By Luis G. Dato


Dear Elsa, as I write to you these lines,
A flower festival rehearsal’s on -­
Still high, behind Sport’s Palace, the sun shines
And bathes with glow the grounds this afternoon.

My thoughts, however, are not of the sun
Nor of band music playing Auld Lang Syne,
For after all, night comes when day is done,
These girls in hundreds none I can call mine.

I mused instead of you, your glance whose light
Shines midway ‘twixt a setting sun and star,
Whose grace is that of queens, and at whose sight
My heart in transports reaches regions far.

Today’s your birthday, gift of God you were
To warm the heart in this the human vale,
For of the fairest you are still more fair,
To chant of you my lyre’s of no avail.


The world we live in is a sad, old earth,
Where’er we turn there seems an air of doom,
War ominous looms, traditions have lost worth,
Our pilgrimage was ne’er so near its tomb.

But when we see in moments beauty’s grace,
As when we’re blessed to see you by us pass,
The warming smile, the wonder of your face,
With us it seems that shadow never was.

Be it as this may be, of this be sure,
My love for you with fire alarming burns,
And now with such a soul so sweet, so pure,
This day I wish you many glad returns.


Of birthdays, Elsa, let us not write more,
Yours came last month –’tis past, that’s definite,
It has rejoined the yesterdays of yore,
And that, perhaps, is all there is to it.

Nevertheless, next year and every year,
Your birthday you will always celebrate,
And we, unless meanwhile we disappear
Will keep our verses for you up-to-date.

But that is neither here nor there, the point
Is that, birthday or not, we have a hunch,
A crush that grows each day –we’re out of joint
When you we see not (cold will be the lunch!).

This is not saying that in all the world
We have no eyes for others, yes, we have
But for them all, hair-doed and oiled and curled,
We do not unabashed or this much rave.

Dear Elsa, we are seniors now, and we
Must be our age and our decorum keep,
Yet why a ritual of propriety?
Is it not as we sow that we shall reap?

For you and you alone our soul-desire,
Your sunny smile (and frown) have us in thrall,
With vast bright wings shall soar our long-stilled lyre,
Like swallows long-departed come to call,

Returning from the auras of lost years,
Across the vistas of the vanished shore,
They come to haunt the memory to tears -­
And nevermore return to earth once more.

And this because, how now shall we say it?
Summer is back and romance fills the air,
But words are best unsaid, indefinite,
We’d rather further than we’ve said not dare.


This whole long month I have not seen
Sweet Elsa, of my life the queen,
And though ’tis May, the month of flowers,
In it I’ve passed my saddest hours.

‘Neath trysting stars alone I stray
And do not meet her on my way,
Perhaps it is decree of fate,
That, seeking love, I should find hate.

Or Cupid of the silver bow
Has willed, perhaps, for all we know,
That, seeking love, I should find pain,
And dreams of Elsa prove but vain.

And yet ’tis better to have loved
And constancy to Elsa proved,
Than never to have loved at all
(This, poets say, despite the gall).

Despite the sting, despite the thorn
Oblivion brings to one forlorn,
‘Tis better to have loved and lost,
For Elsa is well worth the cost.

Oft through the hours I muse and stare
Beside me at an empty chair,
And Memory brings to me always
The light, the grace of other days

When she was there so near, so dear,
In all my musing to appear
To make the fond heart skip a beat,
Turn erstwhile bitter into sweet.

For who deny that Elsa’s fair,
Muse for the lyre, its fond despair?
These thirty days, not seeing one,
Seem thirty years of woe begone.

And who deny, beyond all measure,
Hers is for me a heart to treasure,
A fabled case of love at sight,
Of the moth’s yearning for the light?

So, if one day should we chance meet,
How may it be, O Elsa sweet?
It may be months, it may be years,
But ma.y it be the end of tears?


The other month, I think it was,
While raindrops glinted on the grass,
I saw you standing by the door
Of Science Lab at half past four.

All, all alone with your sweet self,
A naiad, nymph, perhaps an elf
Dreaming by some uncoralled shore
Could not have charmed my fancy more.

What were your thoughts, to what strange glades
Where springs dry ne’er, nor flowers fade,
In wings had flown your musing mind,
The dreams of youth if e’er to find?

Perhaps you mused, whence, what my due?
In what fair land do dreams come true?
May there be happiness in life,
Will I be an attorney’s wife?

O Elsa, through dark ways and fair
For you I have thought everywhere,
Despite strange fears unmarried still
Who only may my longings fill.

One day we’ll meet by fabled springs
E’en where that day on golden wings
You dreamed in dreams your youth away,
Where it is always endless day.

There we will sit beside the stream,
Of life and love, their mystery dream,
Behold the wonder of twilight,
The silver moon, the starry night.

But, more than all, I’ll have you near,
Which passing time shall more endear,
And, like the stars, the endless sea,
I’ll love you through eternity.


I hear it planned you’ll be away
In U.S.A. (and other lands?)
Where with a torch to light the way,
In New York harbor Freedom stands.

In campus circles such the word
Of the grapevine from friend to friend -­
H.S. and Ph.D., the Lord
Knows only where it all will end.

If this be so, by all means go,
The chance comes by not every day,
It knocks but once, for all we know,
And comes not back once turned away.

From all the lands, the furthest verge
Of continents the scholar folk
At U.S. colleges converge,
For Science at their portals knock.

And college-bound, while there you’ll find
The ablest in their special lines,
You’ll see that what grooms best in mind
Is travel, and our ways refines.

And that, if asked, is what the mind
Would on your U.S. prospect say,
But trailing close, I see behind
Someone who feels the other way.

And this, dear Elsa, is my heart,
Him to the subject I must bring,
For you will leave, we’ll be apart,
And this to me is no light thing.

No trifle the blank months ahead
When in your absence you I’l1 miss,
Days will be long, my heart of lead,
In all my work I’ll be remiss.

Then at the airport when they bid
Beside the plane their warm goodbye,
My nerves might fail me, God forbid!
That I rend heaven with my cry!

“You go, dear Elsa,” says the mind,
“Please don’t, sweet Elsa,” pleads my heart,
Dilemna greater you cant find,
Nor heavier sorrow when you part.


These past four weeks while waiting for
The opening of the school-year,
To know of our loved province more
I’ve gone its places far and near.

But then, of course, you will not think
The reason true I’ve mentioned yet-­
That in despair I’m near the brink’,
That I must travel to forget.

If only for a little while,
For when my Elsa goes away,
Life will lose meaning, I my smile,
It will be then my lonest day.

Then , bitter, I to heaven turn,
Complain to fortune , curse my fate,
Resentment just in me feel burn
That it will be long, long wait.

Until she comes back, safe and sound,
Wise to the world, perhaps, but old,
Eden, by then, she’ll not have found,
Would she be mine to have and hold?

Luis Dato
Luis Dato

Luis G. Dato (July 4, 1906 - January 29, 1985) was a poet, writer and educator from Sta. Cruz, Baao, Camarines Sur. He published books in English including Manila A Collection of verse (1926), My Book of Verses (1936) and the Land of Mai in 1975. He also wrote several books and text in Bikol such as, Vocabulario Bikol-Ingles-Kastila (1963), Cantahon na Bikol (1969), Morfologia kan Tataramon na Bikol (serialized in Naga Times), Patotodon sa Bikol (Bikol Mail) and Sarabihon sa Bikol.

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