The Book of American Negro Poetry/Plácido's Farewell to his Mother


(Written in the Chapel of the Hospital de Santa Cristina
on the Night Before His Execution

If the unfortunate fate engulfing me,
The ending of my history of grief,
The closing of my span of years so brief,
Mother, should wake a single pang in thee.
Weep not. No saddening thought to me devote;
I calmly go to a death that is glory-filled.
My lyre before it is forever stilled
Breathes out to thee its last and dying note.

A note scarce more than a burden-easing sigh.
Tender and sacred, innocent, sincere—
Spontaneous and instinctive as the cry
I gave at birth—And now the hour is here—
O God, thy mantle of mercy o'er my sins!
Mother, farewell! The pilgrimage begins.
Translated by James Weldon Johnson.