You came to us from the eternal sea of the Kali’nas,
You, Aimé of our hearts, child of the pure clear sky,
You who gave us dreams
That make us equal to the gods!
You, two eyes of fire
Which fill with their immortal flames
The space of this happy day,
And the crippled bank with indecipherable joys
And my filial memory with confusion and tenderness!
You, the apocrisiarius of the playful waves
Which deliver your soul to our dazzled souls
With the new deliberate elegance of your words
And the blithe smiling courage
Of this blessèd isle!
A soul complicit with the melodious splendour of imperial waters,
Gifted with this green gaiety, light and effortless
Which the generous souls of the captivating
People of the Caribbean carry within!
Sublime sea, radiant enamel on a blue background,
Hymnal sea, object of so much fervent devotion,
Eternal emblem of pure liberty,
Adorned with flower garlands of ships and sails!
In your well-read household, the streams of lofty knowledge
Enhanced the fresh beauty of the half-light
And the mauve silence that quivered with a loving presence!
In the modest streets,
The mellow peppery song of the air matched
The carefree threnodies of the breeze.
Thus from your life’s delicate foundation of friendly anxiety
Surged radiant hope
And dreams hemmed with light!
You, the curious child with hoop and butterfly net
Who gave himself up with passion, modesty and delicacy
To the games of your sea –fringed country!
Around you paled, yearned, softened
The mischievous trees of the forests
And the golden paths of the valleys!
And your evenings, vases of garnet crystal, wove in you
The small blue ribbons,
The red banners of your generous thoughts!
O you island of iguanas, Jouanacaera,
Matinino, Madinina, island of flowers, O Matinite of the fairies,
Martinique – Matinik of pure souls,
Martinique – Matinik of people with the beauty of the cheetah
When it rushes forward like a streak of lightning through the savannah!
You Aimé Césaire
Who united in a posy of scented verse
All the heroic moments of a majestic life!
You, island with the radiant face, whose masterly fleetingness
Abolishes on your lips, like a warm hearth, the vertigo of passing time!
You, incomparable cheerfulness,
Bronzed sister of the clear consonance
Our love. Aimé,
So large for our hearts,
So, let us stay in the dark half-shadow
Of the warm tenderness of our ancestors!
You live, you breathe, you dance, Martinique,
You beat, you throb, you sing in our flesh,
Radiant Martinique, you,
Land of high mountains,
Emerald mountain in the amber sea!
You, dreamy pearl of the Greater Antilles,
Pliant earth of a people of eagles
With an indomitable pride!
You, island, clot of blood and dream!
What more can I say? I don’t know!
Comes the storm which establishes itself as
An avenger in the name of silence!
Go, leave, don’t look back,
Don’t listen to the frightful oracles,
Ah, I long so passionately this evening
For the warm presence of my own people!
Aimé, friend of the sun, you who cherished so much
This your own Créolie, you who loved it to the brink of tears,
You made the sorrow frozen in your veins melt,
You brought back the dawn into your eyes,
Its smile by turns violent and hospitable,
Its strength sacred and victorious!
You resurrected creole grace and mercy,
Its powerful fervour, its goodness and its confidence!
Thereafter it was free, agile, exuberant,
Greedy for your diamond words,
Words of green algae and sapphires,
For your poems of sparkling hallucinated flint,
For the quiet gleam of your ancient wisdom.
O precocious jubilation of summer,
Spring exalted by the song of thousand upon thousand birds!
Wherever you were, you carried, Aimé, in your sighs,
The steep mountains of your homeland,
Pleasant places where murmur, limpid with happiness,
Vigorous springs and alert streams,
Nourishing the country flowers and the virgin branches,
Living waters where, at night, beneath the flowered garden of the great stars,
Naiads, nymphs and dryads run through the woods!
Everywhere there followed you,
In your adolescent insomnias, the canticles
Of the cheerful plains of joyful Martinique
And the solemn hymns of the rivers
With waters of bright amber and amethyst.
