Federico García Lorca

Five in the Afternoon


David Roberts, 1796–1864, British
Yale Center for British Art

Y mi sangre sobre el campo

sea rosado y dulce limo

donde claven sus azadas

los cansados campesinos.

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved.

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.

Please note that Federico García Lorca's original, Spanish works may not be in the public domain in all jurisdictions, notably the United States of America. Where the original works are not in the public domain, any required permissions should also be sought from the representatives of the Lorca estate, Casanovas & Lynch Agencia Literaria.


Singing Cafè

(From Flamenco Vignettes)

Lamps of crystal

and green mirrors.

On the dark stage

Parrala holds

a dialogue

with death.

Calls her,

she won’t come,

Calls her again.

The people

swallow their sobbing.

And in the green mirrors

long trails of silk


The Guitar

It begins, the lament

of the guitar.

The wineglass of dawn

is broken.

It begins, the lament

of the guitar.

It’s useless to silence it.


to silence it.

It cries monotonously

as the water cries,

as the wind cries

over the snow.


to silence it.

It cries for

distant things.

Sands of the hot South

that demand white camellias.

It cries arrows with no targets,

evening with no morning,

and the first dead bird

on the branch.

Oh, the guitar!

Heart wounded deep

by five swords.


A hundred riders in mourning,

where might they be going,

along the low horizon

of the orange grove?

They could not arrive

at Sevilla or Cordoba.

Nor at Granada, she who sighs

for the sea.

These drowsy horses

may carry them

to the labyrinth of crosses

where the singing trembles.

With seven nailed sighs,

where might they be going

the hundred Andalusian riders

of the orange-grove?


Under the orange-tree

she washes baby-clothes.

Her eyes of green

and voice of violet.

Ay, love,

under the orange-tree in bloom!

The water in the ditch

flowed, filled with light,

a sparrow chirped

in the little olive-tree.

Ay, love,

under the orange-tree in bloom!

Later, when Lola

has exhausted the soap,

young bullfighters will come.

Ay, love,

under the orange-tree in bloom!



enters, and leaves,

the tavern.

Black horses

and sinister people

travel the deep roads

of the guitar.

And there’s a smell of salt

and of female blood

in the fevered tuberoses

of the shore.


enters and leaves,

and leaves and enters

the death

of the tavern.


A long ghost of silver moving

the night-wind’s sighing

opened my old hurt with its grey hand

and moved on: I was left yearning.

Wound of love that will grant my life

endless blood and pure welling light.

Cleft in which Philomel, struck dumb,

will find her grove, her grief and tender nest.

Ay, what sweet murmurs in my head!

I’ll lie down by the single flower

where your beauty floats without a soul.

And the wandering waters will turn yellow,

as my blood runs through the moist

and fragrant undergrowth of the shore.


(Homage to Lope de Vega)

By the river banks

the night is wetting itself

and on Lolita’s breasts

the branches die of love.

The branches die of love.

The naked night sings

over the March bridgeheads.

Lolita washes her body

with brine and tuberoses.

The branches die of love.

The night of aniseed and silver

shines on the rooftops.

Silver of streams and mirrors.

Aniseed of your white thighs.

The branches die of love.

Preciosa and the Breeze

Preciosa comes playing

her moon of parchment

on an amphibious path

of crystals and laurels.

The silence without stars

fleeing from the sound,

falls to the sea that pounds and sings,

its night filled with fish.

On the peaks of the sierra

the carabineers are sleeping

guarding the white turrets

where the English live.

And the gypsies of the water

build, to amuse themselves,

bowers, out of snails

and twigs of green pine.

Preciosa comes playing

her moon of parchment.

Seeing her, the wind rises,

the one that never sleeps.

Saint Christopher, naked

full of celestial tongues

gazes at the child playing

a sweet distracted piping.

- Child, let me lift your dress

so that I can see you.

Open the blue rose of your womb

with my ancient fingers.

Preciosa hurls her tambourine

and runs without stopping.

The man-in-the-wind pursues her

with a burning sword.

The sea gathers its murmurs.

The olive-trees whiten.

The flutes of the shadows sound,

and the smooth gong of the snow.

