Asesinado por el cielo

Today’s poem from Federico Garcia Lorca comes from the collection he wrote in New York on a visit in the late 1920s. Although the title is rather anodyne, rendered in English as “coming back from a walk”, the content of the poem is rather disturbing, with dark, violent and distressful images throughout the poem. The city of New York must have been a very different experience for the poet than the laid-back lifestyle of his native Andalusia, so perhaps this poem captures some of his understandable sense of alienation.

 

Vuelta de paseo

Asesinado por el cielo,
entre las formas que van hacia la sierpe
y las formas que buscan el cristal,
dejaré crecer mis cabellos.

Con el árbol de muñones que no canta
y el niño con el blanco rostro de huevo.

Con los animalitos de cabeza rota
y el agua harapienta de los pies secos.

Con todo lo que tiene cansancio sordomudo
y mariposa ahogada en el tintero.

Tropezando con mi rostro distinto de cada día.
¡Asesinado por el cielo!

 

From <http://usuaris.tinet.cat/picl/libros/glorca/gl002600.htm#16&gt;

The opening line establishes the tone of the poet as a victim of fate, murdered by the heavens. The line is repeated at the end, this time with exclamation marks, giving a symmetry to the whole poem, but also reinforcing the accumulation of threatening images which form the body of the poem in between these opening and closing lines.

The poet wanders between mysterious shapes and announces he will let his hair grow, meaning there is no point in taking care of himself or his appearance in a hostile world. He sees a tree full of severed limbs which don’t sing, a child with a face as white as an egg, animals with their heads smashed in, and so on up to the butterfly drowned in ink. The poem has the same feel as one of the surrealist paintings, perhaps like one of Salvador Dali’s works which actually put images like this across the canvas.

The final two lines bring back the focus to the poet himself, encountering his won face in a different way each day, indicating the variability of his moods inspired by such alienating surroundings – but the final line reinforces his feeling that all of these experiences are sapping his energy and life -force, and that none of this is under his control.

The Poetry Dude

Advertisements

Amor de mis entrañas, viva muerte,

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

From <http://www.poesi.as/fglso106.htm&gt;

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

Equivocar el camino

Today we have an unusually disorienting and disturbing poem from Federico Garcia Lorca. It does not have a theme from his native Andalucia. It is not about love, or war or tradition. Instead it is a strange mix of images of snow, a woman, chickens, cemeteries, volcanoes, the number two, children pushing into the eyes of an assassin… It reminds me most of one of those fairly early Bob Dylan songs where the language was primarily directed at expressing alienation (eg It’s a Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, or Subterranean Homesick Blues).

And maybe the title is a joke – Lorca’s definition of infinity could be the time you spend trying to impute meaning to this poem.

Federico García Lorca
Pequeño poema infinito

 
Equivocar el camino
es llegar a la nieve
y llegar a la nieve
es pacer durante veinte siglos las hierbas de los cementerios.

Equivocar el camino
es llegar a la mujer,
la mujer que no teme la luz,
la mujer que no teme a los gallos
y los gallos que no saben cantar sobre la nieve.

Pero si la nieve se equivoca de corazón
puede llegar el viento Austro
y como el aire no hace caso de los gemidos
tendremos que pacer otra vez las hierbas de los cementerios.

Yo vi dos dolorosas espigas de cera
que enterraban un paisaje de volcanes
y vi dos niños locos que empujaban llorando las pupilas de un asesino.

Pero el dos no ha sido nunca un número
porque es una angustia y su sombra,
porque es la guitarra donde el amor se desespera,
porque es la demostración de otro infinito que no es suyo
y es las murallas del muerto
y el castigo de la nueva resurrección sin finales.
Los muertos odian el número dos,
pero el número dos adormece a las mujeres
y como la mujer teme la luz
la luz tiembla delante de los gallos
y los gallos sólo saben votar sobre la nieve
tendremos que pacer sin descanso las hierbas de los cementerios.

