My daughter is really enjoying this year in school. She has secured a place on the Senior Choir (UCT Chamber Choir) and has picked up a lot of solo line parts in the annual musical, which this year is Les Misérables.
Victor Hugo set out his purpose for the novel Les Misérables in the following statement:
So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.
For her choir she is learning “Como Tu” by Alberto Grau, the world famous director of the Schola Cantorum de Caracas, the Venezuelan Choral Ensemble. Grau is one of the foremost choral composers in the world. I have listened to “Como Tu” and I get that it is technically brilliant, but…..being honest, it sounds a lot like a traffic jam to me. I’m just not a fan of this type of choir music. I’ll take Danny Boy any day.
Alberto Grau and I do share one thing and that is a love of poetry. Grau bases many of his works on lyrics drawn from poets. “Como Tu” is drawn from a fragment of the poem “A Margarita Debayale” by Rubén Darío, a Nicaraguan poet and father of the late 19th Century Latin American Modernismo movement.
Darío was heavily influenced by French poetry, especially the romantics and…..you guessed it: Victor Hugo. So my daughter is singing songs based on a novel by Victor Hugo and at the same time is singing a Choral piece based on a poem written by a poet who was influenced by Victor Hugo.
Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam
A Margarita Debayle ; Rubén Darío (Translation below)
Margarita, está linda la mar, y el viento
lleva esencia sutil de azahar; yo siento
en el alma una alondra cantar; tu acento.
Margarita, te voy a contar un cuento.
“Éste era un rey que tenía
un palacio de diamantes,
una tienda hecha del día
y un rebaño de elefantes.
Un quiosco de malaquita,
un gran manto de tisú,
y una gentil princesita, tan bonita,
Margarita, tal bonita como tú.
Una tarde la princesa
vio una estrella aparecer;
la princesa era traviesa
y la quiso ir a coger.
La quería para hacerla
decorar un prendedor,
con un verso y una perla,
una pluma y una flor.
A princesas primorosas
se parecen mucho a ti
cortan lirios, cortan rosas,
cortan astros. Son así.
Pues se fue la niña bella,
bajo el cielo y sobre El mar,
a cortar la blanca estrella
que la hacía suspirar
Y siguió camino arriba,
por la luna y más allá,
mas lo malo es que ella iba
sin permisio del papá.
Cuando estuvo ya de vuelta
de los parques del Señor,
se miraba toda envuelta
en un dulce resplandor.
Y el rey dijo: “Qué te has hecho?
Te he buscado y no te hallé;
y que tienes en el pecho,
que encendido se te ve?”
La princesa no mentía.
Y asi, dijo la verdad:
“Fui a cortar la estrella mía
a la azul inmensidad”.
Y el rey clama: “No te he dicho
que el azul no hay que tocar?
Qué locura! Qué capricho!
El Señor se va a enojar”.
Y dice ella: “No hubo intento;
yo me fui no sé por qué.
Por las olas y en el viento
fui a la estrella y la corté”.
Y el papa dice enojado:
“Un castigo has de tener:
vuelve al cielo, y lo robado
vas ahora a devolver”.
La princesa se entristece
por su dulce flor de luz,
cuando entonces aparece
sonriendo el buen Jesús.
Y asi dice: “En mis campiñas
esa rosa le ofrecí;
son mis flores de las niñas
que al sonar piensan en mí”.
Viste el rey ropas brillantes,
y luego hace desfilar
a la orilla de la mar.
La princesa está bella,
pues ya tiene el prendedor
en que lucen, con la estrella,
verso, perla, pluma y flor.
Margarita, esta lindá la mar,
y el viento
lleva esencia sutil de azahar:
Y que lejos de mí vas a estar,
guarda, niña, un gentil pensamiento
al que un día te quiso contar
A Possible Translation: To Margarita Debayle
Margarita, how beautiful the sea is: still and blue.
The orange blossom in the breezes drifting through.
The skylark in its glory has your accent too:
Here, Margarita, is a story made for you.
A king there was and far away,
with a palace of diamonds
and a shopfront made of day.
He had a herd of elephants,
A kiosk, made of malachite,
and a robe of rarest hue
also a princess who was light
of thought and beautiful as you.
But one afternoon the princess
saw high in the heavens appear
a star, and being mischievous,
resolved at once to bring it near.
It would form the centrepiece
of a brooch hung with verse, pearl,
feathers, flowers: a caprice
of course of a little girl.
But also, because a princess,
exquisite, delicate like you,
the others then cut irises
roses, asters: as girls do.
But, alas, our little one went far
across the sea, beneath the sky,
and all to cut the one white star
that saw her wondering and sigh.
She went beyond where the heavens are
and to the moon said, au revoir.
How naughty to have flown so far
without the permission of Papa.
She returned at last, and though gone
from the high heavens of accord,
still there hung about and shone
the soft brilliance of our Lord.
Which the king noted, said: you,
child, drive me past despair,
but what is that strange, shining dew
on your hands, your face, your hair?
She spoke the truth; her words shone
with the clear lightness of the air:
I went to seek what should be mine
in that blue immensity up there.
Are then the heavens for our display,
with things that you must touch?
You can be altogether too outré,
child, for God to like you much.
To hear that I am sorry, truly,
for I had no plans as such. But,
once across the windy sky and sea
I had so much that flower to cut.
Whereupon, in punishment,
the king said, I’d be much beholden
if you’d go this moment and consent
to return what you have stolen.
So sad was then our little princess
looking at her sweet flower of light,
until and smiling at her distress
there stood the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those fields are as I willed them,
and your rose but signatory
to the flowers up there that children
have in dreaming formed of me.
Again the king is laughing, brilliant
in his robes’s rich royalty,
he troops the herd of elephant,
in their four hundred, by the sea.
Adored and delicate, the princess
is once more a little girl
who keeps for brooch the star and, yes,
the flowers, and the feathers, the pearl.
Beautiful, Margarita, the sea is,
still and blue:
with your sweet breath have all the breezes
Now soon from me and far you’ll be,
but, little one, stay true
to a gentle thought made a story
once for you.