They Asked Me for Verses

by Dr. José Rizal

(English version of “Me Piden Versos”)

They ask me to play on a lyre
That long has been still and decayed,
But never a note have I played,
Nor can I the Muse re-inspire.
She chats without reason or fire
Until she has tortured my brain.
She chuckles to jeer at my pain;
She has mocked me the while I lamented.
In my soul, lonely, sad, and tormented,
Neither pleasure nor sorrow remain.

There once was a time, it is true--
A time that, alas, has departed.
When friends who were generous-hearted,
Applauded the verse I could do.
Of those happy days but a few
Obscured recollections yet stay,
As after some high holiday,
Still linger mysterious sounds;
Or, after the concert resounds,
The after tones whisper away.

For I am a plant immature,
Torn out of the Orient where
The perfumes sleep on the air
And life is a dream to allure.
Ah, memories ever endure,
My Country, of songs taught to me
By warbling birds from the tree,
The waterfall's silvery roar,
And out on the far-reaching shore,
The moan of the sounding sea.

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