Our Language: Novoneyra and Noriega Varela

Our Language

The mountain man is coming now.noriega001
Why?  Oh dear heart!  He is blind-
He cannot see past the veil:
He is coming to speak Gallego
He is coming so that Gallego can live.

Our language is a little bird
The child will usually see
In the sky of the shaggy mountain;
Whether on a wild rose branch
Or the border of a fountain.

It is a flower you can’t take
From the heath, and well tricks
The one who goes after it
If, amongst the mountain gorse
Collecting, he gets pricked.
noriega varela

It is a rivulet running
Sheltered through the shade
Of some dense pine wood:
Take this cover and it dies
Before it can reach the valley.

It’s what dawn’s lustre breaks
Lit by trembling light;
And Our Lady sings to Jesus
in Gallego when he cries,
Lulling him to sleep.

Gallego is a whispering-
The most magical thing there is!
It is the loving language
In which to hear, “My son!”
From the lips of your mother.

Antonio_Noriega_Varela_1919
It is a speech that illumines,
Moving our hearts
To take the shortest route
To the sighs of the poor
With the grace of charity.

It is such a restless language
That it manages to overcome
The yearning sorrows
Of the replete star
And the moonlit night.
May devotion and pain
Be always on your side
I revere you deeply, believe
That only in heaven
Could there be a better tongue.

 

When Novoneyra was doing military service with Manuel María in 1952, Noriega Varela was one of the poets they read together.  Noriega went to school at the seminary in Mondoñedo, a school for poets.  When he left he became involved in anti-cacique social protest and spent some time in exile from the landscape that gave him life.

 

If Novoneyra is indissociably associated with the Eidos of O Courel,  Noriega is similarly associated with Mondoñedo and the mountains around.  He was not a professional writer.  He worked as a teacher for most of his life, but his job doesn’t define him any more than your job defines you.  He was a man who walked in the mountains and enjoyed going to village fiestas.  He wrote out his poems in meticulous long-hand and was so scared by the Nationalists that he dropped the rebellious ideas of his youth.

 

The magic of Noriega’s poetry is timeless, even though the things he describes have passed away.  That image of the rivulet running through the centre of the poem is protected by the shade of the deep, pine wood.  It is sadly ironic that there are few pine woods around Mondoñedo now.  The town is trapped in the past- like Villafranca del Bierzo and countless other places in Spain that face backwards when the world is rushing forwards.

 

I was walking through Mondoñedo with my daughter admiring the old buildings and fantasizing with her about moving there and setting up a school.  When I mentioned the idea to a friend in Lugo, she laughed.

 

“What kind of school are you going to have there?” she asked.  “A school for old ladies?”

 

The Seminary where Noriega stayed is now a kind of hotel where you can rent out the basic rooms.  The rural economy has disappeared.  It is the same picture where I live in Grado, where I eventually did set up a school and suffer for my obstinance:  I refused to go to a city; refused, even knowing that I would have fewer students.

 

That metaphor is haunting.  You cut down the wood and you lose the stream.

About Jason Preater

Working on Projects
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