Here is a poem in Catalan by Salvador Espriu. Espriu is usually held up as an example of a poet toiling in obscurity, motivated only by his art and with no desire for reward or recognition. He was a menial clerk in either a law firm or an accountants office, I forget which, a sort of Bob Cratchit figure earning a pittance. But he was published and anthologised in his lifetime, so I guess he actually did get a good deal of recognition.
This is a poem written for the wedding of some friends of his, at Sinera, an imaginary town on the Catalan coast. The title is also suitably tentative – “Possible Introduction to an Epithalamion”, which is a poem written especially for a new bride at a wedding. When you add the reclusive and obscure condition of the poet to the tentative nature of the title, and the reference to an imaginary place in the sub-title, you already get an air of mystery worthy of one of those French New wave films, where no-one can quite figure out what it all means.
POSSIBLE INTRODUCCIÓ A UN EPITALAMI
Bodes d’uns amics, a Sinera
Durant el llarg estiu hem vist cremar molts boscos
al nostre vell país tan desarbrat.
Quan tramuntava el sol, de l’incendi del vespre
s’alçaven foc que lentament obrien
les amples portes de la desolació de la nit.
Ronden garbí o migjorn: sempre, sempre
el sec alè del vent damunt els camps.
L’eixut estroncà dolls, arrasava collites,
endinsa en el record fressa de pluja
per vinyes i rials, camí de mar.
Però segueix, tristesa enllà, el designi de vida,
car fou escrit que l’amor venceria la mort.
Ara un home i una dona joves resolien casar-se,
i nosaltres acollim somrients el coratge
dels qui confien que hi haurà demà.
And then we get into the content of the poem which is quite unusual for a wedding poem. The scene is a desolate landscape, the trees burnt down by forest fires, fed by the dry wind blowing over the fields relentlessly. This does not seem like the setting for a wedding or happiness or fruitfulness. But the last three lines introduce the young bride and groom, surrounded by the poet and his friends admiring their courage that there will be a brighter tomorrow. Of course, the whole thing might be an allegory of the status of minority languages and cultures in Franco’s Spain, when the Catalan language was effectively suppressed for forty years.
Whatever the meaning, we can all hang on to that one line “car fou escrit que l’amor venceria la mort.” Hear, hear.
The Poetry Dude