10th day of de la Costa lecture series tackles human value and his poems

April 26, 2016
Dr. Labella says that Fr. de la Costa's youthful work was something inseparable from his mature social vision

On the 2nd to the last part of the lecture series commemorating the birth centenary of Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ, Dr. John Labella focused his talk on the idea of human value in relation to Fr. de la Costa’s poems.

Dr. Labella is an Americanist specializing in modern poetry, transnationalism and Asian-American Literature. His poems have been published in Prairie Schooner online, Budhi, Philippine Studies, the Philippine Free Press and Likhaan anthologies.

His talk revisited the works of Fr. de la Costa in relation to the founding of human value as an indeterminable idea and of poetic mind as necessary to this endeavor.

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“The way I have carried out the task of revisiting his literary remains has been to work my way backwards,” he said. By doing this, what comes to life in Fr. de la Costa’s later work illuminated retroactively the poetic/artistic life of a younger de la Costa.

According to Dr. Labella, a poetic mind was a place in language where human knowledge reached its limit. Resources of a poetic mind were found in Fr. de la Costa’s works during World War II and the Cold War—times when nations witnessed the undoing of human worth.

He added that institutions, like the church and state, had the power to define human value but it could not do so without covering up the limits of that worth.

Dr. Labella recites Fr. de la Costa's "Stars" to end his lecture

“Institutions required the aid of resources from the poetic mind,” Dr. Labella said. “Human value was not set in stone and once lost cannot be reformed except through the images that the poetic mind offered.”

Dr. Labella also read 2 of Fr. de la Costa’s works which were about or almost likened to the celestial space and said that there was really a point in a poet’s life where the celestial was involved as it pertained to how man wondered about his value.

He ended his lecture by reciting Fr. de la Costa’s “Stars” which was written in 1932.

“I’ll be giving the poem the last word and I hope that with the silences that follow,” Dr. Labella said, “you and I can hear better all the yearning of what was possible or what was made possible by the ambivalence of human indeterminacy.”

Stars by Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ
Who will come through the night with me?
Through the blue-robed night to see
The sweetly-glimmering stars?
Who will come to the soft-lit lane,
And soothe all the white day's pain
With the wistful gleam of the stars?
Who will laugh a laughter of joy,
A silver laughter without alloy
With a laugh of the laughing stars?
Who will come and make love with me
Whose heart with my heart
Will flee to the call of the burning stars?

Listen to Dr. Labella’s lecture below: