A Translation
by Milo Clark


Jose Rizal was a Philippine patriot who was hanged by the Spanish in 1896 shortly before the American takeover of the islands in 1898. From succeeding events, it is unlikely he would have survived the Americans either. This translation is my offering for Flagday in these United States, 15 June 1996.

The United States may be among the "freer" nations of the world for those who stay within the accepted bounds of relatively sterile political debate, but it is marginally less repressive than elsewhere for those outside those boundaries, no matter how compelling their messages of dissent. That this country suppresses its dissenters by psychological or economic means or rather uniform denial of access to media rather than overt torture or assassination is commendable.

For a contemporary example of psychological torture, though: Given the mindset of the Freemen of Montana and others in various militia movements, if FBI intent is to coax them out peacefully, why fly a black helicopter (why black of all possible colors to paint a helicopter?) over their compound when, given their symbolic connection of black helicopters with subversion of the nation as they see it, the only possible interpretation for them is that they will have no alternative but eventually to join the Waco people in symbolic martyrdom or victimage? There is some basis for their paranoic responses however much I may dislike the extremes to which they feel themselves driven.

Through this soap-opera-for-real episode the American public is being given a long lesson in enemy creation (fortunately, I suppose, at the expense of radicals of the "Right" rather than the more customary "Left"). The price of dissent is clearly being etched on the minds of nightly TV "News" watchers.

In parallel, The Lutheran Church of Weimar Germany was not energetic in exposing the Nazi Party until too late. Pastor Martin Niemoller, eventually killed by the Gertapo, said:

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

On to Jose Rizal:

"We find the best solace in the solitude of the forest gazing at the clouds that cross the space above, in admiring the beauty of the flowers and in listening to the innocent song of little birds. We forget our afflictions and troubles, the hand of the Creator caresses us and on our return home, we feel refreshed, for nature has gladdened the formerly saddened soul."

                                Jose Rizal, May 1887
My Last Goodbye
by Josť Rizal [1861-1896]
(translated by Milo Clark)
Goodbye, adored homeland, place of the
beloved sun. Pearl of the eastern sea,
our lost Eden! I am giving you, joyfully,
this sad whisper of life;
Yet I leave brightly, freshly, full of vigor.
I give myself for thee, for your good.

On battlefields, fighting crazily,
others have given their lives,
without doubt, without hesitation.
It makes no difference where,
in cypress, laurel or lily, gallows,
open field, combat or cruel martyrdom,
It is the same if one calls out to country and place.

I am dying when I see the dawn,
When the day at last comes, gloom falling away;
And if scarlet is needed to have your beginning.
You will see my blood, fallen in good time,
And giving a reflection of your light aborning.

My dreams, when I was barely an adolescent,
My dreams when I was a young man,
already full of vigor, Were to see then one day,
jewel of the eastern sea, Your dry black eyes,
smooth forehead, Without frown, without wrinkles, without shyness.

Dream of my life, I live ardently longing,
Salud, my soul cries to you, who I am
soon to leave, Salud, ah, how beautiful to fall to give you flight;
I die to give you life, I die under your sky,
And I sleep forever in your enchanted earth.

If, on my grave one day a simple,
Humble flower breaks through,
Bring it to your lips and kiss my soul,
And I will feel it on my forehead, within the
cold tomb. From you I will feel your breath
and your warmth.

See me under the moon, with its calm
and soft light; Let the white cloak
send your fleeting image;
Let the wind breathe your deep murmur;
And when a bird comes and sits on my cross,
Let the bird sing its song of peace.

Let the warm sun dry the rains
And the sky turn clear, with my sound coming after,
Let a dear friend cry over my early death;
And in the serene afternoons, when someone prays for me,
Pray also, my country, for my rest with God.

Pray for all who with die without luck;
For all those who suffer torments without equal;
For our poor mothers, who whimper their bitterness;
For orphans and widows, for prisoners in torture;
And pray for thee, who sees your final redemption.

And when finally my tomb, forgotten by all,
No longer has its cross or a mark for its place,
When comes the plow and my dust
before becoming nothing gives food to the fields.

Then, it makes no difference if I am forgotten:
In your air, your space, your valleys,
For your ear, I linger as a vibrant and clean note,
As a beautiful scent, as light, as color, as sound,
Constantly repeating the essence of my faith.

My adored country, sorrow of my sorrows,
Dear Philippines, hear my last goodbye.
I leave you everything; my parents, my loves,
I am going where there are no slaves, bitterness or oppressors;
Where faith is not killed, where the queen is God.

Goodbye, family and brothers, closest of my soul,
Childhood friends, in the lost neighborhood;
Give thanks that I sleep at the end of a hard day;
Goodbye, sweet stranger, my true love, my joy;
Goodbye, cherished ones. To die is to sleep.

(from June 1993, "Mabuhay" Philippine Airlines)


Published June 25, 1996
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