“The distant and sullen roar of the sea scarcely broke the stillness of the night”
-Charles Darwin, Rio de Janeiro, April 8, 1832
What would have taken to break the silence?
One old woman,
who, sooner than again be led into slavery,
dashed herself to pieces from the summit
of the mountain.
“A Roman matron” she was not,
so for the explorer hers could not not be “love of freedom”.
She was, of course, “a poor negress”,
so hers was instead “mere brutal obstinacy”.
I quote, verbatim, as he wrote.
Days passed by pleasantly, in careful observation,
the natural world elevating the mind,
the vividness of light.
A few days later he would write he had no doubt
“slaves pass happy and contented lives”.
On Saturday and Sunday they work for themselves,
he said, (so they had no single day of rest),
and for the English gentleman
there was nothing wrong with this.
A few pages later, he testifies
of the inhumanity
of the separation of families;
“an uncommonly stupid” man of half-shut eyes
and frightened look,
who confused civilised gesticulation
with the master’s blow.
More lowly than a helpless animal,
this man was not his brother.
Every evening after dark,
he sat listening and often got distracted
by the passing of a flying insect.
He spent days watching little creatures buzzing around a flower.
What would have taken to break the silence of that night?