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Romance Sonambulo -- Federico Garcia Lorca

Guest poem sent in by Anustup Datta
(Poem #210) Romance Sonambulo
  Green, how I want you green.
  Green wind. Green branches.
  The ship out on the sea
  and the horse on the mountain.
  With the shade around her waist
  she dreams on her balcony,
  green flesh, her hair green,
  with eyes of cold silver.
  Green, how I want you green.
  Under the gypsy moon,
  all things are watching her
  and she cannot see them.

  Green, how I want you green.
  Big hoarfrost stars
  come with the fish of shadow
  that opens the road of dawn.
  The fig tree rubs its wind
  with the sandpaper of its branches,
  and the forest, cunning cat,
  bristles its brittle fibers.
  But who will come? And from where?
  She is still on her balcony
  green flesh, her hair green,
  dreaming in the bitter sea.

  --My friend, I want to trade
  my horse for her house,
  my saddle for her mirror,
  my knife for her blanket.
  My friend, I come bleeding
  from the gates of Cabra.
  --If it were possible, my boy,
  I'd help you fix that trade.
  But now I am not I,
  nor is my house now my house.
  --My friend, I want to die
  decently in my bed.
  Of iron, if that's possible,
  with blankets of fine chambray.
  Don't you see the wound I have
  from my chest up to my throat?
  --Your white shirt has grown
  thirsty dark brown roses.
  Your blood oozes and flees
  around the corners of your sash.
  But now I am not I,
  nor is my house now my house.
  --Let me climb up, at least,
  up to the high balconies;
  Let me climb up! Let me,
  up to the green balconies.
  Railings of the moon
  through which the water rumbles.

  Now the two friends climb up,
  up to the high balconies.
  Leaving a trail of blood.
  Leaving a trail of teardrops.
  Tin bell vines
  were trembling on the roofs.
  A thousand crystal tambourines
  struck at the dawn light.

  Green, how I want you green,
  green wind, green branches.
  The two friends climbed up.
  The stiff wind left
  in their mouths, a strange taste
  of bile, of mint, and of basil
  My friend, where is she--tell me--
  where is your bitter girl?
  How many times she waited for you!
  How many times would she wait for you,
  cool face, black hair,
  on this green balcony!
  Over the mouth of the cistern
  the gypsy girl was swinging,
  green flesh, her hair green,
  with eyes of cold silver.
  An icicle of moon
  holds her up above the water.
  The night became intimate
  like a little plaza.
  Drunken "Guardias Civiles"
  were pounding on the door.
  Green, how I want you green.
  Green wind. Green branches.
  The ship out on the sea.
  And the horse on the mountain.
-- Federico Garcia Lorca
        (Translated by William Logan)

Comments :

I discovered this poem recently and was transfixed. The sheer power of the
imagery and the vivid yet chilling picture it conjured up held me
spellbound. In my imgaination, I saw Franco's Spain and the rout of the
Republicans - and a broken wounded soldier coming home in the night to meet
his true love. I could hear the guitar notes in the background as the two
friends climb up to the balcony for the girl who used to wait there. The use
of phrases like 'gypsy moon', 'hoarfrost stars', 'the forest, cunning cat'
adds to the mystery of it all. What happened to her when the soldiers came?
Did she jump from the balcony into the green sea and become one with it? Is
the reflection of the gypsy moon in the water her 'eyes of cold silver'? The
more I read it, the more it haunts me, and the superb atmospheric quality
reminds me of Walter de la Mare.

A brief biography of Lorca is available at www.poets.org, along with the
Spanish original of this poem.

Anustup

35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

TALLYjamz said...

this might throw you for a loop; the girl in lorca's poem is dead, which is
why she has green hair and skin. it is the decaying body, with eyes like
cold ice because she has drowned in the atrium of the house

TANGOKC said...

never,never.........ever,ever.....
translate Lorca from spanish into any other language.
LEARN SPANISH ! ! ! ..... then comment.

HotNBaby77 said...

