José Martí

My poems please the brave:
My poems, short and sincere,
Have the force of steel
Which forges swords.
Life on earth is a hand-to-hand mortal combat... between the law of love and the law of hate.

José Julián Martí Pérez (28 January 185319 May 1895) was a leader of the Cuban independence movement as well as an esteemed poet and writer. He is revered as a great national hero, and often referred to as El Apostol de la Independencia Cubana [the Apostle of Cuban Independence].

QuotesEdit

A nation is not a complex of wheels, nor a wild horse race, but a stride upward concerted by real men.
Men are products, expressions, reflections; they live to the extent that they coincide with their epoch, or to the extent that they differ markedly from it.
A grain of poetry suffices to season a century.
Mankind is composed of two sorts of men — those who love and create, and those who hate and destroy.
I am good, and like a good thing
I will die with my face to the sun.
Day and night I always dream with open eyes.
  • Life on earth is a hand-to-hand mortal combat... between the law of love and the law of hate.
    • Letter (1881), as quoted in The Conscience of Worms and the Cowardice of Lions : Cuban Politics and Culture in an American Context (1993) by Irving Louis Horowit, p. 11
  • Love is... born with the pleasure of looking at each other, it is fed with the necessity of seeing each other, it is concluded with the impossibility of separation!
    • Amor (1881)
  • Oh, what company good poets are!
    • Longfellow (1882)
  • A knowledge of different literatures is the best way to free one's self from the tyranny of any of them.
    • On Oscar Wilde (1882)
  • To beautify life is to give it an object.
    • On Oscar Wilde (1882)
  • Man needs to suffer. When he does not have real griefs he creates them. Griefs purify and prepare him.
    • "Adúltera" [Adulterous Thoughts] (1883)
  • Terrible times in which priests no longer merit the praise of poets and in which poets have not yet begun to be priests.
    • On El Poema de Niágara of Pérez Bonalde (1883)
  • A nation is not a complex of wheels, nor a wild horse race, but a stride upward concerted by real men.
    • A Glance at the North American's Soul Today (1886)
  • Men are products, expressions, reflections; they live to the extent that they coincide with their epoch, or to the extent that they differ markedly from it.
    • Henry Ward Beecher (1887)
  • A grain of poetry suffices to season a century.
    • Dedication of the Statue of Liberty (1887)
  • Hatred, slavery's inevitable aftermath.
    • Woman Suffrage (1887)
  • Others go to bed with their mistresses; I with my ideas.
    • Letter (1890)
  • Man needs to go outside himself in order to find repose and reveal himself.
    • "Vivir en Sí" [To Live in Oneself] (1891)
  • Poetry is the work of the bard and of the people who inspire him.
    • Poesia (1891)
  • The spirit of a government must be that of the country. The form of a government must come from the makeup of the country. Government is nothing but the balance of the natural elements of a country.
    • Our America (1891)
  • The whole afternoon was spent rejoicing as the demonstration spread across the city; no one walked alone for all San Juan was a single family.
    • "The Abolition of Slavery in Puerto Rico" (1893)
  • Many houses were still full of light when, at the close of March 22, the people of the Círculo returned to their homes, which were gladdened with a fleeting gladness by an hour of justice — for there are still many slaves, black and white, in Puerto Rico!
    • "The Abolition of Slavery in Puerto Rico" (1893)
  • Mankind is composed of two sorts of men — those who love and create, and those who hate and destroy.
    • "Letter to a Cuban Farmer" (1893)
  • Yo quiero salir del mundo
    por la puerta natural:
    en un carro de hojas verdes
    a morir me han de llevar.
    No me pongan en lo oscuro a morir como un traidor:
    yo soy bueno, y como bueno
    moriré de cara al sol.
    • I wish to leave the world
      By its natural door;
      In my tomb of green leaves
      They are to carry me to die.
      Do not put me in the dark
      To die like a traitor;
      I am good, and like a good thing
      I will die with my face to the sun.
    • A Morir [To Die] (1894)
  • This is the age in which hills can look down upon the mountains.
    • A Morir [To Die]
  • Only those who hate the Negro see hatred in the Negro.
    • Manifesto of Montecristi (1895)
  • I have lived in the monster and I know its insides; and my sling is the sling of David.
    • Of the United States, in a letter to Manuel Mercado (1895), as quoted in Research : The Student's Guide to Writing Research Papers (1998) by Richard Veit, p. 143
  • Rights are to be taken, not requested; seized, not begged for.
    • As quoted in Inside the Monster : Writings on the United States and American Imperialism (1975) by José Martí, as translated by Elinor Randall, p. 27
  • La patria es ara, no pedestal.
    • The motherland is an altar, not a platform.
      • As quoted in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002) translated by Esther Allen, p. xxi
  • Day and night I always dream with open eyes.
    • "I dream awake" ["Ismaelillo"]
    • As quoted in Great Hispanic-Americans (2005) by Nicolás Kanellos, Robert Rodriguez and Tamra Orr, p. 72

