'Mèsi Papa Desalin' poem by Morisseau-Leroy

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Félix Morisseau-Leroy
'Mèsi Papa Desalin' (Thank you Father Dessalines) is a famous poem by Félix Morisseau-Leroy (Kreyòl: Feliks Moriso-Lewa) (March 13, 1912 Grand-Gosier - September 5, 1998 Miami), it was written in 1979.

This poem in honoring Jean-Jacques Dessalines shows in which regard Dessalines is held until this day, over 200 years after his victory over the French army under General Rochambeau (in 1803), which led to the Haitian proclamation of independence.

The poem also illustrates the difference between foreigners of European descent, who often highlight Dessalines killings of French colonialists, and Haitians and others of African descent for which Dessalines achievements in the fight for freedom from colonial oppression and the lasting impact on the African diaspora are dominant.

The contemporary view of Dessalines and his struggle for Haiti's independence, which this poem illustrates, gives a small glimpse of how large the events of 1804 and their protagonists loom in everyday Haitian life.

'Mèsi Papa Desalin'

Kreyòl Version

Portrait of Dessalines.
Flag of Haiti.
Note: For an translation into English, see the link below.

Mèsi papa Desalin 1

Papa Desalin, mèsi
Chak fwa m’ santi sa-m ye
M’ di mèsi, Desalin
Chak fwa m’ tande youn nèg koloni
Ki poko lib pale
M’di: Desalin, mèsi
Se mwen k’ konnen sa ou ye pou mwen
Mèsi, papa Desalin
Si m’ youn nonm
Se pou m’ di : mèsi, Desalin
Si m’ ouvè je-m gade
Se gras a ou, Desalin
Si m’ leve tèt mwen pou m’ mache
Se gras a ou, Desalin
Chak fwa m’ gade lòt nèg
M’ di mèsi, Desalin
Lè m’ wè sa k’ ap pase lòt kote
M’ di: mèsi, Desalin
Lè m’ tande kèk nèg parèy mwen pale
M’ di: mèsi, papa Desalin
Se mwen k’ konnen sa ou ye pou mwen
Towo Desalin
Desalin, san mwen
Desalin, de grenn je-m
Desalin, zantray mwen
Se mwen k’ konnen
Se pou tout nèg di:
Mèsi Desalin
Se ou k’ montre nou chimen nou
Mèsi Desalin
Se ou k’ limyè nou
Se ou ki ban–n tè n’ ap pile a
Syèl ki sou tèt nou an
Pyebwa, larivyè
Lanmè, letan, se ou
Desalin, se ou k’ ban-n solèy
Ki ban-n lalin
Ou ki ban-n sè, frè-n
Manman, papa-n, pitit nou
Se ou ki fè-n youn jan youn mannyè
Nou pa kou tout nèg
Si m' gade tout mounn nan je
Se ou k’ ap gade yo, Desalin
Se ou ki ban-n dlo pou n’ bwè
Ou ki ban-n manje pou n’ manje
Mèsi, papa Desalin.
Epi, se ou ki ban-n kay pou n’rete
Ou ki ban-n kote pou n’ fè jaden
Se ou k’ montre-n chante
Ou k’ montre-n di: non
Yo di gan nèg ki di: wi,wi.
Gan nèg ki di: yèssè
Ou montre-n di: non
Desalin, montre tout nèg
Tout nèg sou latè di: non
Mèsi, papa Desalin
Gan nèg ki vle esplike:
“Tan jodi pa tan pase
E ke wi alèkile
La fraternité humaine
L’ humanité, la civilisation”
Tou sa, se franse
Mwen menm, se Desalin m’ konnen
M’ di: mèsi, papa-m
Se ou k’ fè-m
Manman-m se pitit ou
Tigason, tifi, se pitit ou tou
Mèsi, Desalin
Pitit-pitit mwen, se pitit ou
Wa Desalin, mèsi
M’ pa bezwen pale pou drapo a!
Pa bezwen pale pou Lakayè
Pou Gonayiv!
Yo di sa deja
E ki mounn k’ ap tande sa ankò?
Mès rekwiyèm 17 oktòb?
Ki mounn ki pral Katedral?
Diskou Minis?
Ki mounn k’ap koute sa?
Men, sa m’ di la a
Se youn sèl mo: mèsi
Mèsi Desalin papa-m
Gan mounn ki pa konnen
Fò m’ di yo
San ou nou pa ta la a
Mèsi, papa Desalin
Epi, fini ak Patè Nostè-w la a
Monseyè, Desalin pa mouri
Ase pale franse, Minis
Desalin pap janm mouri
Desalin la
Nèg sa a ta ka mouri!
Desalin nan kè-m
Desalin ap veye
Youn jou Desalin va leve
Jou sa a, nou tout n’ a konnen
N’ a konnen si 1804
N’ a konnen si Lakayè
N’ a konnen si Lakrèt-a-Pyewo
N’ a konnen si Vètyè
Desalin te fè tou sa
Pou ti nèg ekri powèm
Pou Minis fè diskou
Pou pè chante Te Deoum
Pou Monseyè bay labsout
Desalin pa bezwen labsout
Tou sa Desalin fè bon
Youn jou Desalin va leve
W’ a tande nan tout lanmè Karayib
Y’ape rele kote-l
Desalin pran lèzam
Lè a, w’ a tande vwa-l kon loray
Tout nèg koupe tèt boule kay
W’ a tande nnan tout Lamerik
Y’ ape rele: rete-l
Vwa Desalin deja an radyo
Koupe tèt boule kay
Nan tout "Harlem" Desalin ap mete lòd
W’ a tande: bare Desalin
Jouk "Dakar"
Jouk "Johannesburg"
W’ a tande: kote Desalin pase?
Koupe tèt boule kay
Desalin pa bezwen labsout
Pa bezwen padon Bondye
Okontrè: Desalin se bra Bondye
Desalin, se jistis Bondye
Pa bezwen Patè Nostè Monseyè
Ni eskiz nèg yo vle mande blan a yo
Desalin pa bezwen
Pou tou sa l’ fè m’ di: papa Desalin, mèsi
Pou tou sa l’ pral fè
M’ di: mèsi, papa Desalin

Note 1: Tèks sa a ekri daprè òtograf lwa 18 sektanm 1979 la.

