This is my English translation of the Spanish poem “¡Eheu!” (Latin for “Alas!”) by Rubén Darío (1867-1916). Darío was a Nicaraguan poet who brought modernism to the Spanish-speaking world. The views in the poems I translate are not necessarily my own.


Aquí, junto al mar latino,
digo la verdad:
siento en roca, aceite y vino,
yo mi antigüedad.

Right here, beside the Latin sea,
I speak the plainest truth:
the rocks, the oil, the wine, for me,
depict my lack of youth.

¡Oh, qué anciano soy, Dios santo,
oh, qué anciano soy!
¿De dónde viene mi canto?
Y yo, ¿adónde voy?

Oh, God! I am an ancient gent—
so ancient, I allow!
Whence come my songs, so confident?
And where do I go now?

El conocerme a mí mismo
ya me va costando
muchos momentos de abismo
y el cómo y el cuándo.

To know myself, to live to tell,
has cost me, here again,
so many moments down in hell
and both the how and when.

Y esta claridad latina,
¿de qué me sirvió
a la entrada de la mina
del yo y el no yo?

The Latin sun will always shine,
but what if I should flee
into the entrance of the mine
of self that might not be?

Nefelibata contento,
creo interpretar
las confidencias del viento,
la tierra y el mar.

A dreamer with my fragile mirth,
I feel I understand
the secrets of the wind, the earth,
the sea, the storm, and sand.

Unas vagas confidencias
del ser y el no ser,
y fragmentos de conciencias
de ahora y de ayer.

The vaguest notions don’t agree:
to be, to be no more,
and fragments of my memory
of now and of before.

Como en medio de un desierto
me puse a clamar;
y miré el sol como un muerto
y me eché a llorar.

As in an empty desert place,
I railed against the sky;
and like one dead, I raised my face,
and I began to cry.