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    PUERTO RICO

The day will come in which the Ocean will break those chains that bold the Universe in thrall.
SÉNECA

Borinquen, name so pleasant to the mind,
Like some sweet memory of a love profound!
Garden of beauty, where can mortals find
Its equal even where lovely spots abound?

Pearl that the sea from deep shellpile has snatched
Amid the pounding of its pleasant waves,
A sleepy heron in white spume unmatched,
You doze as foamy tide your shoreline laves.
Island bedecked by palm fronds, in the breeze
Tossing a kiss afar across the seas.

You seem to one arriving on your soil
A lovely mystic city made of foam,
Fantastic haven far removed from toil
That mermaids sporting near regard as home.

A garden of enchantment, fountains playing
Above the azure sea that round you swirls,
A vase of many-colored flowers swaying
Amid the foam and coral, scents and pearls.

You who at dusk, spilling your colors, came
In all the hues of brilliant sunset dressed,
Filling the ocean full of floating flame
Till the last rays of sun died in the West.
You who supply the air I breathe each day
Inspiring my spontaneous song of praise,
Accept the adoring tribute of my lay
That as your inspired poet to you I raise!
The sacred love that lies within my breast

Would play for you its rustic harmony;
For you I cast it to the wind's unrest:
Your love compels the poet's heart to sing,
And in his song his heart he sends to thee.

My island, hark! This possibly could be
My lyre's last note; for soon I will depart
For those far regions without memory.

My fleeing youth is weakening, wastes away,
An aching, sad, a melancholy soul
No longer in its jail content to stay.

Before I see that last day given me
And my song is extinguished with my breath,
Take, Homeland, my last lines of poetry:
They're testament and sign of my love's depth!
They're fond FAREWELL your singer sends to thee!

            *

Three centuries have passed since humankind,
Secluded and confined in the Old World,
Dreamed not your name nor kept you well in mind.

Your being was the loveliest dream's swirl
Among those saw beyond edges of the known
To far Thule's fantastic coastline's curl.

An hour then sounded when we heard that tone
By which the orb's great clock marks vital news:
And the Atlantic parted its crested waves' wild foam.

The fateful hand of destiny
Had touched a man on the impassioned brow,
And pointed him a way across the sea.

He wanted only, when he took to sails,
Crossing the regions of the Occident,
To return to that spot whence light first hails.

He hoisted sail into the winds of chance
From the far limit of a surf-tossed sea;
Good fortune pressing his caravels' advance,
He stumbled on America's shore lee.

You're comely chip, my isle, of its contour.
Some lovely bit of earth, hurled high in air
By fearful cataclysm from the western shore
Fell to the sea to make this island fair.

But from yon continent so vast, came naught
Of pomp or terror to your lovely land--
Only its bounteous beauty has been brought.

Yet from your mountains no bloodthirsty beast
Like hungry tiger, lion, or jaguar
Or coiling boa came to your calm East,

Upon your hilltops to maintain their lair;
Nor yet within your limpid rivers swim
Grim alligators for us to beware.

Nor do your calm Atlantic beaches know
Any huge Marañon's, the king of rivers,
Thunderous rushing flow.

Nor do your mountains fill with sudden roar
and, shaken to their deep foundations, creak,
With such hoarse breathing as from distant shore
from Cotopaxi and Orizaba's peak.

No fierce Niagara's torrent breaks your hush
With cataracts that to the heavens toss their mist
While Iris, magic painter, by her brush,
Its shining flanks of gleaming silver kissed
With gold and carmine, purple and topaz.
Within your realm the condor, king of space,
To watch his flight no crystal mirror has.

However, many treasures you possess:
Fertile savannas grow the sugarcane,
A lake of honey that your people bless,
Waving like blowing feathers or like grain.

And the tall palm trees, swaying in the air
Within its hanging jar holds treasure trove,
Pure liquid, like an aerial fountain there.

Upon the broad slopes of your rising hills,
Home of the cedar and the pendola,
Your sturdy farmer, coffee bushes tills,

Where green and crimson berries bend each bow
Till on the ground its precious crop it spills.

But Ah, what pure delight each night discloses
In which the happy heart its passion sings
Amid a garden of lilies and of roses,
Urged into bloom by murmuring silver springs!

Your turtle doves so softly make complaint
With sorrowing sighs that can be heard at times;
The voice of toupicals and doves sound faint
From their shy nests amid the flowering limes.

My island, what delights within your arms
Where peaceful, tender, happy folks abide,
And your whole inner world receives its charms
From the sweet influence of your world outside.

