Rizal’s Verses for Leonor and Maria Clara

Prior to his departure for Europe, Jose Rizal composed the song Leonor as a farewell poem with music for Leonor Rivera, the girl to whom he was engaged to be married. He composed the melody during a sojourn in Dagupan, Pangasinan. “The song became so popular that many were heard singing it in the streets and during social gatherings. The moment they saw Leonor, the children would sing the song” (Rubio 1978). Below is an English translation of the poem or lyrics of the song:

Ya llegó, pues, aquel fatal instante,
triste destino de mi suerte impía;
llegó ya, en fin,aquel momento y día,
en que me voy a separar de ti.

Adiós, Leonor, adiós, que me despido,
mi corazón amante te lo dejo;
adios, Leonor, que ya de aquí me alejo,
¡oh, ausencia triste! ¡ay, qué dolor!

And so it has arrived: the fatal instant,
the dismal injunction of my cruel fate;
and so it has come at last: the moment, the date,
when I must separate myself from you.

Goodbye, Leonor, goodbye! I take my leave,
leaving behind with you my lover’s heart!
Goodbye, Leonor: from here I now depart.
O melancholy absence! Ah, what pain!


Another poem by Rizal, Canto Patriotico de Maria Clara was set to music in the mid-twenties by Juan de S. Hernandez, a well-known teacher and conductor who wrote the zarzuelas Minda, Lukso ng Dugo, and Ang Puso ng Isang Pilipina. It is the most popular of all the songs based on the poems by Dr. Jose Rizal in his novel Noli Me Tangere. In the novel, the poem was sung by Maria Clara and was thus popularly called the Song of Maria Clara:

¡Dulces las horas en la propia patria
Donde es amigo cuanto alumbra el sol;
Vida es la brisa que en sus campos vuela,
Grata la muerte y más tierno el amor!

Ardientes besos en los labios juegan,
De una madre en el seno al despertar;
Buscan los brazos a ceñir el cuello,
Y los ojos sonríense al mirar.

Dulce es la muerte por la propia patria,
Donde es amigo cuanto alumbra el sol;
Muerte es la brisa para quien no tiene
Una patria, una madre y un amor.

Sweet the hours in the native country,
where friendly shines the sun above!
Life is the breeze that sweeps the meadows;
tranquil is death; most tender, love.

Warm kisses on the lips are playing
as we awake to mother’s face:
the arms are seeking to embrace her,
the eyes are smiling as they gaze.

How sweet to die for the native country,
where friendly shines the sun above!
Death is the breeze for him who has
no country, no mother, and no love!


*English translations by Nick Joaquin


Rizal’s poems (1962). Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission.
Rubio, H. (1978). Filipino heritage: the making of a nation. Manila : Lahing Pilipino Publishing.
The complete poems and plays of José Rizal translated by Nick Joaquín (1976). Manila: Far Eastern University.


Leonor Rivera, 1882 (Retrato Photo Archive)

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