Adolf Wolff, “Songs of Rebellion, Songs of Life, Songs of Love” (1914) (selections)

p. 15

TO ESTHER

My little daughter, my masterpiece,
Child in body, mind and spirit, beautiful,
Child so much a child.
When you have blossomed into womanhood,
May you be a Judith decapitating a Holofernes,
A Joan of Arc leading a people to victory,
A Louise Michel fighting on the barricades,
A Voltairine de Cleyre singing the songs of revolt,
An Emma Goldman preaching the gospel of rebellion.
I dedicate you,
Fruit of my blood, child of my soul,
I dedicate you to the cause of emancipation,
I dedicate you to the cause of truth and justice,
I dedicate you to the Social Revolution.
May your life and your death be the scourge of tyrants
And the inspiration of those who fight for human
freedom.

p. 23

ABRAHAM

Before his father’s many gods
Stood Abraham, the Anarchist,
The father of iconoclast’s.
“Ye stupid monsters,” cried the youth,
“Your shadows shall not mar the light.
Tho’ ye be but a helpless lot,
Vile charlatans make use of you
To terrorize the hearts of men
With holy fear and make them blind,
So that the tyrants better may exploit
And subjugate the human race.”
Thus crying, did he strike them down,
Smashing them into splinters.

p. 33

TO ARTURO GIOVANNITTI

Arturo Giovannitti, fellow worker
In song and in revolt, sing on! sing on!
The battling warriors in the war of classes
Have need of your inspired, inspiring voice.
You are the rebel, leader, poet, prophet,
You have already worn the martyr’s crown.

If there be in me just one spark of envy,
It is that I was not like you in gaol.
I envied you that most supreme distinction
Of living in the shadow of the cross
With all the sacred shades of martyred rebels,
A fellow worker of departed Christs.

p. 34

AUGUSTO MASETTI

In vain I search through history’s brightest pages
For deed inspiring as yours, Masetti,
When stepping from the ranks and crying out:
“Abbasso la guerra! Evviva l’anarchia!”
You struck him down, who sent you forth to murder
Your fellow men that tyranny might rule.
Soldiers of all nations, Masetti be your captain,
And when you shoot, shoot as Masetti shot,
Shoot in the right direction.
If you shoot thus, then war and pestilence,
Poverty and crime for all time will be vanquished.

p. 48

LIFE-LUST

My mouth—the mouth of my whole being waters
For all the fruit upon the lap of Life;
The luscious fruit of Life (delicious fruit,
All running over with the juice of joy).

Life seems a banquet and my gourmand senses
Would gorge themselves with all good things thereof.
My taste, my touch, my smell, my sight, my hearing
Would drink the seasoned vintages of Life,
And relish all Life’s rarest fruits and viands.

Content to go whene’er the feast is over,
Content the feast was not prepared in vain.

p. 63

THE LIBERTY I LOATHE

I am at large, can go this way and that,
No dungeon walls, no prison bars say halt,
When roving fancies seize upon my feet.

But am I free? Can I be truly free
When that which lives within me is repressed,
When my true self in vain from deep within
Doth clamor for the right of self-expression?

What hideous mockery of freedom this!
Put me in jail, put me in jail for life,
Let bread and water be my only fare,
Make rats and spiders my associates.

But have the light into my dungeon pour
From overhead and give me clay,
Oh, give me lots of clay—the tender flesh,
The oily, tender flesh of mother earth,

Responsive as a mistress to the touch,
And I will have a feast no king e’er knew,
And taste of pleasures that the gods would envy.
And I will make unto myself a world,

A world of which myself would be the God,
A world in which my every dream and thought,
My every feeling and my every passion
Would find embodiment in plastic form.

Oh, for a prison where I could be free!

p. 81

The Leonard in the title is Leonard D. Abbot.

TO THE CHILD OF ROSE AND LEONARD

I

A Greeting

Little Voltairine de Cleyre,
Daughter of my dearest friend,
May the joy your coming brings
Stay unmarred and never end.

Little Voltairine de Cleyre,
May it be your noble fate,
Like your father to be good,
Like your namesake to be great.

Little Voltairine de Cleyre,
May you be a rising sun
Radiating light and love
Even when your day is done.

In the meantime, Baby Cleyry,
Future Voltairine de Cleyre,
Like a little imp and fairy,
Kick your feeties in the air.

p. 82

II

An Elegy

You were not—you were—you are no more,
Is this not all Fate has in store?

A day or a lifetime—what is there in age?
The fate of the book is the fate of the page.

What matters if one be a glow or a flash,
Or whether one be a dot or a dash?

To Infinitude’s eye, twixt atom and sun,
Twixt cycle and moment, distinction there’s none.

Not having lived long, you suffered the less,
So rather than curse, your fate would I bless.

p. 98

FINALE

I sing and sigh and also curse,
Thus only can I give expression
To that which will not brook repression;
I am alive, I have a voice,
And so I sing and sigh and curse—
All life doth sing and sigh and curse.

The joy of life is in my song,
I sigh for pleasures yet untasted—
For things I dream—o’er moments wasted
And sometimes interrupt my song
With clenched fist to curse a wrong—
It is a joy to curse a wrong.

And so I sing and sigh and curse—
All life doth sing and sigh and curse.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2456 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.