Test
Download document

CASTRO ALVES, Antonio

The Slave Ship

(Tragedy in the Sea)

We are on the high seas... Mad in space

The moonlight plays — golden butterfly;

And the waves run after it. . . tire

Like a band of troubled infants.

We are on the high seas... From the firmament

The stars leap like spray of gold. . .

The sea in turn lights phosphorescence,

— Constellations of liquid treasure...

We are on the high seas... Two infinites

Strain there in a mad embrace

Blue, golden, placid, sublime..

Which of the two is ocean? Which sky?...

We are on the high seas.. . Opening the sails,

To the warm breath of the marine breezes,

Sailed brig run on the crests of the seas,

As the swallows brush in the wave...

Whence do you come? Wither do you go? Of the erring ships

Who knows the course if the space is so great?

On this Sahara the coursers raise dust,

Gallop, soar, but leave no trace.

Happy he who can, there, at fhis hour,

Feel this panel's magesty!.. .

Below — the sea... above — the firmament! ...

And in the sea and in the sky — the immensity!

Oh! what sweet harmony the breeze brings me!

What soft music sounds far off!

My God! how sublime an ardent song is

Floating at random on the endless waves!

Men of the sea! Oh rude mariners,

Toasfed by the sun of the four worlds!

Children whom the tempests warmed

In the cradle of these profound abysses!

Wait! ... wait! ... let me drink

This savage, free poetry.. .

Orchestra — is the sea, which roars by the prow

And the wind, which whistles in the ropes.

 

Why do you flee thus, swift barque?

Why do you flee the fearless poet?

Would that I could accompany the furrow

You sow in the sea — mad comet!

Albatroz! Albatroz! Eagle of the ocean,

You who sleep in the gauze of the clouds,

Shake your feathers, leviathan of space

Albatroz! Albatroz! give me those wings.

II

 

What does the sailor's cradle matter,

Or where he is the son, where his home?

He loves the cadence of the verse

Which is faught him by the old sea!

Sing! Death is divine!

The brig slips on the bowline — Like a swift dolphin.

Fast to the mizzen mast

The nostalgic flag points

To the waves it leaves behind.

From the Spanish, chants

Broken with languor,

They recall the dusky maidens


The Andalusians in flower!

From Italy the indolent son

Sings of sleeping Venice,

— Land of love and treachery,

Or from the gulf in its lap

Recalls the verses of Tasso

Close to the lava of the volcano.

The Englishman — cold mariner

Who from birth found himself at sea

(Because England is a ship,

Which God anchored in the Channel),

Stern, he intoans his countryls glories

Remembering, proudly, histories

Of Nelson and of Aboukir.

The Frenchman — predestined —

Sings of the triumphs of the past

And the laurels to come!

The Hellenic sailors,

Whom Ionian space created,

Beautiful dark pirates

From the sea that Ulysses cut,

Men that Phydias seulped,

Are singing in the clear night

Verses that Homer moaned...

Sailors from all lands,

Know how to find in the waves

The melodies of the skies!. . .

III

 

Descend from the immense space, oh eagle of the ocean,

Descend more... even more.. . human glance cannot

Like yours plunge into the flying brig!

But what is it I see there... What picture of bitterness

It’s funeral song! ... What tetric figures! ...

What an infamous vile scene!... My God! my God! What horror!

IV

 

It was a dantesque dream.. . the deck

Great lights redenning its brilliance,

Bathing it in blood.

Clang of irons. .. snap of whip ...

Legions of men black as the night

Horrible dancing...

Black women, holding to their breasts

Scrawny infants whose black mouths

Are watered by the blood of their mothers:

Others, young, but nude and frightened,

In the whirlwind of specters drawn

From anxiety and vane resentment!

And the orchestra laughs, ironic, strident...

And from the fantastic circle a serpent

Spirals madly...

If the old man cringes, slips to the ground,

You hear shouts... the whip cracks.

And they fligh more and more.

Prisoned in the bars of a single jail

The famished multitude shudders,

Aud weeps and dances!

One is delirious from rabies, another is going mad,

Another, bruttish from martyrdom

Sings, groans, and laughs!

