Bolivar! A name of metal and wood, you were a flower in the gardens of South America.
You had all the gentleness of flowers in your heart, in your hair, in your gaze.
Your hand was huge like your heart, and scattered both good and evil.
You swept through the mountains and the stars trembled, you came down to the plains, with your gold finery, your epaulets, all the insignia of your rank,
With a rifle hanging on your shoulder, with chest bared, with your body covered in wounds,
And stark naked you sat on a low rock, at the sea's edge,
And they came and painted you in the ways of Indian braves,
With wash, half white, half blue, so you'd appear like a lonely chapel on one of Attica's shores,
Like a church in the districts of Tatavla, like a palace in a deserted Macedonian town.

Bolivar! You were reality, and you are, even now, you are no dream.
When the wild hunters nail down the wild eagles, and the other wild birds and animals,
Over their wooden doors in the wild forests,
You live again, and shout, and grieve,
And you are yourself the hammer, nail and eagle.

If on the isles of coral, winds blow and the empty fishing boats overturn,
And the parrots are a riot of voices when the day ends and the gardens grow quiet drowned in humidity,
And in the tall trees the crows perch,
Consider, beside the waves, the iron tables of the cafeneion,
How the damp eats at them in the gloom, and far off the light that flashes on, off, on again, turning back and forth.
And day breaks - what frightful anguish - after a night without sleep,
And the water reveals nothing of its secrets. Such is life.
And the sun comes, and the houses on the wharf, with their island-style arches,
Painted pink, and green, with white sills (Naxos, Chios),
How they live! How they shine like translucent fairies! Such is Bolivar!

Bolivar! I cry out your name, reclining on the peak of Mount Ere,
The highest peak on the isle of Hydra.
From here the view, enchanting, extends as far as the Saronic isles, Thebes,
Beyond Monemvasia, far below, to august Egypt,
And as far as Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, San Domingo, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uraguay, Paraguay, Ecuador,
As far even as Mexico.
With hard stone I carve your name in rock, that afterwards men may come in pilgrimage.
As I carve sparks fly - such, they say, was Bolivar - and I watch my hand as it writes, gleaming in the sun.

You saw the light for the first time in Caracas. Your light,
Bolivar, for before you came the whole of South America was plunged in bitter darkness.
Now your name is a blazing torch, lighting America, North and South, and all the world!
The Amazon and Orinoco rivers spring from your eyes.
The high mountains are rooted in your breast,
The Andes range is your backbone.
On the crown of your head, brave palikar, run unbroken stallions and wild cattle,
The wealth of Argentina.
On your belly sprawl vast coffee plantations.

When you speak, terrible earthquakes spread devastation,
From Patagonia's formidable deserts as far as the colourful islands,
Volcanoes erupt in Peru and vomit their wrath in the heavens,
Everywhere the earth trembles and the icons creak in Kastoria,
The silent town beside the lake.
Bolivar, you have the beauty of a Greek.

Translated by David Connolly

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