I second that thought on not translating Lorca's poem into another language.
You are missing on somethings that can't be seen in this case the english
language. At the beginning the guy comes to see the girl, but somehow an
intuitive feeling makes him realize that she is already dead and that he
wants to see her for a last time. This is just the first line . Each verse is
full of meaning so make sure you don't miss on it.

Frank J. Bianco said...

I have to disagree with TALLYjamz. At the beginning of the poem the girl is
alive, but blind (ojos de fría plata) and that's why, when she leaves the
balcony, she falls into the cistern after waiting for her lover who did not
show up until late.

Sean said...

I was in AP Spanish 5 this year, and we covered this poem. The girl is dead, and the man is talking to her father. The soldiers wounded him, and he too will die. The two friends climbing up to the high balconies are the man and the woman going to heaven.

-Sean

Robinson Diana Marie said...

I read this poem in an "AP Spanish" class, but we never truly discussed
it; I loved it dearly and committed it to memory. It always seemed to
me that the gypsy girl hung herself above the cistern, thus "was
swinging" suspended by "an icicle of moon" (rope). However, in Lorca's
magical realism, less symbolic interpretations could certainly be
viable.
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.

daelix said...

This is a wonderful poem. It is a certainty that the woman is dead, and this lends support to a popular interpretation around many literary circles. The poem represents a mans first encounter with homosexuality. In this case the man attempts to trade his masculine items for feminine ones, however something is awry with the trader (actually the woman's father), and he states that he is not quite himself. There is wonderful imagery of the two men 'ascending' together, and in doing so the man becomes aware of a bittersweet taste in his mouth, representing feelings of pleasure and guilt. He finds peace though, realising that 'women' in general are dead to him. This peaceful moment is abruptly broken by the entrance of the civil guards, making us aware that he is breaking social norms, and consequently he is persecuted for it. Much of this idea is lost in the translation of the poem into English, but given Lorca's lifestyle, it is certainly a plausible interpretation.

Loco4Lorca said...

I read with interest all the posts regarding Lorca's "Romance sonámbulo," so
I thought I would add my two cents in an attempt to shed some light on this
seemingly complex poem. First a little about me: I wrote my MA thesis on
Lorca. I study the Generación del 27 in Madrid with Carlos Bousoño, one of the
foremost poetry scholars, poet and member of the Real Academia de la Lengua
Española.

The young man in the poem is a gypsy, not a soldier. He is, in fact, a
contraband runner. The action takes place prior to the Civil War, so any images of
Franco would be considerably anachronistic. As a contraband runner, he is
constantly running from the Guardia Civil, with whom the gypsies were always
clashing.

The young gypsy girl is alive in the beginning. The color green shifts from
life to death from the beginning to the ending of the poem. Every night she
waits for him, never knowing if he will return alive. This night, he is late,
and hearing all the commotion in the countryside, she believes he has been
killed, so she kills herself. This story, in effect, is a gypsy Romeo and
Juliette story.

When the young man offers to trade his possessions with those of the old man,
it is to trade those things that represent the transitory, uncertain life of
an outlaw for those things that represent stability and settling down. He is
making an 11th hour deal to change his way of life. There is no repressed
homosexuality in the poem. Trust me, if it were there, I would gladly admit it,
especially considering the title of my thesis was, "Homosexuality as Subtext
in Lorca's New York Poems."

I hope my comments were helpful.

George Henson
Lecturer of Spanish
Southern Methodist University

YOU KNOW WHO said...

WHAT YEAR WAS THIS POEM WRITTEN IN????????????????
PLEAZZZZZ WRITE BACK THNX!!!

Jennifer said...

The third stanza of the poem has been grossly mistranslated. The Spanish original does not say, " my friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house". Here the possessive form "su" has been mistranslated. It should be, rather, "mate: I wish to trade
my horse for your house, my bridle for your mirror, my knife for your blanket.Mate: I have come, bleeding, from the mountain ports of Cabra". Vidal Alcolea. Toronto.

