The African Mother

Translated by Agnes Blake Poor
Tirai-je enfans de la rive africaine.
    Qui cultivent pour nous la terre americaine?
Differents de couleur, ils ont les mêmes droits;
    Vous-mêmes contres vous les armez de vos lois.
Delille, Malheur et Pitie, Chant I.

“And hast thou sped upon the ocean wind,
     Say, cruel pirate, hast thou come for this?
                  Not to leave one behind.
To rob my humble home of all its bliss?
     Come back and look into my cabin door
                  And find me there alone.
Their parting footsteps will return no more;
All of my own are gone, forever gone.
                  Husband and children taken
                  And only I forsaken!
O bear me after them, thou iron heart,
     And to toil with them, I will be thy slave!
                  Or if death be their part,
Cast us together in an unknown grave.
But why pray I to thee, by prayer unmoved?
     Thou hast no children, thou has never loved.

“Free waves their flag, the golden sun displaying
        Celestial globe on skies of heavenly blue!
                  The sportive breezes straying,
Waft on our sight the wonder strange and new;
        While the relentless crew
Dart like wild beasts on weaker creatures preying.
        Darken, thou sun, thy fiery light,
And die away in black eternal night.

“What see I here? his quiver and his bow
        Shattered and useless on the trampled sand?
. . . . . . . My hero! Well I know
        They were not torn from unresisting hand.
But these with magic art
                  Can grasp the lightning’s dart
And wake the thunder clap at their command.”

        Some poor relief to find,
So wailed in grief the mourner left behind.
        They heeded not her accents of despair;
A feeble outcast worth no robber’s care.
        And full in view, with every sail unfurled
The Eagle spread her pinions to the air,
        And soared away into the western world.

        Chained in the hold beneath,
        The captives gasped for breath,
And spent their strength in vainly wasted strife,
        A groaning heap of mingled death and life.
While from her hut under the mango shade,
        The childless mother and the widowed wife
Watched the tall poop on the horizon fade.


From Pan-American Poems: An Anthology (The Gorham Press, 1918) by Agnes Blake Poor. This poem is in the public domain.