26 February 2009

Language of my blood

Here is the first part of the poem "Muted Cry" (late 1930s) by Philippine poet Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido:

They took away the language of my blood,
giving me one "more widely understood."

More widely understood! Now Lips can never
Never with the Soul-in-Me commune:
Moments there are I strain, but futile ever,
To flute my feelings through some native Tune...

Alas, how can I interpret my Mood?
They took away the language of my blood.

If I could speak the language of my blood
My blood would whirl up through resistless space
Swiftly - sure - flight no one can retrace,

And flung against the skyey breast of God,
Its scattered words, charged with passion rare,
With trebel glow would dim the stars now there.

This is a poet's (not a critic's) argument for writing in one's mother tongue, but since it is written in a second language, it is also an argument for writing in a stepmother tongue!

1 comment:

  1. Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido's poems were a staple in Reading and Literature classes when we were in the grades and in high school. Lord knows why we were made to read some of them again in one Philippine Literature in English class at the university (the '60s). I surmise now that it might have been an effort to trace the growth and decay of English usage. Mrs. Subido, may her soul rest in peace, needed only to revert to her mother tongue to register her "Muted Cry" protest against the imposition of English as a medium of literary expression as well as instruction in the public schools ("one more widely understood").

    I would not use this poem to teach the functions of rhyme as sounds making sense (as organizers of stanzas, maybe...). Unless I am pronouncing "Mood" (long double oo sound) to rhyme with "blood" (short double oo sound), I will never be "understood" (short double oo sound) when I let out my "muted cry" about why I need to speak in the "language of my blood."

    But pray, explain these conceits: "Resistless space"? "The skyey breast of God"? "Treble glow"? I wonder if Marlowe or Shakespeare (their language icons then) would approve or turn in their graves. But that was the Filipino English (Thomasite) medium then. What is it now?

    Language of Blood: (manque)

    Bakit nila pinalitan ang dila ng aking dugo?
    Ng isang may mas malawak na pagkaka-intindi?
    Lintik na wika yan! Ginawa pa akong bobo!
    Paano ko ngayon isisigaw ang aking pagkamuhi?

    Surely, our textbooks in Reading and Literature have "matured" enough to use the poetry of Cirilo F. Bautista or Gemino Abad, and use Subido's poem to illustrate Philippine English usage in the 30's. One thing is certain, though: her English then may not qualify as the Filipino English spoken or written now.

    "'Di ba, true yan? 'Nong Say mo?"

    Weep not, Tarrosa, in your celestial abode.