And your throat tightened with gnarled sadness
In the teeming streets of Paris
When you heard, in your adolescent soul,
The trembling voices of your homeland
In the north:
The high Mount Pelée, Morne Macouba,
The Piton du Carbet,
Morne Piquet, Piton Marcel
In the south:
Mount Vauclin, Morne Larcher,
O paths soaked by rain,
Exalted voices in the great night,
Motionless dreams, unfulfilled dreams,
Dreams hanging on the modest windows of the humble dwellings,
Luxuriant seashells from the deep sea,
Radiant grandmothers, overwhelmed by too much sorrow,
Women whose life passed like a ship
Who fly on the moonlight
To flood with tenderness the small beds of the children
Covered with an openwork cotton blanket,
Women who knew the knots of the stars
On the rope of the heavenly Axis!
Grandfathers who watched over the sleep of the children
As a lighthouse watches over and protecst boats
From the consuming darkness of the seas!
O flowers, O grasses, O towns full of night heat!
Mothers, protect your children
Keeping them within the pink timbre of your voices,
Take their sorrows away
With your sobbing.
You hear the fury of the rains brought by the trade winds,
The gentleness of the plains in the centre of the island and on the coastal edge,
And this coast with a wind caressed by the Atlantic ocean,
The Caravelle peninsula,
The song of the fishermen on their small makeshift boats,
The hymns of the cays, the Loups Bordelais, the Loups Ministres,
The pleasant murmurs of the Caribbean coast,
The whispers of the beach of black sand of the Anse Céron!
Caribbean sea, ceremonious sea, incantatory sea,
How the Poet loved the silky clamour of your waters,
How he adored wandering in the dense thickets of stars
That watched over the countless tribes of fish!
You Aimé, who knew the universality of the true,
The supple prolixity of languages in their precise movement,
You who delivered the words of time’s dust
And the still burning lava of history!
You, whose heart was attentive to the filiations of men
And the transfigurations of beings.
And, like Aristotle, you took pleasure in saying that
‘The beginning of all the sciences,
That things are as they are.’
I am proud of you, working people,
People who knew how to build, in the middle of
The cruellest adversities,
Empires of joy and love!
How I love the fragrance
Of the new day which announces itself.
O time, our deaths are everywhere
Where we love them!
Women with eyes always blazing
Hearts that beat without being rent apart,
Grass skirts of the dawn on your fertile flanks,
Your laughter and the rain alone sow the earth with life!
Divine sea where there will for ever reason
The sublime heroes of sensuous Négritude:
Léon Gontran Damas, Guy Tirolien,
Léopold Sédar Senghor and Birago Diop!
You know, O sea for ever moved,
That all poetry begins
On the first page!
How we love your breathing against our cheeks!
How each of us wants to sleep and dream
In the sumptuous alcove of your lap, O sea!
Sea, your murmurs
Which drink our eyes with an extreme joy
Make words of love grow and multiply
In our passionate bodies!
O voice of Hesiod, voice of the Muses,
Voices which will pass to a young poet of genius
Whom we shall never know!
O dithyrambic evenings!
Dense nights, seasons and sorrowful moons!
Rainbows of embraces!
O inalienable humanity at the heart of every being!
Sea, how we cherish your gentleness, the most delicate of all,
How we love your shivers of convulsive velvet,
The scents of your currents which persist!
We, the poets, perpetually furious,
We are devoured by the salt of tenderness!
Poet and Friend, Césaire of our tormented hearts,
You who loved to sleep with the Milky Way in your white bed
With the lucky breeze in your limpid utterances
And your pillow full of the fragrances of thyme and sunlight,
You who knew how to cover with lilac kisses
The generous breasts of a woman beautiful as Africa,
While the moon played outside
With the glittering anchors in the bright bays.
You, who loved these nights quiet as fresh bread
With the dazzling images of Candido Portinari beneath your eyelids
And the unreal azure blue of dreams: life, distance, perpetual game of the spheres,
You who loved the ladybirds walking guided by the constellations,
The tender and frail perfection of discreet existences,
The translucent airborne smile of great innocents.
You, Aimé Césaire!
You, Aimé Césaire of the tempests,
You who watched with a Christ-like friendliness
And with a devoted gratitude
Every thing and every being on Earth!
Pleased with the screeching of the crickets on the hills
Which never leave our childhood admiration
Until the funerary proprieties are observed.