Run, Preciosa, run,

lest the green wind catch you!

Run, Preciosa, run!

See where he comes!

The satyr of pale stars

with his shining tongues.

Preciosa, full of fear,

way beyond the pines,

enters the house that belongs,

to the English Consul.

Alarmed at her cries

three carabineers come,

their black capes belted,

and their caps over their brows.

The Englishman gives the gypsy girl

a glass of lukewarm milk,

and a cup of gin that

Preciosa does not drink.

And while, with tears, she tells

those people of her ordeal,

the angry wind bites the air

above the roofs of slate.

The Quarrel

In mid-ravine

the Albacete knives

lovely with enemy blood

shine like fishes.

A hard light of playing-cards

silhouettes on the sharp green

angry horses

and profiles of riders.

In the heart of an olive-tree

two old women grieve.

The bull of the quarrel

climbs the walls.

Black angels bring

wet snow and handkerchiefs.

Angels with vast wings

like Albacete knives.

Juan Antonio of Montilla,

dead, rolls down the slope,

his corpse covered with lilies

and a pomegranate on his brow.

Now he mounts a cross of fire

on the roadway of death.

The judge, with the civil guard,

comes through the olives.

The slippery blood moans

a mute serpent song.

‘Gentlemen of the civil guard:

here it is as always.

We have four dead Romans

and five Carthaginians.’

The afternoon delirious

with figs and heated murmurs,

fainted on the horsemen’s

wounded thighs.

And black angels flew

on the west wind.

Angels with long tresses

and hearts of oil.

The Gypsy Nun

Silence of lime and myrtle.

Mallows in slenders grasses.

The nun embroiders wallflowers

on a straw-coloured cloth.

In the chandelier, fly

seven prismatic birds.

The church grunts in the distance

like a bear belly upwards.

How she sews! With what grace!

On the straw-coloured cloth

she wants to embroider

the flowers of her fantasy.

What sunflowers! What magnolias

of sequins and ribbons!

What crocuses and moons

on the cloth over the altar!

Five grapefruit sweeten

in the nearby kitchen.

The five wounds-of-Christ

cut in Almería.

Through the eyes of the nun

two horsemen gallop.

A last quiet murmur

takes off her camisole.

And gazing at clouds and hills

in the strict distance,

her heart of sugar

and verbena breaks.

Oh what a high plain

with twenty suns above it!

What standing rivers

her fantasy sees setting!

But she goes on with her flowers,

while standing, in the breeze,

the light plays chess

high in the lattice-window.

Ballad of the Black Sorrow

The beaks of cockerels dig,

searching for the dawn,

when down the dark hill

comes Soledad Montoya.

Her skin of yellow copper

smells of horse and shadow.

Her breasts, like smoky anvils,

howl round-songs.

‘Soledad, who do you ask for

alone, at this hour?’

‘I ask for who I ask for,

say, what is it to you?

I come seeking what I seek,

my happiness and my self.’

‘Soledad of my regrets,

the mare that runs away

meets the sea at last

and is swallowed by the waves.’

‘Don’t recall the sea to me

for black sorrow wells

in the lands of olive-trees

beneath the murmur of leaves.’

‘Soledad, what sorrow you have!

What sorrow, so pitiful!

You cry lemon juice

sour from waiting, and your lips.’

‘What sorrow, so great! I run

through my house like a madwoman,

my two braids trailing on the floor,

from the kitchen to the bedroom.

What sorrow! I show clothes

and flesh made of jet.

Ay, my linen shifts!

Ay, my thighs of poppy!

‘Soledad: bathe your body

with the skylarks’ water

and let your heart be

at peace, Soledad Montoya.’

Down below the river sings:

flight of sky and leaves.

The new light crowns itself

with pumpkin flowers.

O sorrow of the gypsies!

Sorrow, pure and always lonely.

Oh sorrow of the dark river-bed

and the far dawn!

Saint Gabriel



A lovely reed-like boy,

wide shoulders, slim waist,

skin of nocturnal apple-trees,

sad mouth and large eyes,

with nerves of hot silver,

walks the empty street.

His shoes of leather

crush the dahlias of air,

in a double-rhythm beating out

quick celestial dirges.

