A SPEECH AL ALIMÓN ON RUBÉN DARÍO
(Pen Club, Buenos Aires, 1933)
PABLO NERUDA AND FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA:
García Lorca: And gentlemen. There is a pass in bullfighting called al alimón, in which two bullfighters cite the bull while grasping either side of the same cape.
Neruda: Federico and I, tied together by an electric wire, are going to act together in response to this very impressive reception.
García Lorca: It is customary, at meetings like this, for a poet to offer his living words, whether silver or wooden, and to greet his friends and colleagues with his own voice.
Neruda: But we are going to set up a dead man among you, a widower companion, obscure in the darkness of a death greater than other deaths; life' s widower, who in his day was a dazzling husband. We are going to hide under his fiery shadow, we are going to repeat his name until his power leaps out of forgetfulness.
García Lorca: After we have sent our embraces, with the tenderness of penguins, to that delicate poet Amado Villar, we are going to fling a great name onto the table, with the assurance that the glasses will break, that the forks will jump up and seek the eyes they long for, and that a crash of the sea will stain the tablecloth. We are going to name the poet of America and Spain: Rubén...
Neruda: Darío. Because, ladies...
García Lorca: And gentlemen...
Neruda: Where in Buenos Aires is the Rubén Darío Plaza?
García Lorca: Where is there a statue of Rubén Darío?
Neruda: He loved parks. Where is the Rubén Darío Park?
García Lorca: Where is the Rubén Darío Florist Shop?
Neruda: Where is the apple tree, where are the apples, named after Rubén Darío?
García Lorca: Where is the mummified hand of Rubén Darío?
Neruda: Where are the oil, the resin, and the swan with the name of Rubén Darío?
García Lorca: Rubén Darío sleeps in his "native Nicaragua," under a frightful mock-marble lion like those lions the rich put at the front of their houses.
Neruda: A drugstore lion, for one who was a creator of lions. A starless lion, for one who consecrated stars.
García Lorca: He gave us the murmur of the forest in an adjective, and being a master of language, like Fray Luis de Granada, he made zodiacal signs out of the lemon tree, the hoof of a stag, and mollusks full of terror and infinity. He launched us on the sea with frigates and shadows in our eyes, and built an enormous promenade of gin over the grayest afternoon the sky has ever known, and greeted the southwest wind as a friend, all heart like a Romantic poet, and put his hand on the Corinthian capital of all epochs with a sad, ironic doubt.
Neruda: His red name deserves to be remembered, along with his essential tendencies, his terrible heartaches, his incandescent uncertainties, his descent to the hospitals of hell, his ascent to the castles of fame, his attributes as a great poet, now and forever undeniable.
García Lorca: As a Spanish poet he taught the old and the young in Spain with a generosity and a sense of universality that are lacking in the poets of today. He taught Valle-Inclán and Juan Ramón Jiménez and the Machado brothers, and his voice was water and niter in the furrows of our venerable language. From Rodrigo Caro to the Argensolas or Don Juan Arguijo, Spanish had not seen such plays on words, such clashes of consonants, such lights and forms, as in Rubén Darío. From the landscapes of Velázquez and Goya's bonfire and Quevedo's melancholy to the elegant apple color of the Mallorcan peasant girls, Darío walked the Spanish earth as in his own land.
Neruda: He brought a tide to Chile, the hot northern sea, and he left that sea there, abandoned on the hard, rock-toothed coast, and the ocean battered it with spume and bells, and the black winds of Valparaíso filled it with sonorous salt. Tonight let us carve his statue out of air, crisscrossed with smoke and voices, with circumstances, with life, like his own magnificent poetry, crisscrossed with sound and dreams.
García Lorca: But I want this statue of air to show his blood, like a branch of coral shaken by the tide; his nerves, like a photograph of sheet-lightning; his minotaur's head, where the Gongoresque snow is painted by a flight of hummingbirds; his vague, absent eyes, the eyes of a millionaire whose million are tears; and also his defects: the weeds and the empty flute notes in his book-shelves, and the cognac bottles of his dramatic drunkenness, and the impudent padding that fills the multitude of his lines with humanity. The fertile substance of his great poetry stands solidly outside of norms, forms, and schools.
Neruda: Federico García Lorca, a Spaniard, and I, a Chilean, dedicate the honors bestowed on us today to that great shadow who sang more loftily than ourselves, and who saluted, in a new voice, the Argentinian soil that we now tread.
García Lorca: Pablo Neruda, a Chilean, and I, a Spaniard, are one in our language and one in our reverence for that great Nicaraguan, Argentinian, Chilean, and Spanish poet Rubén Darío.
Neruda and García Lorca: In whose honor, and to whose glory, we raise our glass.
From: Selected Poems of Rubén Darío. Translated by Lysander Kemp. University of Texas, Austin, 1988.