Juan Francisco Manzano Poems >>
To Cuba

CUBA, of what avail that thou art fair!
            Pearl of the seas, the pride of the Antilles!
            If thy poor sons, have still to see thee share
            The pangs of bondage, and its thousand ills;
            Of what avail the verdure of thy hills?
            The purple bloom the coffee plain displays
            Thy canes luxuriant growth; whose culture fills
            More graves than famine, or the swords find ways
            To glut with victims calmly as it slays.

            Of what avail that thy sweet streams abound
            With precious ore: if wealth there's none to buy,
            Thy children's rights, and not one grain is found
            For learning's shrine, or for the altar nigh,

            Of poor, forsaken, downcast liberty!
            Of what avail the riches of thy port,
            Forests of masts, and ships from every sea,
            If trade alone is free, and man the sport,
            The spoil of trade, bears wrongs of ev'ry sort?

            Oh, if the name of Cuban! makes my breast
            Thrill with a moment's pride, that soon is o'er,
            Or throb with joy to dream that thou art blest!
            Thy sons were free--thy soil unstained with gore.
            Reproach awakes me, to assail once more,
            And taint that name, as if the loathsome pest
            That spreads from slavery had seized the core,
            Polluting both th' oppressor and the oppressed:--
            Yet God be thanked, it has not reached my breast.

            'Tis not alone the wretched negro's fate
            That calls for pity, sad as it may be;
            There's more to weep for in that hapless state
            Of men who proudly boast that they are free,
            Whose moral sense is warped to that degree,
            That self-debasement seems to them unknown,
            And life's sole object, is for means to play,
            To roll a carriage, or to seek renown
            In all the futile follies of the town.

            Cuba! canst thou, my own beloved land,
            Counsel thy children to withhold a curse,
            And call to mind the deeds of that fell band
            Whose boasted conquests, mark one frightful course
            Of spoil and plunder, wrung by fraud or force;
            Of human carnage in religious gear,
            Of peace destroyed--defenceless people worse
            Than rudely outraged, nay, reserved to wear
            Their lives away in bondage and despair?

            To think unmoved of millions of our race,
            Swept from thy soil by cruelties prolonged,
            Another clime then ravaged to replace
            The wretched Indians; Africa then wronged
            To fill the void where myriads lately thronged,
            And add new guilt to that long list of crimes,
            That cries aloud, in accents trumpet-tongued,
            And shakes the cloud that gathers o'er these climes,
            Portending evil and disastrous times.

            Cuba, oh, Cuba, when they call thee fair!
            And rich and beautiful, the Queen of isles!
            Star of the West, and ocean's gem most rare!
            Oh, say to them who mock thee with such wiles

            Take of these flowers, and view these lifeless spoils
            That wait the worm; behold the hues beneath
            The pale cold cheek, and seek for living smiles,
            Where beauty lies not in the arms of death,
            And bondage taints not with its poisoned breath.