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Joaquín’s translation of Rizal’s “Mi Último Adiós

A few years ago, Señor Gómez and I were discussing the last poem that Rizal wrote, as well as its several translations. When we got to the part about Nick Joaquín’s translation, I could never forget his words: Joaquín’s English version of “Mi Último Adiós” is one instance wherein the translation is far more superior compared  to the original. I never gave it much thought until then. So off I went to review both poems later on. I also compared Joaquín’s version to other well-known English translations (Charles Derbyshire, Encarnación Alzona, etc.). I could say that Joaquín’s has more depth and mystery. But since I’m not exactly a fully bloomed poet in Spanish, it’s hard to tell if I could agree on Señor Gómez’s observation.

People who read this now will argue that it’s really just a matter of opinion. However, it should be noted that Señor Gómez is a poet in four languages: Spanish, English, Tagálog, and Hiligaynón. Furthermore, it is no secret that he tends to be more leaning towards the Spanish language compared to English. Nevertheless, a website dedicated to José Rizal and his works seems to agree with him: “In many translated Rizal works, one writer stands out: Nick Joaquín”.

Without further ado, here is Joaquín’s English rendering of Mi Último Adiós…

Image result for Nick Joaquin jose rizal's valedictory poem

Joaquín’s translation of “Mi Último Adiós” is included in this book.

JOSÉ RIZAL’S VALEDICTORY POEM

Land that I love: farewell: O land the sun loves:
Pearl of the sea of the Orient: Eden lost to your brood!
Gaily go I to present you this hapless hopeless life:
Were it more brilliant: had it more freshness, more bloom:
Still for you would I give it: would give it for your good!

In barricades embattled, fighting in delirium,
Others give you their lives without doubts, without gloom.
The site nought matters: cypress, laurel or lily:
Gibbet or open field: combat or cruel martyrdom
Are equal if demanded by country and home.

I am to die when I see the heavens go vivid,
announcing the day at last behind the dead night.
If you need colorcolor to stain that dawn with,
Let spill my blood: scatter it in good hour:
And drench in its gold one beam of the newborn light.

My dream when a lad, when scarcely adolescent:
My dreams when a young man, now with vigor inflamed:
Were to behold you one day: Jewel of eastern waters:
Griefless the dusky eyes: lofty the upright brow:
Unclouded, unfurrowed, unblemished and unashamed!

Enchantment of my life: my ardent avid obsession:
To your health! Cries the soul, so soon to take the last leap:
To your health! O lovely: how lovely: to fall that you may rise!
To perish that you may live! To die beneath your skies!
And upon your enchanted ground the eternities to sleep!

Should you find some day somewhere on my gravemound, fluttering
Among tall grasses, a flower of simple fame:
Caress it with your lips and you kiss my soul:
I shall feel on my face across the cold tombstone:
Of your tenderness, the breath; of your breath, the flame.

Suffer the moon to keep watch, tranquil and suave, over me:
Suffer the dawn its flying lights to release:
Suffer the wind to lament in murmurous and grave manner:
And should a bird drift down and alight on my cross,
Suffer the bird to intone its canticle of peace.

Suffer the rains to dissolve in the fiery sunlight
And purified reascending heavenward bear my cause:
Suffer a friend to grieve I perished so soon:
And on fine evenings, when prays in my memory,
Pray alsoO my land!that in God I repose.

Pray for all who have fallen befriended by not fate:
For all who braved the bearing of torments all bearing past:
To our poor mothers piteously breathing in bitterness:
For widows and orphans: for those in tortured captivity
And yourself: pray to behold your redemption at last.

And when in dark night shrouded obscurely the graveyard lies
And only, only the dead keep vigil the night through:
Keep holy the place: keep holy the mystery.
Strains, perhaps, you will hearof zither, or of psalter:
It is IO land I love!it is I, singing to you!

And when my grave is wholly unremembered
And unlocated (no cross upon it, no stone there plain):
Let the site be wracked by the plow and cracked by the spade
And let my ashes, before they vanish to nothing,
As dust be formed a part of your carpet again.

Nothing then will it matter to place me in oblivion!
Across your air, your space, your valleys shall pass my wraith!
A pure chord, strong and resonant, shall I be in your ears:
Fragrance, light and color: whispers, lyric and sigh:
Constantly repeating the essence of my faith!

