Working in Santiago de Compostela


Galician nationalism appears to be born out of a deep sense of pride in its tradi tions, rather than a need to overthrow a culture that has been imposed fron outside. This is not unlike other Celtic cultures that have found themselves marginalised on the western fringes of Europe. We demean Galicia and our selves by stereotyping popular Spanish culture onto her. This is not the Spain 01 castanets, paella and Rioja. Her identity is clearly Gallic with gaitas, mariscos and Ribeira wines predominating.

Working in Santiago de Compostela Photo Gallery

The past suffering of Galicia is perhaps best summed up in the compelling poems of Rosalia de Castro. The following extracts provide a flavour of her unrivalled prowess as the humble spokesperson for the people of Galicia and their unique culture. Her work has been beautifully edited and translated by Anna-Marie Aldaz, Barbara N. Gantt, and Anne C. Bromley (see bibliography). In the prologue to New Leaves and the following poem from Musings we can sense the inner alchemy of her life transforming her fight against oppression into the purest gold of forgiveness: the purpose, perhaps, of all true pilgrims.

Rosalia do Castro

Statue in Parc Susanna

Here then are the Follas novas that should actually be called ‘old’ since that is what they are. They are also ‘last’ because now that I have paid the debt I felt 1 owed my country, it is unlikely that I will write more poems in our native tongue. They go forth, not in search of triumph, but of forgiveness; not of praise, but of forgetting; not of the acclaim of previous times, but of the good will given to bad blogs. ‘Let them pass!’ This is what 1 wish: that you let them pass by like another sound, like a rustic fragrance – a fragrance which brings up something of that poetry that is born in the vast solitude, in the evergreen fields of our land, and along our beautiful seashores. Such poetry comes directly to us, looking for a natural refuge in our hearts that suffer and care for our beloved land of Galicia.

Prologue, New Leaves

You will say these verses have a strange, uncommon harmony, and they do -their ideas have the pale shine of fleeting marsh-fires that glow an instant, then quickly fade away -like the uncertain mist that rolls at the meadow’s edge and the monotonous murmur of the pines along the wild sea coast. I can only tell you that my songs rise in the confusion of my soul, like a sound from deep oak groves at daybreak, a sound which may be the wind’s tease, or the flowers kiss, or the simple, but mysterious harmonies which, lost in this sad world, seek a way to heaven.

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