THE RETURN OF MARTIN FIERRO
Listen to me - you who are silent, and if you're listening – silence please,
as what I'm going to do this time if my memory helps me out
is show you that my story was missing the best of it.
When you come out from the desert you're in a kind of dream:
I'll see if I can get to make sense in such grand company,
and if I wake up from my sleep at the sound of the guitar.
I can feel a trembling in my breast and my mind growing confused,
and as I'm playing now I pray for some wise spirit
to come and put the words in my mouth and breathe courage into my heart.
If I don't reach the top score I'll reach the point below for certain:*
and I can show this confidence because the gift of song
was received in me at the same time as the water of my baptism.
Poor men as well as rich will grant I'm in the right;
and if they get to listen to what I'm saying in my own way
I tell you they won't all be laughing some of them will cry.
A man who has had to suffer has a lot to tell,
and I'll begin by asking you not to doubt whatever I say –
because a witness ought to be believed if he's not being paid to lie.
I give thanks to the Virgin and I give thanks to the Lord
that through so many hardships and having lost so much
I did not lose my voice as a singer nor my love for the song.
The Eternal Father granted that all who live should sing:
everyone must sing who has it in them as we're doing now -- *
the only creatures with no voice are the ones that have no blood.
A city man sings... and he's a poet! a gaucho sings... and Lord preserve us!
They stare at him like ostriches -- they're amazed at his ignorance ...
But shadows are always useful to show how much light there is.
The country's for ignorant people and the town for educated ones:
I was born out on the plain and I tell you, my songs are
for some people just music, and for others, good sense.
I have known many singers it was a pleasure to listen to,
but they don't care to give opinions and sing to amuse themselves --
but I sing giving opinions as that's my kind of song.
Whoever goes along that path has to give out all he knows --
and though what I know is not much there's this in my favour:
I know what kind of heart the man has who'll listen to me with pleasure.
Even Time will not wash out what's painted by this brush:
no one will take it on himself to correct the design I make --
not anyone paints who fancies it but one who knows how to paint.
And don't think, you who hear me, that I'm boasting of my wisdom:
I've learnt – though late in life, and without repenting of it --
that to tell certain kinds of truth is like committing a sin.
But I go on along my road and nothing sidetracks me:
I'm going to tell the truth I'm no one's flatterer --
there's nothing imitation here, this is pure reality.
And anyone who wants to alter me will have to know a lot:
he's going to learn a lot if he knows how to listen to me;
he'll have a lot to think over if he wants to understand me.
Longer than I and all who hear me, longer than the things they describe,
longer than the events they tell of my verses will endure:
there's been a lot chewed over to put this challenge out.
Sad complaints spring from my heart, a sore lament springs there:
and I have suffered so greatly and been so deeply wronged,
that I defy each year to come to bring forgetfulness.
You'll see now if I waken up how I get back into my swing:
and nobody need be surprised if I'm lit by a stronger fire,
because I want to tune the top string so tight that I'm playing it on air.
And with the strings at their highlest pitch, since that's the key I choose,
my hand won't slacken so long as my voice remains --
unless the string breaks or the peg cracks from the strain.
Although I broke my guitar before* so it wouldn't tempt me again
I have so much to tell of and such important things
that God have mercy on the man who taught me to tune the strings.
I follow no one's example, no one's showing me the way.
I say what needs to be said -- and anyone who's set on that track
when he's singing, ought to sing with all the voice he's got.
I've watched. the ball go rolling and there’s no stopping it;
and after all my rolling around I've made up my mind to come here
to see if I can make a living and if they'll give me work.
I can guide a ploughshaft* and use a lasso as well,
I can ride in a round‑up and work in a corral;
I can keep my seat on a waggon‑shaft easy as on a bucking colt.
So let me have your attention if you'll do me that honour.
If not, I'll keep my mouth shut -- because a singing bird
will never settle himself to sing on a tree that bears no flowers.
There's some linen here to be washed out and I won't get up till it's done.
Listen to me as I'm singing if you want me to give up what I know...
There's so much I have to say to you I command you to listen to me.
And now let me have a drink once again there's a big hand to play.
My throat's getting thirsty and I'm not holding back -
because an old man's like an oven, he warms himself through the mouth.
NOTES to II.1.
II.1.4] top score...the point below] in the original, 'thirty-one' and 'thirty', scores in a card-game similar to vingt-et-un (pontoon).
II.1.8] as we're doing now] really 'we two', as if he was singing in a competition, in 'counterpoint'. (see Canto 30).
II.1.21] broke my guitar before] as described at the end of Part One. There was a seven-year interval between the writing of the two parts. Martin Fierro says (in II.11) he spent five years with the Indians.
II.1.24] ploughshaft etc.] agricultural work not on horseback was unusual for a gaucho, who often considered it demeaning.
Sad notes come from my guitar but the story warrants it.
There's no use looking for cheerfulness but only more lamenting
from a man who's born and lives and dies in the midst of cruel afflictions.
It's a sad thing to leave your home and launch out to a strange land
taking with you your heart filled with misery and pain...
But we're borne along by misfortunes as the pampa wind* blows the sand.
Setting out to cross the desert as if you were a crimina1*
and leaving behind you here forsaken -- as we did then –
your wife in someone else's arms and your young children gone.
Many times during the crossing of that vast plain,
remembering your unhappy state so far from those you love,
you lie down among the desert weeds and give way to bitter tears.
I'd be standing, lonely, on the bank of a stream
brooding over a thousand things and as I turned, suddenly
I'd think I saw my girl or hear her calling me.
And the horse is drinking the smooth water, sip by sip,
while with no comfort anywhere you even forget to eat
for thinking of your dear woman and your children and your home.
You'll recall that Cruz and I cast out into the desert.
We entered the pampa land and turned up at the end of the trail
at a camp of the indians -- the first we'd come across.
Bad luck was haunting us, we arrived at an unlucky time.
They were holding a council making plans for a raid –
and at times like that, the indians don't even trust their own breath.
A tremendous uproar started when they saw us coming.
We weren't able to pacify a dangerous swarm like that --
they took us for spies from the frontier guard * and they'd have run us through with their spears.
They took away our horses in no time at all,
then they weren' t sure what to do -- Lord knows what they had in mind –
the brutes were thrusting their lances a hairsbreadth from our eyes.
And they were jabbering away waving their arms and dancing around;
one of them loosed his bolas and made straight for me...
We never though we'd escape alive, not even by a lucky fluke.