Our America (1881)Edit

"Nuestra América" (1881), first published in La Revista Ilustrada de Nueva York (1 January 1891), translated as "Our America" (online text)
The conceited villager believes the entire world to be his village...
To govern well, one must see things as they are.
Knowing is what counts. To know one's country and govern it with that knowledge is the only way to free it from tyranny.
One must have faith in the best in men and distrust the worst. One must allow the best to be shown so that it reveals and prevails over the worst.
The soul, equal and eternal, emanates from bodies of different shapes and colors. Whoever foments and spreads antagonism and hate between the races, sins against humanity.
  • The conceited villager believes the entire world to be his village. Provided that he can be mayor, humiliate the rival who stole his sweetheart, or add to the savings in his strongbox, he considers the universal order good, unaware of those giants with seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot, or of the strife in the heavens between comets that go through the air asleep, gulping down worlds.
  • Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones.
    There is no prow that can cut through a cloudbank of ideas. A powerful idea, waved before the world at the proper time, can stop a squadron of iron-clad ships, like the mystical flag of the Last judgement.
  • The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing! It is the time of mobilization, of marching together, and we must go forward in close ranks, like silver in the veins of the Andes.
  • To govern well, one must see things as they are.
  • Government must originate in the country. The spirit of government must be that of the country Its structure must conform to rules appropriate to the country. Good government is nothing more than the balance of the country's natural elements.
  • In nations composed of both cultured and uncultured elements, the uncultured will govern because it is their habit to attack and resolve doubts with their fists in cases where the cultured have failed in the art of governing. The uncultured masses are lazy and timid in the realm of intelligence, and they want to be governed well. But if the government hurts them, they shake it off and govern themselves.
  • Newspapers, universities and schools should encourage the study of the country's pertinent components. To know them is sufficient, without mincing words; for whoever brushes aside even a part of the truth, whether through intention or oversight, is doomed to fall. The truth he lacks thrives on negligence, and brings down whatever is built without it. It is easy to resolve our problem knowing its components than resolve them without knowing them.
  • Knowing is what counts. To know one's country and govern it with that knowledge is the only way to free it from tyranny.
  • Let the world be grafted onto our republics, but the trunk must be our own. And let the vanquished pedant hold his tongue, for there are no lands in which a man may take greater pride than in our long-suffering American republics.
  • America began to suffer, and still suffers, from the tiresome task of reconciling the hostile and discordant elements it inherited from the despotic and perverse colonizer, and the imported methods and ideas which have been retarding logical government because they are lacking in local realities. Thrown out of gear for three centuries by a power which denied men the right to use their reason, the continent disregarded or closed its ears to the unlettered throngs that helped bring it to redemption, and embarked on a government based on reason-a reason belonging to all for the common good, not the university brand of reason over the peasant brand. The problem of independence did not lie in a change of forms but in change of spirit.
  • It was imperative to make common cause with the oppressed , in order to secure a new system opposed to the ambitions and governing habits of the oppressors.
  • The youth of America are rolling up their sleeves, digging their hands in the dough, and making it rise with the sweat of their brows. They realize that there is too much imitation, and that creation holds the key to salvation. "Create" is the password of this generation. The wine is made from plantain, but even if it turns sour, it is our own wine! That a country's form of government must be in keeping with its natural elements is a foregone conclusion. Absolute ideas must take relative forms if they are not to fail because of an error in form. Freedom, to be viable, has to be sincere and complete. If a republic refuses to open its arms to all, and move ahead with all, it dies.
  • The general holds back his cavalry to a pace that suits his infantry, for if its infantry is left behind, the cavalry will be surrounded by the enemy.
  • Politics and strategy are one. Nations should live in an atmosphere of self-criticism because it is healthy, but always with one heart and one mind. Stoop to the unhappy, and lift them up in your arms! Thaw out frozen America with the fire of your hearts! Make the natural blood of the nations´ course vigorously through their veins! The new American are on their feet, saluting each other from nation to nation, the eyes of the laborers shining with joy. The natural statesman arises, schooled in the direct study of Nature. He reads to apply his knowledge, not to imitate.
  • One must have faith in the best in men and distrust the worst. One must allow the best to be shown so that it reveals and prevails over the worst. Nations should have a pillory for whoever stirs up useless hate, and another for whoever fails to tell them the truth in time.
  • There can be no racial animosity, because there are no races. The theorist and feeble thinkers string together and warm over the bookshelf races which the well-disposed observer and the fair-minded traveller vainly seek in the justice of Nature where man's universal identity springs forth from triumphant love and the turbulent huger for life. The soul, equal and eternal, emanates from bodies of different shapes and colors. Whoever foments and spreads antagonism and hate between the races, sins against humanity.

