One of Mexico’s greatest 19th century poets, Agustín F. Cuenca (1850-1884) was born in Mexico City. In 1868 he founded the Netzahualcoyotl Literary Society (named after the legendary Aztec philosopher king), together with other intellectuals like Manuel Acuña. As a journalist he contributed to the major Mexican publications of his day. He was a writer who was politically associated with the progressive liberal movement of his time, as is reflected not only in his writings as a journalist but also in his literary works. In 1881 he wrote the play “La Cadena de Hierro”, which was staged several times at the Teatro Nacional de México, and is now considered one of the greatest works of Mexican drama. Today Cuenca is considered a poet of the transition from the Romantic to the Modernist period, with a style that was both multi-faceted and experimental.
On the scarlet horizon he inters
his golden carriage, the shining day,
And on the approach of shadowy night
You light, O Venus, your silver ray.
Rich jewel of heaven, in you portrayed
the bitter affliction, the anguished state
of those who weep over crude misfortune,
of those who are blest by thankless fate.
You are sad and sorrowful to despair,
while innocence sees you in radiant glow,
and to beauty you are glorious fair
voluptuous to love, mournful to grief
for every creature, in joy or in woe
sees the sky through a prism from beneath.
Translated by Martin Boyd