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Traditional rhyming poetry

“Martín Fierro” by José Hernández

An English Translation of Canto I

José Hernández (1834-1886) became famous in his home country of Argentina for writing (in colloquial Spanish) El gaucho Martín Fierro [The Gaucho Martin Fierro] (first published in 1872) and its sequel, La vuelta de Martín Fierro [The Return of Martin Fierro] (first published in 1879).

The two epic-length poems are now published together as one poem. The poem is about the life of the gauchos, who lived in the countryside in Argentina. They made their living mostly by taking care of cattle on the plains (or pampas). They were misunderstood by the progressives in Buenos Aires and other cities, and they were conscripted to fight in battles against the Indians. The gauchos’ way of life was disappearing at the time that Hernández wrote these poems.

Hernández used six-line stanzas in most of his poem. The stanzas rhyme xaabba (the first line is unrhymed) and have eight syllables per line (octasyllabic). I have translated here only the first canto, which contains 19 stanzas and 114 lines. The entire poem has 7,210 lines. I used iambic trimeter in my translation, which means that there are six syllables per line and the even-numbered syllables are stressed. I did not use rhyme.

The Gaucho Martin Fierro: Canto I (PDF)

See also: Spanish Poems Translated into English

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