On the margins of the sea

there’s no palm-tree his equal,

no crowned emperor,

no bright wandering star.

When his head bends down

over his breast of jasper,

the night seeks out the plains,

because it needs to kneel.

The guitars sound only

for Saint Gabriel the Archangel,

tamer of pale moths,

and enemy of willows.

‘Saint Gabriel: the child cries

in his mother’s womb.

Don’t forget the gypsies

gifted you your costume.’


Royal Annunciation,

sweetly moonlit and poorly clothed

opens the door to the starlight

that comes along the street.

The Archangel Saint Gabriel

scion of the Giralda tower,

came to pay a visit,

between a lily and a smile.

In his embroidered waistcoat

hidden crickets throbbed.

The stars of the night

turned into bells.

‘Saint Gabriel: Here am I

with three nails of joy.

Your jasmine radiance folds

around my flushed cheeks.

‘God save you, Annunciation.

Dark-haired girl of wonder.

You’ll have a child more beautiful

than the stems of the breeze.’

‘Ah, Saint Gabriel, joy of my eyes!

Little Gabriel my darling!

I dream a chair of carnations

for you to sit on.’

‘God save you, Annunciation,

sweetly moonlit and poorly clothed.

Your child will have on his breast

a mole and three scars.’

‘Ah, Saint Gabriel, how you shine!

Little Gabriel my darling!

In the depths of my breasts

warm milk already wells.’

God save you, Annunciation.

Mother of a hundred houses.

Your eyes shine with arid

landscapes of horsemen.’

In amazed Annunciation’s

womb, the child sings.

Three bunches of green almond

quiver in his little voice.

Now Saint Gabriel climbed

a ladder through the air.

The stars in the night

turned to immortelles.

Saint Michael


They are seen from the verandahs

on the mountain, mountain, mountain,

mules and mules’ shadows

weighed down with sunflowers.

Their eyes in the shadows

are dulled by immense night.

Salt-laden dawn rustles

in the corners of the breeze.

A sky of white mules

closes its reflective eyes,

granting the quiet half-light

a heart-filled ending.

And the water turns cold

so no-one touches it.

Water maddened and exposed

on the mountain, mountain, mountain.

Saint Michael, covered in lace,

shows his lovely thighs,

in his tower room,

encircled by lanterns.

The Archangel, domesticated,

in the twelve-o-clock gesture,

pretends to a sweet anger

of plumage and nightingales.

Saint Michael sings in the glass,

effeminate one, of three thousand nights,

fragrant with eau de cologne,

and far from the flowers.

The sea dances on the sands,

a poem of balconies.

The shores of the moonlight

lose reeds, gain voices.

Field-hands are coming

eating sunflower seeds,

backsides large and dark

like planets of copper.

Tall gentlemen come by

and ladies with sad deportment,

dark-haired with nostalgia

for a past of nightingales.

And the Bishop of Manila,

blind with saffron, and poor,

speaks a two-sided mass

for the women and the men.

Saint Michael is motionless

in the bedroom of his tower,

his petticoats encrusted

with spangles and brocades.

Saint Michael, king of globes,

and odd numbers,

in the Berberesque delicacy

of cries and windowed balconies.

Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard

The horses are black.

The horseshoes are black.

Stains of ink and wax

shine on their capes.

They have leaden skulls

so they do not cry.

With souls of leather

they ride down the road.

Hunchbacked and nocturnal

wherever they move, they command

silences of dark rubber

and fears of fine sand.

They pass, if they wish to pass,

and hidden in their heads

is a vague astronomy

of indefinite pistols.

Oh city of the gypsies!

Banners on street-corners.

The moon and the pumpkin

with preserved cherries.

Oh city of the gypsies!

Who could see you and not remember?

City of sorrow and musk,

with towers of cinnamon.

When night came near,

night that night deepened,

the gypsies at their forges

beat out suns and arrows.

A badly wounded stallion

knocked against all the doors.

Roosters of glass were crowing

through Jerez de la Frontera.

Naked the wind turns

the corner of surprise,

in the night silver-night

night the night deepened.

The Virgin and Saint Joseph

have lost their castanets,

and search for the gypsies

to see if they can find them.

