16 March 2009

Stairs of song

Spring has well and truly come to Barcelona. The sun is steady and bright, the breeze is gentle and pleasant, and buds are bursting out everywhere. We had guests this weekend and they probably stumbled upon the most ideal weekend of the year to see the city. Lucky for me, showing them around involved long strolls by the waterfront; a stop at that welter of sensory overload, the Boqueria market; midnight tours of the gothic quarter; a sunny afternoon at the park; and lots of truly delicious food.

Our internet is mysteriously not functioning today (this will be posted via a tenuous neighbor wifi signal), which I think is the perfect excuse to scoop a couple of books into my arms, grab my sunglasses, and find a park bench or a café table and soak up this pleasant spring sun.

Other of the weekend's activities were musical. My choir debuted a jazz cantata set to Salvador Espriu poems. These works are beautiful in their simultaneous expression of despair and hope, in their expression of love for a place, for a people, for a language. I did a quick translation so our guests could follow along, and here is one of the more hopeful poems, set to a rollicking, exuberant swing.

(If the Catalan title looks a little funny, it's because it's in medieval Catalan, which Espriu took from an 11th century troubadour poet.)

"Levem nos bon mayti e no'ns adurmam plus"
We Awake in the Morning and Sleep No More

by Salvador Espriu

If you want to listen,
open your windows.
Truths climb quickly
on the stairs of song.

In the very heart of night
a new canticle begins
and will accompany your step
at the threshold of hope.

We must burn every memory
of a yesterday full of sorrow
in the bonfires of tomorrow
that today it is time to light.

Look always ahead,
leave your tears behind.
The young sun turns red
rising from the depths of the sea.

Awoken by my nightmare
cry, the eager, slow radiance
of every furrow
walked the wide earth.

It rests on the sand,
white sails burnished.
Riding on the wind’s back,
the keel crossed the mountains.

Within the order of light
we saw the house resplendant
that we wanted to watch over
when thieves misruled.

The air carried the good smell
of new wheat, of goldenrod.
The poppy is saved
from the danger of dying.

Now you hear how the song
broke holes in the chain,
the villainy of fear
that tied up our tongue.

One voice, two hands,
strong hands stretched out.
Wake up, laborers,
for now it is time for work.
Wake up, people of the land,
for now it is time for the harvest.


Amanda said...

How beautiful! The next to last stanza is my favorite...

Anonymous said...