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Poetry: Gabriela Mistral – El Dios Triste

I much prefer the films like The Last Temptation of Christ (dir. Martin Scorsese) and The Passions of Christ (dir. Mel Gibson) for the simple fact: they divert our attention to the life of a man, rather than a semi-God. In the first film we see a man struggling with and yet still pursuing his mission of a Messiah (note the connection between the two words), and in the second film we are made to watch this man suffer with our eyes wide open – pretty much like Alex from The Clockwork Orange had his eyelids fixed open and was made to watch different atrocities in order to rethink his attitude to aggression and terror. I do think that in the official ecclesiastical “discource” far too big an emphasis is made on the performance of Jesus as a son of God, and much lesser attention is given to his life as man.

Even less attention we give to God himself. Some deny Him altogether, others await miracles. A true deus ex machina, He is expected to turn to a man’s every whim, to stop wars, to heal wounds, to grant success, to bring love, etc, etc. But what if He was not quite as we thought him to be? Can He not be tired of our whims and prayers?

This is what Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean Nobel-winning poet and feminist, contemplated in a beautiful poem El Dios Triste. The poem is set in autumn when Nature sheds colours and leaves, barring trees and earth, and washing every surface with the last rain before succumbing to the winterly sleep under the snow. But just as Huizinga imagined the European 15th century as the autumn of the Middle Ages, so does Mistral see Nature’s figurative sunset as God’s autumn. The final stanza, in which the lyrical hero abandons all demands in her sympathy for the sad God, is one of the most profound expressions of misericordia – mercy and compassion.

Gabriela Mistral – EL DIOS TRISTE

Mirando la alameda de otoño lacerada,
la alameda profunda de vejez amarilla,
como cuando camino por la hierba segada
busco el rostro de Dios y palpo su mejilla.

    Y en esta tarde lenta como una hebra de llanto
por la alameda de oro y de rojez yo siento
un Dios de otoño, un Dios sin ardor y sin canto
¡y lo conozco triste, lleno de desaliento!
    Y pienso que tal vez Aquel tremendo y fuerte
Señor, al que cantara de locura embriagada,
no existe, y que mi Padre que las mañanas vierte
tiene la mano laxa, la mejilla cansada.
    Se oye en su corazón un rumor de alameda
de otoño: el desgajarse de la suma tristeza.
Su mirada hacia mí como lágrima rueda
y esa mirada mustia me inclina la cabeza.
    Y ensayo otra plegaria para este Dios doliente,
plegaria que del polvo del mundo no ha subido:
“Padre, nada te pido, pues te miro a la frente
y eres inmenso, ¡inmenso!, pero te hallas herido”.
A beautiful Russian translation: 
Габриэла Мистраль – Грустный Бог

Под ветхий шорох осени-калеки,
где дряхлость рощ прикрыта желтизною,
я подымаю горестные веки,
и мой Господь встает перед мною.

Глухих часов медлительные слезы,
кармин листвы и золото заката.
Осенний Бог забыл псалмы и грозы,
в его глазах смятенье и утрата.

И мнится мне, что Тот, в огне и громе,
воспетый слепо, с опьяненьем страсти,
едва ли есть; да есть ли кто-то, кроме
того, кто сам нуждается в участьи!

Поблекли щеки, руки ослабели,
а в сердце — рощей стонет непогода,
туманный взгляд не достигает цели,
и нас Ему не видно с небосвода.

И я из человеческого ада
иду к Нему с молитвой небывалой:
— Верь, Отче наш, нам ничего не надо,
наш всемогущий, хрупкий и усталый!

Перевод Н.Ванханен
The poems by Gabriela Mistral have been translated into English a few times, the most recent work belonging to Ursula Le Guin. Here you can read a review of her work on the University of New Mexico’s website; and here are a few poems translated by Le Guin. A full biography can be found on The Poetry Foundation website.
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