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Adiós Buenos Aires

This tango has a carefree stride, bittersweet but not regretful, glad for the memories as the traveler-narrator sets forth. On the night of René and John's recitation, the Pablo Cafici-Rodolfo Zanetti Duo was joined for an impromptu six-handed encore by Pablo Estigarribia.

Adiós Buenos Aires (1938)
Letras de Leopoldo Torre Rios
Musica de Rodolfo Sciammarella

Goodbye, Buenos Aires (1938)
Lyrics by Leopoldo Torre Rios, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Rodolfo Sciammarella

Debo alejarme de mi tierra tan querida,
Debo alejarme, sangrando el corazón,

Como el poeta he de decir en mi partida
Adiós Buenos Aires, amigos adiós.

From this much belovéd land I must make my way
I must take my leave, although my heart is bleeding.
Before I go, as a poet might, I would have to say:
Adiós Buenos Aires, all my dear friends, goodbye.

Noches porteñas que supieron de mi dicha,
Mudos testigos hoy de mi dolor,
Cada rincón me trae algún recuerdo

Todo, todo me habla de su amor.

City nights that understood the joy I took in life
Stand today in mute witness to my pain,
The corner of every street brings me a memory:
All of it, all, to me speaks of her love again.

No sé que rumbos tomarán mis pasos,
Lejos de esta tierra me lleva el destino,
Yo tengo en el alma penas y fracasos
Que olvidar quisiera por algún camino.

I do not know of what paths my feet will take
As fate carries me far from this land with so heavy a load,
In my soul I carry pain and loss and heartache
That I so long to forget down one or another road.

Y si entre las brumas espesas de Londres
O en la algarabía infernal de New York,
Arranque esa pena que siempre se esconde
Adiós Buenos Aires, amigos adiós.

And then if amidst the soupy mists of London
Or in the infernal din and commotion of New York
This sorrow that lays constantly hidden bursts forth again:
Adiós Buenos Aires, all my dear friends, goodbye.

Listen to the classic Orquesta Típica Victor-Ángel Vargas recording here:


The key to this lyric is that in leaving Buenos Aires the traveler will speak “like a poet.” Attention is called to a rhyme scheme of great clarity and simplicity: this is an affectingly unpretentious tango. That said, its meaning is artfully ambiguous. Is about the love of a city or a lover? Is the speaker leaving to escape heartache, or does it arise as a result of the leave-taking? Either way, the bittersweetness of travel, relocation, and “moving on” are evoked. Songs like Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds” or Tolkien’s “The Road Goes Ever On” come to mind. “Goodbye” is a universal theme, so that a word for it in one language is likely to be known in others. Adiós is one of those, like ciao or au revoir or aloha, that doesn't need translating, so keeping it alludes to the original and is thematically enriching. The phrase "all my dear friends, goodbye" echoes Derrick del Pilar's translation at Poesía de gotán.

—John Osburn