Joan Salvat-Papasseit and “the good that is everything”

Joan Salvat-Papasseit (Joan is the equivalent of John) was an avant-garde Catalan poet who lived from 1894-1924 in Barcelona, which 100 years ago, in an age when horse travel and airplane travel overlapped, was becoming a hub of modern influences. Many of his poems reflect his fascination with the emerging world of machines and industrial shapes; but this very accessible and humanistic poem (my translation, from the original in a volume published in 1921) shows in the simplest ways his affection for the things and people that make up everyday life, seen from a sick bed. “…Per veure el bo que és tot / To see the good that is everything”—what model optimism, what a feeling of uplift and lightness, in our own time of suffering from covid-19 and other maladies, both medical and societal! Salvat-Papasseit died of tuberculosis, which had no cure, at the age of 30.

Joan Salvat-Papasseit, All My Longing for Tomorrow

                                                                 To Marià Manent

Now that I’m sick in bed

I feel pretty good.

— Tomorrow I’ll get up

if I can,

And here’s what’s waiting for me:

City squares shining with brightness,

and garden beds with flowers

under the sun

under the moon of evening;

and the girl who brings milk

with a simple touch,

who wears an apron

with a lacy hem

and a bright laugh,

And the boy who sells newspapers

and runs on and off

the tram.

And the mail carrier,

who if he goes by without leaving me a letter makes me fret

because I don’t know the secrets

of what he’s delivering.

And also the airplane

that makes me raise my head

as if a voice were calling me from up on a roof terrace.

And the neighborhood women

early in the morning,

who go by in a hurry headed to the market

each carrying a yellow basket

and then they come back

with cabbages sticking out the top

and sometimes meat

or red cherries.

And then the grocer,

who brings out his coffee roaster

and starts turning the crank,

and calls to the girls

“Do you have all you need?”

And the girls smile

 their limpid smiles,

which are the balm given off by the sphere that he rotates.

And all the neighborhood kids,

who will make such a racket because it will be Thursday

and they won’t be in school.

And the sensible horses

and their drivers asleep

under the fabric

that flaps behind the wheels.

And the wine I haven’t tasted for so many days.

And the bread

set out on the table

And the red serving bowl,

giving off steam.

And you all                  friends

Because you’ll come to see me

and happily we’ll look at each other.

All this is waiting for me

if I get out of bed

tomorrow.

And if I can’t get up

ever again

here’s what’s waiting for me:

—You all will remain,

to see the goodness that is everything:

Life

and Death.

[Photo: Statue of Salvat-Papasseit by Robert Krier on the Barcelona waterfront, from Wikipedia]

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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