 
From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/pequeno-poema-infinito.htm&gt;

There is a kind of gentle hypnotic effect which Lorca achieves by the repetition of words, and even of phrases throughout the poem. And this seems to me to be magnified by the lengthening of the lines in the second half of the poem. You are tempted to read the later lines faster than the earlier lines to get more words into each breath, and this increases the intensity of the experience of alienation and mystery.

The Poetry Dude

Esquilones de plata

Since we are now well into July, why not enjoy Lorca’s Ballad of a July Day, an Andalusian-themed call and response or dialogue poem with a conversation between a knight and a mysterious young girl. There are no quotation marks, but it is pretty obvious when there is speech and who is speaking.

And while this conversation is going on, all the while the oxen are passing by, with silver cowbells round their necks, providing some kind of musical background to the dialogue. Like in the movies, really…

Federico García Lorca
Balada de un día de Julio

 
Esquilones de plata
Llevan los bueyes.

¿Dónde vas, niña mía,
De sol y nieve?

Voy a las margaritas
Del prado verde.

El prado está muy lejos
Y miedo tiene.

Al airón y a la sombra
Mi amor no teme.

Teme al sol, niña mía,
De sol y nieve.

Se fue de mis cabellos
Ya para siempre.
Quién eres, blanca niña.
¿De dónde vienes?

Vengo de los amores
Y de las fuentes.

Esquilones de plata
Llevan los bueyes.

¿Qué llevas en la boca
Que se te enciende?

La estrella de mi amante
Que vive y muere.

¿Qué llevas en el pecho
Tan fino y leve?

La espada de mi amante
Que vive y muere.

¿Qué llevas en los ojos,
Negro y solemne?

Mi pensamiento triste
Que siempre hiere.

¿Por qué llevas un manto
Negro de muerte?

¡Ay, yo soy la viudita
Triste y sin bienes!

Del conde del Laurel
De los Laureles.

¿A quién buscas aquí
Si a nadie quieres?
Busco el cuerpo del conde
De los Laureles.

¿Tú buscas el amor,
Viudita aleve?
Tú buscas un amor
Que ojalá encuentres.

Estrellitas del cielo
Son mis quereres,
¿Dónde hallaré a mi amante
Que vive y muere?

Está muerto en el agua,
Niña de nieve,
Cubierto de nostalgias
Y de claveles.

¡Ay! caballero errante
De los cipreses,
Una noche de luna
Mi alma te ofrece.

Ah Isis soñadora.
Niña sin mieles
La que en bocas de niños
Su cuento vierte.
Mi corazón te ofrezco,
Corazón tenue,
Herido por los ojos
De las mujeres.

Caballero galante,
Con Dios te quedes.

Voy a buscar al conde
De los Laureles…

Adiós mi doncellita,
Rosa durmiente,
Tú vas para el amor
Y yo a la muerte.

Esquilones de plata
Llevan los bueyes.

Mi corazón desangra
Como una fuente.

 
From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/balada-de-un-dia-de-julio.htm&gt;

The poem has the mythical or symbolic feel of one of those late mediaeval romances, perhaps Arthurian, where everybody is on a quest and nothing is quite as it seems. Here the young girl is enigmatic and talks allusively, almost in riddles until we eventually learn she is searching for the body of her dead husband, the Count of laurels. She is referrred to as being made of sun and snow, two things which shouldn’t co-exist in close proximity. So is she real, or imagined? Its hard to tell.

Just as enigmatic is the knight who is asking her the questions about who she is and where she is going. Nothing is revealed of him until close to the end of the poem when he asks the girl whether she could love him. He offers her his heart, which has been wounded by women many times before. But she turns hi down, and they go their separate ways, with the knight’s heart shedding blood like a fountain.

Perhaps all is a dream except for the oxen with their silver cowbells

The Poetry Dude

Este pichón del Turia que te mando, 

Garcia Lorca here pays tribute to his illustrious predecessor with this sonnet in the style of Gongora. Both men were , of course, apart from being fine poets, Andalusians whose love of southern Spain shines through much of their poetry.