Marimar Huguet Jerez said...

Why do we have to find the true meaning that Lorca meant in this poem? Maybe, there is not a true one. Just, FEEL the mistery that wraps the poem, and the surreal images that embrace it. How is it possible to decipher what a surrealistic image 'really' means? Rather, get the powerful feeling that it transmits...

trcattan said...

Hello,
I read your comments about Lorca's great poem, "Romance Sonambulo." Of course, you're right in your interpretation.
I am trying to discover all the translations of "Romance Sonambulo" into English. There are quite a few. Would you possibly have a list of them? Specifically, would you know if the poet W.S. Merwin made a translation? I know he translated some of Lorca's poems, but not "Romance Sonambulo," as far as I have been able to discover. If so, what is the title of the book in which it appears? And did Edwin Honig make a translation? Would you also know the precise title of the Penguin Book of plain prose translations of Lorca's poems?
Thanks for anything you can offer.
Ted

kismetproductions said...

IMHO the young man was a Gypsie contraband runner who is mortally wounded by the Gaurdia Civil and regretting that he had not had the opportunities of a Gadjo wishes to die a dignified death with his loved one. The girl who is alive and waiting understands what has happened and recognising what will happen to her as a beautiful young associate of a criminal in the hands of a drunk Gaurdia (who are bashing at the door) decides to take her own life.
Lorca had a profound understanding of the lives Gypsie's led so is the reference to an "iron bed" with "blankets of Chambrey"...."if possible" a last ironic comment by the gypsie?...or?
It is important to understand what a poem is about otherwise, apart from it's inate beauty it is mere decoration. It would be a sad poem though, particularly in its surrealist context, if it meant the same thing to every one.
Thank you for the poem and thank you for the diverse insights.

Daniel

kismetproductions said...

PS: Was written July/August 1924...well before Franko.... as one of the "Ramancero Gitano" and confirms in this context the idea that it is a poem about a bandit, common around this time in the hills above Ronda, Andalucia.

D.

Sean said...

For the person looking for translations (and others): I recently did a translation of this. I felt the ones I had read lacked the lyricism of Lorca's spanish - which is utterly haunting in its power - and were simultaneously, if this makes sense, too literal and not close enough to Lorca's language. While I consider my own translation to be by no means perfect, I favor it - at least on an aesthetic/lyrical level - to the ones I've read (though one should rightfully accuse me of bias!). As for my "qualifications," if you'd like to get an idea where this is coming from, I study Comparative Literature at NYU including Spanish-language literature. Any criticism would be welcome.

Federico García Lorca - Sleepwalking Ballad

Green how I love you green.

Green wind, green boughs.

The ship upon the sea

and the horse upon the mountain.

With shadow on her waist

she dreams upon her balcony;

green flesh, hair green,

with eyes of cold silver.

Beneath the gypsy moon

everything looks upward,

but she cannot look down.

Green how I love you green.

Great frosted stars

appear with a shadow-born fish

that opens the path of dawn.

The fig tree rubs the wind

with its sandpaper branches

and the mountain, a swift thieving cat,

bristles its sour aloes.

But who shall come? And from where...?

She lingers on her balcony,

green flesh, hair green,

dreaming of the bitter sea.

-Friend, I would like to exchange

my horse for your home,

my saddle for your mirror,

my knife for your blanket.

Friend, I come bleeding

from the mountain passes of Cabra.

-If I were able, lad,

this deal would be done.

But I am no longer myself,

and my house is no longer my own.

-Friend, I want to die

decently in my own bed.

A steel-framed bed, if possible,

with sheets of fine holland.

Do you not see the wound that runs

from by breast to my throat?

-Your white shirt wears

three hundred dark roses.

Your oozing blood leaves its scent

upon your sash.

But I am no longer myself,

and my house is no longer my own.

-At least let me go up

to the high balconies;

let me go! let me go

to the high balconies,

the balconies of the moon

where the water resounds.

Now the two friends ascend

toward the high balconies.

Leaving a trail of blood.

