La ginesta altre vegada,

Here is a poem from Joan Maragall in which he goes in for extreme nature-loving, transporting himself into physical raptures of pleasure upon finding a yellow broom tree (ginesta) while hiking up a hill. The yellow broom is considered a nationalist symbol by Catalan nationaists, so this probably goes a long way towards explaining the poet’s unbridled enthusiasm for the tree. Let’s assume so at any rate, rather than any one of the more bizarre possible explanations…



Joan Maragall


La ginesta altre vegada,

la ginesta amb tanta olor,

és la meva enamorada

que ve al temps de la calor.

Per a fer-li una abraçada

he pujat dalt del serrat:

de la primera besada

m’ha deixat tot perfumat.

Feia un vent que enarborava,

feia un sol molt resplendent:

la ginesta es regirava

furiosa al sol rient.

Jo la prenc per la cintura:

la tisora va en renou

desflorant tanta hermosura

fins que el cor me n’ha dit prou.

Amb un vimet que creixia

innocent a vora seu

he lligat la dolça aimia

ben estreta en un pom breu.

Quan l’he tinguda lligada

m’he girat de cara al mar…

M’he girat al mar de cara,

que brillava com cristall;

he aixecat el pom enlaire

i he arrencat a córrer avall.


From <>


Bu whatever the motivation, the poem describes the poet climbing a hill to meet his lover, enjoying her scent, putting his arms around her and kissing her, tying a bouquet of the yellow flowers with a piece of ivy, turning to look at a view of the sea,  and then lifting it in the air to run back down the hill. And the lover is not a girl, it is the broom tree and its yellow flowers.


Nature can indeed have truly inspirational powers.


The Poetry Dude

Oh, que cansat estic de la meva

Salvador Espriu’s poem is evocative of the dreary years of Spain under Franco, probably in the 1950s when most of the violence stemming from the Spanish Civil War was over done with, but modernising influences were not yet in play. Thinking, literate people in Spain during that era kept their heads down and just tried to get on with their lives as best they could. Espriu himself scraped a living as a junior clerk in a lawyer’s office for most of these years.

The poem is a lament for the state of his country, for the despondent attitude of grudging acceptance of most of the people, and a fantasy of escaping abroad to a country where the people are free, prosperous, cultured and happy.

Spai under Franco was indeed a desolate place for almost 40 years.

As with almost all of Espriu’s poetry, it is written in Catalan, a language which was suppressed in the Franco years, but which fortunately rebounded even stronger after Franco’s death in the mid 1970s.

Assaig de càntic en el temple

Salvador Espriu

Oh, que cansat estic de la meva

covarda, vella, tan salvatge terra,

i com m’agradaria allunyar-me’n,

nord enllà,

on diuen que la gent és neta

i noble, culta, rica, lliure,

desvetllada i feliç!

Aleshores, a la congregació, els germans dirien

desaprovant: “Com l’ocell que deixa el niu,

així l’home que se’n va del seu indret”,

mentre jo, ja ben lluny, em riuria

de la llei i de l’antiga saviesa

d’aquest meu àrid poble.

Però no he de seguir mai el meu somni

I em quedaré aquí fins a la mort.

Car sóc també molt covard i salvatge

i estimo a més amb un

desesperat dolor

aquesta meva pobra, bruta, trista, dissortada pàtria.

From <>

The poem opens with two lines expressing the poets fatigue and fedupness with conditions in his country – cowardly, old-fashioned and unruly. He goes on contrast with where he would like to be – far away in a northern country where the people are straightforward and noble, cultivated, rich, free, and happy. But then the poet thinks of the inevitable disapproving comments of the people around him – he would be as bad as a bird abandoning his nest, if he were to flee abroad. The poet however knows that if he could but get away he would not need to heed such sterile and useless sermonising. But alas, the poet ends with sadness and frustration, as the poet admits that he will not leave, he will stay at home until he dies, as he himself is just cowardly and wild as his countrymen, so it is with despair that he will go on loving his poor, brutal, sad, unruly country.

This poem is a wonderful evocation of what it must have been like to live in Spain, under Franco;s rule in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

The Poetry Dude

Qui no tinga a la finestra

A poem for this Sunday or any Sunday by Joan Maragall, the great Catalan poet from the turn of the 20th century. Sunday being the day when you can take a deep breath and appreciate the beauty of the world, realise your happiness and throw off the cares of the working week.

de Joan Maragall
Qui no tinga a la finestra
dos testos de flors germans,
un aucell dins d’una gàbia,
i un cor enamorat,
no sap lo que és benaurança
ni podrà saber-ho mai.
I a fe us dic que es bella cosa
el diumenge, al desvetlla’s
veure en les flors la rosada,
sentir l’aucell refilar
i per gaudir-lo amb l’aimia,
un jorn de festa al davant:
Amb l’aimia que us espera
abocada al finestral
amb el vestit dels diumenges
que es aquell de colors clars.

   Joan Maragall

From <;

This is a poem which celebrates the simple pleasures of awaking on a Sunday with flowers by the window, a bird singing in the gables and a heart full of love. This is indeed enough to bestow happiness, at least for the day when cares can be set aside. The first stanza sets out this scenario as a kind of theoretical set of conditions for happiness, saying that whoever can’t experience this must not be happy.

In the second stanza a very similar scenario is played out but this time the poet is at the center of the action – he is talking from personal experience and he adds more details – the waking, the dew on the flowers, the bird singing, and his lover alongside him leaning against the window – and they are wearing their bright Sunday best clothes, ready to take their happiness out into the world.

A poem of contentment and optimism indeed.

