Born as Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga in 1889, Gabriela Mistral was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. Although Mistral is best known as a poet, she was a prominent educator, diplomat and feminist. She served as Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid and Lisbon, and was involved in cultural committees attached to the League of Nations. She held numerous honorary degrees and taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College and at the University of Puerto Rico. Sonetos de la muerte, a collection of love poems in memory of the dead was published in 1914 helped make her name a standard within the literary community. In 1922 her book, Desolación was published followed in 1924 by Ternura. Her complete poetry was published in 1958. She died in 1957.
Finnish Champion, you are stretched out
in the burnished light of your final stadium,
red as the pheasant in life and in death,
stitched with wounds, drained as a gargoyle spout of your blood.
You have fallen in the snows of your childhood,
among blue edges and steely mirrors,
crying No! to the North and the East,
a No! that compresses profusion of snow,
hardens the skis to diamonds,
stops the war tank like a wild board.
Swimmer, ball-player, runner,
let them burn your name and call you “Finland.”
hallowed be your final course,
hallowed the meridian that took your body,
hallowed the midnight sin that granted your final miracle.
You denied the invader the draught of your lakes,
your paths, the life-thread of your reindeer,
the threshold of your home, the cube of your arena,
the rainbow of your Virgins and Christ,
the baptized foreheads of your children.
Translated by Doris Dana
* During World War II Finland put up amazing resistance to massive invasions by Russian forces.