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Friday, October 8, 2010

Garcia Lorca

It was some years ago that I came across Gacela of the Dark Death and I found that it struck a chord with me.  Now I have been reading about the poet's life.  Garcia Lorca was murdered at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains by Spanish Nationalists and he had to dig his own grave.  The whereabouts of his remains is unknown, how sad is that and how prophetic this poem.  Below is another translation of Gacela de la muerte oscura.  A gacela is a poem of Persian/Arabic origin (ghazal) that has a strict metrical pattern and tends to have an erotic theme.

 A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 6th century pre-Islamic Arabic verse. It is derived from the Arabian panegyric qasida. The structural requirements of the ghazal are similar in stringency to those of the Petrarchan sonnet. In its style and content it is a genre which has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central themes of love and separation. It is one of the principal poetic forms which the Indo-Perso-Arabic civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world. (Wikipedia)

This now leads me back to Sufism and the poet Rumi.  I must look even more deeply into this.

Gacela of the Dark Death
by Federico García Lorca
translated by Robert Bly

I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

I don't want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,
how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.
I'd rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for
nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn
with its snakelike nose.

I want to sleep for half a second,
a second, a minute, a century,
but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,
that I have a golden manger inside my lips,
that I am the little friend of the west wind,
that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

When it's dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me
because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,
and pour a little hard water over my shoes
so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,
because I want to live with that shadowy child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.


  1. Hi Orla

    I also love the poetry of Lorca and have written a chapter on him in with my own Spanish translations in my book on modern poetry: Clearing The Tangled Wood: Poetry as a way of seeing the world published by Academica Press.
    best wishes

  2. Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for the comment James :)