Here is a sonnet from Garcia Lorca in which the title describes exactly what we can find in the poem – the poet is anxiously waiting for his lover to write to him. Even today, when the moments of anxiety can be only seconds or minutes, while waiting to receive a text on your phone from your lover, we can identify with the anxiety and suspense of this waiting and the uncertainty. How much stronger must this have been 80 to 100 years ago when a letter arriving in the mail would likely take several days to arrive.
The tension between the suffering of being in love and the calm of not being in love is the paradox that suffuses the poem and makes it a worthy successor to the poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth century masters of Spanish poetry (to whom Lorca pays tribute in the last line of this poem).
EL POETA PIDE A SU AMOR QUE LE ESCRIBA
Amor de mis entrañas, viva muerte,
en vano espero tu palabra escrita
y pienso, con la flor que se marchita,
que si vivo sin mí quiero perderte.
El aire es inmortal. La piedra inerte
ni conoce la sombra ni la evita.
Corazón interior no necesita
la miel helada que la luna vierte.
Pero yo te sufrí. Rasgué mis venas,
tigre y paloma, sobre tu cintura
en duelo de mordiscos y azucenas.
Llena pues de palabras mi locura
o déjame vivir en mi serena
noche del alma para siempre oscura.
Federico García Lorca
The opening line is a vividly compressed expression of what it is like to be in a passionate love affair – you feel it in your guts, it is a living death to be constantly and unreservedly focussed on where your lover is, what she is doing and whether she loves you. Then we find that the poet is waiting in vain for word from his lover and the tension is so strong that he almost wishes that his love could fade and die like a flower which dries up, and in the fourth line the poet says he can only live again if he were to lose her – a very Baroque paradox, you could find lines like this in Garcilaso or in Shakespeare.
In the second four lines the poet looks about him and sees the eternal calm of the air, the inert passivity of stones and imagines his hear being like that, to have no need of the honey coming from the moon, which represents his love.
But no, that is not to be the case. In the ninth line, we return to the poet’s suffering, scratching at his veins to remind him of the love bites and caresses of his lover, who is both tiger and dove.
So the poem ends with another plea for him to calm his madness with words or to leave him alone to live in peace in the calm night of the soul, a reference to the famous poem by San Juan del Cruz (posted on this blog on October 31, 2014). A nice nod to cultural continuity.
The Poetry Dude