I shall not attempt to translate the poem into a poem but to explore the original Spanish text verse by verse.
¡Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,
Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más florida,
También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien.
The Derbyshire translation, the earliest but not necessarily, the most accurate has it:
Farewell, dear Fatherland, clime of the sun caress’d
Pearl of the Orient seas, our Eden lost!,
Gladly now I go to give thee this faded life’s best,
And were it brighter, fresher, or more blest
Still would I give it thee, nor count the cost (Derbyshire)
The term ‘Fatherland’ is less popular today, bearing as it does association with the Nazis of WW2 but ‘motherland’, as some translations indeed have it, is more correct because ‘Patria’ is a feminine noun. Some translations use ‘country’ which, while not incorrect does not have the overtones of Patria.
Patria here is a holistic term involving more than physical location and borders, it is everything within it that makes the nation and identifies its people and its values, all those things which are seen as unique to it. Patria is the mother-entity which bore us, gave us birth and nurtured and nursed us into being and to which we owe love and loyalty as we do our own mothers and our adoration, which goes beyond love.
“región del sol querida”, introduces the male principle, the Sun, which sustains and loves the female principle, the Patria. Patria is the Sun’s beloved, its ‘querida’. This un can also be read as liwanag, the enlightenment that leads to redemption and liberty.
Note the singularity of Patria and región. This Patria is not a mere aggregation of people and places but a single, unified whole inherently deserving our love and loyalty.
“Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!” translates easily enough: “Pearl of the Oriente (Eastern) Sea, our lost Eden!” A pearl has beauty and worth but it remains hidden and inaccessible within its shell until we make the effort to seek it out, we must struggle to find it.
The lost Eden harks back to Rizal’s vision of the untainted pre-Hispanic Philippines, an imaginary time of purity and innocence. Yet there is more: in the biblical story, the serpent persuades Eve to surrender her innocence and she then persuades Adam to surrender his and as a result God expels them from the Garden of Eden. The Serpent and Eve echo the famous Blood Compact of Sikatuna and a variety of treaties and alliances through which the Spanish ‘seduced’ the Filipinos and the Filipinos surrendered their innocence and thereby lost their Eden.
Thus, the pearl, the thing of beauty and worth, the Eden, is shuttered and inaccessible within its shell and we must struggle to find the pearl and make it ours.
“A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,” here I have to proceed cautiously. The readings I have for this line differ significantly from virtually every other translation: “I will give you happiness in your sad life” rather than “Gladly now I go to give thee this faded life’s best” in the Derbyshire translation but most others seem to follow a similar line. Rizal now introduces himself as an actor in the poem, one who is offering happiness to the Patria’s sad life.
The penultimate line – “Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más florida,” – is translated in Derbyshire, and in sense elsewhere, as “And were it brighter, fresher, or more blest…” Yet the Spanish has the clear sense of “Outside, it is brighter, fresher, more flowery (or, to coin a word perhaps, flower-ful)”. This reading places Rizal in his location: a dark prison cell away from the brightness, freshness and the flowers. It also places the reader on the outside of the cell, as if to say ‘look around you, this is what this I about’.
In the final line of the verse, Rizal, having introduced himself and his location and located the reader on the outside, now addresses the reader directly as an individual – “También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien” – “Also for you I gave it, I gave to for your good”. He has changed focus from the whole of the Patria to the single individual reader, for whom he is also giving his life. Rizal is not seeking sympathy or laying a guilt-trip on the reader (i.e. I gave for your sake), but emphasizing that it is for the reader’s good, something that the reader should learn from and benefit from.
To be continued