Three poems by Salvador Espriu, translated from the Catalan by Andrew Kaufman and Antonio Cortijo Ocaña

Abstraction of tan stones against blue grey background of rock.
Excerpt from Stone Memory III, Triptych, Catherine Eaton Skinner

The Blind Musicians 

Old musicians who return,
tired, beneath the slow tedium
of the rain, through this    
frozen light of dawn.

Train whistles sound beyond the imprecise
boundaries of fog.
Blind men’s canes awaken
the hostile barking of dogs.

Who knows in what festival
they have earned a difficult    
piece of bread. They come now,
wobbling, through the mud
that clogs the road, through water,   
to rest in cemetery niches.            

A bassoon, a violin’s                                                            
pathos on desolate streets of sad friends 
and their dance of the dead. More profound,
with their message of extremes,                     
of reward or condemnation,                       
the trumpets of Judgment.

Els Músics Cecs

Vells músics que retornen,
cansats, sota lent tedi
de pluja, per aquesta
glaçada llum del’alba.

Xisclen trens rere límits
imprecisos de boira.
Bastons de cecs desvetllen
hostil lladrar de gossos.

Qui sap a quina ‘festa
han guanyat un difícil
tros de pa.  Vénen ara,
vacil·lants, per la via
plena de fang, per l’aigua,
cap al repòs de nínxols.

Un fagot, un patètic
violí, en la dansa
suburbana dels tristos
morts amics. Més profundes,
amb excessiu missatge
de premi o de comdemna,
trompetes del Judici.


Deep inside the tranquil eyes of the sea
I have seen the dream
of the temple of the ancient god        
fallen, crushed.                                   
Alas, cold marble of time, my life
that I am losing against the ice of words!
Upon the bare rock of death,
where I can only erect the high column
of this grief, a lonely, bitter cry without song,   
without memory of song,
while the blizzard’s black wings
carry away the daylight 
through the prisons of the sky
and return my reflection, inviting me to depart
beyond the most serene, deepest roadway,
the tranquil eyes of the sea.

*”Pontos” is “sea” in ancient Greek


Al fons dels ulls tranquils del mar
he vist el somni
caigut, romput, del temple
d’un déu antic.
Ai, marbre fred del temps, la meva vida
que perdo contra el glaç de les paraules!
Damunt la roca nua de la mort,
puc ja només alçar l’alta columna
d’aquest dolor, un aspre, solitari
crit sense cant,
sense record del cant, mentre s’emporten
negres ales del torb la llum del dia
per les presons del cel i m’emmirallen,
invitant-me a partir, enllà d’un sereníssim
cami profund, els ulls tranquils del mar.

The Smokers 

Crickets sing at the edge                                
of old oak forests.                    
Yes, it’s no wonder
we’ve already arrived at evening.           

At tables the length
of useless lives, 
we sit, lips closed.

Tick-tock. Hours passed
like lead. The shadow approaches,
through streets, to the door.

We have looked at the clock
on the wall many times.
We have heard a heart
stop. In silence, 
indifferent, motionless,
we have smoked slow pipes.

Els Fumadors  

Canten grills per la banda
d’antics boscos d’alzines.
Sí, no t’estranyi
que ja siguem del vespre.

A taules de llargària
de vides ben inútils,
sèiem, els llavis closos.

Tic-tac. Passaven hores
de plom. L’ombra s’atansa,
pels carrers, a la porta.

Hem mirat el rellotge
al mur, moltes vegades.
Hem escoltat parar-se
algun cor. En silenci,
indifferents, immòbils,
hem fumat lentes pipes.


Salvador Espriu (1913–1985) has been described by Harold Bloom as “an extraordinary poet by any international standard” and “deserving of a Nobel Prize,” whose work is “preternaturally hushed, haunted by the skeptical wisdom of Job and Ecclesiastics.” The author of nine books of poems whose obscurity beyond Catalonia reflects that of the Catalan in which he wrote, Espriu is an elegiac poet whose work is informed metaphorically by the cataclysm of Franco’s conquest of Catalonia and the suppression of Catalan language and culture. Yet as he eschews mention of specific events and personages, his writing takes on an encompassing resonance.

Antonio Cortijo Ocaña specializes in Medieval and Early Modern Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese Literatures, Latin and Greek Humanism, and Medieval and Early Modern History. In his more than 50 monographs, he has studied the ideological structures and tensions that have forged the Modern Period across the Atlantic and across the languages and cultures of the Iberian Peninsula. He is the editor of eHumanista, the founder and director of the University of California Santa Barbara Center for Catalan Studies, and a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Good Letters of Barcelona.

Andrew Kaufman’s books include The Cinnamon Bay Sonnets, winner of the Center for Book Arts Book Award,  Earth’s Ends, winner of the Pearl Poetry Book Award, Both Sides of the Niger (Spuyten Duyvil Press), The Complete Cinnamon Bay Sonnets (Rain Mountain Press), and The Rwanda Poems: Voices and Visions from the Genocide, forthcoming in 2022 from New York Quarterly Books. An NEA recipient, he has traveled widely in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Other poems he has co-translated from the Catalan of Salvador Espriu can be found on the websites of World Literature Today, Commonweal, and Today’s American Catholic. He lives in New York City.

Catherine Eaton Skinner illuminates the balance of opposites, reflecting mankind’s attempts at connection. Her work has been published in Magazine 43, Art Hole, MVIBE, LandEscape Art Review, Art Magazineium and her monograph 108 (Radius Books). She has upcoming exhibitions in the Hockaday and the Las Cruces Museums, and has previously shown work in the Wilding, Cape Cod, Yellowstone Art and High Desert Museums. She is a New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Acclaimed Artist and has had work in embassies in Papua New Guinea and Tokyo.

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