Leaving a trail of tears.

Small tin lamps

trembled on the rooftops.

A thousand crystal tambourines

stabbed up at the dawn.

Green how I love you green,

green wind, green boughs.

The two friends went up.

A persistent wind left a strange taste

of bile in their mouths, a taste

of mint and sweet-basil.

Friend! Where is she, tell me?

Where's your bitter girl?

How many times she waited for you!

How she waited for you,

cool face, black hair,

here on this green balcony!

Over the face of the cistern

the gypsy girl rocked.

Green flesh, hair green,

with eyes of cold silver.

A lunar icicle

suspends her above the water.

The night became intimate,

like a small city square.

Drunken civil guards

pounded at the door.

Green how I love you green.

Green wind, green boughs.

The ship upon the sea

and the horse upon the mountain.

Sean T Nortz said...

For the person looking for translations (and others): I recently did a
translation of this. I felt the ones I had read lacked the lyricism of
Lorca's spanish - which is utterly haunting in its power - and were
simultaneously, if this makes sense, too literal and not close enough to
Lorca's language. While I consider my own translation to be by no means
perfect, I favor it - at least on an aesthetic/lyrical level - to the
ones I've read (though one should rightfully accuse me of bias!). As for
my "qualifications," if you'd like to get an idea where this is coming
from, I study Comparative Literature at NYU including Spanish-language
literature. Any criticism would be welcome.

"Sleepwalking Ballad"
originally by Federico Garcia Lorca
translated by Sean Nortz

Green how I love you green.

Green wind, green boughs.

The ship upon the sea

and the horse upon the mountain.

With shadow on her waist

she dreams upon her balcony;

green flesh, hair green,

with eyes of cold silver.

Beneath the gypsy moon

everything looks upward,

but she cannot look down.

Green how I love you green.

Great frosted stars

appear with a shadow-born fish

that opens the path of dawn.

The fig tree rubs the wind

with its sandpaper branches

and the mountain, a swift thieving cat,

bristles its sour aloes.

But who shall come? And from where...?

She lingers on her balcony,

green flesh, hair green,

dreaming of the bitter sea.

-Friend, I would like to exchange

my horse for your home,

my saddle for your mirror,

my knife for your blanket.

Friend, I come bleeding

from the mountain passes of Cabra.

-If I were able, lad,

this deal would be done.

But I am no longer myself,

and my house is no longer my own.

-Friend, I want to die

decently in my own bed.

A steel-framed bed, if possible,

with sheets of fine holland.

Do you not see the wound that runs

from by breast to my throat?

-Your white shirt wears

three hundred dark roses.

Your oozing blood leaves its scent

upon your sash.

But I am no longer myself,

and my house is no longer my own.

-At least let me go up

to the high balconies;

let me go! let me go

to the high balconies,

the balconies of the moon

where the water resounds.

Now the two friends ascend

toward the high balconies.

Leaving a trail of blood.

Leaving a trail of tears.

Small tin lamps

trembled on the rooftops.

A thousand crystal tambourines

stabbed up at the dawn.

Green how I love you green,

green wind, green boughs.

The two friends went up.

A persistent wind left a strange taste

of bile in their mouths, a taste

of mint and sweet-basil.

Friend! Where is she, tell me?

Where's your bitter girl?

How many times she waited for you!

How she waited for you,

cool face, black hair,

here on this green balcony!

Over the face of the cistern

the gypsy girl rocked.

Green flesh, hair green,

with eyes of cold silver.

A lunar icicle

suspends her above the water.

The night became intimate,

like a small city square.

Drunken civil guards

pounded at the door.

Green how I love you green.

Green wind, green boughs.

The ship upon the sea

and the horse upon the mountain.

Anonymous said...

Sean,
Very nice translation, thank you.

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Anonymous said...

i really find it difficult to understand the poem.....

Jessie said...

anybody tell me what is the main meaning in this poem plzzz........

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Anonymous said...

plz gv comment of the significance of the poem sleeping ballad.

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