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Ríe payaso

Sorrow and loss, the consolation of drink and companionship, the phantasmagoria of carnival, intertwine as the narrator remonstrates with a clown whose laughter conceals his pain. Renée and John made their own return to the past to recite this one, bringing Milonga Falucho back to Café Argentino in Brooklyn to alternate once monthly with Falucho/Chelsea in Manhattan. Live music was by Maurizio Najt (piano) and Javier Sanchez (bandoneón).
Ríe payaso (1929)
Letra de Emilio Falero
Música de Virgilio Carmona

Laugh, Clown! (1929)
Lyrics by Emilio Falero, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Virgilio Carmona

El payaso con sus muecas
Y su risa exagerada,
Nos invita, camaradas,
A gozar del carnaval;
No notáis en esa risa
Una pena disfrazada,
Que su cara almidonada,
Nos oculta una verdad.

The laughter of the clown
And his exaggerated frown,
Invites us, comrades, if we’re down,
To have fun at carnival;
You don’t see in that laughter
The disguised pain of a masker,
That his starchy painted-on grimace
Conceals the truth behind the face.
Ven payaso, yo te invito,
Compañero de tristezas,
Ven y siéntate a mi mesa
Si te quieres embriagar;
Que si tu tienes tus penas
Yo también tengo las mías
Y el champagne hace olvidar.

Come, carnival clown, it’ll be my treat,
Compatriot of heavy hearts,
Come to my table and sit you down
If a little drink you won’t regret;
For as you have so much sorrow
I’ve got my own that you can borrow
And champagne is made for to forget.
Ríe, tu risa me contagia
Con la divina magia
De tu gracia sin par.
Bebamos mucho, bebamos porque quiero,
Con todo este dinero
Hacer mi carnaval.

Laugh, your laughter gets inside me
With the heavenly magic
Of your grace without par.
Let’s drink too much and have another, because I want,
With every last dollar and cent,
To make my carnival.
Lloras, payaso buen amigo.
No llores que hay testigos
Que ignoran tu pesar;
Seca tu llanto y ríe con alborozo,
A ver, pronto, ¡che mozo,
Tráigame más champagne!

Let it all out, my bosom buddy clown.
Don’t mind that there’re people around
Ignoring what you’re feeling;
Dab your tears and take joy in laughter,
—Hey! excuse me, brother waiter,
Bring me more bottles of bubbly!
Yo, también, como el payaso
De la triste carcajada,
Tengo el alma destrozada
Y también quiero olvidar;
Embriagarme de placeres
En orgías desenfrenadas
Con mujeres alquiladas
Entre música y champagne.

I, as well, like the carnival clown
With the melancholic guffaw,
Carry inside me a soul distraught
And, oh, how I want to forget;
To get drunk on sensual delights
In unbuttoned orgiastic flights
With women paid for by the night
In a fog of music and champagne.
Hace uno año, justamente,
Era muy de madrugada,
Regresaba a mi morada
Con deseos de descansar;
Al llegar vi luz prendida
En el cuarto de mi amada...
Es mejor no recordar.
One year ago, it was just about then,
In the wee small hours of the morn,
When to my joint I made my return
Aching to fall into slumber,
Instead I got there and saw that
Light still on in my loved one’s flat…
It’s best not to remember.

Listen to Héctor Maure sing Ríe payaso here:


These lyrics unfold in three movements, each addressing a different audience. First, the narrator’s buddies, commenting on the clown. Then the clown, inviting him to share his sorrows. Does the clown sit, or even hear? We don’t know. Then, as though the carnival scene dissolves, the song becomes soliloquy, introspective, as we listen.

–John Osburn