Poetry Friday: “Like the Molave” by Rafael Zulueta y da Costa, Written 1940

This poem is epic.

The molave was a Philippine hardwood (said to be impervious to fire), now extinct.

Jose Rizal was the writer of the seminal novels Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. He was tried by the Spanish for inciting a revolution, and shot by firing squad in Manila’s Bagumbayan Field.

Self has not been able to find much about Rafael Zulueta y da Costa. He died in 1990, and apparently this was his only poem. He wrote in English. At the time of writing, the Philippines was still an American colony.

Like the Molave, Part I:

Not yet, Rizal, not yet. Sleep not in peace:
There are a thousand waters to be spanned;
There are a thousand mountains to be crossed;
There are a thousand crosses to be borne.
Our shoulders are not strong; our sinews are
Grown flaccid with dependence, smug with ease
Under another’s wing. Rest not in peace;
Not yet, Rizal, not yet. The land has need
of young blood — and, what younger than your own,
Forever spilled in the great name of freedom,
Forever oblate on the altar of the free?

Not you alone, Rizal. O souls
And spirits of the martyred brave, arise!
Arise and scour the land! Shed once again
Your willing blood! Infuse the vibrant red
Into our thin anemic veins; until
We pick up your Promethean tools and, strong,
Out of the depthless matrix of your faith
In us, and on the silent cliff of freedom,
We carve for all time your marmoreal dream!
Until our people, seeing, are become
Like the molave, firm, resilient, staunch,
Rising on the hillside, unafraid,
Strong in its own fibre; yes, like the molave:

2 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Like the Molave” by Rafael Zulueta y da Costa, Written 1940

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