Let the Woodcutter Awaken
Excerpted verses from "Let the Woodcutter Awaken" (parts IV - VI) by Pablo Neruda (Canto General,1950).
Let the Woodcutter Awaken (parts IV - VI)
by Pablo Neruda; Canto General (1950)
But if you arm your hordes, North America,
to destroy that pure frontier
and bring the butcher from Chicago
to govern the music and the order
that we love,
we'll rise from the stones and the air
to bite you:
we'll rise from the last window
to pour fire on you:
we'll rise from the deepest waves
to sting you with spines:
we'll rise from the furrow so that the seed
will pound like a Columbian fist,
we'll rise to deny you bread and water,
we'll rise to burn you in hell.
So do not set foot, soldier,
on sweet France, because we'll be there
so that the verdant vineyards will yield vinegar
and humble girls will show you the spot
where the German blood is fresh.
Do not ascend Spain's dry sierras
because every stone will be transformed into fire
and the brave will fight there for a thousand years:
do not stray amidst the olive groves because you'll
never return to Oklahoma, and do not enter
Greece, because even the blood that you're shedding today
will rise from the earth to arrest you.
Do not come to fish in Tocopilla
because the swordfish will recognize your spoils
and the obscure miner from Araucania
will seek the cruel, ancient arrows
that await, buried, new conquerors.
Do not count on the gaucho singing vidalita
or the worker in the meat packing plants. They'll
be everywhere with eyes and fists
like the Venezualans who'll then be waiting for you
with a bottle of petroleum and a guitar in their hands.
Do not, do not enter Nicaragua either.
Sandino's asleep in the jungle awaiting that day,
his rifle has become filled with vines and rain,
his face has no eyelids,
but the mortal wounds with which you murdered him are alive
like the Puerto Rican's hands that await
the knife's light.
The world will be implacable for you.
Not only will the islands be deserted but the air
that now knows the words that it loves.
Do not come to request high Peru's
human flesh: in the monuments corroded mist
our blood's sweet ancestor sharpens
his swords of amethyst against you,
and in the valleys the hoarse battle conch
congregates the warriors and slingmen,
children of Amaru. Don't seek men in the
Mexican cordilleras to take them to combat the dawn:
Zapata's rifles are not asleep,
they are oiled and aimed at Texas.
Do not enter Cuba, because from the marine splendor
of the sweaty canefields
there's just one dark stare that awaits you
and just one cry until they kill you or die.
Do not approach
the partisans' land in whispering
Italy: do not step beyond the columns of waistcoated soldiers
that you keep in Rome, do not step beyond Saint Peter:
beyond the village's saintly rustics
the fish's saintly seamen
love the great country of steppelands
where the world flowered again.
Do not touch
Bulgaria's bridges, Romania's rivers
won't let you cross, we'll cast boiling blood into them
so that they'll burn the invaders:
do not greet the peasant who today knows
the feudal lord's grave and stands guard
with his plow and his rifle: do not stare at him
because he'll burn you like a star.
Do not disembark
in China, the Mercenary Chiang will no longer be
surrounded by his corrupt court of Mandarins:
they'll be a forest of peasant sickles
and a volcano of gunpowder awaiting you.
In other wars there were moats with water
and then wire entanglements, with barbs and claws,
but this moat is greater, these waters are deeper,
these wires more invincible than all the metals.
They're atom after atom of human metal,
they're one knot and a thousand knots of lives upon lives:
they're the old sorrows of peoples
from all the remote valleys and kingdoms,
from all the flags and ships,
from all the caves where they were huddles together,
from all the nets that set forth against the tempest,
from the infernos of hot boilers,
from all the texitile mills and foundries,
from all the locomotives lost or congregated.
This wire encircles the earth a thousand times:
it seems divided, exiled,
and suddenly it's magnets are united
until they fill the earth.
further beyond, radiant and determined,
men and women from tundra and taiga
await you to sing or fight,
Volga warriors who vanquished death,
children from Stalingrad, giants from the Ukraine,
iron and songs, courage and hope.
If you touch this wall you'll fall
burned like coal from the factories,
Rochester's smile will turn to darkness
that the steppeland air will then scatter
and the snow will then bury forever.
Those who've fought since Peter to the new heroes
who've astonished the earth will come
and turn their medals into cold little bullets
that will whistle without respite from
all the vast earth that today is happiness.
And from the laboratory covered with vines
that unleashed atom will also set forth
toward your proud cities.
Let none of this come to pass.
Let the Woodcutter awaken.
Let Abraham come with his axe
and his wood plate
to eat with the peasants.
Let his head of bark,
his eyes seen in the boards,
in the oak's wrinkles,
return to behold the world
rising above the treetops,
higher than the sequoias.
Let him go shopping in the drugstores,
let him take a bus to Tampa,
let him bite into a yellow apple,
let him go to the movies, let him talk
with all the common people.
Let the woodcutter awaken.
Let Abraham come, let his old
yeast swell Illinois's
gold and green earth,
and let him heft people's axe
against the new slavers,
against the slave's whip,
against the poison press,
against the bloody merchandise that they want to sell.
Let the white youth, the black youth,
march singing and smiling
against walls of gold
against the manufacturer of hatred,
against the merchant of their blood,
singing, smiling and conquering.
Let the Woodcutter awaken.
Peace for the coming twilights,
peace for the bridge, peace for the wine,
peace for the letters that seek me
and that rise in my blood entwining
the old song with land and loves,
peace for the city in the morning
when bread rises, peace for the
Mississippi River, river of roots,
peace for my brother's shirt,
peace in the book like a stamp of air,
peace for the Kiev's kolkhoz,
peace for the ashes of these fallen,
and these others fallen, peace for Brooklyn's
iron black, peace for the mailman
from house to house like the day,
peace for the choreographer who shouts
to the vines with a megaphone,
peace to my right hand,
which only wants to write Rosario:
peace for the Bolivian secretive
as a tin stone, peace
that you may marry, peace for all
the Bio-Bio's sawmills,
peace for the broken heart
of warring Spain:
peace for Wyoming's little Museum
who's sweetest thing
is a pillow with an embroidered heart,
peace for the baker and his loves
and peace for the flour: peace
for all the living: peace
for all lands and waters.
Here I say good-bye, I'm returning
home, in my dreams,
I'm returning to Patagonia where
wind pounds the stables
and the Ocean spatters ice.
I'm nothing but a poet: I love you all,
in my homeland they imprison miners
and soldiers command the judges.
But I love even the roots
of my old country.
If I had to die a thousand times
I want to die there:
if I had to be born a thousand times
I want to be born there,
near the wild araucaria,
the south wind bluster,
the newly purchased bells.
Let no one think about me.
Let's think about the whole earth,
pounding with love on the table.
I don't want blood to soak
the bread, beans, music,
again: I want the miner,
the little girl, the lawyer, the doll
manufacturer to accompany me,
let's go to the movies and set out
to drink the reddest wine.
I don't want to solve anything.
I came here to sing
so that you'd sing with me.
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