The title of this poem is unusually informative, it has information about the form of the poem, its inspiration and its subject matter. “Sonnet in the stlye of Gongora in which the poet sends his lover a pigeon”.

Federico García Lorca
Soneto Gongorino en el que el poeta manda a su amor una paloma

 
Este pichón del Turia que te mando,
de dulces ojos y de blanca pluma,
sobre laurel de Grecia vierte y suma
llama lenta de amor do estoy pasando.

Su cándida virtud, su cuello blando,
en limo doble de caliente espuma,
con un temblor de escarcha, perla y bruma
la ausencia de tu boca está marcando.

Pasa la mano sobre tu blancura
y verás qué nevada melodía
esparce en copos sobre tu hermosura.

Así mi corazón de noche y día,
preso en la cárcel del amor oscura,
llora, sin verte, su melancolía.

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

The pigeon (or perhaps dove) is a symbol of the love which the poet sends to his loved one. I don’t know if there is special significance that it is a pigeon of Turia, which is a river valley in Spain. But the pigeon both marks the absence of the lover and has qualities which remind him of her mouth, her attitude and her beauty. And in the end, despite the pigeon, the poet remains in a state of melancholy because his lover is absent.

The sonnet probably doesn’t have quite the richness or verbal inventiveness of Gongora’s best sonnets, but it is a good attempt and we should be pleased that Lorca made this attempt. And it helps underscore the continuity of much poetic tradition.

The Poetry Dude

La guitarra

The Spanish guitar is deeply rooted in the culture and art of Andalusia in Southern Spain, which was Garcia Lorca’s home, and which inspired much of his poetry. Think of flamenco guitar, but also classical gutiar music by such as Albeniz or Rodrigo. Listening to these you should be able to close your eyes and be transported to a shady patio in Seville on a hot summer’s evening. Here is FGL’s tribute to the six strings…

 
Las Seis Cuerdas

La guitarra
hace llorar a los sueños.
El sollozo de las almas
perdidas
se escapa por su boca
redonda.
Y como la tarántula,
teje una gran estrella
para cazar suspiros,
que flotan en su negro
aljibe de madera.

1924
Federico García Lorca

From <http://www.literato.es/p/MjI1NDI/&gt;

The imagery used by the poet here makes me think most of the raw emotional power of flamenco – built around the guitar, but also including the gut-wrenchingly emotional singing, the intense rhythmic dancing and the virtuosity of clapping and percussion. This can indeed make your dreams weep and appear like the sighs of lost souls. And you can lose yourself totally in the experience, as if you were caught in a tarantula’s web.

The Poetry Dude

Los arqueros oscuros

This is a mysterious, enigmatic and atmospheric poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, inspired by the great city of Sevilla, in his native Andalusia in southern Spain. The city is crossed by the river Guadalquivir, a historically important river, which was the origin of much of Spain’s trade with the Americas in the 1500s and 1600s. In this poem, the city and the river seem to be under the spell of some kind of threat, as the archers approach, presumably by boat.

Arqueros

 
Los arqueros oscuros
a Sevilla se acercan.

Guadalquivir abierto.

Anchos sombreros grises,
largas capas lentas.

¡Ay, Guadalquivir!

Vienen de los remotos
países de la pena.

Guadalquivir abierto.

Y van a un laberinto.
Amor, cristal y piedra.

¡Ay, Guadalquivir!

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

The poem is short and simple, made up of two line verses followed by a one line exclamation or rather lamentation about the river Guadalquivir. Some mysterious archers are approaching the city of Seville dressed in large hats and capes, hiding their identity and intent. They are coming up the river from remote places of sorrow, presumably to bring sorrow to Sevilla, using the river Guadalquivir as their conduit. They will arrive at the city itself, a maze of love, glass and stone, presumably a reference to the architectural wonders of the place. The outcome is unstated but implied throughout by the suggestions of menace, unease and despair.

Sevilla is still a beautiful city, I recommend a visit, but Lorca himself did not survive to a great age, as he was shot by General Franco’s troops near the start of the Spanish Civil War. For him, the archers arrived.

The Poetry Dude