Si sobre mi sepulcro vieres brotar un día
Entre la espesa yerba sencilla, humilde flor,
Acércala a tus labios y besa al alma mía,
Y sienta yo en mi frente bajo la tumba fría,
De tu ternura el soplo, de tu hálito el calor.
If over my grave some day thou seest grow,
In the grassy sod, a humble flower,
Draw it to thy lips and kiss my soul so,
While I may feel on my brow in the cold tomb below
The touch of thy tenderness, thy breath’s warm power.
Here Rizal has transitioned into his afterlife, or lack of it. In Christian mythology the body remains in the grave until the day of resurrection and a physical, not metaphysical arising from the grave, these appear not to be referenced in Rizal’s verse here or elsewhere.
The qualifying ‘Si’ – ‘If’ on the first line is in one sense odd. Since nature is itself an element of the motherland, the spirit of the land, why should a flower not grow there when it is within the power for her to provide one? Yet here the flower seems almost accidental.
In days gone by, visitors noted a generosity among Filipinos. If one expressed admiration for, say, an ornament in a house it was likely to be given to you. Perhaps the small flower represents the recognition that Rizal undoubtedly sought for he was well aware that he was a historical figure.
Why the thick grass, among which the flower might grow? Outside large, formal cemeteries graves in the Philippines receive little attention except at All Souls/All Saints when graves are cleaned and tended and the family of the departed hold a gathering/vigil which, more often than not, includes direct or indirect conversations with the dead.
Rizal had a clear image of his grave. He asked his family for a simple plot, with the option of a fence around it, and a cross, that’s all. That is what he describes here. Today, of course, his grave is what is popularly called the Rizal Monument but should more properly be called the Rizal Tomb since that is where his remains are buried. Not only were his wishes ignored but even his essence has been removed from his grave by dubbing it a monument. His wishes, his words, his ‘Rizalness’ have been effaced and removed from consciousness.
In this verse, the image is of an untended grave, perhaps forgotten by his countrymen. At the same time, the packed grass may also represent the fertility of the motherland, the growth of liberty, those common tao – the grassroots – who also struggled for the Patria. With the redemption of the Patria his task is ended and becomes forgotten, as the real flesh and blood Rizal has largely been forgotten.
He asked little of his country. No monuments, no parades, no streets or schools in his name, just a fond kiss and a warm breathe, a recognition that he existed.
Deja a la luna verme con luz tranquila y suave,
Deja que el alba envíe su resplandor fugaz,
Deja gemir al viento con su murmullo grave,
Y si desciende y posa sobre mi cruz un ave,
Deja que el ave entone su cántico de paz.
Let the moon beam over me soft and serene,
Let the dawn shed over me its radiant flashes,
Let the wind with sad lament over me keen;
And if on my cross a bird should be seen,
Let it trill there its hymn of peace to my ashes.
The moon makes its first appearance here and perhaps with more reason than mere romantic imagery. The moon is associated with femininity and feminine deity, she shines by the light of the sun, a male element, yet it is a light that she transforms. Compare earlier verses and the reference to the ‘(friar’s) cowl of gloom’. No stars or moon can be seen through such a cowl, yet here the moon shines brightly, the cowl, ie. The friars have gone and the Patria is free to shine her light.
Here also is a repetition of the imagery of the dawn, the dawn of redemption, now shining its light over his grave. Although he refers to the night, ie., the moon, and the dawn, he does not refer to the day, perhaps because the day of liberation is already here.
Only the wind, impersonal, will lament over his grave. Again he uses a qualifying ‘si’ – ‘if’ when writing of the bird that may rest on the cross above him. It does not lament him but sings of peace, the peace that comes with liberation and the peace with which he rests below.