Samuel Linning

By Guillermo Anad
translated by Dolores Iglesias Rocha



linning.jpg (84089 bytes)Samuel Guillermo Eduardo Linning was born in a house on Queguay Street, in Montevideo, July 12th 1888 and died in Adrogué (Bs.As.) the 16th of October 1925. His father was Belgium and his mother was Spanish; Basque considering that her last name was Minteguiaga. When adolescent, he moved to Buenos Aires where he studied the baccalaureate at the Colegio Central. Around his twenties, he started working as a journalist at La Razon newspaper. He was also working as a theatre critic for the renowned literary publication Nosotros at the same time.As described by Jacobo de Diego, Linning was "blond, very meticulous in dress, with walking cane and white gloves, and a nervous grimace figure. He would like Beethoven and was delighted with Maeterlinck´s verses."
National deputy Alfredo Bravo, cousin of Enrique Delfino, in connection with our poet would say: "a dandy, furthermore, very fluid in speech, filled with poetic images in his conversation."
Let us remember the trilogy of Linning´s tangos less extensive than transcendent:

  • - Milonguita (music by Enrique Pedro Delfino) was performed for the first time by Maria Ester Podestá in the representation of the sainete (one act farce) Delikatessen Haus (by Linning and Alberto Weisbach) May 12th, 1920. Raquel Meller promptly incorporated it to her repertoire, which Gardel also did in 1920. Two years later, Milonguita was made into a film under the same name. The plot was based on the story the tango tells itself. There is a scene where Delfino himself plays the piano, accompanied by other musicians: Perhaps the first antecedent of a tango orchestra in the big screen. Maria Esther Lerena and Ignacio Corsini starred in the film. (To some, she was the inspiration of Malena)

  • - Melenita de oro (music by Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores) made it's debut the 25th of August 1922 by Manolita Poli in the sainete Milonguita. The Uruguayan poetess Idea Vilariño placed it within the dramatic genre. In her book "Las Letras de Tango", in accordance with this tango in particular, she comments: "Just like the narrative sometimes has lyric islands or is lyric, others interpolate one of the dramatic elements by excellence: the dialogue, precisely the way it happens in Melenita de oro: Cómo se llama / mi Pierrot dormido / te pregunté / y abriendo tú los ojos/ en mis brazos / sonriendo respondiste: / a mí me llaman / Melenita de oro." (Not translated in order not to alter the rhyme and meaning of the dialogue that takes place in the tango).

  • - Campana de Plata (music by Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores) was forst performed June 10th 1925, also by Manolita Poli in the sainete Puente Alsina.

By the days subsequent to the death of Linning, a matter of not small importance was rounding up in Roberto Arlt´s thoughts; always impregnated by intense passion.
That same passion that he would write and reveal in one of his Aguafuertes porteñas dedicated to our poet in connection with the tango lyrics. So, he would say: "The lyric writers are asses. That is the truth. Instead, the matter changes completely, when an artist is involved".
"This is how -Arlt goes on- I remember the beginning of a stanza from the tango Campana de Plata written by the theatre author Samuel Linning. Linning has passed away, but the poem left is Quevedo worthy:

"La furca y un grito,
y el barrio que duerme
y sangra en tu daga la luz de un farol
después tu silbido, maleva canyengue
campana de plata del taita ladrón,
campana de plata del taita ladrón."

Now then, of all these three tangos, let us stop at Milonguita, for it is the most famous one. From the author of the music, let us recall that in 1920 Enrique Pedro Delfino was a 25-year-old pianist and composer that had already released not few classics of his authorship within the tango repertoire (tangos like Re Fa Si and Sans Souci, among others during his Montevidean period) and had just gotten back to Buenos Aires after having had to work intensely in order to record some sixty tangos for Victor's house in Candem (USA) together with Tito Roccatagliata and Osvaldo Fresedo. By writting Milonguita, he also creates a new tango formal structure, that is: The Tango-Song.

