Santa Eulàlia

I came with camera clutched in hand.
My entry fee was my demand:
Another tourist out to claim
Another piece of culture to their name;
A stroke of depth upon a stoneless wall
For looks and likes and thoughts from friends and all.
And then I looked,
Looked up into the heavens’ store,
Looked up and thought of likes no more,
Looked up and felt this groaning body soar
Into a space of light
And peace
And awe.
We burn to share the moments that we feel
Have weaved in us another realm of real.
Yet surely not to show them who we are,
But ask if this is only just the start.
For light,
Such light as falls and fills and breathes
Could change the heart of what a man believes.

– Ben

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Santa Eulàlia is Barcelona’s Cathedral, tucked into the heart of the city in the beautifully dark Barri Gotic. Here are some more pics (No, I didn’t completely let go of my camera!)

Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Portico, Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Portico, Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Cloister, Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Cloister, Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Crypt, Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)
Crypt, Santa Eulalia, Barcelona (Ben Wright, 2012)

Faith – by Eudald Puig

The clock hangs upon the wall.
Time now has a beautiful altar and a precise cord.
All the old ones are getting on their knees
and disturbing the earth with their hands;
they search for the ancient line of the redeemers.
One of them adorns another in piety.
They are full of faith.
The girls have brought a bloom of gladiolus
and the tip of agave cactus,
when it lays its flowers before the death carriage.
When all those present pray, spirit-filled,
the Beatitudes and the Rosary
the cancerous, as is their wont, die quietly.
Illuminated, the evening clock.
All is lost within the peaceful night.

Eudald Puig (b. 1948)

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Original Catalan Text

‘Fe’ – per Eudald Puig

El rellotge penja del mur.
El temps ja té un bell altar i una corda
precisa.
Tots els vells es van agenollant
i remenen terra amb les mans;
cerquen l’antiga nissaga dels redemptors.
Un d’ells n’acoltella un altre per pietat.
Són plens de fe.
Les noies han portat flors d’espadella
i l’alt pinacle d’atzavara,
quan floreix davant la carrossa mortuòria.
Quan tots els presents resen, ebris,
les benaurances i el rosari,
els cancerosos solen mori dolçament.
S’il.lumina el rellotge al vespre.
Tot es perd dintre la plàcida nit.

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

Testament – by Joan Teixidor

I will write verses blank
where every word shall hang suspended in the air,
where nought shall speak of aught
beyond the meadow’s peace, oblivion
where I am no more and ceaselessly live on.
When once I wished to be it all,
Now do I but live within
that bird that looks at me and I see not,
that creeping twilight,
that death that waits for me.
Think of me as if I were but a shadow,
as that which lingered written upon the water.
Incessantly have I loved you all
and that alone shall preserve me.

Joan Teixidor (1913-1992)

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Original Catalan text

‘Testament’ – per Joan Teixidor

Escriuré versos blancs
on totes les paraules quedin suspeses en l’aire,
on res no digui res
fora la pau dels camps, l’oblit
on ja no sóc i em perpetuo.
Quan volia ésser-ho tot,
ara ja només visc
d’aquest ocell que em mira i que no veig,
d’aquest crepuscle lent,
d’aquesta mort que m’espera.
Penseu en mi com si fos una ombra,
allò que va quedar escrit sobre l’aigua.
Però sempre us he estimat
i això només em salva.

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

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)

Not the Perfect Song – by Joan Vinyoli

Not the perfect song but the cry
invoking God is necessary,
costly, not as the eagle
in which our hearts suffice to lift its wings.
With eyes aflame one must enter
into the night of mystery,
for the secret, as the air
that hits your eyes, goes deep within your heart.

Joan Vinyoli (1914-1984)

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Original Catalan text

‘No La Canço Perfecta’ – per Joan Vinyoli

No la cançó perfecta sinó el crit
que invoca Déu és necessari,
car no com l’àliga en té prou
el nostre cor amb moure bé les ales.
Amb ulls encesos cal entrar
dins la nit del misteri,
perquè el secret, així com l’aire
que bat als ulls, penetri fins al cor.

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

Rambling thoughts – On ‘Rambla de Catalunya’ by M.C. Ferreres

“RAMBLE [ram-buh l] v. – To wander around in a leisurely, aimless manner.”