Simple Verses (1891)Edit

Versos sencillos (1891)
I am an an honest man
From where the palm tree grows,
And I want, before I die,
to cast these verses from my soul.
I come from all places
and to all places I go:
I am art among the arts
and mountain among mountains.
In night's darkness I've seen
raining down on my head
pure flames, flashing rays
of beauty divine.
Once I reveled in a destiny
like no other joy I'd known:
when the warden — reading
my death sentence — wept.
All is beautiful and unceasing,
all is music and reason,
and all, like diamond,
is carbon first, then light.
My poems are like a dagger
Sprouting flowers from the hilt...
  • Yo soy un hombre sincero
    De donde crece la palma
    Y antes de morirme quiero
    Echar mis versos del alma.
    • I am an an honest man
      From where the palm tree grows,
      And I want, before I die,
      to cast these verses from my soul.
      • I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 273, ISBN 0142437042
    • Variant translations:
    • A sincere man am I
      From the land where palm trees grow,
      And I want before I die
      My soul's verses to bestow.
    • I am a sincere man
      from where the palm tree grows,
      and before I die I wish
      to pour forth the verses from my soul.
  • I come from all places
    and to all places I go
    :
    I am art among the arts
    and mountain among mountains.

    I know the strange names
    of flowers and herbs
    and of fatal deceptions
    and magnificent griefs.

    In night's darkness I've seen
    raining down on my head
    pure flames, flashing rays
    of beauty divine.

    • I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 273
  • Wings I saw springing
    from fair women's shoulders,
    and from beneath rubble
    I've seen butterflies flutter.
    • I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 273
  • Once I reveled in a destiny
    like no other joy I'd known:
    when the warden — reading
    my death sentence — wept.
    • I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 273
  • I know that when the world
    surrenders, pallid, to repose,
    the murmur of a tranquil stream
    through the deep silence flows.
    • I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 275
  • All is beautiful and unceasing,
    all is music and reason,
    and all, like diamond,
    is carbon first, then light.
    • I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 275
  • My poems are like a dagger
    Sprouting flowers from the hilt;

    My poetry is like a fountain
    Sprinkling streams of coral water.
    • V

I Grow a White RoseEdit

I grow neither nettles nor thorns:
I grow a white rose.
"Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca" [I Grow a White Rose], said to have originally been sent to a friend who had betrayed him to the police.
  • Cultivo una rosa blanca
    En julio como en enero,
    Para el amigo sincero
    Que me da su mano franca.

    Y para el cruel que me arranca
    El corazon con que vivo,
    Cardo ni ortiga cultivo,
    Cultivo una rosa blanca.

    • I grow a white rose
      In July just as in January
      For the sincere friend
      Who gives me his frank hand.

      And for the cruel man who pulls out of me
      the heart with which I live,
      I grow neither nettles nor thorns:
      I grow a white rose.
      • As translated in Spanish-American Poetry : A Dual-language Anthology (1996) by Seymour Resnick ISBN 0486401715
    • Variant translation:
      I cultivate a white rose
      In July as in January
      For the sincere friend
      Who gives me his hand frankly.

      And for the cruel person who tears out
      the heart with which I live,
      I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
      I cultivate a white rose.

I dream of cloisters of marbleEdit

The stone eyes open;
the stone lips move;
the stone beards tremble;
they seize the sword of stone; they cry:
place the sword in the sheath!
"Sueño con claustros de mármol" [I dream of cloisters of marble]
  • Sueño con claustros de mármol
    donde en silencio divino
    los héroes, de pie, reposan;
    ¡de noche, a la luz del alma,
    hablo con ellos: de noche!
    Están en fila: paseo
    entre las filas: las manos
    de piedra les beso: abren
    los ojos de piedra: mueven
    los labios de piedra: tiemblan
    las barbas de piedra: empuñan
    la espada de piedra: lloran:
    ¡viba la espade en la vaina!
    Mudo, les beso la mano.
    • I dream of cloisters of marble
      where in divine silence
      the heroes, standing, rest;
      at night, in light of the soul,
      I speak with them: at night!
      They are in a row: I walk
      among the rows: the stone hands
      I kiss them;
      the stone eyes open;
      the stone lips move;
      the stone beards tremble;
      they seize the sword of stone; they cry:
      place the sword in the sheath!
      Mute, I kiss their hand.

The Monetary Conference of the American Republics (1891)Edit

It is not the form of things that must be attended to but their spirit. The real is what matters, not the apparent. In politics, reality is that which is unseen.
  • It is not the form of things that must be attended to but their spirit. The real is what matters, not the apparent. In politics, reality is that which is unseen. Politics is the art of combining a nation’s diverse or opposing factors to the benefit of its domestic well-being, and of saving the country from the open enmity or covetous friendship of other nations.
  • When a nation is invited to join in a union with another, the ignorant, bedazzled statesman might rush into it, young people enamored of beautiful ideas and lacking good sense might celebrate it, and venal or demented politicians might welcome it as a mercy and glorify it with servile words, but he who feels in his heart the anguish of the patria, he who watches and foresees, must investigate and must say what elements constitute the character of the nation that invites and the nation that is invited, and whether they are predisposed toward a common labor by common antecedents and habits, and whether or not it is probable that the fearsome elements of the inviting nation will, in the union it aspires to, be developed to the endangerment of the invited one.

My Race (1893)Edit

"Mi Raza", first published in Patria (16 April 1893) Full translation online
Men have no special right because they belong to one race or another: the word man defines all rights.
Everything that divides men, everything that specified, separates or pens them, is a sin against humanity.
Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor.
  • "Racist" is a confusing word, and it should be clarified. Men have no special rights simply because they belong to one race or another. When you say "men," you have already imbued them with all their rights.
    • Variant translation: Men have no special right because they belong to one race or another: the word man defines all rights.
  • Everything that divides men, everything that specified, separates or pens them, is a sin against humanity.
  • To insist on racial divisions, on racial differences, in an already divided people, is to place obstacles in the way of public and individual happiness, which can only be obtained by bringing people together as a nation.
  • What right do white racist, who believe their race is superior, have for complaining about black racists, who see something special in their own race? What right do black racists, who see a special character in their race, have for complaining about white racists? White men who think their race makes them superior to black men admit the idea of racial difference and authorize and initiate black racists. Black men who proclaim their race — when what they are really proclaiming is the spiritual identity that distinguishes one ethnic group from another — authorize and incite white racists. Peace demands of Nature the recognition of human rights; discrimination is contrary to Nature and to the enemy of peace. Whites who isolate themselves also isolate Negroes. Negroes who isolate themselves incite and isolate whites.
  • In Cuba, there is no fear of a racial war. Men are more than whites, mulattos or Negroes. Cubans are more than whites, mulattos or Negroes. On the field of battle, dying for Cuba, the souls of whites and Negroes have risen together into the air.
  • Ostentatious men who are governed by self-interest will combine, whether white or black, and the generous and selfless will similarly unite. True men, black and white, will treat one another with loyalty and tenderness, out of a sense of merit and the pride of everyone who honors the land in which we were born, black and white alike. Negroes, who now use the word "racist" in good faith, will stop using it when they realize it is the only apparently valid argument that weak men, who honestly believe that Negroes are inferior, use to deny them the full exercise of their rights as men. White and black racists would be equally guilty of racism.

