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RECENTLY, OUR WORLD LITERATURE TEACHER GARRETT AUSTEN introduced his tenth grade students to the literary genre known as the epic poem. Originating in Ancient Greece, (think The Illiad), the epic poem centers around a single hero and proceeds to tell a lengthy story detailing his adventures. While the volume of epic poems being produced has died down over the last one hundred years, the genre flourished in Argentina during the 1800’s through such works as José Hernández’s 2,316 line Martín Fierro.
In Martín Fierro, José Hernández writes about the gaucho Martín Fierro, a recently conscripted cowboy who lives on the South American plains known as the pampas. Using an eight syllable style that is commonly paired with a guitar in the region, Hernández tells the story of of Fierro’s numerous exploits living in the Argentinean version of the “Wild West”.
Using the same 1-2 stanzas and eight syllable lines as José Hernández, our tenth grade students created their own interpretations of Martín Fierro. You can find a sample of these writings below:
He’s lost in a rare still moment,
Singing of his vast grassy plains,
Unruly beasts he used to tame.
His blanket was the midnight sky,
A meaty woman on his thigh.
Martin Fierro was his name.
While feasting on the morning’s kill,
the gaucho thinks to hone his knife to prepare for his gaucho strife.
Spitting grit and smacking his lips,
a pile of peels and heap of pips,
the gaucho sings his gaucho life.
Beside me he stood then and there,
And struck them, the troops of police
I made my way hoping for peace
Between us, it was robbery
Fighting against all poverty
Defending his home at the least.
Ferociously one was murdered
The one that stepped up to attack
The rest backed with courage that lacked
Unstoppable, we were the cause
And then they left, without a pause
Together they left in a pack.
Yuan Yuan K.
I left them, as they pursued me
without any chance to look back at my angels;
Without a mouse hole to reside
I was chased, with nowhere to hide
for protection, without a sack.
let my resilience be acknowledged
to mortals who dare challenge me;
rips away what lets me be free
and locks it behind iron bars.
Under endless blanket of stars,
Martin Fierro sings his plea.
A story of misfortunes told,
Family man whose life would unravel
Forced to fight, so he did travel
But once he returned to his home
To discover that he was now alone
In nothing could he now revel
Now alone and a wanted man
Into the wilds our hero fled
With nothing but the ground for a bed
Our gaucho’s misfortunes were played.
His legacy forever stayed.
His name Martin Fierro it’s said.
Let me just inform you my friend
In a gaucho story, we should say
Not only what they convey
But what we see and they can feel,
How they are from head to their heel
And how to God they always pray
Riding their horses they will be
And Martin Fierro with his song
Will make you assume that they’re strong
These fellows had lonely souls
Yet they do have important roles
In Argentina they belong
To the rhythm of my guitar
Here I come to sing to a man
Whose sentiments we plainly can,
Tame with the whistle of a bird
Or feel the extremely sad, weird
Relief as Martin Fierro ran.