Sant Jordi – A Sonnet

So today is St George’s Day. Not just in England, though, but a whole host of other places (so Wikipedia informs me). One place where I can definitely vouch for George’s and this day’s importance is Catalonia where La Diada de Sant Jordi is a much more celebrated day than the semi-forgotten, slightly embarrassed thing it is here in Britain.

Two traditions mark the day of Sant Jordi in Catalonia – the giving of roses by guys to girls, and the giving of books from anyone to anyone. Rose-giving goes back to the 15th Century, but books weren’t involved until 1926, when someone decided to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, Spain’s great novel.

In 1995, UNESCO took up the idea and declared the 23rd of April ‘World Book Day’, also commemorating the day on which Shakespeare passed through nature to eternity. ‘Book Day’ began as a parallel but soon became absorbed into the festival of Sant Jordi, it becoming a tradition to give a book to someone close. The fervour with which this tradition has been taken up is seen in the fact that nearly half of all sales of books written in Catalan are reaped on this day – no wonder authors do their utmost to promote their book at this time!

And so now, Sant Jordi is firmly established as the day of the book and the rose, taking on the feel of St Valentines’ – not really celebrated by the Catalans – and so becoming a day of love and literature! Not a bad combo in my opinion. Oh, and here’s a Sonnet…

Sant Jordi – A Sonnet

Quixotic hearts attest romance’s power
And Jaques will sigh that ‘All the world’s a stage’.
We play our part in each and every age,
And dance alone until the calling hour
When Love descends from long forgotten bower
To free the heart that built itself a cage,
Put pen to ink and fill an open page,
Take a hand and place in it a flower.
If all’s an act, explain this touch I feel
That lights my skin and sets my heart on fire.
The veil is torn and mysteries revealed.
My soul is won, with love forever sealed,
By nothing more than purest pure desire.
Love is what shall write this fiction real.

– Ben

(This post draws on a blog I wrote during my time in Catalonia, which if you just absolutely have to do so, you’re very welcome to click here.)

First Poem in Catalan

Creating something in your own language is wonderful enough, but creating something in another language is something else altogether. Having translated poems from Catalan, and written some poems in English about Catalonia, I suddenly got the itch to have a go at a poem in Catalan. So, feeling a little like an intrepid intruder setting up their own little home within a foreign land, I here put forward a very short poema Catalana that you could have a go translating if you want, or just enjoy the wonderful strangeness of a different language:

Festa

La nit és nostra força
Per viure amb un bes.
Trobem la llum que porta
I fem el món encès.

– Ben

Comments/Corrections very welcome!

If You Go Far – by Joan Salvat-Papasseit

If you go far
.                so far yourself no more to see
then none would know my life as drawn by fate,
no other lips would hold me behind lock and key
but with your name my path I’d know and take.
Seeking solace in those girls would leave me naught
nor does song beneath the chink of glass proffer cheer,
when seeking souls come ships of war to Port,
there would I go, to stand alone and steer.
If I raised the flag that it might catch upon the air,
raised it oh so high, you’d look up and see it there.

Joan Salvat-Papasseit (1894-1924)

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Original Catalan text

‘Si Anessis Lluny’ – per Joan Salvat-Papasseit

Si anessis lluny
.                 tan lluny que no et sabés
tampoc ningú sabria el meu destí,
cap altre llavi no em tindria pres
però amb el teu nom faria el meu camí.
Un ram de noies no em fóra conhort
ni la cançó sota el dring de la copa,
vaixells de guerra vinguessin al Port
prou hi aniria, mariner de popa.
Si jo posava la bandera al pal
i era molt alta, t’hi veuria a dalt.

(Text sourced from: http://lletra.uoc.edu/especials/folch/salvatpa.htm)

The First Book of the Corner Shop [1] – by Carles Riba

A chimera have you made the elusive grace
of a wish and now you are deserted, oh mind.
Oh solitude bereft of gentle thought
and mad procession without living word!

Yet what is done, if in your sweet oblivion
enduring, restless angst goes deeper and deeper?
Even now, the joy upon the flesh does cease,
bearing the announcement of a song unsaid.

And he is holy fire setting your eternal flux
upon the ashes of your lament;
peace is not your wish for void eternal, oh mind,
Oh fool that dared to glimpse yourself uncloaked.

Carles Riba (1893-1959)

Note: this poem originally rhymed (abba, cddc, eaae, as you can see below). I hold up my hands and say I found it just too hard to translate AND rhyme this time round. I might have another crack at it in time, but hopefully you can enjoy my translation anyway!

