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  • Horace, Leroux, or Lamartine? Sarmiento’s Epigraph for Part II, Chapter X, of the Facundo
  • Elizabeth Garrels

In the chapter “Gobierno Unitario” (II, X), the Facundo (1845) gives its reader the closest thing he or she can expect to a portrait of the Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas.1 Appropriately, this chapter’s epigraph, attributed to Lamartine, is meant to be read as a lurid allusion to the true--and still very much alive--object of the author’s attack:2

No se sabe bien por qé es qe qiere gobernar. Una sola cosa a podido averiguarse, i es qe está poseido de una furia qe lo atormenta, qiere gobernar! Es un oso qe a roto las rejas de su jaula, i desde qe tenga en sus manos su gobierno, pondrá en fuga a todo el mundo. Ai de aqel qe caiga en sus [End Page 351] manos! no lo largará asta qe espire bajo su gobierno. Es una sanguijuela qe no se desprende asta qe no está repleta de sangre.

Lamartine (256, emphasis from the original)

To my knowledge, no critic or editor of the Facundo has questioned, in print, the attribution of this epigraph. Not even David Haberly, who, thanks to his 2006 article “Scotland and the Pampas,” merits the distinction of being the first scholar in the one hundred and seventy-five years of Sarmientine commentary to correctly identify the sources of all the book’s epigraphs, all, that is, but this one.3 Indeed, the careless reader might fail to notice Haberly’s omission; since nowhere does he make any reference to the fact that his identifications are incomplete. Truth be told, the focus of his article is not the epigraphs, themselves, which Haberly uses only as documentation to argue his thesis of the importance of Scottish Stadialism for Sarmiento’s work. Although his achievement of coming so close to finally putting to rest the long-debated philological enigma the epigraphs of Sarmiento’s famous text is remarkable in itself, Haberly has recently confessed in correspondence with the present author that he intentionally downplayed its importance. On June 1, 2017, he wrote:

As I was working on the Stadialism article... I suddenly realized that as I went along I was simultaneously finding possible sources for the epigraphs—finally, a new set of puzzles I could try to solve, often with concrete and satisfying results. Plus, in the absence of any direct Sarmiento-Scotland tie, epigraphs like Head or Blair/Colden, for example, at least suggest evidence of linkages of ideas. It became a sort of game to see how many I could find. And, I confess, I took some pleasure in not over-emphasizing what I was doing along the way. A huge resource was the BnF’s Gallica, which blew me away—and it has since expanded enormously ( [End Page 352] Just an enormous amount of grunt work, basically, but fun and very rewarding . . . The one epigraph that I couldn’t find, the Lamartine, still puzzles me—spent a lot of time on it, but nothing.

(Haberly “Communcation”)4

The almost total critical silence that still prevails in 2017 regarding Haberly’s success with the epigraphs is undeserved and even astounding. However, the unbroken silence surrounding the epigraph to the “Gobierno Unitario” chapter is perhaps even more astounding. More than the difficulty in confirming or rejecting its attribution to Lamartine, what jars the imagination is the fact that the quotation is a slightly modified Spanish translation of a passage from one of the best-known works of the Latin poet Horace. The original source of this quotation is none other than Horace’s “Ars Poetica,” one of the Roman poet’s most studied and oft translated poems.5 Sarmiento’s Spanish-language epigraph is a twice-mediated translation of the last seven lines of Horace’s long poem also known as the “Epistle to the Pisos,” thought to have been composed between nineteen and ten BCE. Nineteen centuries later, the South American Sarmiento gave his readers a slightly condensed version of a satirically-altered French rendering by his European contemporary Pierre Leroux. Leroux’s version can be...


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pp. 351-359
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