And so it was that on the fateful day
Spain's ships dropped anchor on your golden shore,
Your native tribes were locals to the bay,
Subduing the fear that at first made them flee
Into the darkness of your virgin bush,
Cordial came back to the edge of your sea

And, calmly there and without any dread,
Saw how the timbers of the Cross were raised
Beneath a standard of Castilian red.

And friendship, staunch and pure simpatico,
Joined men once separated by a wide abyss;
The rustic Indian felt on tawny brow
The holy waters of baptism's bliss.

Fear's barriers fallen, all now turned antique,
The flame of love blazed in all its splendor:
The lovely sister of the first Cacique
The champion from the East took for seignior.

And you the jewel were shimmering through each flank
Of the chaste kiss caused their first love to sing,
From Agüeybana's noble band of rank
To the royal crown of the Iberian king.

Then... And then..., but let me never picture
In my song that strife a clash of passions starts
Nor all the carnage, cruelty, weeping sore
Remain a stain upon all human hearts.

Let us erase all trace of terror's writ
That dishonors unhappy humankind,
For I am a man... and am ashamed of it.

There came a fatal day of horror and of pain
When, after gold to a crude lucre turned,
A vile slavery blemished your domain.

And the American gulf's hurricane
Allowed the ships most peacefully to moor
At anchor in this garden of the Main!

And you, my island, pearl of the Occident,
Returned not to the bosom of the seas
To wash away that stain's disfigurement!

Yet not in vain was it that in Judea
The blood of Jesus flowed, to, flowing, seal
The sacred triumph of his blessed idea.

Nor yet is it in vain that, eagerly,
The world now turns onto the ample road
Where progress presses forward gingerly.

There shone a dawn of happy memory,
On which the tears and pain came to an end,
Removing thus a blot from history.

And thus a thousand thousand accents rose,
Gave your name —sacred Freedom!— to the hills,
To the valleys, to wherever the wind blows.

And not one sign of retribution's shame!
Not one act of revenge profaned your land!
Blessings and songs alone were all that came,
Rising into the firmament's wide span!

Strange picture this! For in all the world around,
Oppression when once beat in holy war,
From the wine-colored lake was battleground
A bloody freedom rises to the fore.

God must have smiled to see his creature turn
Those outcast to a proud comrade's gage
And so the vestments of an angel earn,
By shattering the yoke long held the slave.

And must have blessed you, touched, with tender pride,
For only on your soil so salutary,
Under sweet influence of your world outside,
We saw Redemption without Calvary.

            *

One more step forward: without show
Of weapons of fratricidal strife,
One in that company free nations know,
Your voice rises to speak: the sap of life
And vital youth runs coursing through your veins,
When noble Spain, moved by compassion's fife,
Shatters the vise of the colonial's chains.

My Homeland, you're no longer a lost speck
Frightened when it regards its own small size,
No longer garden hidden from all eyes
In some fold of that cloak round the world's neck.

You are the nation whose firm voice now rings
If justice and if reason's on its side,
Which all we cherish in a dead past sings,
The holy hymn of progress as its guide.

You will not be that haughty ship of war
Which, in defiance of the hurricane,
Seizes a port, with brave, intrepid corps,
Both waves and men submitting to your reign.
But you will be the placid little boat
That, by the nudge of scented breezes pushed,
Comes to the shore on spumed ebb tides afloat.

For that, my island, is your destiny:
To conquer freedom, science, and felicity,
Without leaving on roadside brambles any
Tattered shred or stitch of your white drapery.

But... if it be that I myself deceive,
If my impious fate has planned for me
To see your anguish and your ruin grieve;

If I'm to hear your echoes ricochet,
Come back to me, amid tears and dread,
In the harsh tone that hollow bronzes bray;

Were my lyre the one fated to sing
Your misfortune, your pain, your agony...
Oh, I'd as quickly see its every string
By my own trembling hands turned to debris!

And before evil can in your precincts brim
And I in fright its countenance there see...
My God dispose when it so pleases Him
Of what brief life may still be left to me!

But if Jehovah grave the poet a trace,
When singing to his isle, its destiny,
Of the twin sight of fruitful prophet's grace;

If my name's to be wedded to your history,
If I'm to be the singer of your joys,
To be the herald of your coming glory;

May God then grant me, as I happy gaze
On your good fortune and fair triumphs' crown,
Eternal life to adore you all my days,
A lyre tuned to inspiration's sound,
Immortal and content to sing your praise.

autógrafo

José Gautier Benítez
Translated by Willis Knapp Jones and Roberto Márquez


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