Y CUÁNTO VIVE?AND HOW LONG?
Pablo Nerudatrans. Alastair Reid
Cuánto vive el hombre, por fin?

Vive mil días o uno solo?

Una semana o varios siglos?

Por cuánto tiempo muere el hombre?

Qué quiere decir 'Para Siempre'?

Preocupado por este asunto
me dediqué a aclarar las cosas.

Busqué a los sabios sacerdotes,
los esperé después del rito,
los aceché cuando salían
a visitar a Dios y al Diablo.

Se aburrieron con mis preguntas.
Ellos tampoco sabían mucho,
eran sólo administradores.

Los médicos me recibieron,
entre una consulta y otra,
con un bisturí en cada mano,
saturados de aureomicina,
más ocupados cada dia.
Según supe por lo que hablaban
el problema era como suige:
nunca murió tanto microbio,
toneladas de ellos caían,
pero los pocos que quedaron
se manifestaban perversos.

Me dejaron tan asustado
que busqé a los enterradores.
Me fuí a los ríos donde queman
grandes cadáveres pintados,
pequeños muertos huesudos.
emperadores recubiertos
por escamas atterradoras,
mujeres aplastadas de pronto
por una ráfaga de cólera.
Eran riberas de difuntos
y especialistas cenicientos.

Cuando llegé mi oportunidad
les largué unas cuantas preguntas,
ellos me ofrecieren quemarme:
era todo lo que sabían.

En mi país los enterradores
me contestaron, entre copas:
- 'Búscate una moza robusta
y déjate de tonterías.'

Nunca vi gentes tan alegres.

Cantaban levantando el vino
por la salud y por la muerte.
Eran grandes fornicadores.

Regresé a mi casa más viejo
después de recorrer el mundo.

No le pregunto a nadie nada.

Pero sé cada día menos.
How long does a man live, after all?

Does he live a thousand days, or one only?

A week, or several centuries?

How long does a man spend dying?

What does it mean to say 'for ever'?

Lost in these preoccupation
I set myself to clear things up.

I sought out knowledgeable priests.
I waited for them after their rituals,
I watched them when they went their ways
to visit God and the Devil.

They wearied of my questions.
They on their part knew very little;
they were no more than administrators.

Medical men received me
in between consultations,
a scalpel in each hand,
saturated in aureomycin,
busier each day.
As far as I could tell from their talk,
the problem was as follows:
it was not so much the death of a microbe -
they went down by the ton -
-but the few which survived
showeds signs of perversity.

They left me so startled
that I sought out the gravediggers.
I went to the rivers where they burn
enormous painted corpses,
tiny bony bodies,
emperors with an aura
of terrible curses,
women snuffed out at a stroke
by a wave of cholera.
There were whole beaches of dead
and ashy specialists.

When I got the chance
I asked them a slew of questions.
They offered to burn me;
it was the only thing they knew.

In my own country the undertakers
answered me, between drinks:
'Get yourself a good woman
and give up this nonsense.'

I never saw people so happy.

Raising their glasses they sang,
toasting health and death.
They were huge fornicators.

I returned home, much older
after crossing the world.

Now I question nobody.

But I know less every day.

Copyright © Fundación Pablo Neruda 1954-59, transl. Alastair Reid © 1970, 1975 - publ. Penguin Books


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