You adored, Aimé, strong friendships
Turned your back on indelible indiscretions
And pernicious trivia!
O man who says:
It’s a long time for one heart…!’
The sun was a ring of love on your finger!
O Epiclesis, O Eucharist, O Chrism Mass!
Now, let us leave,
The bright sun is waiting for us,
All will be well there!
Pure, intact, glorious,
We have no need of shamanic rites
To placate our spirits sleeping in celestial hope!
It is in the peace of loving souls
That we will know what the air and the leaf are saying to each other
And why their song is exactly true!
My friend Aimé, let us sleep beneath the flowering willows,
Companions of beings dead or living!
You, Aimé, wandering trace of a luminous path,
Febrile anxiety will no longer come tapping on our hearts
When peace descends on the laughing countryside of Martinique
And plants on the sweet rippling grasses
The perpetuation of ecstasy.
We will listen to the fresh murmur of new waters
Frolicking beneath the teasing brambles
To delight the honeyed tones of our brown skins!
O you, Friend of the humble, who pardoned readily
Thoughtlessness stemming from ignorance
And hated cowardly venality!
My friend Césaire,
Your memory returns to me like a precious gift from life,
Like a deliciously touching breath!
One thought brings another
Just as one ripple on the water brings another!
No, they never go away completely
Those who depart:
They always leave, however paltry, however small it may be,
A deep scar
On the lustful body of time!
O banners of acacias,
Float like dreams
Beneath the invigorating breath of the breeze,
So that through the kisses of those who love one another
The leaves of the trees may become one with the evening,
So that the happy air surrounds its gracious body
With a belt of young figs!
O life, mysterious music
Of paths and roads!
Translated from the French of Athanase Vantchev de Thracy July 2013 by Norton Hodges
Aimé Césaire (1913 –2008): Francophone poet, author and politician from Martinique. He was one of the founders of the négritude movement in Francophone literature.
Kali’nas: also known as the Karib, Kaliña, Galibi, Kalina, Karina, Carina, Kalinha, Kariña, Kari’ña, or Karinya people, are an Indigenous ethnic group found in several countries on the Caribbean coast of South America. They speak a Cariban language and are culturally Cariban as well.
Apocrisiarius: a high diplomatic representative during Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. The closest modern equivalent is a papal nuncio.
Jouanacaëra, Matinino, Madinina, Matinite, Matinik: former names of Martinique
Créolie: a literary preceding Négritude and asserting a common cultural heritage.
Mount Pelée, Morne Macouba, Le Piton du Carbet, Morne Piquet, Piton Marcel, Mount Vauclin, Morne Larcher, Morne Bigot, Morne Gardier: mountain peaks in Martinique
Caravelle Peninsula, Loups Bordelais, Loups Ministre, Anse Céron: geographical features of Martinique and its coast
Négritude is a literary and ideological movement, developed by francophone black intellectuals, writers, and politicians in France in the 1930s. Its proponents included the future Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, Guy Trolien, Léon Gontran Damas and Birago Diap.. The Négritude writers found solidarity in a common black identity as a rejection of perceived French colonial racism. They believed that the shared black heritage of members of the African diaspora was the best tool in fighting against French political and intellectual hegemony and domination.
Ex abrupto: brusquely, without preparation
Dithyrambic A frenzied, impassioned choric hymn and dance of ancient Greece in honour of Dionysus.
Cândido Portinari (December 29, 1903 - February 6, 1962) was one of the most important Brazilian painters and also a prominent and influential practitioner of the neo-realism style in painting.
Epiclesis: that part of the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) by which the priest invokes theHoly Spirit (or the power of His blessing) upon the Eucharistic bread and wine in some Christian churches.
In most Eastern Christian traditions, the Epiclesis comes after the Anamnesis (remembrance of Jesus' words and deeds); in the Western Rite it usually precedes.
Chrism Mass: Chrism is holy anointing oil, or "consecrated oil used in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, Oriental Orthodox Church, and by Old Catholics, as well as some other traditions, including the Assyrian Church of the East, and Nordic-style Lutheran churches, in the administration of certain sacraments and ecclesiastical functions.