Bob's Philippines Blog

  • 11:53:16 am on July 1, 2007 | 6

    Verse 7

    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.

     

    Verse 8

     

    Deja que el sol, ardiendo, las lluvias evapore

    Y al cielo tornen puras, con mi clamor en pos;

    Deja que un ser amigo mi fin temprano llore

    Y en las serenas tardes cuando por mí alguien ore,

    ¡Ora también, oh Patria, por mi descanso a Dios!

     

    Let the sun draw the vapors up to the sky,

    And heavenward in purity bear my tardy protest;

    Let some kind soul o’er my untimely fate sigh

    And in the still evening a prayer be lifted on high

    From thee, O my country, that in God, I may rest.

     

    Again we have the male principle, the Sun and the female principle, the Earth. The Sun evaporates the water from the Earth, cleansing it, in doing so the water rises, taking with it Rizal’s last cry, itself pure and unsullied, part of his spirit.

     

    “Let a friend grieve for my early death” says line three. Here Rizal may be subtly reminding us of why he died – for the redemption of his country, one could hardly grieve over his earl death without giving pause to why he died.

     

    The penultimate line reads better as “When someone prays for me in the serene afternoon, which to a modern reader may mean little. There was only one moment each afternoon when stillness and serenity ruled at the time of Rizal’s death – at the ringing of the Angelus when prayers were made, which very devout Catholics still make, to the incarnation of God in Christ. Christ, of course, was executed in his 30s for the redemption of mankind just as Rizal was executed for the redemption of his country.

     

    To many Filipinos, Rizal appear as a Christlike figure and it is not far-fetched to suggest that in these lines, Rizal himself drew the same parallel.

     

    Rizal’s relationship with God, and he certainly believed in a deity, has been subject to much controversy. From his letters, especially those to his mother, who was much concerned with which neighbourhood her son would end up in the hereafter, he believed God to be humane and rational, a reasoning Almighty who would recognize that Rizal’s intentions were good, even if he upset members of the Catholic church. In other words, he believed he could make peace with God, hence the last line of this stanza.

     

    Verse 9

     

    Ora por todos cuantos murieron sin ventura,

    Por cuantos padecieron tormentos sin igual,

    Por nuestras pobres madres que gimen su amargura;

    Por huérfanos y viudas, por presos en tortura

    Y ora por ti que veas tu redención final.

     

    Pray for all those that hapless have died,

    For all who have suffered the unmeasur’d pain;

    For our mothers that bitterly their woes have cried,

    For widows and orphans, for captives by torture tried,

    And then for thyself that redemption thou mayst gain.

     

    Rizal asks the Patria to pray for various groups of the deceased who have died, it is apparent contextually, in pursuit of the revolution against Spain, leading off with those who have died ‘in ventura’, probably here best interpreted as those who have died with achieving their goal, or at least before that goal can be achieved.

     

    The Derbyshire translation uses ‘unmeasur’d pain’ in place of the Spanish ‘tormentos sin igual’ in line two which is probably inadequate. Torment would include the pain of separation from family that is a necessary concomitant of the warrior, the pain of the family itself not knowing whether their loved one is alive or not, the pain of actual injury and disease at a when then, even by contemporary standards, the available medical care among the warriors was at best rudimentary. There is also the torment of living in the field. These are not the torments of actual battle, but the hardships that must be endured.

     

    In the mother-orientated culture of the Filipino male it is not surprising that Rizal gives more time to mothers than other family members, a whole line for mothers, a third of a line each for orphan and widows. In the latter case he links them to prisoners being tortured. What we have here is the pain of entire families who fathers, brothers and sons are fighting, dying, being incarcerated and tortured. It isn’t only those whose fight that must withstand suffering, but those at home, too.

     

    Lastly, he appeals to the Patria to pray for her own ‘redención final’, her final redemption. Struggle, whether as a violent revolution or the seeking of liberty by other means, is a process of redemption, it is only when that process is complete, and the Patria free, that the redemption is ‘final’.

     

     

    Verse 10

     

    Y cuando en noche oscura se envuelva el cementerio

    Y solos sólo muertos queden velando allí,

    No turbes su reposo, no turbes el misterio,

    Tal vez acordes oigas de cítara o salterio,

    Soy yo, querida Patria, yo que te canto a ti.

     

    And when the dark night wraps the graveyard around

    With only the dead in their vigil to see,

    Break not my repose or the mystery profound,

    And perchance thou mayst hear a sad hymn resound;

    ‘Tis I, O my country, raising a song unto thee.

     

    This verse doesn’t really appear to belong here.  It would have been more appropriate one or two verses earlier, or at least before verse 10.  Perhaps  it is a sign of hurried composition, something written without the proper editing that marks a great writer – one French novelist wrote to a friend an apologized about it’s length ‘I didn’t have time to make it shorter’. I would suggest that the present verse 9 is out of place and may have been written later that other verse.

     

    Rizal has previously talked about his grave alone and desolate. Now there is a cemetery. Derbyshire’s line ‘Break not my repose’ is wrong, ‘my’ should be ‘their’. In earlier verses Rizal used repetition for emphasis – Salud… Salud – Deja…Deja, and here uses it again with “No turbes su reposos, no tubes el misterio” – do not disturb their repose, no not disturb the mystery”.

