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By Phil Gennuso

¡Dia de dolor
aquel en que vuela para siempre el angel
del primer amor!

Day of sadness,
a sadness that flies forever,
the angel of first love!


Abrojos (Thistles) is the first volume of poetry published by Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario, in 1887. He was all of twenty years old!

The book is a slender volume, comprising fifty-eight poems, numbered with Roman numerals, and a prolog. The poems can be very short, and rarely extend to a full page. With that said, their publication immediately established Ruben Dario as a promising young talent of his generation.

Incredibly, despite there being a number of Spanish language collections freely available, I could not find an English translation for this first volume from a major Latin American poet who has influenced all poets following him. Though his poetic themes and style are a bit different, in many ways he is equivalent to Baudelaire or Rimbaud, or Apollinaire, the major French poets who brought Modernism to Europe. So I am completely stunned that there are no English language translations of Abrojos.

With that said, I also sense a special opportunity! I first discovered Ruben Dario many years and have read any number of his poems, always in translation. They have always moved and impressed me. While I am not a fluent speaker of Spanish, I have studied the language in school up to the advanced level (many years ago!) and also have a familiarity with other Romance languages like Italian and French, and a smattering of Latin. While this hardly qualifies me as an expert (I doubt I could hold a conversation today in any of these languages) it does give me a good feel for what the poet is trying to accomplish. And with my own skills and knowledge of poetry, and of course, ample online dictionaries and aids, I know I can come up with inspired and reasonable translations of these early poems.

My translations will be freehand, of course, and will try to catch both the spirit and essence of the original. I will publish the original along with the translation, and also will illustrate many of the poems with photographs and artwork. My goal is to do a good portion of the poems and publish them in a book, or at least an ebook, and present it to the public! I always welcome all comments and all suggestions!


The translation today is for the first poem in Abrojos, or Thistles. There is a prologue but I will bypass that at least for now.

The first poem deals in a tender way with a subject I am sure many have experienced: first love! There is both a sadness and an innocence in these lines. Though certainly in the 19th century Romantic tradition, the images of first love, sadness, and the innocence of an angel flying, packed into a short, sweeping and poignant line, are a foreshadowing of a new poetic style, and a new talent.