The Virgin comes draped

in the mayoress’s dress,

of chocolate papers

with necklaces of almonds.

Saint Joseph swings his arms

under a cloak of silk.

Behind comes Pedro Domecq

with three sultans of Persia.

The half moon dreamed

an ecstasy of storks.

Banners and lanterns

invaded the flat roofs.

Through the mirrors wept

ballerinas without hips.

Water and shadow, shadow and water

through Jerez de la Frontera.

Oh city of the gypsies!

Banners on street-corners.

Quench your green lamps

the worthies are coming.

Oh city of the gypsies!

Who could see you and not remember?

Leave her far from the sea

without combs in her hair.

They ride two abreast

towards the festive city.

A murmur of immortelles

invades the cartridge-belts.

They ride two abreast.

A doubled nocturne of cloth.

They fancy the sky to be

a showcase for spurs.

The city, free from fear,

multiplied its doors.

Forty civil guards

enter them to plunder.

The clocks came to a halt,

and the cognac in the bottles

disguised itself as November

so as not to raise suspicion.

A flight of intense shrieks

rose from the weathercocks.

The sabres chopped at the breezes

that the hooves trampled.

Along the streets of shadow

old gypsy women ran,

with the drowsy horses,

and the jars of coins.

Through the steep streets

sinister cloaks climb,

leaving behind them

whirlwinds of scissors.

At a gate to Bethlehem

the gypsies congregate.

Saint Joseph, wounded everywhere,

shrouds a young girl.

Stubborn rifles crack

sounding in the night.

The Virgin heals children

with spittle from a star.

But the Civil Guard

advance, sowing flames,

where young and naked

imagination is burnt out.

Rosa of the Camborios

moans in her doorway,

with her two severed breasts

lying on a tray.

And other girls ran

chased by their tresses

through air where roses

of black gunpowder burst.

When all the roofs

were furrows in the earth

the dawn heaved its shoulders

in a vast silhouette of stone.

O city of the gypsies!

The Civil Guard depart

through a tunnel of silence

while flames surround you.

O city of the gypsies!

Who could see you and not remember?

Let them find you on my forehead:

a play of moon and sand.

Thamar and Amnon

The moon turns in the sky

over lands without water

while the summer sows

murmurs of tiger and flame.

Over the roofs

metal nerves jangled.

Rippling air stirred

with woolly bleatings.

The earth offered itself

full of scarred wounds,

or shuddering with the fierce

searings of white light.

Thamar was dreaming

of birds in her throat

to the sound of cold tambourines

and moonlit zithers.

Her nakedness in the eaves,

the sharp north of a palm-tree,

demands snowflakes on her belly,

and hailstones on her shoulders.

Thamar was singing

naked on the terrace.

Around her feet

five frozen pigeons.

Amnon, slim, precise,

watched her from the tower,

with thighs of foam,

and quivering beard.

Her bright nakedness

was stretched out on the terrace

with the murmur in her teeth

of a newly struck arrow.

Amnon was gazing

at the low, round moon,

and in the moon he saw

his sister’s hard breasts.

Amnon lay on his bed

at half past three.

The whole room suffered

from his eyes filled with wings.

The solid light buries

villages in brown sand,

or reveals the ephemeral

coral of roses and dahlias.

Pure captive well-water

gushes silence into jars.

The cobra stretches, sings

in the moss of tree-trunks.

Amnon moans among

the coolness of bed-sheets.

The ivy of a shiver

clothes his burning flesh.

Thamar enters silently

through the room’s silence,

the colour of vein and Danube,

troubled by distant footprints.

‘Thamar, erase my vision

with your certain dawn.

The threads of my blood weave

frills on your skirt.’

‘Let me be, brother,

Your kisses on my shoulder

are wasps and little breezes

in a double swarm of flutes.’

‘Thamar, you have in your high breasts

two fishes that call to me,

and in your fingertips

the murmur of a captive rose.’

The king’s hundred horses

neighed in the courtyard.

The slenderness of the vine

resisted buckets of sunlight.

Now he grasps her by the hair,

now he tears her under-things.

Warm corals drawing streams

on a light-coloured map.

Oh, what cries were heard

above the houses!

