detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Thursday, April 29, 2004


: . An Elegy in Three Scenes

Nick Joaquin, 1917-2004

Nick Joaquin, 1917-2004

I.
    To feel that driving urge, that imperious necessity to write poetry, a poet needs an audience; he must be conscious of an audience -- not only of a present audience but of a permanent one, an eternal one, an audience of all the succeeding generations. He must feel that his poems will generate new poets. Well, poetry withered away for the writers of my time because we knew that we had come to a dead end, we had come to a blind alley. We could go on writing if we liked -- but we would be writing only for ourselves -- and our poems would die with us, our poems would die barren. They were written in a dying tongue; our sons spoke another language. Oh, they say that no two succeeding generations ever speak the same language -- but it was literally true of my time and of the present. My generation spoke European, the present generation speaks American. Who among the young writers now can read my poems? My poems may as well be written in Babylonian! And who among the writers of my time can say that his poems have generated new poets? No one -- no, not even poor Pepe Rizal! The fathers of the young poets of today are from across the sea. They are not our sons; they are foreigners to us, and we do not even exist for them. And if I had gone on being a poet, what would I be now? A very unhappy old man, a very bitter old man -- a failure and a burden -- and with no respect for himself. The choice before me was between poetry and self-respect; I had to choose between Europe and America; and I chose -- No, I did not choose at all. I simply went along with the current. Quomodo cantabo canticum Domini in terra aliena?

    Look at your father up there. He has realized the tragedy of his generation. He, too, has been unable to sing. He, too, finds himself stranded in a foreign land. He, too, must carry himself to his own grave because there is no succeeding generation to carry him forward. His art will die with him. It is written in a dead language, it is written in Babylonian...And we all end alike -- all of us old men from the last century -- we all end the same. The rich and the poor, the failures and the successes, those who moved forward and those who stayed behind -- our fate is the same! All, all of us must carry our own dead selves to our common grave...We have begotten no sons; we are a lost generation!

    --A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, p. 52

II.
    PAULA: And you are not afraid, Candida?
    CANDIDA: Of being...a Babylonian?
    PAULA: And of being exterminated.
    CANDIDA: May God forgive me for ever having desired the safeness of mediocrity!
    PAULA: Then stand up, Candida -- stand up! We are free again! We are together again -- you and I and father. Yes -- and father too! Don't you see, Candida? This is the sign he has been waiting for -- ever since he gave us that picture, ever since he offered us our release -- the sign that we had found our faith again, that we had found our courage again! Oh, he was waiting for us to take this step, to make this gesture -- this final, absolute, magnificent, unmistakable gesture!
    CANDIDA: And now we have done it!
    PAULA: We have recognized our true vocation!
    CANDIDA: We have taken our final vows!
    PAULA: And we have placed ourselves irrevocably on his side!
    CANDIDA: Does he know?
    PAULA: Oh yes, yes!
    CANDIDA: Have you told him?
    PAULA: But what need is there to tell him?
    CANDIDA: Oh Paula!
    PAULA: He knows, he knows!
    CANDIDA: And he has forgiven us at last! He has forgiven us, Paula!
    PAULA: And we will stand with him?
    CANDIDA: Contra mundum!
    PAULA: Oh Candida, let us drink to it!
    CANDIDA: But now we stand with him as persons; we stand with him of our own free will, knowing what we do and why we do it. Oh, we did not know before, Paula. We loved him only because he was our father and because we were his daughters. But now we are no longer his daughters -- no...And how I shiver with terror! We cannot resume the past, Paula; we must work out a new relationship -- the three of us. Something has happened to the three of us -- and to father most of all. Paula, do you realize that we do not know him anymore? He is no longer the charming artist of our childhood; and he is no longer that bitter broken old man who jumped out of the window. Something has been happening to him all this year. He has come to terms with life; he has made his own peace; he has found a solution. We will be facing a man risen from the grave...Oh Paula, how I shiver! And yet I can hardly wait! I can hardly wait to face him, to show him these new creatures he has made of us! We are no longer his daughters; we are his friends, his disciples, his priestesses! We have been born again -- not of his flesh but of his spirit!

    --A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, pp. 105-107

III.
    (Untitled)

    Clean, like, iodoform, between, the, tall,
    Letters, of, Death, I, see, Life. This,
    To, me, is, immortal, weather, immortal,

    Spelling: The, elegant, interweaver, I,
    Call, Hero. Beautiful, as, a, child, eating,
    Raw, carrot: whole, as, a, child's, eyes,

    Gazing, at, you: Death, builds, her, heroes,
    Intensely, clean, Death, builds, her, heroes,
    Intensely, whole. A, man, and, Death, indeed,

    That, Life, may, speak: a, man, and, Death,
    In, league, that, Life, may, flower: clean,
    Athletic, mathematic, dancer: and, present-

    Tensing, all, his, future: poises, dances,
    Every, everywhere, he, go: Christ, upon, a,
    Ball: Saltimbanque, perpetual, in, beauty.

    --Jose Garcia Villa
Elsewhere:

Journalism Versus Literature (Part I, Part II) by Nick Joaquin

The Passing of An Era: Nick Joaquin, 1917-2004 by Alfred A. Yuson

Joaquin, National Artist, Signs Off by Volt Contreras and Ruel S. De Vera

Nick Joaquin, the Filipino by Dan Mariano

National Artist Nick Joaquin, a Man of Letters to the End by Jose Torres

Ave, Nick Joaquin! by Sylvia Mayuga

Conqueror (PDI Editorial)

The Man with Two Novels by Manuel L. Quezon III

A Portrait of the Artist as Journalist by Neal H. Cruz

Irreplaceable by Conrado de Quiros

Nick Joaquin's Apocalypse: The Last Days of a Giant by Lito B. Zulueta

Melancholia by Carmen Nakpil

Love, Youth, and Nick Joaquin by Menchu Aquino Sarmiento

Nick Joaquin Tribute Page (A Heritage of Smallness, May Day Eve, The Summer Solstice, more)

Nick Joaquin's political reportage (as Quijano de Manila), Part I, Part II

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