Monday, September 19, 2011

Notes on Rizal's Poetry

The poetry of Jose Rizal was mostly written in Spanish. Rizal wrote some twenty-two poems while attending Ateneo de Manila and the University of Sto. Tomas. These poems were full of apostrophes and classical allusions.

Considered the crowning glory of Rizal’s early poetic achievements is  “A la Juventud Filipina.” The poem was Rizal’s winning entry in a poetry contest sponsored by the Lyceum of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas.

Rizal composed but a few poems abroad. Sorrow, hard work, and unending love for country dominated Rizal’s poetry during this period. Nevertheless, “To the Flowers of Heidelberg,” stood out in terms of subject and tone. The poem, written in 1886, reveals Rizal’s awe of the beautiful scenery of Koenigstuhl.

Rizal wrote his best poetry in Dapitan, Mindanao, and Fort Santiago, Manila. In Dapitan, Rizal wrote “Mi Retiro,” which was dedicated to his mother. In Fort Santiago, “Mi Ultimo Adios” was written on the eve of Rizal execution. Many consider the poem as Rizal’s poetic masterpiece with its vibrancy and lofty sentiment.

Six years after his death, when the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 was being debated in the United States Congress, Representative Henry Cooper of Wisconsin rendered an English translation of Rizal's valedictory poem capped by the peroration, "Under what clime or what skies has tyranny claimed a nobler victim?" The bill was eventually signed into law in 1916, which led to the creation of the Philippine legislature, the appointment of two Filipino delegates to the US Congress, the extension of the US Bill of Rights to Filipinos, and laying down of the foundation for an autonomous government

The same poem was recited (in its Bahasa Indonesia translation by Rosihan Anwar) by Indonesian soldiers of independence before going into battle during World War II.

Medina, Buenaventura S., Jr., and Teofilo del Castillo y Tuazon, eds. Philippine Literature:
     From ancient times to present. Caloocan City: Philippine Graphic Arts, 1974.

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