Celso Emilio Ferreiro- Longa Noite de Pedra

Long Night of Stone

In my path there is a stone
I have a stone in the middle of the path
I have a stone
In the middle of the path I have a stone.
(Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

The roof is of stone
Of stone are the walls
And the shadows
Of stone the ground
And the bars.
The doors,
The chains,
The air,
The windows,
The looks,
Are of stone.
The hearts of men
Who wait far off
Are made
Of stone
And I am dying
In this long night
Of stone.

Celso Emilio Ferreiro (Celanova, 1912- Vigo, 1979) took an active political stance early in his life becoming involved with Galician nationalism and language and adopting a Republican stance in the lead up to the Civil War.  In 1937 he was briefly imprisoned for making some rash anti-Fascist comments in the monastery of Celanova and this experience gave rise to the title poem of his 1962 collection Longa Noite de Pedra (Long Night of Stone).
The poet is in the tradition of Curros Enríquez with a strong social conscience that leads him to side with the workers and the oppressed combined with a belief in the social function of the poetry.  This can be seen in many of the anthem-like verses of the collection:

To be free

We wanted to be free
To eat our daily bread.  To be free
To bite it, chew it, digest it without fear,
To be free to speak, singing in the ears
Of the rivers that take their path to the free sea.
To be free, to be free,
We only wanted to be free men, to be stars
To be sparks in the great bonfire of the world,
To be ants, birds, children
In this Noah’s ark in which we float.
We wanted to be free to whisper,
To speak to God in the passing wind-
In the long wind of the plains and the woods-
Without fear, darkness, chains,
Without sin, to be free, to be free,
Like dawn’s breeze and foam,
Like the wind.
But this our difficult love broke
-glass of fragile dreaming-
On a screaming crag
And now we are no more than shadows.

This kind of poetry was obviously confrontational in the Franco years.  It spoke directly to the people whose voices had been suppressed and silenced by the regime and gave the poet fame and renown both within Spain and in the ex-patriate communities in Argentina and Venezuela, where he briefly came to occupy the post of director of the Irmandade Galega in Caracas.
In the following poem he uses the term saudade or yearning.  Ina poet whose words and images are normally so clear and committed, almost like political anthems, the introduction of saudade gives a personal touch that makes me read back through the other poems and find that surprising inner voice and vision that makes a great poet humane.

We’ll raise up hope
Over this dark land
Like raising a torch
On a moonless night.

We’ll leave wrapped up
In the hard secrets
Of a dreamed homeland
We won’t return to.

They won’t know the way
That we will take then-
Long misty rivers,
Long seas of time.

Sleepless crews,
We believe in Freedom.
Long live, live, we say
To the exiled
And dream of a dawn
Of flags in the breeze.

Addicts of yearning
Who carry the light
Along the paths
Good health to you all

About Jason Preater

Working on Projects
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Post War and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Celso Emilio Ferreiro- Longa Noite de Pedra

  1. kestrelart says:

    I’m new to your blog, so forgive the question, but is the painting yours? I love its structure and colours and free forms. Thanks also for introducing me to poetry I would otherwise know nothing about.


    • Yes, I live in Spain. I work on the Camino de Santiago and live in Asturias. When I am not walking I work with kids and go out onto the hills painting. I love the poetry of Galicia and translate it as a hobby, although I also do professional translation of duller stuff. It would be really hard to say which of my activities gives me more pleasure.


  2. kestrelart says:

    Sounds a cool life, painting and poetry in Spain.


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