It is the peninsula of Formentor, an extraordinary place located in the most northern part of the island. A land of legends and rugged nature, who’s landscape has transcended through the verses of a great poet.
Miquel Costa i Llobera was born in Pollença in 1854, nearby one of the main cities of the Balearic Islands during the Roman Empire, in a family of wealthy landowners who owned the estate and farmhouse of Formentor. His mother died when he was only a child and his maternal uncle became his mentor. His uncle introduced the classics to him, and knew how to nourish the artistic sensibility of the writer who from a very young age showed a passion for literature.
“Everything here taught me poetry.”
His biographer tells how, one day, when the family were walking through the fields, they realised that the boy was not following them. He had remained behind, standing on the cliff, reading an ode to Horacio that his uncle had given him. His love of reading and walks through the land of his ancestors inspired him to become a poet. Art and nature taught him poetry, he writes it himself in one of his verses: “Everything here taught me poetry.”
Religion and literature vocations of Miquel Costa i Llobera
Religion and literature marked the life and character of Miquel Costa i Llobera, two great vocations that inevitably came into conflict. As his religiousness became consolidated, he was ordained a priest and became canon of the cathedral. His work evolved from Romanticism to Classicism, to a more serene literature, although the fusion of both spirits were always present.
Death came to him on the pulpit on October 16, 1922, while preaching the panegyric of St. Teresa of Jesus in a convent in Palma.
Miquel Costa i Llobera grew up surrounded by beauty and had, from the great cape of Formentor, a privileged view of the Mediterranean. He knew the stones of the roads and the coves, the names of the fish and the trees he climbed. He lived surrounded by nature, and in it was inspired to write his work.
One day in September 1875, whilst walking with his cousin, he saw a pine that faced towards sea from above, rooted like him in the land of Formentor. That tree dominated the mountains and endured the lashes of the storm and would become a symbol of strength and improvement, the protagonist of an uplifting song to the Mediterranean in one of the most universal poems in our literature.
The pine of Formentor
Electus ut cedri
Tis a noble pine enthralls me; no orange tree o vernal,
nor oak e’er lived so mightly, nor olive tree so old:
in his unfading vesture endures the spring eternal;
with storms that lash the sea-line he strives with strength
a giant warrior bold.
No little lovelorn floweret out from his lattice peeping;
no mountain rill caresses his shadows where they sleep;
but heaven in fragrance ever his halllowed head is steeping,
and on the serried ramparts his throne exalted keeping
his fount the vasty deep.
When o’er the distant waters the new born day is stealing
among his shadowy branches no captive songsters wake;
the cry of great sea-eagles he hears sublimely pealing,
or feels the mighty pinion of soaring vulture Wheeling
his leafy mantle shake.
Not it the soil sustaining his tower of living vigour,
about the stubborn boulders his massy roots entwine:
he greets the dews and showers, chill wind and torrid rigour;
and, like the ancient prophet, the smiles of heaven transfigure
his form with life divine.
Sublime of trees! of genius the living sign and wonder,
superb above the mountains he scans the infinite:
his form fond heaven embraces, though harsh the earth
and in that love he welcomes the lightning and the thunder
for glory and delight.
Ay, when through all the heavens the tempests rage uproarious,
and seems that to the surges down must his peak be hurled,
higd o’er the billows’ clamour he sings with laughter glorious,
and rears above the cloud wrack his regal head victorious,
triumphant o’er the world.
My heart, on Tree, enshrines thee; Above the base earth’s
thy memory for evere I guard a holy sign;
steadfast to strive and conquer, in loftiest regions reigning,
from purest rays celestial new life and nurture gaining
What fate sublime is thine!
Mount, mount, aspiring spirit! the shrounding mists
stand fast aloft, as standeth that Pine upon the steep;
calm shalt thou view beneath thee the world’s wild seas
and like the circling sea-birds, thy songs in joy unending
above the storm shall sweep.
Trad. James Webb