Peace

United Nations speech – 1971

Over the course of his life, Pau Casals struggled constantly for peace, justice and freedom. In recognition of his stance, in 1971 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U-Thant, awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal. The speech that Pau Casals gave to express his gratitude for this distinction, and afterwards his performance of “El cant dels ocells” (The Song of the Birds), form one of the most impressive testimonies to his human dimension.

WORDS OF PAU CASALS AT THE UNITED NATIONS – 24 October 1971

This is the greatest honour of my life. Peace has always been my greatest concern. I learnt to love it when I was but a child. When I was a boy, my mother – an exceptional, marvellous woman -, would talk to me about peace, because at that time there were also many wars. What is more, I am Catalan. Catalonia had the first democratic parliament, well before England did. And the first United Nations were in my country. At that time – the Eleventh Century – there was a meeting in Toluges – now France – to talk about peace, because in that epoch Catalans were already against, AGAINST war. That is why the United Nations, which works solely towards the peace ideal, is in my heart, because anything to do with peace goes straight to my heart.

I have not played the cello in public for many years, but I feel that the time has come to play again. I am going to play a melody from Catalan folklore: El cant dels ocells – The Song of the Birds. Birds sing when they are in the sky, they sing: “Peace, Peace, Peace”, and it is a melody that Bach, Beethoven and all the greats would have admired and loved. What is more, it is born in the soul of my people, Catalonia.

(English translation of the original version in Catalan, from Enric Casals’ book “PAU CASALS, dades biogràfiques inèdites, cartes íntimes i records viscuts”, Ed. Pòrtic, Col. Memòries, Barcelona, 1979.)

The Song of the Birds

Christmas Carol

In seeing emerge
The greatest light
During the most celebrated of nights,
The little birds sing.
They go to celebrate Him
With their delicate voices.

The imperial eagle
flies high in the sky,
singing melodically,
saying, “Jesus is born
To save us all from sin
And to give us joy.”

The sparrow responds,
Today, this Christmas Eve,
Is a night of good cheer!”
The greenfinch and the siskin
Say in singing, too,
“Oh, what joy I feel!”

The linnet sang,
“Oh, how lovely and beautiful
Is the child of Mary!”
The thrush answers:
“Death is conquered,
My life now begins!”

The nightingale twitters,
“He is more beautiful than the sun,
More brilliant than a star!”
The redstart and the stonechat
Celebrate the infant
And his virgin Mother.

The wren sang
For the glory of the Lord,
Inflating with fantasy;
The canary follows:
Its music sounds like
A great song from Heaven.

Now comes the woodlark
Saying, “Come birds
To celebrate the dawn!”
And the big blackbird, whistling,
Went celebrating
The greatest Lady.

The tit says,
“It is neither winter nor summer
But rather springtime;
A flower is born
That gives a sweet smell all around
And fills the whole world.”

The francolin sang,
“Birds, who wants to come
Today at daybreak
To see the good Lord
With all of his splendor
Within a stable?”

The hoopoe goes singing,
“This night has come
the greatest of Kings!”
The turtle dove and rock dove
Admire, and to all
Sing without sadness.

Woodpeckers and bullfinches
Fly between fruit trees
Singing their joys.
The quail and the cuckoo
From afar have come
To see the Messiah.

The partridge sang,
“I am going to make my nest
Inside of that stable,
To look upon the Infant;
How he trembles
In the arms of Mary.”

The magpie, mistle thrush, and jay
Say, “May is coming!”
The goldfinch responds,
“All the trees become green again,
All the branches flower
As if it were the spring.”

The chaffinch whispers,
“Glory today and tomorrow;
I feel great joy
To see the diamond
So handsome and brilliant
In the arms of Mary.”

The scops owl and little owl
Seeing the sunrise
Leave confused.
The tawny owl and eagle-owl
Say, “I cannot look;
Such splendors are in front of me!”