The Maiden from Guatemala

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A family member sent me this little poem by our Cuban national poet and patriot José Martí. I had not heard or read these words in more than fifty years, but still they did not fail to move me and bring back many memories of Cuban poet and patriot José Martí and one of his most famous poems: The Maiden from Guatemala

This is a sort of homage and elegy to young María García Granados, daughter of Guatemalan president Miguel García Granados who fell in love with Martí while he was a professor at the school that she attended. The schoolgirl’s crush was unrequited, however, and Martí went away to México, to be with Carmen Zayas Bazán, a woman closer to him in age, whom he later married.

On May 10, 1878 Martí returned to Guatemala to attend the funeral of his friend’s daughter, who had died mysteriously. Her well known and unrequited love for Martí branded her as “the one who died of grief, brokenhearted.”

Following her death, Martí returned to Cuba where he later respectfully penned this poem, which I now offer in my own English translation.

Upon a wing I will let
A story of one who departed
Be told. One of a maiden I met.
She died of grief, brokenhearted

There were lilies in her casket,
There was jasmine still in bloom
Close by in a small basket,
On that dreaded day of gloom.

She gave him a gift to carry,
A sachet, when he departed.
He was going off to marry.
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

Marching in the procession,
Bringing flowers, with respect
Clergy and ambassadors followed
Solemn and circumspect.

She went to a promontory
To meet the dear one departed
He was married. He was sorry.
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

A brightly shining bronze flame
Lit her face, the day he left her.
He swore on his mother’s name
That he would never bereft her.

In a river, late one night
She was found floating, disheartened
Some said: “a chill…or a fright…”
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

Inside of the icy place
He kissed her delicate fingers,
The bier sat upon a dais,
He kissed both her silken slippers

Evening shadows descended
As one more time he departed
He’d left her weeping, abandoned.
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

 

 

 

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