Jos learned the alphabet when he was two years old, and at age four, he could write sentences in Tagalog and Spanish; his skill at drawing amazed the adults in his life. He excelled in school, obtaining a bachelors degree by age 16. At age 23, he earned a medical license from the University of Madrid.
Rizal was a true renaissance man; he mastered 22 languages and was proficient as an architect, sculptor, businessman, teacher, historian, inventor, journalist, musician, ophthalmic surgeon, psychologist, farmer, theologian, and, of course, as a poet.
My Last Farewell
Rizals most important poem is Mi Ultimo Adios. Derbyshire kept the original rime scheme when he translated from the original Spanish to English.
Farewell, dear Fatherland, clime of the sun caress'd
Jos Rizal was in prison waiting to be executed when he wrote this poem as a final statement to his fellow Filipino countrymen. He had been involved in activity to secure his native countrys independence from Spain. In the first stanza, the patriot says his final farewell to his native land, describing it as Pearl of the Orient seas, our Eden lost. And he says that he is giving his faded life for his country, and even if he were younger, brighter, and more blest he would still be willing to give his life in this cause.
He says that others have given their lives for their countries in battle and in martyrdom, and it does not matter how they gave it; it just matters that they did. His dreams have always been for his country to experience a blessed, free life: 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 mayst aspire; / And sleep in thy bosom eternity's long night.
Pray for all those that hapless have died
As the poet dramatizes his exit from life, he asks his fellow citizens to remember and pray for all those who have suffered under domination at the hands of foreigners. He asserts that from beyond the grave he will sing a hymn to his fellow citizens.
The poet dramatizes that fact that he may be forgotten, and his grave not be marked with a cross nor a stone. But he will be satisfied to Let the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o'er / That my ashes may carpet earthly floor. He will have no sorrows or worries but only peace that is bodys ashes may spread over his beloved homeland.
In death there is rest
In the final two stanzas, he assures parents and kindred and friends that he is going where no oppressor can kill his faith. He assures them that God reigns e'er on high! And he asks them to be grateful that he finally he can rest from the wearisome day.
Poem Read in U. S. House of Representatives
Jos Rizal died by firing squad on December 30, 1896. Six years later, when a bill was pending in the United States House of Representatives aimed at assisting the Filipino people in forming a democratic government, Republican Congressman Henry Cooper of Wisconsin read Rizals poem on the floor of the House in support of the Philippine Bill of 1902.
The Democrat members of Congress had argued that the Filipinos were too barbaric to govern themselves. Their party platform stated, The Filipinos cannot be citizens without endangering our civilization. But Congressman Cooper argued that a society that could produce a man of Rizals abilities was certainly capable of self-government. The bill passed.
- Chronology for the Philippine Islands and Guam in the Spanish-American War
- Jos Rizal Web Site