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When war kills people indiscriminately, will anyone remain on earth to say ‘Stop killing!’? The poet hopes there will always be one.

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.

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.

Twenty, a hundred, a thousand, five hundred thousand
crying out: ‘So much love, and no power against death!’
but the corpse, alas!, kept on dying.

Millions of individuals surrounded him
with a common plea: ‘Don’t leave us brother!’
but the corpse, alas!, kept on dying.

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…

Cesar Vallejo

Cesar Vallejo (1892–1938), a Peruvian poet, published three books of poems during his lifetime. He is considered one of the great poetic innovators of the 20th century in any language. This poem is taken from The Complete Posthumous Poetry of César Vallejo.

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