Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga


Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga, a Cuban-born Spanish writer, was considered one of the most romantic writers and greatest women poets of the 19th century.
Her mother, Francisca María del Rosario de Arteaga y Betancourt, was a member of one of the most high-ranking families in Puerto Principe. Gertrudis was the first-born of the couple’s five children, but only she and her younger brother, Manuel, survived past childhood.
Avellaneda had impressive tutors, one being the Cuban poet José María Heredia.
Avellaneda’s writings were most popular in the 1840s and 1850s. Themes in her stories included love, feminism, and an evolving world. Her writing style was influenced by French, English, Spanish, and Latin American poets, especially Hispanic poetry deriving from late neoclassicism and romanticism.
Her writings often reflected on her experiences and were infused with the bold attitude she had to adopt to navigate a male-dominated society. She also wrote of her exile from Cuba, and her bouts with depression. There are many other themes present in her works, including love, eroticism, religion, philosophical meditations, and historical references.
On August 20, 1895, The New York Times stated that “Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, the great Cuban poetess, is declared by all critics to have no equal in modern times.”
On August 25, 1900, The New York Times published an article under the title “Cuban literature” noting Avellaneda was a female literary genius.
In her final years, Avellaneda lived in Madrid. On February 1, 1873, the prolific writer passed away in Madrid at the age of 58. She was buried in Seville next to her dear brother Manuel.
Today, Avellaneda is widely viewed as the “epitome of the Romantic poet, the tragic heroine who rises to public acclaim yet, in private, is bitterly unhappy.


Al Partir

¡Perla del mar! ¡Estrella de Occidente!

¡Hermosa Cuba! tu brillante cielo,
la noche cubre con su opaco velo
como cubre el dolor mi triste frente.

Voy a partir… La chusma diligente
para arrancarme del nativo suelo
las velas iza y pronta a su desvelo
la brisa acude de tu zona ardiente.

¡Adiós, patria feliz!, ¡Edén querido!
Doquier que el hado en su furor me impela
tu dulce nombre halagará mi oído.

Ah, que ya cruje la turgente vela,
el ancla se alza, el buque estremecido
las olas corta y silencioso vuela.

On Leaving

Sea Pearl! Star of the West!

Beautiful Cuba! your bright sky
the night covers with its opaque veil
How my sad forehead covers the pain.

I’m going to leave … The diligent mob
to tear me from the native soil
the sails iza and ready to wake up
The breeze comes from your burning zone.

Goodbye, happy country! Dear Eden!
Wherever the fairy in his rage impels me
Your sweet name will flatter my ear.

Ah, the turbulent candle cracks,
The anchor rises, the shuddering ship
The short and silent waves fly.

Translated by Frederick Sweet

A Una Mariposa

Hija del aire, nívea mariposa,
que de luz y perfume te embriagas
y del jardín al amaranto vagas,
como del lirio a la encendida rosa;

Tú que te meces cándida y dichosa
sobre mil flores que volando halagas,
y una caricia por tributo pagas
desde la más humilde a la orgullosa:

Sigue, sigue feliz tu raudo vuelo.
Placer fugaz, no eterno solicita
que la dicha sin fin sólo es el cielo:

Fijar tu giro vagaroso evita,
que la más bella flor que adorna el suelo
brilla un momento y dóblase marchita.

To A Butterfly

Daughter to the wind, snow-white butterfly,
Inebriate with perfume and sunlight,
Wandering from garden to amaranth,
And from iris to fiery rose alighting.

Blessed butterfly, you innocently sway
Over a thousand flowers charmed by your flight,
Each and every flower caressing in turn,
From the humblest to the proudest in the bower.

Continue happily on your swift rounds,
Fleeting, not eternal pleasure seeking,
For endless joy is only in Heaven’s gift;

Avoid a fixed course; wander, wander at will
For the most beautiful flower adorning earth
Shines for a moment, withers, bends and dies.

Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea

A él

No existe lazo ya: todo está roto:
plúgole al cielo así: ¡bendito sea!
Amargo cáliz con placer agoto:
mi alma reposa al fin: nada desea.
Te amé, no te amo ya: piénsolo al menos:
¡nunca, si fuere error, la verdad mire!
Que tantos años de amarguras llenos
trague el olvido: el corazón respire.
Lo has destrozado sin piedad: mi orgullo
una vez y otra vez pisaste insano…
Mas nunca el labio exhalará un murmullo
para acusar tu proceder tirano.
De graves faltas vengador terrible,
dócil llenaste tu misión: ¿lo ignoras?
No era tuyo el poder que irresistible
postró ante ti mis fuerzas vencedoras.
Quísolo Dios y fue: ¡gloria a su nombre!
Todo se terminó, recobro aliento:
¡Ángel de las venganzas!, ya eres hombre…
ni amor ni miedo al contemplarte siento.
Cayó tu cetro, se embotó tu espada…
Mas, ¡ay!, cuán triste libertad respiro…
Hice un mundo de ti, que hoy se anonada
y en honda y vasta soledad me miro.
¡Vive dichoso tú! Si en algún día
ves este adiós que te dirijo eterno,
sabe que aún tienes en el alma mía
generoso perdón, cariño tierno.

To Him

There are no ties to bind us now; all ties are broken:
I asked that Heaven make it so; thanks be to God!
A bitter cup once filled with pleasure, is now empty;
My soul, at last, can find repose; it desires nothing.
I loved you once, I do not love you now; ponder on that, at least.
If I erred it was because I could not face that truth.
Let all these many years of bitterness and strife
Be swallowed in memory’s void; and let my heart breathe free.
You have battered and destroyed it without pity;
And madly trampled, once and again, my pride …
Yet never from these lips will you hear a murmur
To condemn the tyranny you wielded over me.
Terrible avenger of great wrongs, how meekly
You fulfilled your mission. Are you unaware of it?
It was not your irresistible power that caused me
To lay at your feet my unconquerable strength.
God willed it so; and so it was. Blessed be his name!
All’s over now; and I at last recover my own self.
All-avenging angel, you are now a man! …
And I behold you and feel nor love nor fear.
Your scepter is shattered and your sword is broken …
And, oh, what melancholy freedom do I breathe!
I made a world of you; that world is gone;
In vast and profound loneliness, I dwell.
I wish you happiness; and if some day you chance
To read this, my eternal farewell, know even then
There will always be in my heart for you,
Generous pardon and tender affection.

Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea

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