Gorgeous Lorca

How do you distract yourself from the appalling vistas of Life as we know it right now? One way is to ameliorate reality with large doses of art. One of the pleasures of the last few months’ sequestering is getting around to reading the poetry of Federíco García Lorca, one of the giants of Twentieth-century Spanish literature. Just this week a new biography has been released titled Deep Song: The Life and Work of Federíco García Lorca by Stephen Roberts. Although I haven’t read the biography yet, it’s a good occasion to share a pequeña mordida of this amazing poet and playwright.

Lorca with his little sister Isabel, who later became a professor and writer.

Between 1921 and 1927 Lorca wrote a series of 18 poems that he described as a “tragic poem of Andalusia”. Publishing them in 1928 as Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads) , he shot to fame. Only eight years later he would be assassinated in murky circumstances, but his body of plays and poetry live on and have influenced generations of writers, artists and musicians, including Leonard Cohen.

Here is the first poem of Romancero Gitano, dedicated to his sister Conchita.

Ballad of the Moon, Moon

For Conchita García Lorca

The moon came to the forge
in her spikenard bustle.
The boy gazes at her, gazes.
The boy is gazing.

In the agitated air
the moon sways her arms,
showing, sensual and pure,
her hard tin breasts.

“Run away, moon, moon, moon.
If the gypsies came,
they would turn your heart
into necklaces and silver rings.”

“Child, let me dance.
When the gypsies come,
they will find you on the anvil
with your little eyes shut tight.”

“Run away, moon, moon, moon.
I can hear their horses.”
“Child, let me be, don’t trample
my starched whiteness.”

The rider was galloping closer
beating upon the drum of the plain.
Inside the forge the boy
had his eyes shut tight.

Across the olive grove,

Bronze and dream, the gypsies came.
Their heads held high,
their eyes half shut.

How the nightjar sings!
Ay, how she sings in the tree!
The moon goes through the sky
leading a boy by the hand.

In the forge they weep,

wailing, the gypsies.
The air set sail, set sail.
The air is setting sail.

You can listen to the poem here, set to music.