While Lingering Whispers Deepen

Maramag
Fernando Maramag

Moonlight on Manila Bay

By Fernando M. Maramag (1893 – 1936)

A light, serene, ethereal glory rests
Its beams effulgent on each crestling wave;
The silver touches of the moonlight wave
The deep bare bosom that the breeze molests;
While lingering whispers deepen as the wavy crests
Roll with weird rhythm, now gay, now gently grave;
And floods of lambent light appear the sea to pave-
All cast a spell that heeds not time‘s behests.

Not always such the scene; the din of fight
Has swelled the murmur of the peaceful air;
Here East and West have oft displayed their might;
Dark battle clouds have dimmed this scene so fair;
Here bold Olympia, one historic night,
Presaging freedom, claimed a people‘s care.


Marmag’s sonnet is written as a sentimental homage to a simpler time before the Philippine’s became a pawn in the imperial conquests of Japan and the United States.  Manila Bay is an important geographical military asset for the country which hoped to control the Pacific ocean.

I harkened at a recent MPR story about the return of a church bell which the United States Navy had taken as a spoil of war in which Maramag’s sonnet is set.  The Balangiga town’s church bells were taken as war trophies during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War and had languished in relative obscurity in an army warehouse.  But the Philippine town and the country had not forgotten about them and through an act of contrition and forgiveness the bells were returned after 117 years so that they could be restored to the bell towers in which they belonged, to herald hope that someday we might find ways to negotiate in ways that don’t require domination and subjugation as the starting point but rather equanimity, with the mutual goal of creating the best outcomes for a complex world.


To the Man I Married
Angela Manalang-Gloria

I
You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.
You are the earth whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.

If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the earth uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,
You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!

II
I can not love you with a love
That outcompares the boundless sea,
For that were false, as no such love
And no such ocean can ever be.

But I can love you with a love
As finite as the wave that dies
And dying holds from crest to crest
The blue of everlasting skies.

The Scandal Never Died

Manalang-Gloria
Angela Manalang-Gloria

Revolt From Hymen
Angela Manalang-Gloria

O to be free at last, to sleep at last
As infants sleep within the womb of rest!

To stir and stirring find no blackness vast
With passion weighted down upon the breast,

To turn the face this way and that and feel
No kisses festering on it like sores,

To be alone at last, broken the seal
That marks the flesh no better than a whore’s!

Soledad

by Angela Manalang Gloria

It was a sacrilege, the neighbors cried,
The way she shattered every mullioned pane
To let a firebrand in. They tried in vain
To understand how one so carved from pride
And glassed in dream could have so flung aside
Her graven days, or why she dared profane
The bread and wine of life for some insane
Moment with him. The scandal never died.
But no one guessed that loveliness would claim
Her soul’s cathedral burned by his desires
Or that he left her aureoled in flame…
And seeing nothing but her blackened spires,
The town condemned this girl who loved too well
and found her heaven in the depths of hell.


I rather like it when women poets run circles around their male peers.  Feminist poetry precedes the term feminism.  It doesn’t mean that Manalang-Gloria was any less controversial in her day for shedding light on uncomfortable truths of unmerited male power.  No poet has voiced the anger of martial rape so purposefully as Manalang-Gloria.

It does not appear that either of these poem were based on her own experience, but are rather the voice of women of her generation.    She wrote lovingly about her own husband, who was killed by Japanese soldiers, leaving her to raise their three children alone.  It’s no surprise she was a successful businesswoman, but her poetry found little acceptance in the male dominated publishing world.

Contrast Manalang-Gloria unvarnished poetry on the subject of sex with Maramag? Maramag was the more commercially successful Phillipino poet but Manalang-Gloria’s words stand the test of time in my opinion with a fresher voice of honesty.  Which poem do you think will still being read in 100 years?  In 200 years?   Let’s hope both but I would put my money on Manalang-Gloria.


The Rural Maid

By Fernando M. Maramag

Thy glance, sweet maid, when first we met,
Had left a heart that aches for thee,
I feel the pain of fond regret—
Thy heart, perchance, is not for me.

We parted: though we met no more,
My dreams are dreams of thee, fair maid;
I think of thee, my thoughts implore
The hours my lips on thine are laid.

Forgive these words that love impart,
And pleading, bare the poet’s breast;
And if a rose with thorns thou art,
Yet on my breast that rose may rest.

I know not what to name thy charms,
Thou art half human, half divine;
And if I could hold thee in my arms,
I know both heaven and earth were mine