“The Eternal Dice” is a poem of four stanzas, the first and third having lines of alternating rhyme in the original Spanish, and the second and fourth relying on internal rhyme and assonance. It is the eighteenth poem in the fifth section, entitled “Thunderclaps,” of César Vallejo’s first published book of poems. The title is suggestive of Stéphane Mallarmé’s classic poem Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897; Dice Thrown Never Will Annul Chance, 1965; also translated as A Dice-Throw), in which the poet explores the connection between the elements of chance and the mysteries of the universe.
Vallejo’s poem, however, begins with a dedication to Manuel González Prada, who was a prominent intellectual in Peru and was the director of the National Library. González Prada was highly political, even revolutionary, and Vallejo’s dedication to this man, in conjunction with the allusion of the title to the Mallarmé poem, gives a hint of the duality, the combination of earthly and unearthly concerns, that pervades and characterizes Vallejo’s poetry.
The poem proceeds with a direct address to God. The persona, the “I” of the poem, laments his life. Then, by indirect reference to the Holy Communion—“it grieves me to have taken your bread from you”—the persona laments and rejects his belief system. Vallejo acknowledges man’s vulnerability by recalling the biblical “clay” of...
(The entire section is 534 words.)