To Celia - Poem by Francisco Balagtas
If I recall and read again
those days in love’s long-faded script,
would there be not a mark or trace
but Celia’s, imprinted on my breast?
The Celia whom I’ve always
feared might forget our love,
who took me down these hapless depths,
the only reason for this turn of fate.
Again would I neglect to read
the pages of our tenderness,
or call to mind the love she poured,
the bitter struggle I gave for it?
Our sweet days gone,
my love is all that’s left;
ever shall it dwell within
till I’m laid down in my grave.
Now as I lie in loneliness,
behold wherein I seek relief:
each bygone day I revisit, I find
joy in the likeness of your face.
This likeness painted with love
and longing has lodged within
my heart, sole token left with me
not even death can steal.
My soul haunts the paths
and fields you blessed with your footsteps;
and to Beata River and shallow Hilom stream
my heart never fails to wander.
Not rarely now my vagrant grief
sits under the mango tree we passed,
and looking at the dainty fruits
you wanted picked I forget my ache.
The whole of me could only
be intimate with sighs when you were ill;
for I knew as Eden kept a room us,
my hidden hurt was heaven still.
I woo your image that resides
in the Makati river we frequented;
to the happy berth of boats I trace your steps,
among the stones that touched your feet.
All these return before me now,
the joy of years, the blissful past,
where I would soak and steep myself
before I’m caught in brackish neap.
Always I could hear what you would say:
Three days and our eyes won’t meet.
And the eager answer from my leaping heart:
There’s only me but you prepare a feast.
So what was there in our
joyful past that memory could miss:
in constant retrun the tears do flow,
I sigh and weep: O hapless fate!
Where is Celia, joy of my heart?
Why could our blissful love not last?
Where is the time when just her look
was heaven’s glimpse, my soul, my life?
Why, when we parted,
did this luckless life not cease?
Your memory is death, O Celia,
but in my heart you will not fade.
This long torment you brought,
I couldn’t bear, O departed Joy;
but it took me by the hand to poetry and song,
about a life so trodden low, now lost.
Celia, my messages are mute,
my muse is dumb, her voice faint;
without my taunt she would not speak,
pray listen to me with mind and ear.
This first spring that breaks
from my parched mind I offer at your feet:
deign receive, from this kneeling heart,
even if you won’t savor it.
If all this fell into slur and insult,
my gain is great from invested effort,
if complaint it is you now peruse,
remember, too, it is the author’s gift.
O joyful nymphs of Bai, the placid lake,
Sirens whose voices bring music to my ears,
I come now to your sparkling shrine,
my forlorn muse implores you.
Rise now to shore and field,
accompany with lyre this humble song
that speaks: if fate this life may snip,
its fervent wish is that love won’t cease.
Gleaming bloom of my mind,
Celia whose symbols are M, A, and R;
here I am adoring at the Virgin Madonna’s
altar, F and B, your loyal servant.
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