One of the most extraordinary poems included in Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson’s forthcoming magisterial Poems for the Millennium, Volume 3: The University of California Book of Romantic and Postromantic Poetry is Sousândrade’s (Joaquim de Sousa Andrade, 1832-1902) “Wall Street Inferno.”
Nearly forgotten after his own time, the great Brazilian poet Sousândrade has become, in Latin American terms at least, the epitome of a late experimental romanticism and a prefigurer of new poetries to come. “In 1877,” the Cuban novelist Severo Sarduy writes,”this contemporary of Baudelaire, who lived in the United States for ten years, wrote … a long poem entitled O guesa errante (The Wandering Guesa), which culminates in an astonishing sequence ‘The Wall Street Inferno,’ that might be described as textual marquetry or polyphony, in which layout, neologisms, verbal montage, and sudden changes in tone evoke the newspapers of that period and the hectic world of the stock market. It is a typographical explosion in a pre-Poundian expanding universe.
From O GUESA ERRANTE: THE WALL STREET INFERNO
(Guesa having crossed the Antilles, believes himself rid of the xeques and enters the New-York-Stock-Exchange; the Voice, from the wilderness:)
Descended; the Inca must ascend . . .
= Ogni sp’ranza lasciate,
Che entrate . . .
— Swedenborg, do future worlds impend?
(Xeques appearing, laughing and disguised as Railroad-managers,
Stockjobbers, Pimpbrokers, etc., etc., ballyhooing:)
— Harlem” Erie” Central” Pennsylvania”
= Million” hundred million”” ten digits”””
— Young is Grant” Jackson,
Vanderbilts, Jay Goulds are midgets”
(The Voice barely heard in the tumult:)
— Fulton’s Folly, Codezo’s Forgery . . .
The nation cries swindle and cheat”
They can’t fathom odes
Chattam’s parallel to Wall Street . . .
— Dwarves, Brown Brothers” Bennett” Stewart”
Rothschild and Astor the redtop””
= Giants, slaves, this prevails
Just if nails
Effuse light, just if the pains stop” . . .
(Norris, attorney; Codezo, inventor; Young, Esq., manager;
Atkinson, agent; Armstrong, agent; Rhodes, agent; p. Offman &
Voldo, agents; hubbub; mirage; in the middle, Guesa:)
— Two” three” five thousand” by gambling,
Sir, you’ll five million dollars win”
= He won” ha” haa” haaa”
— Hurrah” ah” . . .
— Vanished . . . were they confidence men?
(j. Miller on the roof of tammany wigwam unrolling
the garibaldian mantle:)
— Bloodthirsties” oh Sioux” oh Modocs”
To the White House” Save the nation,
From Jews” from aberrant
From most corrupt agitation”
— Mistress Tilton, Sir Grant, Sir Tweed,
Adultery, royalty, outlaw,
Knot masked (grim faces)
Let them dance th’eternal Lynch law”
(Rt. Rev. Beecher preaching:)
— Just Tennyson and Longfellow,
Good morals inspired in us all:
Not Donahues, Arthurs
Nor John Byron, nor Juvenal”
(Tilton moaning with the head pains of Jupiter:)
— Pallas” Pallas” Satan’s sermon”
The cuckold moral of Beecher”
Fiery sermons” moan”
She heard from the Plymouth preacher”
(Joannes-Theodorus-Golhemus preaching in Brooklyn:)
— Rugged rocks of New Malborough”
Mammoth Cave” rather gab a lot
With Mormons I advise”
The pulpit where Maranhão taught”
(Beecher-Stowe and h. Beecher:)
— Brother Laz’rus, I repent of
The rock that at Byron I threw . . .
= Gypsy sis, I agree
’Cause it hit me”
He gets glory, and me they sue”
. . . . . . .
Newton’s Principia, Shak’spear’, Milton,
The Ormazd, the Vedas, Koran,
The Thousand-One Nights,
And whip bites
Christ dealt out and had to withstand:
There is twixt Harold and Guesa
A greatly diverse circumstance,
One’s voice, strong output,
But bot foot;
The other, “tweak voice” and firm stance.
And comets to meteorites comment
As they pass by shaking the air . . .
= Look at each old
That flaunts whirling and shining there”
(La Fontaine using in a fable the killers of Ines de Castro:)
— Ants are not fond of grasshoppers,
The vampires are Luís Varela’s;
They’re not Pedros’ crude;
Goats, rodents, and monkeys, and ’dillos.
