I live, I die, I burn, I drown
I endure at once chill and cold
Life is at once too soft and too hard
I have sore troubles mingled with joys
Delmira Agustini (24 October 1886 – 6 July 1914 / Montevideo / Uruguay)
She wrote poems about passion and death — romantic, exquisite and pungent. She was called “la Nena” (the Babe) when first collection of her poems came out in 1907, but not long afterward, in the eyes of critics, she turned into a “sexually obsessed” “fevered Leda,” with “pithiness in heat.”
I will tell you the dreams of my life
On this deepest of blue nights.
In your hands my soul will tremble,
On your shoulders my cross will rest… (Intimate)
Delmira Agustini’s poetry stands out as one of the most extraordinary voices of Latin American modern literature.
She lived and died… but neither burned nor drowned. Most sources, concerned more with her poetry than her life, reports that on July of 1914, she was killed by her husband “in one of their clandestine encounters.” Odd, no?
Delmira died young and her death was of a mysterious kind. After a stormy five-year courtship, she married a temperamental caballero named Enrique Reyes, a young man entirely detached from the literary arena, the word of arts and poetry.
The marriage lasted all but 53 days, and it was a stormy one with fiery scandals and quarrels. And then Delmira left her husband, declaring she wants to be “saved from vulgarity.” Eight months later, Agustini and Reyes were divorced. A month later, however, both were found in a nondescript rented apartment.
At first glance, the picture seems to be horrific but pretty much clear and uncomplicated: the abandoned husband decided that if she isn’t his, she won’t belong to anybody else. But the circumstances, surrounding this crime of passion were rather disconcerting. As it turned out, the couple continued to meet secretly while going through the divorce proceedings. The apartment was their love nest. The dates (as evident from the crime scene) were conjugal. At the same time, the couple maintained the facade of outward hostility — while in public, Enrique showered his ex-wife with reproachful insults.
It’s natural when clandestine lovers get married. But husband and wife become secret lovers? What for?
Any ideas what actually happened to snuff the young life of a lovely and talented poetess?
There is, of course, a most obvious explanation — a “run of a mill” crime of passion. Perhaps, to a passionate romantic poetess the marriage turned a love poem into a boring prose, devoid of drama. Secret meetings are so much more exciting! Anguish, jealousy explosions, scandals… In your hands my soul will tremble…
Maybe, in the end, the intensity became way too strong, and more prosaic Enrique could not stand it any longer and succumbed to a nervous breakdown?
Might as well, Reyes blackmailed his ex-wife, forcing her into clandestine sex? How many obvious reasons for such assumption is there? Exactly zero. However, careful investigator can not leave that option out.
But then again, little former Señora Reyes was of poet fascinated by death. Perhaps she consciously or
subconsciously wanted to bring her temperamental partner to the brink of murder. Was this tragedy just an execution of complex morbid- romantic plot? A suicide pact, perchance? Even more romantic from the look of it…
If the one you love madly, just as madly in love with Death — that’s rarely a threesome. In the story of Delmira and Enrique it might have become a love triangle from which only one came alive — Death…