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José Rizal's "My Last Farewell"

Updated on September 21, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Jose Rizal

Rizal's "My Last Farewell"

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.

On the field of battle, 'mid the frenzy of fight,
Others have given their lives, without doubt or heed;
The place matters not-cypress or laurel or lily white,
Scaffold or open plain, combat or martyrdom's plight,
T is ever the same, to serve our home and country's need.

I die just when I see the dawn break,
Through the gloom of night, to herald the day;
And if color is lacking my blood thou shalt take,
Pour'd out at need for thy dear sake
To dye with its crimson the waking ray.

My dreams, when life first opened to me,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see thy lov'd face, O gem of the Orient sea
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free;
No blush on thy brow, no tear in thine eye.

Dream of my life, my living and burning desire,
All hail ! cries the soul that is now to take flight;
All hail ! And sweet it is for thee to expire ;
To die for thy sake, that thou mayst aspire;
And sleep in thy bosom eternity's long night.

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.

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.
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, 0 my country, that in God I may rest.

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.

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
'T is I, O my country, raising a song unto thee.

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 earthly floor,
Before into nothingness at last they are blown.

Then will oblivion bring to me no care
As over thy vales and plains I sweep;
Throbbing and cleansed in thy space and air
With color and light, with song and lament I fare,
Ever repeating the faith that I keep.

My Fatherland ador'd, that sadness to my sorrow lends
Beloved Filipinas, hear now my last good-by!
I give thee all: parents and kindred and friends
For I go where no slave before the oppressor bends,
Where faith can never kill, and God reigns e'er on high!

Farewell to you all, from my soul torn away,
Friends of my childhood in the home dispossessed !
Give thanks that I rest from the wearisome day !
Farewell to thee, too, sweet friend that lightened my way;
Beloved creatures all, farewell! In death there is rest !

Dramatic reenactment of Rizal's "My Last Farewell"

Commentary

In addition to being a poet, José Rizal is remembered and celebrated as a national hero of the Filipino people.

The seventh child born to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo Rizal, José Rizal became a national hero to his country, the Philippines. His father was a sugar plantation proprietor, and his mother also owned a small business concern. His mother studied the Manila College. Both parents were well educated and had established a good reputation prior to their son's birth on 19 June 1861.

José seemed to be a child prodigy, reciting the entire alphabet at two year old. He could write in Spanish as well as Tagalog at age four. He became a skillful sketch artist. He performed so well in school that he had achieved a bachelors degree before he reached his 16th birthday. He attained a medical degree from the University of Madrid at age 23.

In addition to becoming a fine poet, Rizal attained proficiency in many areas of study, such as education, architecture, business, and horticulture. He also excelled as a musician, theologian, psychologist, and journalist. He even held his own as a farmer and inventor. José could speak more than 20 languages.

Most translations result in works that only vaguely resemble the style and form of the original, but Rival's translator, Charles Derbyshire, maintained the poet's rime scheme in "Mi Ultimo Adios" as he translated the Rizal classic from Spanish to English.

The result of such care in translation means that the English version offers the same ambiance as the original, a vital quality in a discourse that changed a nation.

First Movement: "Farewell, dear Fatherland, clime of the sun caress'd"

While in prison and waiting to executed by firing squad, national hero José Rizal composed his crucial and historic opus. The focus of the poem was to encourage his fellow countrymen to strive for independence from Spain. Americans can easily identify with the purpose and spirit of Rizal's most famous poem. The American Revolution, which sought independence from England, is never far the American mind.

The poem's speaker bids his countrymen "adios," describing his native land as the "Pearl of the Orient seas, our Eden lost." The speaker insists that he would give his life for his country at any point in his lifetime; it is extremely vital to gain independence. Freedom is everything to the patriot.

This speaker is well versed in the history of his country and the world; he knows the sacrifices that earlier patriots have endured to attain that most valuable gift of freedom.

He emphasizes how his dreams have always included the burning desire for freedom:

Dream of my life, my living and burning desire,
All hail ! cries the soul that is now to take flight;
All hail ! And sweet it is for thee to expire;
To die for thy sake, that thou mayst aspire;
And sleep in thy bosom eternity's long night.

The speaker insists that dying for independence is a noble act, for he knows that living under the thumb of tyranny is not truly living. The soul once out of the body will take "eternity's long night."

Second Movement: "Pray for all those that hapless have died"

The poem is a dramatic rendering of the speaker's soul belief that he will continue to send his compatriots vibration hymns even after he has left his body. Being ruled by a foreign hand cannot overshadow the citizens who continue to pray and meditate on their most worthy goals of independence and freedom.

The speaker anticipates that he will not be remembered. It is likely that his grave will not possess a marker to let others know about him; after all, he is being killed by those who revile him and his activism. But he tells his fellow countrymen of his own peace of mind: "Let the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o'er / That my ashes may carpet earthly floor."

The speaker will not sorrow nor take any care of how tyrants treat his lifeless body; he intuits that a greater power will spread his essence wherever it needs to go.

Third Movement: "In death there is rest"

The final movement continues to assert in the awareness that "God reigns e'er on high!" He assures his fellows that his soul will go in peace and remain in peace. He requests that his compatriots feel gratitude for him and ultimately for themselves that they will one day take respite from a "wearisome day."

"My Last Farewell" and the U. S. House of Representatives

Six years after Rizal faced the firing squad on 30 December 1896, the U.S. House of Representatives put forth a bill to support the Filipino citizens as they continued to form a democratic government.

Republican Congressman Henry Cooper (Wisconsin), on the floor of the House of Representatives, gave a reading of José Rizal's "My Last Farewell" to help support the Philippine Bill of 1902.

Democrats Oppose Philippine Bill of 1902

Congressional Democrats opposed the Republican sponsored bill. The Democrats asserted in their party's platform, "The Filipinos cannot be citizens without endangering our civilization."

Congressman Cooper offered the Republican stance that a society that could produce the likes of José Riza with his many renaissance-man capabilities and sensibilities could surely govern itself. Thus with the support of the Republicans and despite opposition from the Democrats, the bill was voted in.

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

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  • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
    Author

    Linda Sue Grimes 2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Cris. How interesting is your story of your experience with Rizal! Really appreciate your sharing. Blessings!

  • CrisSp profile image

    CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

    Reading this took me back to my high school days where as part of our history class, we have to study Rizal's life and must memorize his poem, "My Last Farewell" but in the original Spanish composition, "Mi Ultimo Adios".

    I can still remember the first line of the poem by heart..."Adios, Patria adorada, region del sol querida." ~

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