Sunday, May 11, 2008

A "New" Poem By José Martí Written for His Sister to Present to Their Mother "On Her Day"

A mi querida Madre en su día

¿Qué frases había que demostrarle pueda
La intensa emoción del alma mía
Hoy que ilumina de tu aurora el día
El llano tropical y la arboleda?

No pueda haber quien en ternura exceda
A la dulce expresión de mi alegria,
Y ruego a Dios que nunca ¡oh madre mía!
La nube del dolor hiera tu frente.
Que siempre pueda yo con alma ardiente
Apurar en tu alma inmaculada
Albas de luz y aromas del Oriente.

Tu hija: Ana Martí

To My Dear Mother on Her Day

What words are there that ever could convey
The deep emotion I feel in my heart
To see your halo illuminate the day,
And dawn, from tropic plain to woodland, start?

No joy more tender is there to exceed
The sweet expression of my happiness,
And I beseech God my prayer to heed
That sorrow's cloud your brow should never press
And I may always with a heart as ardent
Awaken in your own immaculate soul
The light of dawn and aromas of the Orient.

Your Daughter: Ana Martí
[Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea]

On this Mother's Day I am pleased to share with my readers this hitherto unknown poem whose authorship I have ascribed to José Martí, though it is signed by his sister Ana (Mariana Salustiana). The poem is dedicated to their mother Leonor Pérez on "su día," which was certainly her santo (Saint's Day) since neither birthdays nor Mother's Day were celebrated at the time. The poem dates from around 1866, when Martí would have been 13 and Ana 10. Since none of Martí's five sisters ever exhibited any literary inclinations or left any other poems or writings, it is not a farfetched conjecture that Martí wrote this poem for his sister to copy and present to their mother. The original, in my collection of martiana, is clearly in her handwriting, not Marti's. It also contains several neatly made corrections and additions from another hand, which we believe to be Martí's. Certainly the sophisticated style leaves no doubt as to Martí's authorship. The last line "Albas de luz y aromas del Oriente" is as characteristic of him as any line of poetry found in his writings. The precociousness of this composition, moreover, which not merely anticipates but suddenly explodes with the full bloom of Martí's genius, can leave no doubt as to our attribution.

In Seis Crónicas Inéditas de José Martí (Editorial Dos Ríos, 1997), which I had the honor to co-author with the eminent Cuban historian Carlos Ripoll, six unsigned articles by Martí were identified and translated (they had appeared originally in English in The New York Sun). These articles were later incorporated without our knowledge or consent, but, unexpectedly, with full acknowledgment to us, in volume 7 of the new "Edición Crítica" of Martí's Complete Works being currently published in Havana by the Centro de Estudios Martianos.

I consider this poem an even more important discovery than the six anonymous articles in The Sun, which, after all, were published 128 years ago in a well-known newspaper and would surely have been attributed to Martí by someone else some day, and, in any case, would never have been lost.

This poem, written on fragile tissue paper with embossed lacework borders, could have disappeared long ago and denied us this priceless example of Martí's juvenilia, of which there are very few surviving specimens. Among those is another adolescent poem dedicated to his mother as well as his earliest surviving letter, written at age 9, also written to her.


Charlie Bravo said...

Thanks Manuel, for making that poem available. The exotism of the romantic movement -as in Orientalism- gives it away as a product of the poet.

Ms Calabaza said...

Beautiful. Thanks for posting it on this special day.

Fulano de Cal said...

A special treat on this day. Thank you.

Vana said...


Truly a find, thank you for sharing with us, written by Marti no doubt about it, what a genius he was, at such tender age to be able to express himself thus!

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