From “Castro Alves from Brazil” by Pablo Neruda
Castro Alves from Brazil, for whom did you sing?
Did you sing for the flower? For the water
whose beauty whispered words to the stones?
Did you sing to the eyes, to the torn profile
of the woman you once loved? For the spring?
Yes, but those petals were not dewed,
those black waters had no words,
those eyes were those who saw death,
still burning the tortures behind love,
Spring was splashed with blood.
I sang for the slaves…
They travelled, and bled
leaving us the weight of a stolen blood.
I sang in those days against the inferno,
against the sharp languages of greed,
against the gold drenched in the torment,
against the hand that raised the whip,
against the maestros of darkness.
The light, the night, the sky were covered in tears…
and it was my voice the only one to fill the silence…
I sang for those who had no voice.
My voice hit doors that until then were closed
so that, fighting, Freedom could be let in.
Castro Alves from Brazil…
Your voice joined the eternal and loud voice of the men.
You sang well. You sang how it must be sung.
That poem is about 19th century Brazilian playwright Castro Alves, who fought the slave trade thru his abolitionist poetry. The slave trade we fight today is a different breed. The brothels of Sonagachi, sweatshops and forced labor don’t resemble the slave ships of old cruising the Atlantic, but the realities today are no less horrific, and the numbers of slaves in the world are higher than ever before in history.
May we too “sing for those who have no voice.” May we “sing well… how it must be sung.”