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CARLES RIBA (1893-1959)


[8] from Llibre segon d'Estances (E-translation by Hillary Gardner)

No more than a bird aloft alone am I,
wings spread over the wide river
where the boats pass slowly full of laughing people
in the soft shade of the awnings,
and a mountaineer, half-naked and nostalgic, wearily
conducts his raft towards the cities
that comb the open water between piers forgetful
of how there once were green hills of trees and sheep
and a happy steeple.

Life passes, and the eye never tires of taking
clear images into the heart.
All in me becomes a dream: a little cloud of shadow and gold
that floats and dies out far from my hand.
He who dives into his heart like a greedy miner,
or who from sorrow shuts himself up in there like a fish,
has more than I who, estranged from myself,
high above the others, watches the ceaseless wave as it grows
and diminishes in the sea.
What human motion has yet to undo
this spell, to throw me with blood and feeling
to the catch, our own, that we earned, between our fingers,
or to the song, that from man to man comes and goes?
Or does my destiny have to be that of the regal bird
that in one shot, like a joke, falls from the sky,
carried away by the indifferent water, a defeated rebel,
one useless wing covering his eyes emptied of desire,
without a single complaint for his suffering?
[XXIII] from Salvatge cor (Prose Translation by Sam Abrams)

Song leads me on, and strange animals surround me, pure, accustomed to serve; I recognize them as children of my destiny, mild before fire and fierce to omens.

I no longer need interpreters for death: it is upwards in life that my path is turning; if what I have learned will not bear fruit for me, what I have lived will not be counted in years.

I feel the world is, like my footsteps, absolute: light reveals the cry of the deep heart and is its measure. What would wisdom

be worth? Mad acts of mine which have made me, eager pack of hounds, I entrust to you my great suit; and we shall fill ourselves with love, as with a prey.
[XVIII] from Salvatge cor (E-translation by Hillary Gardner)

What I have lost
and will never know
and do not now know
that once was good to me

is useless and absolute
under the final veil;
but the heart withdraws
as if this were virtue.

Lovers, rejoice!
Would you smile, saints
at the awful elation

of so much indiscreet
tempting of the secret,
at so much hope?
(Published in El Pont, no. 4, 1956) (E-translation by Hillary Gardner)

At night my years
call out and wake me;
they're like lost birds,
I'm one and yet they don't know me;
they're mine and yet errant,
so that I can't understand myself
whenever I get close in my heart
to what's made me old and weak.

What do you say, innocent child,
still amazed by yourself,
suddenly, with brusque delight,
through the eyes you grew up in,
and of whom I keep, like a hidden
horn, minuscule ears
tuned to listen to
the tender voices that overcome me?

How would you reply,
child that was me,
you who simply were,
and who cannot understand
how a heart can be heavy,
things awry,
dreams full of danger,
and all love sadness?

To ignore it, I,
who, for a few minutes, relive
within me forever
your elemental luck,
must give it up to you
and pay for it by thinking
and feeling like a fool,
a fool who won't look back.

Which one of us should smile,
the old man that you didn't see
in your future, oh child,
or you, in innocence residing?

I only know that I watch the river
from along the riverbank
and see myself always at the point
where the water makes a pure
beginning to lose itself.