall Street, surrounded by stockbrokers’ cries.”

                A shorter selection from O guesa errante & a more extended commentary can be found here on Poems and Poetics, & a long excerpt from Robert E. Brown’s alternative version was included in Poems for the Millennium, volume three. (J.R.)]

 

1           (Guesa, having traversed the West Indies, believes himself rid

            of the Xeques and penetrates  the New-York-Stock-Exchange;

            the Voice, from the wilderness:)

 

            – Orpheus, Dante, Aeneas, to hell

            Descended; the Inca shall ascend

                        = Ogni sp’ranza lasciate,

                                    Che entrate…

            – Swedenborg, does fate new worlds portend?

 

2          (Smiling Xeques appear disguised as Railroad-managers,

                                Stockjobbers, Pimpbrokers, etc., etc., crying out:)

 

            – Harlem! Erie! Central! Pennsylvania!

            = Million! Hundred million!! Billions!! Pelf!!!

                        – Young is Grant! Jackson,

                                    Atkinson!

            Vanderbilts, Jay Goulds like elves!

 

3          (The Voice, poorly heard amidst the commotion:)

 

            – Fulton’s Folly, Codezo’s Forgery…

            Fraud cries the nation’s bedlam

                        They grasp no odes

                                    Railroads;

            Wall Street’s parallel to Chatham…

 

4                      (Brokers going on:)

 

            – Pygmies, Brown Brothers! Bennett! Stewart!

            Rothschild and that Astor with red hair!!

                        = Giants, slaves

                                    If only nails gave

            Out streams of light, if they would end despair!..

 

 

5                     (Norris, Attorney; Codezo, inventor; Young, Esq., manager; Atkinson

                                    agent; Armstrong, agent; Rhodes, agent; P. Offman & Voldo,

                                            agents; hubbub, mirage; in the middle,  Guesa:)

 

            – Two! Three! Five thousand! If you play

            Five million, Sir, will you receive

                        = He won! Hah! Haah!! Haaah!!!

                                    – Hurrah! Ah!…

            – They vanished …   Were they thieves?...

 

6              (J. Miller atop the roofs of the Tammany wigwam unfurling the Garibaldian mantle:)

 

            – Bloodthirsties! Sioux! Oh Modocs!

            To the White House! Save the Nation,

            From the Jews! From the hazardous

                        Goth’s Exodus!

            From immoral conflagration!

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

100         (Reporters.)

 

            – Norris, Connecticut’s blue laws!

            Clevelands, attorney-Cujás,

                        Into zebras constrained

                                    Ordained,

            Two by two, to one hundred Barabbas!

 

101         (Friends of the lost kings:)

 

            Humbug of railroads and the telegraph,

            The fire of heaven I wished wide and far

                        To steal, set the world ablaze

                                    And above it raise

            Forever the Spangled Star!

 

102                         (A rebellious sun founding a planetary center:)

 

            – ‘George Washington, etc. etc.,

            Answer the Royal-George-Third. Depose!

                        = Lord Howe, tell him, do

                            I’m royal too…

            (And they broke the Englishman’s nose).

 

103          (Satellites greeting Jove’s rays:)

 

            –‘Greetings from the universe to its queen’..

            As for bail, the Patriarchs give a boon…

                        (With a liberal king,

                                    A worse thing,

            They founded the empire of the moon).

 

104         (Reporters:)

 

            – A sorry role on earth they play,

            Kings and poets, heaven’s aristocracy

                        (And Strauss, waltzing)

                                    Singing

            At the Hippodrome or Jubilee.

 

105         (Brokers finding the cause  of the Wall Street market crash:)

 

­        – Exeunt Sir Pedro, Sir Grant,

                Sir Guesa, seafaring brave:

                        With gold tillers they endure

                                    The Moor,

            Appeased by the turbulent waves.

 

106         (International procession, the people of Israel, Orangians, Fenians,

                  Buddhists, Mormons, Communists, Nihilists, Penitents,

                  Railroad-Strikers, All-brokers, All-jobbers, All-saints, All-devils,                                              
                  lanterns, music, excitement; Reporters: in London                                                                                    

                  the QUEEN'S ‘murderer’ passes by and in Paris ‘Lot’ the fugitive

                  from SODOM:)

 

                ­­– In the Holy Spirit of slaves

            A single Emperor’s renowned

                        In that of the free, verse

                                    Reverse,

            Everything as Lord is crowned!

 

107          (King Arthur's witches and Foster the Seer on Walpurgis by day :)

 

            When the battle’s lost and won–

            –That will be ere the set of sun–
            –Paddock calls: Anon!–
            –Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
            Hover through the fog and filthy air!

 108         (Swedenborg answering later:)

            – Future worlds exist: republics,

            Christianity, heavens, Lohengrin.

                        Present worlds are latent:

                                                Patent,

            Vanderbilt-North, South-Seraphim.

 

109         (At the roar of Jericho, Hendrick Hudson runs aground; the                                                                     

                  Indians sell the haunted island of Manhattan

                                                   to the Dutch:)

 

            – The Half-Moon, prow toward China

            Is careening in Tappan-Zee…

            Hoogh moghende Heeren…
                        Take then
            For sixty guilders Yeah! Yeah!

110         (Photophone-stylographs  sacred right to self-defense:)

 

            – In the light the humanitarian voice:

            Not hate; rather conscience, intellection;

                        Not pornography

                                    Isaiah’s prophecy

            In Biblical vivisection!

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

117          (Freeloves proceeding to vote for their husbands:)

 

            – Among Americans, Emerson alone,

            Wants no Presidents, oh atrocious he!

                        = Oh well-adjudicated,

                                    States

            Improve for you, for us, for me!

 

118         (APOCALYPTIC visions… slanderous ones:)

 

            – For, ‘the Beast having bear’s feet,’

            In God we trust is the Dragon

                        And the false prophets

                                    Bennetts

            Tone, th’ Evolutionist and Theologian!

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

173          (WASHINGTON ‘blinding because of them’; Pocahontas without personals:)

 

            –        To starving bears, a rabid dog!

            Be it! After the feast, bring in festoons!..

                        = Tender Lulu,

                                    Crying and you

             Give honey to ‘foes’, bee?… and sting poltroons?

 

174          (Guatemalan nose, curved into Hymenee’s torch; Dame-Ryder

                  heart on the poisoned window-panes of the ‘too dark’ wedding pudding:)

 

            –        ‘Caramba! yo soy cirujano–

            A Jesuit… Yankee… industrialism’!

                        Job… or haunted cavern, 

                        Tavern,

            ‘Byron’ animal-magnetism!..

 

175          (Practical swindlers doing their business; self-help Atta-Troll:)

 

            –        Let the foreigner fall helpless,

            As usury won’t pay, the pagan!

                                = An ear to the bears a feast,

                                                Caressing beasts,

            Mahmmuhmmah, mahmmuhmmah, Mammon.

 

176          (Magnetic handle-organ; ring of bears sentencing the architect of the

                  PHARSALIA to death; an Odyssean ghost amidst the flames of Albion’s fires:)

 

            –        Bear… Bear is beriberi, Bear… Bear…

            = Mahmmuhmmah, mahmmuhmmah, Mammon!

                        – Bear… Bear… ber’… Pegasus

                                Parnassus

            = Mahmmuhmmah, mahmmuhmmah, Mammon.