“For Haiti, for the Ancestors: A Poem for National Renewal and Ecological Rehabilitation”
In 1839, the brilliant Haitian poet and storyteller Ignace Nau (1808-1845), published an impressive lyrical poem that exhibits thick patriotic zeal and affectionate Haitian nationalism. In the poem, “Dessalines, à ce nom, amis, découvrons nous” (“Dessalines! . . . At that name, doff hats, my friends!”), Nau pays homage to the founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines, whose effective leadership and military genius guided the Indigenist army (the name of the African military that fought the army of the French Empire in 1803) to emancipate the enslaved African population from chattel slavery and the French colonial system toward freedom and independence. In the poem, Ignace Nau, writing with a sense of high optimism toward the new and young nation of Haiti (that was only 35 years old!) and the new citizens of this great land, imagined the possibility of ecological rebirth and national restoration in his native land of Haiti. He foresaw the blossoming of a new ecology and the restoration of the country’s natural resources and beauty. The colonial conquest and wrongful domination of nature in Haiti had deferred the growth of the country’s flora and non-human creations. Chattel slavery and the colonial system had brought a curse on nature. Below, I share this stanza with you:
“—Oh! Demain le soleil se lèvera plus plur
Et plus majestueux dans sa courbe d’azur!
L’oiseau nous chantera des chants d’amour encore,
La voix de nos forêts redeviendra sonore,
Et nos fleuves taris jailliront en torrents,
Et nos lacs rouleront des flots plus transparents,
Et toi, peuple héroïque, et toi, mon beau génie,
Demain vous saluerez une ere d’harmonie!”
“Oh! Tomorrow the sun will rise more!
And more majestic in its azure curve!
The bird will sing us love songs again,
The voice of our forests will become sound again,
And our rivers will flow out in torrents,
And our lakes will roll more transparent streams,
And you, heroic people, and you, my beautiful genie,
Tomorrow, you will greet an era of harmony!
In 1839, in his patriotic verse, the great Haitian writer Ignace Nau sang loudly “Ayiti pap peri”/”Haiti will not die.”