Across the Ocean's rolling expanse
I send you a song, as it were a seagull, oh John!...
Its flight will be long to the Land
Of the Free -- for it's now doubtful whether it will arrive...
-- Or whether, as a ray from your noble grey hair,
White -- on an empty scaffold alights:
That your hangman's son with child's hand
May cast stones at the guest seagull.
Then the ropes will tell whether
Your bare neck is unyielding;
Then you will try the ground under your heels,
That you may kick away this debased planet --
And the dirt from beneath your feet, as a frightened reptile
(ind) Then will they utter: "Hanged..." --
They will speak and wonder among themselves, could this be a lie?
Then, before they place the hat on your face,
That America, having recognized her son,
Will not shout at her twelve stars:
"Extinguish the feigned fires of my crown,
Night falls -- a black night with the face of a Negro!"
Then, before Kosciuszko's phantom and Washington's
Quake -- accept the beginning of the song, oh John...
For while the song matures, sometimes a man will die,
But before the song dies, a nation will first arise.
-translated by Walter Whipple