It's been said...

Gandia, c. 1400 - Valencia, 1459. Medieval Valencian poet and knight

Ausiàs March, the grandson of a Barcelona notary and son of a cavalier poet, lived in Valencia at the end of the fourteenth or the start of the fifteenth century. The poetry of Ausiàs March is a meditation on the question of pure love -a meditation that implies a struggle to avoid failure, pain, anger, and doubt. Over and above the commonplaces -and the language- of the troubadours, and leaving aside the Petrarchan mode, March explores, in language that often borders on harshness, the tension between the world and the individual. His opus, constituted by the one hundred and twenty-eight poems that are extant, has been widely translated and has exercised a great influence on lyric poetry written in Spanish and other European languages. They were first published in 1543.

Ausiàs March è senza dubbio il piú grande poeta lirico europeo del quindicesimo secolo, un poeta la cui conoscenza e la cui influenza sono state fortemente limitate, piú che dalla sua difficoltà, come spesso si dice, dal rapido declino della cultura catalana, che proprio nel corso di quel secolo aveva toccato il massimo splendore.

Costanzo Di Girolamo, Ausiàs March. Pagine del canzoniere (Milano, Luni Editrice, 1998)

"What is it that makes Ausiàs March an extraordinary poet?"

"His ability to tell the truth. His extraordinary ability of expression. His language is extraordinary and, besides telling the truth, he knows it strikes fear. I am referring to the leap he makes from a seemingly innocuous word to the very act of screwing that nobody takes. That leap strikes fear. Ausiàs March has been very badly read. Seeing him start by being a more or less stupid little idiot -in the conception of angelic and bestial love- and the whole of the Ausiàs March cycle seen as a whole, that has not been seen, it is not seen, nobody highlights it in their writings about him. Just think, a man such as Joan Fuster should have realised it, and I don't recall him saying anything. And nobody reads Ausiàs March. I stress that point. The truth that Ausiàs March says does not interest anyone. People who make a living studying literature do not realise it. They go about their business... People should go around with Ausiàs March under the arm. Telling it like it is does not interest the wise. They read the word "delight" and they don't see that it should be a tumble, as they say on TV."

Joan Ferraté, interviewed by Lluís Bonada: "He was wild and insolent", El Temps, num. 645 (October 1996)

Reclam a tots los meus predecessors,

cells qui Amor llur cor enamorà,

e los presents e lo qui naxerà,

que per mos dits entenguen mes clamors;...

(XXV, 33-36)

So exclaims Ausiàs March, and so movingly, demanding five centuries after his corporeal death the attention of everyone who has felt the power of love, to proclaim the immortality of one's own feeling.

E lo desig en mi jamés morrà

(Ibid. 10)

And thanks to the wonderful evocative strength of the poetic word, that cry of his, as does the whole of the rest of his vast work, remains alive in our midst and is still capable of conveying to us the shiver of emotion, clearly proving what we all know: that literature, and especially poetry, is an artistic sublimation of the word, and word is communication: the essential bridge of the expression of thought and of feeling, the basis of dialogue and of understanding between humans.

Albert G. Hauf, "Ausiàs March: el clamor del silenci" published in L'illa. Revista de lletres Num. 18 (1997)

From the exemplum that introduces the part of this book that I devote to March's lyric poetry, two corollaries are gleaned. First, that just as every generation of critics invariably produces (at least "up north") their interpretation of the ancient texts, it is little wonder if, in 1992, the idea occurs to us to rail against the core ideology that informs such essential books as those that Amadeu Pagés devoted to defining love in Ausiàs March. Second, the love-marriage relationship should in no way be taken for granted and neither is it so evident as was thought by Friar Matfre Ermengaud, of Béziers, the Toulouse poets of the Leys d'amors or C.S. Lewis. Nowadays, the cultural constants that, to cut to the chase, serve up March on a plate, the arguments for his multi-faceted and suffocating reflection on the inanity of love are so powerful, clear and conclusive that you feel like proclaiming them: simply to try to read the poet's verses from a safe point of reference.