The Poetry Dude

Bevíem a glops

In this poem by Salvador Espriu, he expresses his solidarity with his people, the Catalan people. A great deal of his poetry was written during the long years of the Franco dictatorship, under which Catalan language and culture was suppressed in an effort to enforce the unity of Spain under Castilian dominance. (it was during these years that the Franco regime built up Real Madrid as the dominant Spanish football team in order to eclipse FC Barcelona – that rivalry persists today). Of course, Catalan remained a vibrant language in private settings and a few courageous writers, such as Espriu continued to write and publish in Catalan. This poem is dedicated to the memory of Pompeu Fabra, who had written an influential grammar of Catalan in the early years of the twentieth Century.


A la memòria de Pompeu Fabra,
Mestre de tots.

Bevíem a glops
aspres vins de burla
el meu poble i jo.

Escoltàvem forts
arguments del sabre
el meu poble i jo.

Una tal lliçó
hem hagut d’entendre
el meu poble i jo.

La mateixa sort
ens uní per sempre:
el meu poble i jo.

Senyor, servidor?
Som indestriables
el meu poble i jo.

Tenim la raó
contra bords i lladres
el meu poble i jo.

Salvàvem els mots
de la nostra llengua
el meu poble i jo.

A baixar graons
de dol apreníem
el meu poble i jo.

Davallats al pou,
esguardem enlaire
el meu poble i jo.

Ens alcem tots dos
en encesa espera,
el meu poble i jo.

From <;

The title and recurring refrain, “My people and I” really sum up the intent and message of this poem – it is to express solidarity with Catalan people, language and culture, and for the poet to place himself at the centre of the question of what it meant to be Catalan at a time when the whole future of the culture was under threat. The simple structure of the poem, with three line stanzas each completed by the same refrain hammers home the message of a people under threat, each stanza enriching the message with another example.

In fact, if you compare the first stanza with the last, you see a progression from distress to resilience of the poet and the Catalan people. In the first stanza they are drinking the bitter wine of mockery, while in the last stanza they are standing up in an attitude of hope, meaning they will survive whatever misfortune is heaped upon them. Which they did… (Catalan nationalists won recent elections and are attempting to organize a referendum for independence from Spain. The language is ubiquitous and accepted and the culture flourishing).

The Poetry Dude

Saps on és la fageda d’en Jordà?

Here is a poem of place by Joan Maragall, and it certainly makes the reader want to visit it. La Fageda d’En Jorda is a site of outstanding natural beauty, a beech forest growing out of an old volcanic lava flow, in an area of long-standing volcanic activity in the Catalan province of Girona, 100 or so miles north-east of Barcelona. Since the poem was written well over 100 years ago, it must have had even more of an unspoilt charm when visited by Maragall.


Saps on és la fageda d’en Jordà ?
Si vas pels volts d’Olot, amunt del pla,
trobaràs un indret verd i pregon
com mai més n’hagis trobat al món:
un verd com d’aigua endins, pregon i clar;
el verd de la fageda d’en Jordà.
El caminant, quan entra en aquest lloc,
comença a caminar-hi poc a poc;
compta els seus passos en la gran quietud
s’atura, i no sent res, i està perdut.
Li agafa un dolç oblit de tot el món
en el silenci d’aquell lloc pregon,
i no pensa en sortir o hi pensa en va:
és pres de la fageda d’en Jordà,
presoner del silenci i la verdor.
Oh companyia! Oh deslliurant presó!

From <;

The poem starts with a question, “Do you know where id the Fageda d’en Jorda”, perhaps not altogether a rhetorical question. But it also gives a natural lead-in to the poem’s description of the place, first situating it on the plain above the city of Olot. The poet then describes it as a green and attractive place, like nowhere else in the world. A place of greenery, but also with clear water.

The poet then describes how the place draws in the visitor, inciting to walk about and explore, but so caught up in the beauty and the atmosphere that he will soon get lost. But it doesn’t matter, because the visitor is soothed by the silence and calm of the place, such that he may never consider leaving. In fact the visitor can easily become a prisoner of the silence and greenery of this enchanting place. A sweet prison indeed.

Put this on the list for your next visit to Catalunya (I missed it when I lived there some years ago).

The Poetry Dude

He de pagar el meu vell preu, la mort,

Salvador Espriu, the humble Barcelona lawyer’s clerk, allows himself a moment in the limelight in this poem by putting his own name in the title. But the tone is more valedictory than celebratory, the poet is recording his feelings of approaching death (real or imagined, I do not know…)


He de pagar el meu vell preu, la mort,
i avui els ulls se’m cansen de la llum.
Baixats amb mancament tots els graons,
m’endinsen pel domini de la nit.
Silenciós, m’alço rei de la nit
i em sé servent dels homes de dolor.
Ai, com guiar aquest immens dolor
al clos de les paraules de la nit?
Passen el vent, el triomf, el repòs,
per rengles d’altes flames i d’arquers.
Presoner dels meus morts i del meu nom,
esdevinc mur, jo caminat per mi.
I em perdo i sóc, sense missatge, sol,
enllà del cant, enmig dels oblidats
caiguts amb por, només un somni fosc
del qui sortí dels palaus de la lluna.

From <;

According to this poem, the price of life is death, and the poet has to pay. His eyes are tired of the light and he feels he is sinking into night’s darkness where he will serve the dark and painful forces of the kig of the night. It is an apocalyptic vision of death where all the triumphs and consolations of life are forgotten and the poet is left alone, lost, without meaning in the dark shadows, a mere remnant of his former, living self.

A dark vision indeed, of death.

The Poetry Dude

Durant el llarg estiu hem vist cremar molts boscos

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.

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.

From <;

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