A Pause in the Time of Villangomez
Villangomez and his home town
I’m in Ibiza presently, and me and the artificially intelligent machine-translators are busy with the works of Señor Maria Villangomez i Llobet, known as “Marianu” to his friends.
Villangomez is by far the best known Ibizan poet, though he’s little cherished on the mainland, even where they speak Catalan. He lived to be near ninety, so I feel I can take my time about thumbing through an extensive volume of his complete poetic works.
I choose to translate this poem because it struck me; among much Ibizan landscape poetry, it concerns San Rafael or “Sant Rafel,” an Ibizan village I happen to know. It’s also a poem with a strange dissociation from time. It’s striking to see an Ibizan bard dreaming of “love and peace” in the 1930s, a long generation before the mass invasion by hippies beset his island.
This poem is from the first Villangomez publication, “Elegies and Passages,” a youthful collection written during the 1930s and 40s. Villangomez was drafted during the Spanish Civil War, his only stroke of luck being that at least his side won. As an honorable veteran, he was able to land his lifelong job as a schoolteacher, a trade that let him settle down on his island among his beloved books.
I don’t know much about the circumstances of this poem, except that he’s away from the front, back home in Ibiza, so he must be on furlough. He surely knows there is more war to come, and he writes as if he knows that death is near.
A PAUSE IN THE TIMES OF WAR
Oh fields of Sant Rafel, in the island’s heart,
Simple, joyous fields,
Soil of love, of peace, of loneliness,
Where virtue seems to me to live again,
In a dry land, undulating,
Where the gaze of the eye flies clean,
Land of olive trees and carobs,
Of almonds and figs,
With the needles of your pines,
And the calm and the charm of your roads,
With your white and exact architecture
Of houses where the past still persists,
With your sounds and your silences, with an air
Charged with your intimate flair,
Land I esteem so, what chimera
Will flower with your springtime?
The windmill’s arms are twisting,
Wind sings in the heart of the pine woods,
I choose to drift with the trail,
Past the hill, past the wash-house, past this era.
Beyond the mountain the sun is dying,
The twilight is utterly golden.
Some light of day remains for sowing,
Dreams of love, beauty, poetry….
This land guards the brief crunch
of a footstep, and any sweet whispers it hears,
Till erased by the time of my death,
The white shadow will live in my thoughts.
The beauty of the patria — the last
light of day, and the wind of the springtime,
Your beauty, body present in my heart.
Beauty of a love that ends only with my life.