What a thicket of knives

and torn tunics.

Slaves go up and down

the saddened stairs.

Thighs and pistons play

under stationary clouds.

Gypsy virgins scream

around Thamar,

others gather drops

from her martyred flower.

White cloths redden

in the closed rooms.

Murmurs of warm daybreak

changing vines and fishes.

Amnon, angry violator,

flees on his pony.

Negroes loose arrows at him

from the walls and towers.

And when the four hooves

become four echoes,

King David cuts his harp-strings

with a pair of scissors.

Sound of the Cuban Negroes

When the moon has risen full I’m off to Santiago, Cuba,

off to Santiago

in a wagon of black water.

Off to Santiago.

Singing palms above the roof-tops.

Off to Santiago.

When the palm-tree wants to be stork,

off to Santiago.

And the banana-tree jellyfish,

I’m off to Santiago.

Off to Santiago

with the blond head of Fonseca.

Off to Santiago.

With the rose, Juliet’s and Romeo’s,

off to Santiago.

Sea of paper, coins of silver,

off to Santiago.

Oh, Cuba! Oh, rhythm of dried seeds!

Off to Santiago.

Oh, waist of fire, drop of wood!

Off to Santiago.

Harp of living tree-trunks. Caiman. Flower of tobacco.

Off to Santiago.

I always said I’d be off, off to Santiago,

in a wagon of black water.

Off to Santiago.

Air and alcohol on the wheels,

I’m going to Santiago.

My coral in the twilight,

off to Santiago.

The ocean drowned in the sand,

off to Santiago.

Heat whitening, fruit rotting,

off to Santiago.

Oh, the sugar-cane’s dumb coolness!

Oh, Cuba, curve of sigh and clay!

I’m off to Santiago.

Galician Poems

Madrigal for the City of Santiago

It rains on Santiago

my sweet love.

White camellia of air,

sunlight in a veil.

It rains on Santiago,

in the dark night.

Grass of silver and dream

covers the empty moon.

See the rain in the streets,

the lament of stone and glass.

See on the fading wind

your sea’s shadow and ash.

Your sea’s shadow and ash,

Santiago, far from the sun:

shivering in my heart,

water of ancient dawn.

Nocturne of the Drowned Youth

Let’s go, silent, down by the ford

to see the youth drowned in the water.

Let’s go, silent, to the banks of air,

before the stream takes him down to the sea.

His soul wept, tiny and wounded,

under pine-needles and grasses.

Water fell, hurled by the moon,

clothed the naked mountain with violets.

The wind threw camellias of twilight

into the parched light of his sad mouth.

Come, blind boys of mountain and field,

come see the youth who drowned in the water.

Come shadowy folk of the valleys and peaks,

before the stream takes him down to the sea.

It carries him down to the sea’s white curtain

where old oxen come and go in the water.

Ay, how the trees by the river sang

over the green moon’s tambourine!

Boys, let’s go, now, hurry, away!

Because the stream takes him down to the sea!

Dance of the Santiago Moon

Look at that white gallant

look at his wasted flesh!

It’s the moon that’s dancing

in the Courtyard of the Dead.

Look at his wasted flesh,

black with twilight and wolves.

Mother: The moon dances

in the Courtyard of the Dead.

Who wounds the horse of stone

at the gates of sleep?

It’s the moon! It’s the moon

in the Courtyard of the Dead!

Who looks in my grey windows,

with an eye full of cloud?

It’s the moon! It’s the moon

in the Courtyard of the Dead!

Let me die in my bed

dreaming the flower of gold.

Mother: The moon dances

in the Courtyard of the Dead.

Ay, daughter, the air in the sky

has suddenly turned me white!

It isn’t the air, it’s the sad moon

in the Courtyard of the Dead.

Who groans with that groan

of an ox, huge and malcontent?

Mother: It’s the moon, the moon

in the Courtyard of the Dead.

Yes, the moon, the moon,

crowned with yellow gorse,

that dances, dances, dances,

in the Courtyard of the Dead!

Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías

1. The Goring and the Death

At five in the afternoon.

It was just five in the afternoon.

A boy brought the white sheet

at five in the afternoon.

A basket of lime made ready

at five in the afternoon.