Lola Badia, Tradició i modernitat als segles XIV i XV. Estudis de cultura literària i lectures d'Ausiàs March (Barcelona, 1993)

More than a few literary historians have rejected the biography of the knight of Gandia as a fruitful way of understanding better both him and the one hundred and twenty-eight poems that he wrote with a certainly notable constancy. The unimportant news of a census, the hugely dreary procedural literature, the master of jurisdictions or the man who gets into disputes over property offer little more than cold references, too aseptic to resolve the enigmas of a complex and variable body of work. Taking this thesis to the extreme, he becomes a timeless March, isolated from the vagaries of history, locked in the sphere of a hermetic ego and with problems of split personality.

Ferran Garcia-Oliver. "Singularitat amarga", En la vida d'Ausiàs March (Barcelona, Edicions 62, 1998)

Io só aquest que em dic Ausiàs March!

(CXIV, 88)

"Io só aquest...", "io só aquell...": we find this formula multiplied, stubbornly repeated, throughout his poems. It is a stylistic trait that is as constant as it is efficient. The reader cannot help feeling an instinctive attraction for the forcefulness of this type of expression. They "sound" sincere. And it should be added that in Ausiàs March's verses, the statement of sincerity is not only made indirectly, using pronouns and verbal inflection, but is clearly asserted. The poet wants us to believe in the literalness of his confession, as he offers up his poems as a confession. There would, then, be no traces of literary sham. With an astonishing grandiloquence, Ausiàs invokes the harshest punishments, calling them down on himself, should he fall into the weakness of feigning:

E muira prest si mon parlar io em feny!

(CI, 40)

Joan Fuster, "Ausiàs March, el ben enamorat", in Ausiàs March, Poesies (Sueca, 1997)

In a large part of March's work, a poetic imagination is revealed that surprises for its originality and its innovative capacity for the age in which it was composed, a historic era in which poets of the Crown of Aragon had not yet learned to distance themselves anything but timidly from Provençal and the literary conventions implied by that language. However, March's significance is appreciated without the need for any type of historical perspective, as the extraordinary energy of his verses transcends the six centuries that have gone by since March wrote them, and it is this that makes reading him a vital and directly significant experience for today's reader.

Another idea in March's thinking is that of good. Every being seeks good, but man, a compound creature, due to the two extremes of his nature, tends towards two mutually opposite forms of good. Through reason, man knows that the only true good is the one that can be attained by the spirit by embracing God and by enjoying the inner good of virtue. Yet his carnal aspect leads him to seek the fleeting good of the body, besides other external goods that the world can provide (money, fame and honour). In his work, March shows himself as one who seeks the two opposing forms of good and rarely manages to act according to the dictates of reason.

Robert Archer, Obra completa (Barcelona, Barcanova, 1997)

"My God, My God, help me!," howled Pere March amid moans, while joyfully coming, yearning for a son from that carnal consummation. That yell, both a prayer and a cry, must have sounded like a pious roar from the very soul of the man, fanciful and now old.

He had learnt this from consulting the holders of the mysteries of life. And he, Pere March, forgetting his woes, now felt, his heart beating with delight, that God had forgiven his many sins and pride. For this, he entrusted himself to the Lord, body and soul, when he felt his seed gushing with vigour, noting that the flame lit in the burning ardour of his heart had become a jet and was sowing life in the moist depths of Elionor.

"Thank you, thank you, my God!," he said, as a satisfied relaxation overtook his body and sleep calmed his soul.

"May it all be for good!," murmured his wife, Lady Elionor, in reply, so as not to break the first peaceful sleep of her husband, while her gaze fled to a point of light that, coming in through a chink in the chamber window, lit the shadows of the night.

At rest and at calm, Elionor Ripoll meditated: all life, everything (the past, the present and the future), were from that moment on the hands of God.

Josep Piera, Jo sóc aquest que em dic Ausiàs March (Barcelona, Edicions 62, 2001)

  • Poetry As Drawing
  • Massa mare
  • Música de poetes
  • Premi LletrA