A new translation of Joan Maragall’s poem about the anarchist bombing of the Barcelona Opera in 1893, and a limerick by the monkey.

A demon hands a terrorist an Orsini bomb, on Gaudí's Sagrada Familia.

A demon hands a terrorist an Orsini bomb, on Gaudí's Sagrada Familia. Image: Wikipedia.

The monkey has come up with a characteristically obtuse and flippant reaction to the London Bridge attack:

My head is still firmly in place, boom boom,
My arse is not next to my face, boom boom,
But peace-loving neighbours
With soft sighing sabres
Urge centring my shite in one place, boom boom.

Fortunately my repertoire consists exclusively of lyrics by wiser and more gifted souls. The poet Joan Maragall was at the opera house on Barcelona’s Rambla for Rossini’s William Tell in November 1893 when an anarchist, Santiago Salvador, threw two Orsini bombs into the stalls, killing 22 and wounding 35. Maragall’s first daughter, Helena, had been born in May, and he wove those two circumstances into the following:


Tornant del Liceu en la nit del 7 de novembre de 1893.

Furient va esclatant l’odi per la terra,
regalen sang les coll-torçades testes,
i cal anar a les festes,
amb pit ben esforçat, com a la guerra.

A cada esclat mortal – la gent trèmola es gira:
la crueltat que avança, – la por que s’enretira,
se van partint el món…

Mirant al fill que mama, – a la mare que sospira,
el pare arruga el front.

Pro l’infant innocent,
que deixa, satisfet, la buidada mamella,
se mira an ell, se mira an ella,
i riu bàrbarament.


Returning from the Liceu on the night of November 7, 1893.

Across the land this hatred now fiercely roars,
From twisted-throated heads gush bloody presents.
At parties now, our presence,
With chests puffed boldly out, is as for war.

At every mortal blast, the trembling people wend:
As cruelty marches onwards, so fear flees without end,
They cleave the world between them…

The father wrinkles his brow, observes his suckling son,
The mother’s dark suspicions.

But the infant, free from sin,
Who, satiated, leaves the breast grown slim,
Looks at her, and looks at him,
And gives a barb’rous grin.

Another English version by a well-known translator respects neither rhyme nor meter, chopping off legs off this great lover of rumpty-tumpty Italian opera (dixit Maria-Aurèlia Capmany), who has just walked away from death. Can’t be having that.

Just as every Dutchman’s granddad was in the Resistance, so a host of Spanish novels from the first half of the twentieth century include fictional characters who were present at, or somehow related to, the bombing. A couple of favourites: Pío Baroja’s Aurora roja (“Red Dawn”) and Mariona Rebull by Ignacio Agustí. Perhaps if these characters had got together in advance it could have all been sorted out amicably.

Spanish anarchism, like modern Islamism, promised that slaughter would usher in paradise, and states-within-the-state were improvised in 1936-7. The movement was then virtually exterminated by the local franchise of the Soviet Communist Party and Franco’s lot. Older Spanish precedent for dealing with ethnoreligious parallel polities, with their own laws and fiscality, is also not encouraging for anybody. Ya veremos.

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