A Sincere Man Am I
a poem by Jose Marti
A sincere man am I
From the land where palm trees grow,
And I want before I die
My soul’s verses to bestow.
I’m a traveller to all parts,
And a newcomer to none:
I am art among the arts,
With the mountains I am one.
I know how to name and class
All the strange flowers that grow;
I know every blade of grass,
Fatal lie and sublime woe.
I have seen through dead of night
Upon my head softly fall,
Rays formed of the purest light
From beauty celestial.
I have seen wings that were surging
From beautiful women’s shoulders,
And seen butterflies emerging
From the refuse heap that moulders.
I have known a man to live
With a dagger at his side,
And never once the name give
Of she by whose hand he died.
Twice, for an instant, did I
My soul’s reflection espy:
Twice: when my poor father died
And when she bade me good-bye.
I trembled once, when I flung
The vineyard gate, and to my dread,
The wicked hornet had stung
My little girl on the forehead.
I rejoiced once and felt lucky
The day that my jailer came
To read the death warrant to me
That bore his tears and my name.
I hear a sigh across the earth,
I hear a sigh over the deep:
It is no sign reaching my hearth,
But my son waking from sleep.
If they say I have obtained
The pick of the jeweller’s trove,
A good friend is what I’ve gained
And I have put aside love.
I have seen across the skies
A wounded eagle still flying;
I know the cubby where lies
The snake of its venom dying.
I know that the world is weak
And must soon fall to the ground,
Then the gentle brook will speak
Above the quiet profound.
While trembling with joy and dread,
I have touched with hand so bold
A once-bright star that fell dead
From heaven at my threshold.
On my brave heart is engraved
The sorrow hidden from all eyes:
The son of a land enslaved,
Lives for it, suffers and dies.
All is beautiful and right,
All is as music and reason;
And all, like diamonds, is light
That was coal before its season.
I know when fools are laid to rest
Honor and tears will abound,
And that of all fruits, the best
Is left to rot in holy ground.
Without a word, the pompous muse
I’ve set aside, and understood:
From a withered branch, I choose
To hang my doctoral hood.
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