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Original Catalan text

[1] – Del ‘Llibre Primer d’Estances’ – per Carles Riba

T’ha enquimerat la gràcia fugitiva
d’un desig i ara ets deserta, oh ment.
Ai soledat sense dolç pensament
i foll traüt sense paraula viva!
Però ¿què hi fa, si dins el teu oblit
la inquietud pregonament perdura?
Encara el goig sobre la carn s’atura,
duent l’anunci d’algun cant no dit.
I ell és el foc sagrat que et perpetua
damunt les cendres del desolament;
no vulguis calma en ton oblit, oh ment,
oh folla que has gosat mirar-te nua.

(Text sourced from: http://lletra.uoc.edu/especials/folch/riba.htm)

Anniversary with Yellow Daisies – by Narcís Comadira

A year ago, a thousand years, a day ago no more,
Not even that. I feel at once that urgent joy
With fearfulness and dread and heart maniacal
Of adolescence, pressing for the coming day to find you
New, absolute, abounding in promises and desires,
Of seasons fruitful, of Septembers eternal,
Where forever be confused the fruits and the surprises,
The memories and the wait.
                               Not but a single day has passed,
Still I do not know you, yet you I have known and seen
And I long for you as ever. With each day comes clearness new,
Each day my blood ignites in fire and in flash,
And my flesh is more flesh for it knows you will come.
A year it’s been, just a year, and I have known you forever.
Of life you have made a garden of delights:
Yet have we a thousand years, to lie amongst these, our daisies.

Narcís Comadira (b. 1942)

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Original Catalan text

‘Aniversari amb Margaridas Grogues’ – per Narcís Comadira

Fa un any i fa mil anys i fa un dia només,
i ni això. Sento ara aquesta joia forta
que, amb neguit i basarda i amb cor esbojarrat
d’adolescent, pressent per l’endemà trobar-te
nova, absoluta, fèrtil de promeses i afanys,
d’estacions madures, de setembres eterns,
on es confonguin sempre els fruits i les sorpreses,
els records i l’espera.
                    No fa ni un dia encara,
encara no et conec i et tinc sabuda i vista
i et desitjo de sempre. Cada dia és més clar,
cada dia la sang s’incendia i fulgura,
i la carn és més carn perquè sap que vindràs.
Fa un any, només un any i et conec des de sempre.
De la vida n’has fet un jardí de delícies:
tenim mil anys encara, i aquestes margarides.

(Text sourced from: http://lletra.uoc.edu/especials/folch/comadira.htm)

Golden Shadow – by Narcís Comadira

Shining with a darkly blaze
Gentle golden shadow
Cryptic, unrelenting
The stirring force of life
It moves this wasted world
Living tender viscera
Keep hold of youthfulness.

Narcís Comadira (b. 1942)

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Original Catalan Text

‘Ombra Daurada’ – per Narcís Comadira

Brilla amb un fosc fulgor
dolça ombra daurada
recòndita insistent
la que commou d’afany
aquest món desolat
viva víscera tendra
encara joventut.

(Text sourced from: http://lletra.uoc.edu/especials/folch/comadira.htm)

Two Lovers – by Josep Carner

At sea’s edge there sat two lovers and their sorrow.
Falling came the autumn from darkening peaks beyond.
The wind whistled out as it raced across the furrow;
With leaf-litter and dust were the lovers wrapped around.
Imploringly with hands they raised a hopeless plea;
Against their backs came lashing down an icy, whipping chill,
With dust and dirt the wind had brought they found their mouths were filled,
Remnant skins upon their frames in aspect beggarly.
And flashed across each lover’s eyes a bolt of ire strange.
Perhaps they cursed the sea, and damned the mountain range.
If death would only take them, to sleep oblivion’s dream!
As pathways fork the cries of blame ring out along the coast,
And the night, the starless night, engulfs the lovers’ ghosts.
No more in places without name were those two lovers seen.

Josep Carner (1884-1970)

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Original Catalan Text

‘Dos Amants’

Hi havia dos amants vora la mar en pena.
Venia la tardor per serres fosquejants.
El vent féu un xiulet saltant per la carena;
amb fullaraca i pols embolcallà els amants.
En imploració van aixecar les mans;
un glacial fuet els afrontà l’esquena;
de polseguera es van trobar la boca plena,
despulles sobre el cos a estil de mendicants.
I van guspirejar llurs ulls d’una ira estranya.
Potser els van maleir la mar i la muntanya.
Tant de bo que la mort o l’oblit els colgués!
En un forc de camins esclataren en blasmes,
i la nit sense estels engolí llurs fantasmes.
Per indrets sense nom no es van veure mai més.

(Text sourced from: http://lletra.uoc.edu/especials/folch/carner.htm)