This piece is an introspective reflection by the poet Amado Nervo on his own life, allowing us to see through a quick analysis how he built the environment around his life, summed up in the following statement: “I was the architect of my own destiny.” The piece was written for a mixed choir of six voices and piano. The character of the music is rather placid and reflexive, without agogic accents and dynamic contrasts or polyphonic elaborations, however the homophonic weaving of the voices comes closer to serenity than (in my opinion) the poem suggests. Although initially the harmonic portion lies within the traditional principles, little by little this texture is transformed into a less orthodox harmonic language, without losing the overall character of the piece. At the end of the piece, we find again the initial theme but now with humming, accompanying a member of the choir who recites the final verses of the poem, trying to express gratitude for life, for all the troubles and joys that life has provided.
Artifex vitae, artifex sui
Muy cerca de mi ocaso, yo te bendigo, Vida,
porque nunca me diste ni esperanza fallida,
ni trabajos injustos, ni pena inmerecida;
porque veo al final de mi rudo camino
que yo fui el arquitecto de mi propio destino;
que si extraje la miel o la hiel de las cosas,
fue porque en ellas puse hiel o mieles sabrosas:
cuando planté rosales coseché siempre rosas.
Cierto, a mis lozanías va a seguir el invierno:
¡mas tú no me dijiste que mayo fuese eterno!
Hallé sin duda largas las noches de mis penas;
mas no me prometiste tan solo noches buenas;
y en cambio tuve algunas santamente serenas…
Amé, fui amado, el sol acarició mi faz.
¡Vida, nada me debes! ¡Vida, estamos en paz!
Architect of life, architect of himself
So near to my end, I bless you, Life,
because you never gave me false hope,
unjust work or undeserved sorrow;
for I see at the end of my rough road
that I was the architect of my own destiny;
and if I extracted honey or gall from things,
it was because I myself gave them gall or delicious honey:
when I planted rosebushes I always gathered roses.
True, my youthful vigor shall be followed by winter:
but you never said May would be eternal!
I discovered without a doubt the long nights of my sorrows;
for you never promised me only good nights;
and yet I had some that were serenely sacred…
I loved, I was loved, the sun caressed my face.
Life, you owe me nothing! Life, we are at peace!
—Translation by Katie Villaseñor