     

    With a classical education, Rizal would have been familiar with the derivation of ‘mystery’ from the Greek ‘mystērion’ in the sense of a divine secret or divine knowledge known only to initiates and revealed through ritual, it is still used in that sense in the Catholic mass, the Catholic mysteries being ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is born again’. Death is a mystery in itself , now revealed to those in the cemetery.

     

    Derbyshire appears to depart almost entirely from Rizal’s Spanish text in the fourth line, where Rizal talks of the Patria hearing the note of a psalter or zither, there is no mention of a sad hymn at all and, indeed, as the final line shows, this is a song sung in praise to Patria so there is no rationale for sadness.

     

    The choice of the psalter, a guitar-like stringed instrument played with the bare fingers, is interesting because, apart from being a musical instrument it is also the biblical Book of Psalms. In the Old Testament English translation the term ‘psalter’ is often used instead of harp, which is more correct. Unlike the psalter or the zither, the biblical harp does not have a soundbox.

     

    The Psalter, then, has religious connotations. The Patria was Rizal’s religion, her redemption the object of that religion just as the redemption of man from sin is the object of the Catholic religion. The last line of Verse three makes this even more clear.

     

    The zither is another stringed instrument, and also confused in the Old Testament with the harp. It has a squarish, flat soundbox and is plucked with fingers or, in some versions, with a mallet or plectrum, again it is mentioned in the bible in place of the harp.

     

    In a sense, Rizal is talking of singing a hymn, one of praise to the Patria as is explicit in his last line.

     

    Again, Rizal use repetition for emphasis as in the third line, which is better translated as “It is I, beloved Patria, it is I who sing the song to you”.

     

    Alone among the dead, then, Rizal praises the Patria as Catholics praise Mary.

     

    Verse 11

     

    Y cuando ya mi tumba de todos olvidada

    No tenga cruz ni piedra que marquen su lugar,

    Deja que la are el hombre, la esparza con la azada,

    Y mis cenizas, antes que vuelvan a la nada,

    El polvo de tu alfombra que vayan a formar.

     

    And even my grave is remembered no more,

    Unmark’d by never a cross nor a stone,

    Let the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o’er

    That my ashes may carpet the earthly floor,

    Before into nothingness at last they are blown.

     

    Little clarification is needed here. When his grave and the signs that marked it are long gone he wants his ashes spread by the plough and the spade to carpet Filipinas, to become one with it, with his beloved. A second thread here is that the ashes are his physical remains, his thoughts, words and philosophy are his intellectual remains. The symbolic ashes can also be seen as the remains of Rizal’s thoughts being spread across Filipinas, to fertilize the new, free country long after he himself is forgotten.

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Comments

  • Joy Espinosa 11:58 pm on September 19, 2010 | # | Reply

    hello sir.. as i was searching the web for any interpretation on “Mi Ultimo Adios” by Jose Rizal, i came across to your site. i found what i have been looking for, but when i saw the long interpretation you made just for one verse, i said to myself: “should i go look for a shorter one?”.. but then i decided to continue on reading.. and i was not disappointed.. i thank you sir for sharing what you know. i know getting to interpret a great piece is not that easy. but you made it look as that. you have a very wonderful work here.. i have understood fully what this piece was about.. now i can really say, our national hero is a pure genius.. God bless! 🙂

    • Bob Couttie 8:02 pm on January 19, 2012 | # | Reply

      Thank you, Joy. Analysing a piece of poetry, particularly one like this, does take time. It would take you much longer to explain, say, the colour red, than to say it, so analysing Rizal’s poem is going to take longer. I’m glad you were not disappointed – I hope you feel that the effort you made rewarded you. Do remember, though, that Rizal had to work hard to be what he became – he was not a natural genius, he worked for it, and he worked hard at it. You, too, can be as much a genius as Rizal.

  • harlem jude ferolino 5:47 pm on January 19, 2012 | # | Reply

    good day. where’s verse 12 to 14? anyway, you are so good in interpreting this poem. i don’t know where to search for the verse 12 until 14.

    • Bob Couttie 7:53 pm on January 19, 2012 | # | Reply

      I temporarily lost my Spanish resource before I could complete the analysis of 12-14 but will be doing so in due course. It isn’t just a matter of translating the Spanish, one also has to try and understand the underlying thought processes of someone with the education of the classics, Greek and Latin of the time, which Rizal was exposed to but which few academics in the Philippines today have been trained in. I would say that the last few verses are probably less important in terms of understanding Rizal as a revolutionary and his expectations of what would follow his death, than the earlier verses. The last ones are to his loved ones, including Josephine Bracken. Some people are lucky enough to be paid for studying Philippine history, I have to fit it in between earning a living 🙂

  • evander 1:58 pm on August 9, 2012 | # | Reply

    thankyou for this. 🙂

  • donna jane 4:11 pm on October 14, 2012 | # | Reply

    sir thank you for your site, it’s a big help to me to understand Rizal’s work,.. Thankyou 🙂 Godbless.


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