You Ask me for Verses

by Jose Rizal

  You bid me now to strike the lyre,
That mute and torn so long has lain:
And yet I cannot wake the strain,
Nor will the Muse one note inspire!
Coldly it shakes in accenta dire,
As if my soul itself to wring,
And when its sound seems but to fling
A jest at its own low lament;
So in sad isolation pent,
My soul can neither feel nor sing.

There was a time-ah, 't is too true -
But that time long ago has past -
When upon me the Muse had cast
Indulgent smile and friendship's due;
But of that age now all too few
The thoughts that with me yet will stay;
As from the hours of festive play
There linger on mysterious notes,
And in our minds the memory floats
Of minstrelsy and music gay.

A plant I am, that scarcely grown,
Was torn from out its Eastern bed,
Where all around perfume is shed,
And life but as a dream is known;
The land that I can call my own,
By me forgotten ne'er to be,
Where trilling birds their song taught me,
And cascades with their ceaseless roar,
And all along the apreading shore
The murmurs of the sounding sea.

While yet in childhood's happy day,
I learned upon its sun to smile,
And in my breast there seems the while
Seething volcanic fires to play.
A bard I was, my wish alway
To call upon the fleeting wind,
With all the force of verse and mind:
"Go forth, and spread around its flame
From zone to zone with glad acclaim,
And earth to heaven together bind !"

But it I left, and now no more -
Like a tree that is broken and sere -
My natal gods bring the echo clear
Of songs that in past times they bore;
Wide seas I cross'd to foreign shore,
With hope of change and other fate;
My folly waa made clear too late,
For in the place of good I sought
The seas reveal'd unto me naught,
But made death's specter on me wait.

All these fond fancies that were mine,
AIl love, all feeling, all emprise,
Were left beneath the sunny skies,
Which o'er that flowery region shine;
So press no more that plea of thine,
For songs of love from out a heart
That coldly liea a thing apart;
Since now with tortur'd soul I haste
Unresting o'er the desert waste,
And lifeless gone is all the art.

Translated by Charles Derbyshire

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created: January 5, 1997
updated: March 20, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger