Masses, translated by Sarah McLaren

At the end of the battle,
and the fighter dead, a man came to him
And said, Don’t die, I love you so much!
But the corpse, alas, continued dying.
He was approached by two men and they repeated to him:
Don’t leave us! Be brave! Come back to life!
But the corpse, alas, continued dying.
20, 100, 1000, 500,000 people came to him
shouting ‘So much love and yet nothing against death’:
But the corpse, alas, continued dying.
Millions of individuals surrounded him,
With one common request, Stay brother!
But the corpse, alas, continued dying
Then all the men on the ground
surrounded him; moved, the sad corpse looked at them;
Raising himself up slowly
Embraced the first man; started to walk…


César Vallejo is viewed as a great Peruvian poet during the 20th century and throughout his lifetime he experienced poverty and war. This poem explores the pain and loss experienced in war and the strong bonds soldiers form while fighting alongside eachother. As I am currently studying Spanish, I used the Collins Spanish dictionary to help me translate words I did not recognise. The greatest challenge I faced when translating this poem was the word ‘incorporóse’. As a reflexive verb, ‘incorporarse’ means to sit up so I had to be careful to avoid translating ‘incorporar’ as that would mean to mix in or add which doesn’t fit into the poem. The ending of -óse posed a challenge in the final line of poem, in addition I had to make sure I translated the structure of echar a … correctly as there are many different translations of the verb echar. The repetition throughout the poem is very effective and it adds emphasis to the demoralising effects of war when people are injured, due to the significance of this repetition I had to make sure I translated the sentence in line with the context. Although the Collins Spanish dictionary translates ‘ay’ as ‘Ow, ouch and oh dear’, I made the decision that in this situation, where people are surrounding a dying man, ‘alas’ would be more fitting since this word reflects the sadness and tragic situation which occurs before the other soldiers eyes’.


Al fin de la batalla
Y muerto el combatiente, vino hacia él un hombre
y le dijo: ¡No mueras, te amo tanto!
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! Siguió muriendo.
Se le acercaron dos y repitiéronle:
¡No nos dejes! ¡Valor! ¡Vuelve a la vida!
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! Siguió muriendo.
Acudieron a él veinte, cien, mil, quinientos mil,
clamando ¡Tanto amor y no poder nada contra la muerte!
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! Siguió muriendo.
Le rodearon millones de individuos,
con un ruego común: ¡Quédate hermano!
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! Siguió muriendo.
Entonces todos los hombres de la tierra
Le rodearon; les vio el cadáver triste, emocionado;
Incorporóse lentamente,
Abrazó al primer hombre; echóse a andar…

Original poem by César Vallejo.