Stanza-wise Summary of Mass by Cesar Vallejo: 2022

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Last updated on September 9th, 2022 at 03:33 pm

About the poet:
César Abraham Vallejo Mendoza was a Peruvian poet, writer, playwright, and journalist. He published only three books of poetry during his lifetime. Yet he is considered one of the greatest poetic innovators of the 20th century in any language. He was always a step ahead of the literary tendencies of the times in which he lived. Moreover, each of his books was distinct from the others, and, in its own sense, revolutionary.
César Vallejo was born in Santiago de Chuco, a remote village in the Peruvian Andes, on 16th March 1892. He was the youngest of eleven children. He studied literature at the National University of Trujillo in Trujillo. However, lack of funds forced him to withdraw from his studies for a time and work at a sugar plantation. This plantation was called the Roma Hacienda, and it was here that he witnessed the exploitation of agrarian workers firsthand. This experience would later have an important impact on his politics and aesthetics.
Vallejo produced his first collection of poetry entitled Los Heraldos Negros in 1919. Three years later, in 1922, he published his second volume of poetry entitled Trilce. This volume is still considered one of the most radically avant-garde poetry collections in the Spanish language. After publishing the short story collections entitled Escalas melografiadas and Fabla salvaje in 1923, Vallejo moved away to Europe under the threat of further incarceration. He remained there until his death in Paris in 1938.
A regular cultural contributor to weekly magazines in Lima, Vallejo also sent sporadic articles to newspapers and magazines in other parts of Latin America, Spain, Italy, and France. His trips to the then USSR also led to two books of reportage that he was able to get published early in the 1930s. Vallejo also prepared several theatrical works which were never performed during his lifetime. Among them was his drama Colacho Hermanos, o Los Presidentes de America.  This important work shares its content with another work that Vallejo completed during this period, the socialist-realist novel entitled El Tungsteno. He even wrote a children’s book, Paco Yunque at this time. It was originally rejected in Spain in 1930 for being too violent for children. But afterwards, it was published in Peru in the 1960s, and it went on to become mandatory reading in the elementary schools in Peru.
After becoming emotionally and intellectually involved in the Spanish Civil War, Vallejo had a final burst of poetic activity in the late 1930s. At that time, he brought out two books of poetry (both published posthumously), but their titles and proper organization remain a matter of debate: they were published as Poemas humanos (in 1939) and España, aparta de mí este cáliz (in 1937). Vallejo died on 15th April 1938 of an unknown illness, which is now thought to have been a form of malaria.
About Mass:
“Mass” is the title of the English translation of a poem by Cesar Vallejo whose original Spanish title is “Masa”. This poem was published in 1939 as part of his collection of poetry entitled Poemas humanos  (meaning “Human Poems”).
The Setting of Mass:
This poem is set in a battlefield. However, this is not any specific battlefield, but an abstract one that the poet has constructed in his mind. This battlefield is, in fact, representative of all battlefields in general. Similarly, the men who appeal to the dying soldier to come back to life are also not any particular individuals. Instead they are representatives of all men who are against war, like the poet himself. Such men may not be visible to us at regular times, but they certainly reveal themselves at moments of crisis, like the moment described in this poem. They not only reveal themselves, but also spread a message of hope among the distressed.
Stanza-wise Summary of Mass:
The poem consists of 5 stanzas. These stanzas are made up of a varying number of lines. The 1st, 3rd, and 5th stanzas are made up of 4 lines. On the other hand, the 2nd and 4th stanzas are made up of 3 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 18 lines in total.
1st stanza:
At the end of the battle, the combatant dead, a man
approached him 
and said to him: ‘Don’t die; I love you so much!’
but the corpse, alas!, kept on dying. 
In this stanza, the poet describes the scene after a war has just ended. He describes that one of the soldiers who had fought in the war is lying dead on the ground, and a living man walks up to him. The man who is alive tells the dying soldier not to pass away because he loves the soldier. However, the soldier keeps continuing the process of dying.
2nd stanza:
Two more came up to him and repeated: 
‘Don’t leave us! Be brave! Come back to life!’
but the corpse, alas!, kept on dying.
In this stanza, the poet describes how two other living men walk up to the dying soldier and repeat the things that the first man had said to him. These two men also appeal to the corpse not to leave them behind, that is, not to leave the world of the living behind. They encourage him to be brave instead, and to find a way to return to a state of liveliness. However, the soldier still continues to stay at the door of death after this.
3rd stanza:
Twenty, a hundred, a thousand, five hundred thousand
appeared, 
crying out: ‘So much love, and no power against death!’
but the corpse, alas!, kept on dying. 
In this stanza, the poet describes how twenty living men now walk up to the dying soldier. Following them come a hundred more men, then a thousand more, and finally five thousand more. All of them in unison cry out, telling him that there is much love in their hearts for a dying man like him. However, the mass of living men do not have any power to hold death off unless the dying man himself does not want it. Even after this, the soldier continues on the steady path towards the kingdom of the dead.
4th stanza:
Millions of individuals surrounded him
with a common plea: ‘Don’t leave us brother!’
but the corpse, alas!, kept on dying. 
In this stanza, the poet describes how the multitude has grown in number from thousand to millions. This huge number of living men gathers all around him. All of them have the same appeal to make to him. They call him their brother and ask him not to leave the world of the living behind. However, the soldier still cannot draw back from death’s doorway.
5th stanza:
Then all the inhabitants of the earth
surrounded him; the corpse looked at them sadly, deeply moved;
he got up slowly
embraced the first man; started to walk… 
In this stanza, the poet describes how every single man on the face of the earth eventually comes to surround the dying soldier. The corpse then looks up at them, and he is filled with emotion. He gets up from the ground slowly, and goes towards the first man who had spoken to him to give that man a hug. Finally the soldier starts to walk away.
 
 
 

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