As regards the lyrics, we immediately noticed a straight connection with the lyric plot inaugurated by the Pascual Contursi of Pobre paica ("Mina que fue en otro tiempo/ la más papa milonguera...) or from Flor de fango ("Fuiste papusa de fango/ y las delicias de un tango/ te arrastraron de un bulín./ Los amigos te engrupieron/ y esos mismos te perdieron/ noche a noche en el festín.") Nevertheless, it is here where we find ourselves in the presence of a new working mode introduced by Linning: while in Contursi´s both tangos, affore mentioned, the music existed previous to the lyrics (The lyrics in Flor de Fango were written upon the tango music of El Desalojo from Augusto Gentile , and Pobre Paica over the tango music El Motivo by Juan Carlos Cobián), in Milonguita, on the contrary, both artists joined their talents in a unique and singular way. It was the first time in the history of the tango that a writer and a composer had created and composed joining talents. This is how Delfino would remember it in an interview published in 1948: "Together with Samuel Linning, who wrote the lyrics, we were looking for more popular themes. We wanted to get out of the steamy Corrientes street, whereof the mix of day and night life had already become rather monotonous for us. That is why we went to the different neighborhoods, specially towards Boedo, over Pavón, Chiclana...This last one seduced us with its atmosphere of modest street, its common freshness, and its people. This is what inspired Linning in the verses, and myself in the music". According to José Gobello, Linning himself assured that it concerned the story of a real person.

As we can see we are standing in front of two flâneurs: artists that overhaul the streets of Buenos Aires in search of inspiration. They remind us a little of Baudelaire that according to Walter Benjamin "loved loneliness; but wanted it within the crowd", or to Oliverio Girondo that in 1922 published his Veinte poemas para ser leídos en el tranvía, (Twenty poems to be read on a trolley car) that same Girondo from "Apunte Callejero", that among other things, would say "...Pienso en dónde guardaré los quioscos, los faroles, los transeúntes, que se me entran por las pupilas...". Such verses go along with Delfino´s esthetic posture, who once said: "I've always liked, in comparison with other composers, working with the windows wide open, paying attention to hustle and bustle, to the rumors, to the sounds in the street...I perceived the movement, the noise, the people in order to merge it with harmony so as to put down on paper".
What does this tango made into a song talk about? Which are its ideas?
The plot of Milonguita, its subject-matter, is not only "the cabaret as a temple of doom" as the history of tango traditionally points it out. No, here there is something more. Much more: the important issue in Milonguita is the pass of Time. The initial verses would place us in front of a form of a rhetorical figure of speech so called pathetic: it is that interrogation that consists on asking, not any longer to manifest the doubt or ignorance of any subject, but to express the affirmation with more vehemence. This way, with this chilly but merciful question, our tango begins: "Te acordás, Milonguita...?" ("Remember, Milonguita?...). Then comes the remembrance: "vos eras / la pebeta más linda e` Chiclana".

The thing is that in Milonguita almost all major subjects concerning the poetry of tango are present. You will there find the skirts, the braids, and the night; the soul and the woman; the pleasure, the luxury, and the cabaret; the men, the cold weather and the alcohol; the tango itself, the small chamber room and the bacán ; the crying, the champagne and the percal; the loneliness, the longing, the sadness, the chamuyo, and the korner; the bad ("the wrong step"), the dreams, the neighborhood and the chicks, the memory...the memories. At last, paradise and love, both lost.

As a matter of fact, Roberto Arlt was not exagerating. There is something big in Linning, maybe from Quevedo; why not. I seem to hear the eco from that sonnet by that great Spanish writer: "Ayer se fue; mañana no ha llegado; /hoy se está yendo sin para un punto: / soy un fue, y un será, y un es cansado." Or that other one from Shakespeare "But wherefore do not you a mightier way / Make war upon this bloody tyrant Time?".