Friday, July 09, 2004

Jose Rizal's Ultimo Adios

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 brighte, fresh(er), 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,
'Tis 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,
No 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 may'st 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 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 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, o 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;
'Tis I, O my country, raising a song unto thee.
When even my grave is remembered no more,
Unmark'd by never a coss naor a stone;
Le the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o'er.
That my ashes may carpet thy earthly floor,
Before into nothingness at last they are blown.
Then will oblivion bring 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 adored, that sadness to my sorrow lends,
Beloved Filipinas, hear now my last good-bye!
I give thee all, parents and kindred and friends;
For I go whee 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!

Although the martyr puts himself into the arms of death freely, he nevertheless transforms the gruesomeness of his death into beauty, a canvass painted red with his blood. And though death is prominent in the painting, it is not the victor, for even if it acts supremely, it actually perpetuates the beauty of life, that of the martyr's and those for whom he died for. This is what typifies a real martyrdom: death serving the cause of life, supporting and nourishing it, giving breath to renewed hope. When death however plays the leading role, the false martyrdom of fear and darkness supplants the authentic expression of sacrifice, for in it beauty is lost and in its stead are revulsion, panic and the disfigurement of humanity itself.

In the age of radical fanaticism that demands the world to hearken back to an age of darkness and ignorance, of cruelty and blind faith, the only relief and true witness of the world lies in the hands of true martyrs whose faithful witness attests to the decency and strength of resisting evil, by resisting not its attempts to take that which the martyr would offer joyfully, his life.

The martyr seeks life not death, yet he willingly offers his own life rather than cower before death. He offers a powerful and supernatural witness that opposes and diminishes the martyrdom inspired by hatred and lust for blood. True martyrdom inspires and arouses hope and faith and courage among those to who would witness such a brief yet rich testimony of faith and complete abandonment to the martyr's cause and mission. The false martyr however brings despair, fear and doubt to all, for his victims and for those whom he had mercilessly ambushed.

The death of a true martyr is an oblation that seeks not retribution or fear but hope for the satisfaction of a debt, a redemption that builds upon hope and dispels the dreariness of blind faith and ignorance. The martyr offers himself up to a cause, one that is greater, more beautiful and truly beyond the limits of his own consciousness. And in the midst of the martyrdom itself, he does not seek himself, but the greater good, the salvation of all that took part in his death.

The imagery of such martyrdom belongs to all who understand, seek and long the prize of the purest and rarest of its form. Rizal's poem has masterfully captured the unforgettable beauty that such a violent and painful act would elicit from its heroes. It paints the martyr as he sees himself in his final moments, awaiting the act that will forever encapsulate his love for the cause for which he would offer his life. It carries none of the things that incite hate against those that have persecuted him, whilst tearfully reminding the martyr of his obligations to himself and his cause, to those for whom his life will be offered, and even his enemies, for the sublimity of a real martyrdom arouses the conversion even among the most hate-filled and stone-hearted adversaries.

His poetry, though the words and the style differ, is the same song all authentic martyrs sang as they faced their cruel death and embraced it ever so gleefully for the cause they have offered themselves and for those who have persecuted them so harshly. Not so for those who pretend that their martyrdom truly matters, for their mouths chant the mantra of illogical hate, of selfish bigotry and pride that leads to death that reconciles none and that binds the false martyr into the narrowness of himself.

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