B side. Rubén Darío

6 Jan

So many good authors describe Manhattan’s energy that it seems like a genre in itself.  Here’s one by Rubén Darío:

The men of Manhattan live in their towers of stone, iron, and glass, as in the castle-fortresses of days gone by. In their fabulous Babel, they shout, bellow, thunder, roar; they cheer on the Stock Market, the locomotive, the forge, the bank, the printing press, the dock, the ballot box. Within the iron and granite walls of the Produce Exchange gather as many souls as in a small town…. Here is Broadway. Seeing it, one feels a sensation almost like pain, an overpowering vertigo. Down a grand canal whose banks are formed by monumental houses with their hundred glass eyes and sign tattoos flows a powerful river, a confusion of merchants, runners, horses, trains, omnibuses, sandwich-men dressed in advertisements, and fabulously beautiful women. As one’s eyes take in the immense artery with its constant agitation, one begins to feel an anguish like that of certain nightmares. This is the life of ants: an anthill whose inhabitants are gigantic Percherons yoked to the monstrous tongues of every kind of wagon. The newspaper boy, pink and smiling, flits like a swallow from cram to tram, shouting at the passengers Eentramsooonwooood, which means he is hawking the Evening Telegram, the Sun, and the World. The noise is dizzying, and in the air there is a constant vibration—the clatter of horses’ hooves, the echoing rumble of wheels—and it seems to grow louder every second. Every second, one would fear a collision, an accident, did one not know that this immense river flowing with the force of an avalanche moves with the precision of a machine. In the thickest mass of the crowd, in the most convulsive wave of motion, an elderly lady in her black cape, or a bland “miss,” or a nanny with her baby will want to cross the street. A corpulent policeman raises his hand, the torrent halts, and the lady crosses — All right!

Rubén Darío, Edgar Allen Poe from The Misfits (Los Raros), trans. Andrew Hurley, Penguin.

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