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)Edit

Quotations from Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994) edited by Carlos Ripoll - (excerpts online)
Love, like the sun that it is, sets afire and melts everything.
Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.
Every human being has within him an ideal man, just as every piece of marble contains in a rough state a statue as beautiful as the one that Praxiteles the Greek made of the god Apollo.
A genuine man goes to the roots. To be a radical is no more than that: to go to the roots. He who does not see things in their depth should not call himself a radical.
Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever.
Fair ideas reach their objectives despite all obstacles and barriers. It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but impossible to stop them.
  • Liberty the essence of life. Whatever is done without it is imperfect.
  • Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist.
  • Perhaps the enemies of liberty are such only because they judge it by its loud voice. If they knew its charms, the dignity that accompanies it, how much a free man feels like a king, the perpetual inner light that is produced by decorous self-awareness and realization, perhaps there would be no greater friends of freedom than those who are its worst enemies.
  • Freedoms, like privileges, prevail or are imperiled together You cannot harm or strive to achieve one without harming or furthering all.
  • We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indifferent to human suffering, not to profit from the people, from the work created and sustained through their spirit of political association, while refusing to contribute to the political state that we profit from. We must say no once more. Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor.
  • Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand.
  • The vote is the most effective and merciful instrument that man has devised to manage his affairs.
  • Fortunately, there is a sane equilibrium in the character of nations, as there is in that of men. The force of passion is balanced by the force of interest. An insatiable appetite for glory leads to sacrifice and death, but innate instinct leads to self-preservation and life. A nation that neglects either of these forces perishes. They must be steered together, like a pair of carriage horses.
  • Peoples are made of hate and of love, and more of hate than love. But love, like the sun that it is, sets afire and melts everything.
  • The merit and strength of a people are measured by their enthusiasm for freedom when the only rewards from it are anguish and martyrdom, the blood and ashes of exile, the sorrow of a house driven by the waves, and the shame of a useless life that lacks the foundation and peace of mind needed to do one's share of the common task.
  • We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it. If I survive, I will spend my whole life at the oven door seeing that no one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson of charity, especially those who did not bring flour.
  • It is necessary to make virtue fashionable.
  • One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army.
  • Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity. He who seeks it elsewhere will not find it for, having drunk from all the glasses of life, he will find satisfaction only in those.
  • Just as he who gives his life to serve a great idea is admirable, he who avails himself of a great idea to serve his personal hopes of glory and power is abominable, even if he too risks his life. To give one's life is a right only when one gives it unselfishly.
  • Talent is a gift that brings with it an obligation to serve the world, and not ourselves, for it is not of our making. To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft. Culture, which makes talent shine, is not completely ours either, nor can we place it solely at our disposal. Rather, it belongs mainly to our country, which gave it to us, and to humanity, from which we receive it as a birthright. A selfish man is a thief.
  • He who could have been a torch and stoops to being a pair of jaws is a deserter.
  • A child, from the time he can think, should think about all he sees, should suffer for all who cannot live with honesty, should work so that all men can be honest, and should be honest himself. A child who does not think about what happens around him and is content with living without wondering whether he lives honestly is like a man who lives from a scoundrel's work and is on the road to being a scoundrel.
  • Every human being has within him an ideal man, just as every piece of marble contains in a rough state a statue as beautiful as the one that Praxiteles the Greek made of the god Apollo.
  • It is the duty of man to raise up man. One is guilty of all abjection that one does not help to relieve. Only those who spread treachery, fire, and death out of hatred for the prosperity of others are undeserving of pity.
  • There are men who live contented through they live without decorum. Others suffer as if in agony when they see around them people living without decorum. There must be a certain amount of decorum in the world, just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity.
  • Through a marvelous law of natural compensation, he who gives of himself grows, and he who turns inward and lives from small pleasures, is afraid to share them with others, and only thinks avariciously of cultivating his appetites loses his humanity and becomes loneliness itself. He carries in his breast all the dreariness of winter. He becomes in fact and appearance an insect.
  • Man is not an image engraved on a silver dollar, with covetous eyes, licking lips and a diamond pin on a silver dickey. Man is a living duty, a depository of powers that he must not leave in a brute state. Man is a wing.
  • A genuine man goes to the roots. To be a radical is no more than that: to go to the roots. He who does not see things in their depth should not call himself a radical.
  • To busy oneself with what is futile when one can do something useful, to attend to what is simple when one has the mettle to attempt what is difficult, is to strip talent of its dignity. It is a sin not to do what one is capable of doing.
  • Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever. Other famous men, those of much talk and few deeds, soon evaporate. Action is the dignity of greatness.
  • There is happiness in duty, although it may not seem so. To fulfill one's duty elevates the soul to a state of constant sweetness. Love is the bond between men, the way to teach and the center of the world.
  • In truth, men speak too much of danger. Let others be terrified by the natural and healthy risks of life! We shall not be frightened! Poison sumac grows in a hard-working man's field, the serpent hisses from its hidden den, and the owl's eye shines in the belfry, but the sun goes on lighting the sky, and truth continues marching across the earth unscathed.
  • Like stones rolling down hills, fair ideas reach their objectives despite all obstacles and barriers. It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but impossible to stop them.
  • The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women. But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible.

Quotes about MartíEdit

  • That Martí is a madman — but a dangerous madman.
    • Spanish Captain General Ramón Blanco, after hearing an address by Martí, as quoted in Inside the Monster : Writings on the United States and American Imperialism (1975) by José Martí, as translated by Elinor Randall, p. 27
  • While it is the sovereign right of the Cuban people to cherish Jose Marti as their own son of the soil it can be said honestly and accurately without the slightest disagreement from the unselfish, Cuban people that Marti belongs not only to Cuba but to all of the Americas.

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 13:38