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Jose Rizal

(1861-1896 / Philippines)

They Ask Me for Verses!


I
They bid me strike the lyre
so long now mute and broken,
but not a note can I waken
nor will my muse inspire!
She stammers coldly and babbles
when tortured by my mind;
she lies when she laughs and thrills
as she lies in her lamentation,
for in my sad isolation
my soul nor frolics nor feels.

II

There was a time, 'tis true,
but now that time has vanished
when indulgent love or friendship
called me a poet too.
Now of that time there lingers
hardly a memory,
as from a celebration
some mysterious refrain
that haunts the ears will remain
of the orchestra's actuation.

III

A scarce-grown plant I seem,
uprooted from the Orient,
where perfume is the atmosphere
and where life is a dream.
O land that is never forgotten!
And these have taught me to sing:
the birds with their melody,
the cataracts with their force
and, on the swollen shores,
the murmuring of the sea.

IV

While in my childhood days
I could smile upon her sunshine,
I felt in my bosom, seething,
a fierce volcano ablaze.
A poet was I, for I wanted
with my verses, with my breath,
to say to the swift wind: 'Fly
and propagate her renown!
Praise her from zone to zone,
from the earth up to the sky!'

V

I left her! My native hearth,
a tree despoiled and shriveled,
no longer repeats the echo
of my old songs of mirth.
I sailed across the vast ocean,
craving to change my fate,
not noting, in my madness,
that, instead of the weal I sought,
the sea around me wrought
the spectre of death and sadness.


The dreams of younger hours,
love, enthusiasm, desire,
have been left there under the skies
of that fair land of flowers.
Oh, do not ask of my heart
that languishes, songs of love!
For, as without peace I tread
this desert of no surprises,
I feel that my soul agonizes
and that my spirit is dead.

Submitted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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