Unfold, oh timid flower!
Lift up your radiant brow,
This day, Youth of my native strand!
Your abounding talents show
Resplendently and grand,
Fair hope of my Motherland!
Soar high, oh genius great,
And with noble thoughts fill their mind;
The honor’s glorious seat,
May their virgin mind fly and find
More rapidly than the wind.
The first line, “unfold, oh timid flower,” implies that the youth is silent and consequently has not yet gone into full bloom for whatever reason there is that may have silenced them. In the beginning stanza, Rizal encourages the youth, by telling them to hold their heads high for they possess talents and skills and abilities that would make their country proud.
The second verse can be rearranged in contemporary English to say: “Oh genius great, soar high; and fill their mind with noble thoughts. May their virgin mind fly and find the honor and glorious seat more rapidly than the wind.” Here, Rizal calls to genius to fill young minds with noble thoughts and hopes that as they release their thinking from the chains that bind, they may be able to soar swiftly high where the joy of honor is.
Descend with the pleasing light
Of the arts and sciences to the plain,
Oh Youth, and break forthright
The links of the heavy chain
That your poetic genius enchain.
Contrary to the second verse, which talked about ascending and soaring to the heights, this third stanza now talks about descent, and a downward motion of the great genius to fill the earthly strokes of art and science with their magnificent ideas? Again, Rizal calls them to break the chains that bind their intellect. “Poetic genius” here does not necessarily pertain to the talent of writing poetry. Instead, the term “poetic” is simply an adjective to describe genius, meaning that it is deep and mystifying and heavy with meaning.
See that in the ardent zone,
The Spaniard, where shadows stand,
Doth offer a shining crown,
With wise and merciful hand
To the son of this Indian land.
Rizal challenges the youth, that in their pursuit of knowledge and wisdom they may humble the hand of Spain, whose proud chin did not look kindly upon the people whom they labelled as “Indios” and whom they treated with contempt. He dreams that in their journey to intellectual greatness they may humble even the proudest nations that look down on them and rightfully deserve “a crown that shines, even where shadows stand.”
You, who heavenward rise
On wings of your rich fantasy,
Seek in the Olympian skies
The tenderest poesy,
More sweet than divine honey;
You of heavenly harmony,
On a calm unperturbed night,
Philomel’s match in melody,
That in varied symphony
Dissipate man’s sorrow’s blight;
In these two stanzas, Rizal calls the youth to seek the beauty of poetry and music, which he himself values greatly as essentials in every manner of life. He claims that poetry is “more sweet” and that music can “dissipate man’s sorrows “.
You at th’ impulse of your mind
The hard rock animate
And your mind with great pow’r consigned
Transformed into immortal state
The pure mem’ry of genius great;
Speaking to the youth, Rizal says that by the very impulse of their mind, they are capable of bringing to life or animating even someting as lifeless and unmoving as a hard rock. He continues to say that the youth is able, to immortalize their thoughts and their words through the help of great genius (as he has done himself). This stanza can be arranged in a more contemporary English structure as follows: “You can animate the hard rock at the impulse of your mind; and transform, with the great power of your mind, the pure memory of great genius into immortality.”
And you, who with magic brush
On canvas plain capture
The varied charm of Phoebus,
Loved by the divine Apelles,
And the mantle of Nature;
Rizal addresses the youth, comparing their abilities to a magic brush that can capture even the most majestic views and the most glorious charms on a blank canvas.
Run! For genius’ sacred flame
Awaits the artist’s crowning
Spreading far and wide the fame
Throughout the sphere proclaiming
With trumpet the mortal’s name
Oh, joyful, joyful day,
The Almighty blessed be
Who, with loving eagerness
Sends you luck and happiness.
The last stanza is a charge, urging the youth to run, for a glorious crown awaits them. The “sphere” here pertains to the world, showing that Rizal believed the Filipino youth is as brilliant as those in any other nation, and is able to contend with even the strongest powers if they only set their mind to making most of what they already have.