Land that I idolized: prime sorrow among my sorrows:
Beloved Filipinas, hear me the farewell word:
I bequeath you everythingmy family, my affections:
I go where no slaves arenor butchers: nor oppressors:
Where faith cannot kill: where God’s the sovereign lord!

Farewell, my parents, my brothersfragments of my soul:
Friends of old and playmates in childhood’s vanished house:
Offer thanks that I rest from the restless day!
Farewell, sweet foreignermy darling, my delight!
Creatures I love, farewell! To die is to repose.

2 thoughts on “Joaquín’s translation of Rizal’s “Mi Último Adiós

  1. Pingback: Why is Rizal a hero to you? | EL FILIPINISMO

  2. This is the translation of ‘Mi último adiós´ by another Joaquín, which neither you nor your mentor acknowledged when I first published it. Here it is: “My Last Farewell”
    translation into English of Rizal’s original Spanish (Mi último Adiós) by Joaquin P. Blasco y Alba

    Farewell, beloved Mother-land, country by the Sun caressed,
    Pearl of the Eastern Seas and our Paradise lost!
    I will gladly give for you my sad and glum existence
    And, had it been much brighter, fresher and better known
    I would also give it up for you… no matter what.

    Others, bravely fighting in the battlefields,
    Sacrifice their lives for you, without regret or hesitation,
    No matter where: under a cypress tree, laurel bush or lily flower,
    In the gallows or open fields, in conflict or cruelly murdered…
    It’s all just the same, when their homes and the Motherland demand it!

    I will die when, the darkness of the night over,
    The reddish skies announce the arrival of a new dawn…
    And, if a purplish tint you need to give it colour,
    Let my blood flow, let it, please, flow
    And give to its early light a golden glow.

    When I had barely left behind my childhood,
    When a young man full of vigour I became,
    I dreamt that, one day, I would see you, jewel of the Eastern Seas,
    With your jet-black eyes tearless and your proud brow free
    From frowning, from wrinkles or any signs of shame.

    Daydream of my life, my true and ardent wish,
    Hail, to you loudly cries this soul ready to depart!
    Hail, oh how sweet it is to die to see you rise
    To die to give you life, to die under your skies
    And in your enchanted soil forever sleep.

    If among the thick grass covering my tomb
    Would one day sprout a humble bloom,
    Take it close to your lips, kiss my soul
    And, in the coldness of my grave, may I feel
    The tender warmth of your breath over my face.

    Let the soft and peaceful Moonlight bathe me,
    Let the dawn cast over me its fleeting rays,
    Let the softly whispering wind weep
    And, should a bird decide on my cross to perch,
    Let the bird begin to sing a song of peace.

    Let the scorching Sun to vapour the rain transform
    And, purified, let the rain return to the sky with my cry behind;
    Let my untimely end be by a friend mourned
    And in those quiet evenings, when someone prays for me
    Please, my Motherland, pray to God too that I may rest in peace!

    Pray for all those who haplessly died,
    For all those who suffered untold harm,
    For our poor mothers who with bitterness will cry,
    For the orphans and widows and those in jail tortured
    And pray for you too, so that you may finally be redeemed.

    And when the darkness of the night pervades the cemetery
    And only the lonely dead are still awake
    Please, don’t disturb their rest, don’t perturb the mystery
    And, if you should hear the sounds of a zither or a psaltery
    It’ll be I, beloved Motherland, who for you will sing.

    And when my tomb, by everyone forgotten,
    Had lost even its marking cross or stone,
    Let man plough it and spread the soil with his hoe
    And may my ashes, before they return to nothing,
    Form the mantle which will make your green grass grow.

    By then you may just as well forget me…
    I will traverse your air, your valleys, your space,
    I’ll be vibrant music to your ears,
    Aroma, light, colour, rumour, sobbing, song,
    Over and over repeating the essence of my faith.
    My dearly beloved Country, for whom I most profoundly hurt,
    Beloved Philippines, hear my last farewell.
    My parents, my loved ones…, everything I leave with you.
    I am going where there are no hangmen, no tyrants, no slaves,
    Where your Faith doesn’t kill you, ‘cos it’s only God who reigns.

    Farewell parents and brothers, soul of my soul,
    My childhood friends in the long forgotten home,
    Be happy, ‘cos I’ll be free from my daily stress;
    Goodbye sweet foreigner, my friend and my joy,
    Farewell my loved ones… To die is to rest.
    JOAQUIN P. BLASCO Y ALBA

    Like

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