Love and Devotion
To Miss Ida B. Wells
Victor E. Rillieux
This text is presented in
the framework of the project "The
stories that history tells us: Afro-Créole literature from 19th Century
A Parade of Heroines: V.E. Rillieux’s “Love and Devotion”
All for humanity! All for God! Nothing for oneself!
Such is, of devotion, the inalienable law!—
To calm the wound,
To dry the tears, to protect the orphan,
To smother injustice and brave the assassin,
One must have a sure soul!
For this noble cause, oh divine harmony,
In your fires I come to chasten my song!
A glorious angel
Came into the world! And her scorned race,
Asks my feeble pen to compose
This song of praise.
In Bethulia, in yesteryear, an honest maiden,
Grew proud and intrepid like you;
And the story of Judith
Striking down Holophernes at the walls of her nation
Reaches us! And her infinite glory
Eternally shines at its zenith.
Centuries later, in the fair land of France,
A people in mourning ask God for deliverance:
Joan of Arc appeared!
Unsullied, invincible,--to battle she flies!-
From the crown of her pyre
An eternal halo casts a brilliant light!
But you, brown-skinned virgin in the land of the savage,
With your voice, you fight! Then, like a vision,
Your heart, in the first rank,
Illuminates the noble armies
Without leaving upon the ground touched by your steps
A long trail of blood. Oh! Never!
Because your race, abhorring all crime,
Of the two roles, chooses the role of victim
Over that of thieves,
Whose rifles, lynchings, fires, gallows,
And somber misdeeds are blessed by intolerance
Across the South!
Speak then! Let your oppressed soul
Tell a horrified Europe, once and again,
The horrible fate of your people,
That a young America, adept at torture,
Offers up each day to the God of injustice!
Idol of the pagans!
Judith and Joan of Arc illuminate your way!
Already the White Cap awakens in fright;
But for their Ida Wells,
A loving and valorous people, bent in suffering,
Implores of the All-Powerful