How Dr. José Rizal immortalized Wilhelmsfeld in his novel Noli me tángere.
On my last day in Heidelberg, my Knights Of Rizal hosts brought their Noli me tángere books. The first was the large centennial volume in Rizal’s own penmanship. From Rizal’s strikethroughs and insertions, I marveled at how his mind worked. Did he have the plot and scenes formulated in his mind? How did he have such a flowing penmanship and smooth text rendition? His concentration and creative genius was on display on this facsimile volume. The second volume was a Rizal signed copy of the Noli me tángere, a gift from Dr Paz P. Mendez, the National HIstorical Commission scholar, who with Pastor Gottlob Weber, helped keep the memory of Rizal in Wilhelmsfeld alive.
Upon reading Chapter VII, “Idyll in an Azotea” the Pastor, who had become an ardent Rizalist, recognized the scene that Rizal described. It was of Wilhelmsfeld!!! In his book, the pastor red -pencil -marked the margin page .
Let’s take a look at this particular scene. Note my annotations, in bold, after having been on the Odenwald forest where Rizal wandered by foot, (me by car going and by bus returning) during his hike through the valleys and trails.
–Excerpts from Rizal’s Noli me tángere Chapter VII–
On the balcony, Maria Clara asks Ibarra: “Did you not forget me on so many trips So many big cities? With so many beautiful women?”
Ibarra replies, “How can I forget you?’ …
“…(T)he whole time I was in Germany, as night fell, as I wandered in the forests inhabited by the fantastic creatures of its poets and the mysterious legends of its past generations, I called upon your name. (Rizal walked three hours starting from Philosopher’s Walk through the Odenwald forest returning from a day ‘s work in Dr. Otto Becker’s Heidelberg Eye Clinic).
Rizal could hear the peasant’s songs from his room, as they returned from a day’s work in the fields.
I thought I could see you in the mist that rose from the depths of the valleys, I thought I could hear your voice in the whispering of the leaves (Wilhelmsfeld is a valley town between two north western hills above Heidelberg).
…and when the folk songs of the peasants sang as they returned from their work would reach me from afar, they only seemed to harmonize with my own interior voices (In the pastor’s vicarage, Rizal’s room faced the street where the farmers’ songs could have wafted through his open window).
…which sang for you and give reality to my illusions and dreams (Could Rizal be referring to his trails on Philosophen Weg on to Wilhelmsfeld?)
…and night, which falls slowly there (Rizal was in Heidelberg-Wilhelmsfeld in February where nights are long).
…would find me still wandering, searching for the trail among the pines, beech and oak (those trees still stand there today).
Then, if the rays of the moon floated down through the openings in the thick canopy, I thought I could see you in the heart of the forest, like a vague, loving shadow shimmering among the light and the darkness of the thicket (Riding on number 34 Wihelmsfeld bus, I too, could discern those shimmering light as we passed the forest canopies).
And if perchance I could distinguish the varying warbles of the nightingale, I thought it was because I could see you and you were a muse.
Did I think about you?
The passion of my love for you not only brought life to their mists but color to their ice.”
p 48. Chapter 7, Augenbraum (2006) translation. (p 48). (Get this translation. It ‘s an easy contemporary read).
Later, Rizal mentions Germany again,
“Cruising on the Rhine on evenings lit by a slumbering moon, I asked myself if perhaps you were deceiving my fantasies, so that I saw you between the elms on the river bank, on the rock of Lorelei, (I asked my host to take me to the rock of Lorelei, but was told it’s 150 kilometers away from Heidelberg) or amidst the water ripples, singing in the silence of the night like the young fairy of consolation in order to enliven the solitude and sadness of those ruined castles.” (Rizal must have meant the Heidelberg ruined castle above the Neckar River, In 1886, he toured this ruins and noted its lonely sadness).
From Lacson-Locsin (2006 reprint) translation, pp 45-46. If you prefer to savour the lilting cadence and Rizal’s flowery turn of words, read this translation.