Meantime the captain commands the maneuver

And after gazing at the sky which unfolds

So pure over the sea,

Cries out of the gloom of dense obscurity,

"Shake out the whip, mariners!

Make them dance, more!..."


And the orquestra laughs ironic, strident...

And from the fantastic circle a serpent

Spirals madly...

Like a dantesque dream the shadows fly!

Shouts, ahs, curses, embodied prayers!

And Satan laughs! ...

V

Lord God of the unfortunate!

Tell me Lord God!

If if is madness... or truth

So much horror under the skies?!...

Oh sea why do you not erase

With the sponge of the waves,

Your mantle, this blot?...

Stars! Nights! Tempests!

Roll down from the immensity!

Sweep the seas, typhoon!

 

Who are these unfortunates

Who do not find in you,

More than the calm laughter of the band

Which excitcs the torturers to fury?

Who are they? If the star hushes,

If the oppressive space slides by

Like a furtive accomplice,

Before the confused night

Say it severe Muse

Free, audacious Muse! ...

They are the sons of the desert,

Where the land espouses the light

Where in the open spaces lives

A tribe of nude men. . .

They are daring warriors

Who with the, spotted tigers

Combat in the solitude.

Yesterday simple, strong, brave...

Today miserable slaves,

Lacking air, light, reason.

They are disgraced women

Like Agar was also,

Who thirsty, weakened,

Come from far far off...

Bringiiig with tepid steps,

Children and irons on their arms,

In their souls — tears and gaul. . .

Like Agar suffering so much

That not even the milk of lament

Have they to give Ismael.

Off there on the limitless sands,

From the palms of the country,

They were born — beautiful children,

They lived — gentle maidens.. .

A caravan goes by one day

When the virgin in the cabin

Apprehensive from the veils of night

... Good-bye mountain hut,

... Good-bye palms of the fountain!

... Good-bye, loves... good-bye!

Afterwards, the extensive sands

Afterwards, the ocean of dust.

Afterwards, on the immense horizon

Deserts... deserts only...

And hunger, the tiredness, the thirst...

Oh how many unfortunates give up,

And fail to rise no more! ...

A place in the chain vacates,

But the jackal on the sand

Finds a body to gnaw.


Yesterday Sierra Leôa,

The war, the chase, the lion,

Sleep slept carelessly

Under the tents of amplitude!

Today the dark, deep hole

Infected, cramped, loathsome

Having the plague for a jaguar...

And sleep always broken

By death rattles

And the thud of corpses into the sea. . .

Yesterday full liberty,

Will for power...

Today... the peek of malice

They are not even free to die...

The same chain binds them

— Lugubrious iron snake —

In the threads of slavery.

And so humming of death,

The lugubrious cohort dances

To the sound of the lash ... Humiliation!. . .

Lord God of the unfortunate!

Tell me, Lord God,

Am I delirious... or is it truth

So much horror under the skies?! ...

Oh sea, why don't you crase

With the sponge of the waves,

Your mantle, this blot?

Stars! nights! tempests!

Roll down from the immensity

Sweep the seas, typhoon!

VI

 

A people exists that lends its flag

To cover so much infamy and cowardice!.

Transforming it in that feast

Into the impure mantle of a cold bacchante! ...

My God! my God! but what flag is this,

That impudent floats from the truck?

Silence, muse... weep, weep so much

That the standard may be washed, by your grief! ...

Green-gold pendant of my land,

That the breeze of Brazil caresses and unfurls

Standard that in the light of the sun encloses

Promises of divine hope...

You, who in the liberty after war,

Were hoisted by heroes on the lance,

Rather that you had been torn in battle

Than serve a people as a shrowd! ...

Atrocious fatality which overwhelms the mind

Extinguish this hour loathsome brig

The furrow that Columbus opened in the waves,

Like an iris in the depth of the seas!

But this is too much infamy! ... From the ethereal regions

Rise, heroes of the New World!

Andrada! Rip that pendant from the air!

Columbus! Close the portais of your seas!

Translation: DAVID BARNHART