Miquel Costa i Llobera
(Nou diccionari 62 de la literatura catalana)
Pollença, 1854 - Palma de Mallorca, 1922. Poet, translator, orator and prose writer
Costa i Llobera was born into a family of wealthy rich landowners and spent his childhood summers at a property in Formentera, the landscapes of which were to become the source of inspiration of many of his poems. His maternal uncle, Miquel Llobera, introduced him to the poetry of Horace. He completed his secondary schooling at the Institut Balear in Palma (1866-1871). One of his teachers there was Josep Lluís Pons i Gallarza, who left his mark on his pupil in the form of classical humanism. Here, too, he forged friendships with Joan Rosselló of Son Forteza and Joan Lluís Estelrich. In the academic year of 1872-73 he began to study Law in Barcelona and joined the literary Catalan nationalist circles which were led by members of the Catalan Renaixença (Renaissance) movement: Marià Aguiló, Ramon Picó i Campamar, Jacint Verdaguer and Antoni Rubió i Lluch. His first writings in Catalan date from these years.
He continued his studies in Law in Madrid from 1875 to 1877. The prestige in those years of “Krausismo” [based on the ideas of the German “philosopher of identity” Karl Christian Friedrich Krause] shook the foundations of his religious faith. In 1878 he travelled to Paris and, on his return to Mallorca, he read the great French and Italian poets. In 1879, he discovered Carducci’s Odi barbare and was impressed by the form of the poems while rejecting their pagan spirit. It was in these years, when he was living in Pollença, that his vocation to be a priest was awakened. His religious faith gave rise to intense moral scruples as a result of which he destroyed his first version of the ode "A Horaci" (To Horace, 1879) and repudiated his translation of Ovid. In 1885 he travelled to Rome to begin his studies in Theology and the same year his collection of poems Poesies (Poetry) was published. These are the first poems expressing a romanticism of very contained and composed tone in which judiciousness and formal perfection prevail, modulated by classical serenity. In this romantic vein, Costa reveals two intimately related thematic constants: religious sentiment and a feeling for his landscape.
His vision of the landscape, for example in "La Vall" (The Valley, 1873), shows an influence of Lamartine’s poetry. On other occasions, some of his more brilliant poems like "El Pi de Formentor" (The Pine of Formentor, 1875) are reminiscent of the more grandiloquent tone of Victor Hugo. The landscape portrayed by the poet is real, mainly limited to the geography of Mallorca, especially Pollença, and of Formentor yet, in the end, it evolves into a literary landscape transcended to a universal category as a symbol of the Mediterranean. This is a landscape that reflects infinite yearning and the desire to exalt and move closer to God in beatific joy. Through poetry, Costa i Llobera was to achieve his ideal of an elevated life, with its roots "on high" in order to flee the dissatisfactions of mundane life, a way of being that was also so characteristic of the romantics and Baudelaire. "El Pi de Formentor" was to symbolise his vision of the poet as being nourished by the ideal.
On the other hand, some poems from this period clearly manifest a melancholic, sentimental mood inspired by the intimist poetry of G. A. Bécquer, as a reading of "Defalliment" (Faintness, 1876) reveals. In 1888 he was ordained as a priest and in 1889 he obtained his doctoral degree in Theology in Rome, where he became steeped in classicism. In 1890, on his definitive return to Mallorca, he wrote three narrative poems "La gerreta del catiu" (The Captive’s Jug, 1895), "Castell del Rei" (The King’s Castle, 1896) and "La maina" (Manna, 1897), which were grouped together in the romantic-tending volume De l'agre de la terra (From the Homeland, 1897). These poems re-create Mallorcan language, customs and cultural traditions. In De l'agre de la terra he tends to use popular forms of prosody, for example the romance, the ballad and the local form known as the cololada [combining eight-syllable lines that rhyme with lines of four or five syllables]. In 1899 he published Líricas, a collection of poems inspired by the monuments of the ancient city of Rome, written in Spanish and using classical metre. Continue reading...