Being no linguist, I would merely have to hazard a guess that this English word and the Spanish Rambla come from the same source. Even if I am wrong, this definition of ‘ramble’ seems to resonate perfectly with my most recent translation ‘Rambla de Catalunya‘, capturing the essence of M.C. Ferreres’ Catalonia – leisurely, aimless, wandering…

In trying my hand at interpreting this poem, the first image I meet is the broad and bustling avenue, the ‘rambla’. This is the main artery of the city, where you experience the flow of its life-force. I immediately assumed the city in reference was Barcelona, and mention of ‘Tibidabo’ (line 6) – a mountain just on the outskirts of Barcelona – confirms this. Barcelona is undoubtedly the beating heart of Catalonia, and so by extension, we can see Ferreres’ Rambla as an image of Catalonia itself, as the flow of life that sustains it.

Gaudi's Casa Mila, or 'La Pedrera' (Ben Wright, 2013)
Gaudi’s Casa Mila, or ‘La Pedrera’ (Ben Wright, 2013)

Yet this beating heart is not a healthy one, but one whose tubes have become greasy through years of inert indulgence, clogged with the trappings of modern high society (‘lordly decay’ in my translation). ‘Modern’ here refers to the time when Catalan culture was experiencing a glorious and powerful resurgence, be that in the modernist buildings of Antoni Gaudí, the surrealist paintings of Joan Miró or the noucentist poetry of Josep Carner.

So, while from within, Catalonia appears to be at the height of progress – a burgeoning, fashionable city full of art, culture and riches – Ferreres takes a step back and what meets his eye is much less agreeable…

The fashionable hat (I assume!) worn by the well-to-do says “good day” – yes, a good day for you wearing it perhaps. But a ‘good day’ for the workers in your factory, the servants in your house, or the beggars you walk past on your Sunday ramble? Then there are Barcelona’s cultured class, sitting in cafés that line La Rambla. But from their lips comes no stimulating or incisive social comment. Instead, you might hear something more along the lines of ‘Eh Joan, did your hear of young Pere? What a scandal!’  And finally, passing by these gossips sipping their ‘Orxata’ (a creamy drink made from tiger-nuts, milk and water) are the nannies with their master’s children. No longer do families spend their time together; parental duties are delegated – even for something as simple as a Sunday stroll – to the nanny.

'Els Quatre Gats' by Ricard Opisso, showing the creme de la creme of Catalan fin de secle intellectuals and artists (credit: grupferre.com)
‘Els Quatre Gats’ by Ricard Opisso, showing the creme de la creme of Catalan fin de siecle intellectuals and artists (credit: grupferre.com)

To me, Ferreres paints a picture of a society in the thralls of decadence, unaware, unable, perhaps even unwilling to stir itself from its luxurious slumber. The ‘lordly decay’ is emphasised by all these acts taking place on a Sunday, the traditional holy day for Christians (the Catalan word ‘diumengera’ roughly translates as “of or pertaining to Sunday”).

Dismay is not all Ferreres expresses though, for there is undoubtedly a note of threat in the last line of the poem:

Al fons, el Tibidabo t’espia.

This literally translates as: “In the background, Tibidabo watches you.”

This unholy frivolity – Ferreres warns – is not going unnoticed. Tibidabo is a mountain on the outskirts of Barcelona, visible from practically anywhere within the city. Upon its summit stands the Sagrat Cor, the ‘Sacred Heart’ Temple, and upon this stands a sculpture of Christ. This makes me wonder whether Ferreres (continuing with the thought of desecrating the holy day) felt that Catalans were bringing righteous judgement on themselves.

credit: conocerbarcelona.com
Sagrat Cor, Tibidabo. Credit: conocerbarcelona.com

 

Interestingly (well, I think so anyway!) the name ‘Tibidabo’ means ‘I will give to you’ and comes from the Latin translation of Matthew 4:9: “All this I will give you,” he [the devil] said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” This is where Satan took Jesus, during his period of temptation, to a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the earth (Matt 4:8) and promised to give them to Jesus if Jesus would worship the devil. Tibidabo, according to Catalan folklore, is that very mountain. Has Catalonia sold its soul in order to reap earthly reward?

Away from religious imagery, another thought I had is that Tibidabo represents the watchful eye of Spain, jealous of Catalonia’s success, irate at its confident self-expression, and ever-ready to break both. It’s just a tentative thought, but nonetheless interesting to note that by the mid-1920s Catalonia was under a temporary military dictatorship and would soon become a victim to one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century – the Spanish Civil War. The times of Sunday walks along the Rambla would not return for a long, long time…

What do you think? Do you agree, or have a different interpretation? I’d love to hear from you!