Verse > Anthologies > James Weldon Johnson, ed. > The Book of American Negro Poetry
James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938).  The Book of American Negro Poetry.  1922.
Plácido’s Sonnet to His Mother
Despida a Mi Madre
(En La Capilla)

  SI la suerte fatal que me ha cabido,
Y el triste fin de mi sangrienta historia,
Al salir de esta vida transitoria
Deja to corazon de muerte herido;
  Baste de llanto: el ánimo afligido        5
Recobre su quietud; moro en la gloria,
Y mi plácida lira á to memoria
Lanza en la tumba su postrer sonido.
  Sonido dulce, melodioso y santo,
Glorioso, espiritual, puro y divino,        10
Inocente, espontáneo como el llanto
  Que vertiera al nacer: ya el cuello inclino!
Ya de la religion me cubre el manto!
Adios, mi madre! adios—El Peligrino.
Farewell to My Mother
(In the Chapel)

  THE APPOINTED lot has come upon me, mother,
The mournful ending of my years of strife,
This changing world I leave, and to another
In blood and terror goes my spirit’s life.
  But thou, grief-smitten, cease thy mortal weeping
And let thy soul her wonted peace regain;        20
I fall for right, and thoughts of thee are sweeping
Across my lyre to wake its dying strains.
  A strain of joy and gladness, free, unfailing
All glorious and holy, pure, divine,
And innocent, unconscious as the wailing        25
  I uttered on my birth; and I resign
Even now, my life, even now descending slowly,
Faith’s mantle folds me to my slumbers holy.
Mother, farewell! God keep thee—and forever!
Translated by William Cullen Bryant.
Plácido’s Farewell to His Mother
(Written in the Chapel of the Hospital de Santa Cristina on the Night Before His Execution)

      IF the unfortunate fate engulfing me,
The ending of my history of grief,
The closing of my span of years so brief,
Mother, should wake a single pang in thee,
Weep not. No saddening thought to me devote;
I calmly go to a death that is glory-filled,        35
My lyre before it is forever stilled
Breathes out to thee its last and dying note.
A note scarce more than a burden-easing sigh,
Tender and sacred, innocent, sincere—
Spontaneous and instinctive as the cry        40
I gave at birth-And now the hour is here—
O God, thy mantle of mercy o’er my sins!
Mother, farewell! The pilgrimage begins.
Translated by James Weldon Johnson.


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