— Jur’paripirás (not Evang’line)
The Governor of Maranhão,
Baia’s spicy girls
Of the world,
Transferred, and this is his crown.
(O Novo Mundo:)
— Good vates, there’s naught so opposed
To the preservation of life
Than as some rogues do,
(Manu’s law) another man’s wife”
(Longfellow complaining; trio of parents:)
— Woe” woe” woe” what this perverse world
Does to those that we love so well”
Our daughters beguiled
= They howl as they journey to hell”
(Octogenarian Bryant working:)
— The crows sing so well, Jehovah”
Jehovah” Ku-Klux robed in white
Making other worlds so
They made darkness . . . out of the light”
Pharsalus’ matinée is dark, Wolfgang,
And its sizeable price would astound”
No notable verse can
Cost more than
Guesa, which insolv’ble was found”
(Episcopalians with the church full of faithful and going bankrupt:)
— Vast congregations could rebuild
Their churches in one day alone . . .
The dollars falter” . . .
Cross, everything, creditors own”
(Catholics, fearing the glory of bankruptcy, close the door to beggars:)
— If they don’t pay cash they can’t enter”
Latin Mass, Pope, Heaven too”
Such confessionals” . . .
Only burnt do they give God what’s due”
— Sinagogue of the Devil”
Incubussed wife of the Lamb”
Herr Gallant’s romancing you, ma’am”
— Won’t honor Messiah’s parents
Only he who dishonors his own:
As teachers of value
And love, you
The King of the Jews dethrone.
— Just the loyal, never Loyola,
Can in noble hearts trust produce:
Acheron . . .
“Water-head”?’s Tom-Tom mother-Goose”
(Bad-sinners good-apostles, enlightened with the beliefs of remission
and resurrection of the dead, seeing Jerry McCaulay and reseeing Frothingham in “Christ would not suit our times”:)
— Peccavi says one, and transforms
Pagoda to Christian mission;
In a church the other:
Reserved is the world, in which man
Bears the seal of the Begetter
And broken . . . Frothingham
Mirrors; and Beecher is better.
(Epicurus teaching between Chemistry and Psychology:)
— Poor ideal God . . . fleshly flower,
Satan’s garden: ergo, betray;
Hunger is dark
And have a lark
The vermin, because of decay.
(Stokers of the furnace reducing the original sin to algebraic formulas and
to the “New Faith” (“moral rapid transit”) the “In God we trust”
of the five cents:)
— Cold, industry, practical life,
Go ahead” oh, oh, such a heart” . . .
To this air, vital vent
Breeze or Bull-hurricane or fart”
(Saint Ignatius founding his Order:)
— Just the cadaver’s majestic,
Such ideal to the real descends;
Ice is fire . . . and each divus
Just to its animal attends.
— What’s that long, sad, striped procession
Coiling through Blackwell in chains?
Carrere, Boss Tweed,
Waist-linked . . . cruel justice reigns”
= Cuban Codezo, Young Esquire,
Each other do cheat and ensnare,
Mistic Proteus cult
Norris, Connecticut’s blue laws”
Changed to zebras and made
Two by two, a hundred Barrabas”
(Friends of the lost kings:)
— Humb of railroad and tel’graph,
Tried to steal the heavenly flame,
That the world throughout
The Spangled Star and her acclaim”
(A rebel sun founding a planetary center:)
—“George Washington, etc., etc.,
Answer Royal-George-Third” you bloke”
= You tell him, Lord Howe,
I’m royal now . . .
(And the Englishman’s nose they broke).
(Satellites hailing Jove’s thunderbolts:)
—“The universe salutes the queen” . . .
And Patriarchs laud and admire . . .
(With a liberal king,
The worst thing,
They established a moon empire).
— A sad role on earth is performed
By kings and bards, heav’n’s company,
(And Strauss waltzing)
In Hippodrome or Jubilee.
(Brokers finding the cause of the slump in the Wall-Street exchange:)
— Exeunt Dom Pedro, Dom Grant,
Dom Guesa, brave voyagers three:
Each with golden till
The Moor of the turbulent sea.
(International procession, people of Israel, Orangemen, Fenians, Buddhists, Mormons, Communists, Nihilists, Pallbearers, Railroad-Strikers,
All-brokers, All-saints, All-devils, lanterns, music, sensation;
Reporters: in London the “assassin” of the Queen and
in Paris “Lot” the fugitive of Sodom pass by:)
— The Holy Spirit of slavery
Is a single-Emperor state;
That of the free, verse
Doth all mankind coronate”
Translation from Portuguese by Robert E. Brown