Today, let’s try another poem in Catalan from Joan Maragall, writing in the early years of the 20th century as part of the Catalan nationalist revival using language and culture as an expression of identity. The poem is an example of art commenting on art, as it was written after attending a performance by a child prodigy pianist of music by Beethoven, presumably in one of Barcelona’s leading concert-halls. It captures both the inspiration from the music itself and also the wonder of it being played by someone very young.
“HAVENT SENTIT BEETHOVEN”
PER MIECIO HORZOWZKY, INFANT
Has tornat a ensenyar-me la puresa.
Del tot jo no l’havia desapresa
(no del tot, criatura, no del tot);
però ara, als meus anys, la saviesa
de tornar a ésser nin, amb la riquesa
de tot lo món a dintre, jo l’he entesa
per tes mans, criatura, per ton cor.
Amb aquella innocència que el tenien
tes mans de nin, el cor d’aquell gegant!
El gros aucell, en mans de xic infant,
debatia ses ales poderoses:
somreies retenint-lo entre tes mans…
Ha volat; i abaixant el front, commoses,
totes les dones s’han tornat formoses
i tots els homes s’han tornat germans.
The poem is addressed directly to the young pianist, both in the title and in the content of the two stanzas; it contrasts the age and experience of the poet with the youth and purity of the musician, and shows how the poet can learn from the young man to appreciate the beauty of the world through the hands of the young musician. The concepts of child, baby, innocence recur throughout the poem, reawakening the poet’s appreciation of life and beauty.
The second stanza introduces the metaphor of Beethoven himself as the great bird flapping its wings, but held under control by the small hands of the child – even a child can master the mighty force of Beethoven’s music.
The final image in the last two lines sums up the impact a great performance can have on an audience – all the women have become beautiful and all the men have become brothers. In other words this great performance by a remarkable young pianist has united the people listening to it in a feeling of harmony and solidarity.
The Poetry Dude