¡Oh, la saeta, el cantar

According to this poem, Antonio Machado, the poet of Castille, remained connected to his region of birth, Andalusia, in the far south of Spain. This region is renowned for many things, but one feature is the intense celebration of Easter Week, Semana Santa. The religious processions consist of penitents carrying huge effigies of the Virgin Mary through the streets, and flagellating themselves. The procession in Seville is particularly well-known, but they take place in most towns and cities across Andalusia.

The combination of Catholic fervour and gypsy tradition in these festivities is fascinating . At regular places along the procession route, it is common for a gypsy woman to stop the procession and sing a type of song known as a saeta (an arrow), a song of extreme emotional intensity, with long high notes, usually dealing with some aspect of the passion of Christ, delivered as if the singer had witnessed it and was still overwhelmed with emotion.

This poem is Machado’s commentary on the saeta, a somewhat conflicted opinion, as you see when you read it.

Antonio Machado
La saeta

¡Oh, la saeta, el cantar
al Cristo de los gitanos,
siempre con sangre en las manos,
siempre por desenclavar!
¡Cantar del pueblo andaluz,
que todas las primaveras
anda pidiendo escaleras
para subir a la cruz!
¡Cantar de la tierra mía,
que echa flores
al Jesús de la agonía,
y es la fe de mis mayores!
¡Oh, no eres tú mi cantar!
¡No puedo cantar, ni quiero
a ese Jesús del madero,
sino al que anduvo en el mar!

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/la-saeta.htm&gt;

Machado at the same time recognizes the tradition and the force of the saeta, reflecting the faith of his forebears and embodying the gypsy tradition but he recoils from the preoccupation with the blood, suffering and death of Christ. The poet prefers to think of Christ alive, a man of peace, the man who walked on water and comforted souls.

Here is a saeta.

Also check out how the saeta translates into other traditions – for example jazz with Miles Davis from his Sketches in Spain album…

The Poetry Dude

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s