English Version

Thank you Father Dessalines* by Morisseau-Leroy

Thank you Dessalines,
Father Dessalines, thank you

When I realize who I am today
I say Thank you, Dessalines

Every time I hear a colonized Negro,
A Negro that is still captive of censorship
I say : Thank you, Father Dessalines
Only I, know what you mean to me
Thank you, Father Dessalines

If I am a whole human being today
I have to say: Thank you Father Dessalines

If I can open my eyes and look at my surroundings
It is thanks to you, Dessalines

If I walk with my head up high
It is thanks to you, Dessalines

Every time I look at another Negro
I say : Thank you Dessalines

When I look at what’s happening in the world
I say : Thank you, Dessalines

When I hear the White men’s voices
I say : Father Dessalines, thank you

When I hear my brothers and sisters
I say : Thank you, Father Dessalines

Only I, know, what you mean to me
Mighty Dessalines,
Dessalines, my blood,
Dessalines, apple of my eye
Dessalines, my womb

Only I know why
All Negroes must say
Thank you Dessalines,
You showed us the way
Thank you Dessalines
You are our guiding light

You gave us the earth we walk on
The skies over our heads,
The trees, the rivers
The sea, the ponds, it is all you,
Dessalines, it is you who gave us the Sun
The Moon,
You gave us our brothers, our sisters
Our mothers, our fathers, our children

It is you who shaped us this way
Who thought us to be unique

We are not like other Negroes

When I look people straight in the eye
It is you who is looking at them, Dessalines

It is you who gives us water and who quenches our thirst
It is you who gives us food and satisfies our hunger
Thank you, Father Dessalines

And, it is you who gives us shelter
The earth we harvest

It is you who taught us to sing

It is you who taught us to say : NO

They say some Negroes say : yes, yes!
Other says: Yes, master !
You taught us to say : NO!

Dessalines taught all Negroes on earth how to say : NO
Thank you, Father Dessalines

Some Negroes try to explain
That today does not resemble yesterday
And that now,
Human fraternity,
Humanity, civilization,
All that is gibberish!

All I know is Dessalines!
I say : Thank you, dear father

You gave me life
My mother is your daughter
Young boys and young girls are your children
Thank you, Dessalines

My grandchildren are your children
King Dessalines, thank you

No need to mention our flag!
No need to evoke Arcahaie
And Gonaïves

We already mentioned it!
Who needs to hear it again?

October 17th requiem mass?
Who visits the cathedral?

The Minister’s speech? Who will listen to it?

As far as I am concerned
I will say one word : thank you
Thank you Father Dessalines

Some do not know,
I must tell them
That without you we would not exist
Thank you, Father Dessalines

Let us finish with our Pater noster
Your Eminence, Dessalines is not dead

Stop speaking French, Minister
Dessalines will never die
Dessalines is amongst us
This man cannot die!

Dessalines is in my heart
Ready to fight

He’s watching

The day will come when Dessalines will rise
That day, everyone will know

We will know if Dessalines made
And Vertières
So our writers could write poetry
So our ministers could say speeches
So our priests could sing Te Deum
So Your Eminence could give absolution

Dessalines does not need absolution
All that Dessalines accomplished is respectable

One day Dessalines will rise
And shouts will come from the Caribbean sea
Asking : Where is he?
Dessalines took his weapons
Arrest him!
At that moment, we will hear his voice like thunder
At the signal: Decapitate them, burn their houses!
They will ask that he be arrested

Dessalines’ voice will already be on the air
Decapitate them, burn their houses!

In Harlem, Dessalines is putting the house in order
We will hear : Arrest him!

All the way to Dakar
All the way to Johannesburg
We will hear : where has Dessalines gone?
Decapitate them, burn their houses?
Dessalines does not need absolution
Dessalines does not need God’s forgiveness

On the contrary : Dessalines is God’s hand
Dessalines is God’s justice

He does not need Your Eminence’s Pater noster

Some men are requesting the White men’s excuses

Dessalines does not need these actions

For all Dessalines accomplished : Father Dessalines, thank you
For all he will do
I say: Thank you , Father Dessalines.

* Translated by Marie-Hélène Destiné

Books by Morisseau-Leroy in English

  • Morriseau-Leroy, Felix and Constantine, Peter. (2003) Three Haitian Creole Tales. St. Paul, MN: Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. (paper) ISBN 1931243220.

See also

  • Haitian Revolutionary Battles with decisive participation of Dessalines:
    • Battle of Crète-à-Pierrot - One of the fiercest battles against the French troops (1802)
    • Battle of Vertières - The final and victorious battle before independence (1803)
  • La Dessalinienne - Haitian national anthem named in honor of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.


External links