The rest was death and only death

at five in the afternoon.

The wind blew the cotton wool away

at five in the afternoon.

And oxide scattered nickel and glass

at five in the afternoon.

Now the dove and the leopard fight

at five in the afternoon.

And a thigh with a desolate horn

at five in the afternoon.

The bass-pipe sound began

at five in the afternoon.

The bells of arsenic, the smoke

at five in the afternoon.

Silent crowds on corners

at five in the afternoon.

And only the bull with risen heart!

at five in the afternoon.

When the snow-sweat appeared

at five in the afternoon.

when the arena was splashed with iodine

at five in the afternoon.

death laid its eggs in the wound

at five in the afternoon.

At five in the afternoon.

At just five in the afternoon.

A coffin on wheels for his bed

at five in the afternoon.

Bones and flutes sound in his ear

at five in the afternoon.

Now the bull bellows on his brow

at five in the afternoon.

The room glows with agony

at five in the afternoon.

Now out of distance gangrene comes

at five in the afternoon.

Trumpets of lilies for the green groin

at five in the afternoon.

Wounds burning like suns

at five in the afternoon,

and the people smashing windows

at five in the afternoon.

At five in the afternoon.

Ay, what a fearful five in the afternoon!

It was five on every clock!

It was five of a dark afternoon!

2. The Spilt Blood

I don’t want to see it!

Tell the moon to come,

I don’t want to see the blood

of Ignacio on the sand.

I don’t want to see it!

The moon wide open,

mare of still clouds,

and the grey bullring of dream

with osiers in the barriers.

I don’t want to see it!

How the memory burns me.

Inform the jasmines

with their tiny whiteness!

I don’t want to see it!

The heifer of the ancient world

licked her saddened tongue

over a snout-full of blood

spilled on the sand,

and the bulls of Guisando,

part death, and part stone,

bellowed like two centuries

weary of pawing the ground.


I don’t want to see it!

Ignacio climbs the tiers

with all his death on his shoulders.

He was seeking the dawn,

and the dawn was not there.

He seeks his perfect profile

and sleep disorients him.

He was seeking his lovely body

and met his gushing blood.

Don’t ask me to look!

I don’t want to feel the flow

any more, its ebbing force:

the flow that illuminates

the front rows and spills

over the leather and corduroy

of the thirsty masses.

Who calls me to appear?

Don’t ask me to look!

His eyes did not shut

when he saw the horns nearby,

though the terrifying mothers

lifted up their heads.

And sweeping the herds

came a breeze of secret voices,

ranchers of the pale mist, calling

to the bulls of the sky.

There was never a prince of Seville

to compare with him,

nor a sword like his sword,

nor a heart so true.

His marvellous strength

like a river of lions

and like a marble torso

the profile of his judgment.

The air of an Andalusian Rome

gilded his head,

while his laughter was a tuberose

of wit and intellect.

How great a bullfighter in the arena!

How fine a mountaineer in the sierra!

How gentle with ears of wheat!

How fierce with the spurs!

How tender with the dew!

How dazzling at the fair!

How tremendous with the last

banderillas of darkness!

But now his sleep is endless.

Now the mosses and grass

open with skilled fingers

the flower of his skull.

And now his blood goes singing:

singing through marsh and meadows,

sliding down numbed horns,

wandering soulless in mist

encountering a thousand hooves

like a long dark tongue of sadness

to form a pool of agony

near the starry Guadalquivir.

Oh white wall of Spain!

O black bull of sorrow!

Oh hardened blood of Ignacio!

Oh nightingale of his veins!


I don’t want to see it!

There’s no cup to hold it,

no swallow to drink it,

no frost of light to cool it,

no song, no deluge of lilies,

no crystal to silver it.


I don’t want to see it!!

3. The Body Laid-Out

The stone is a brow where dreams groan,

holding no winding water or frozen cypress.

The stone is a shoulder to bear time

with trees of tears, ribbons, planets.

I have watched grey rains running to the waves

lifting their fragile, riddled arms,

so as not to be caught by the outstretched stone

that unties their limbs without drinking their blood.

Because stone collects seeds and banks of cloud,

skeletons of larks and twilight wolves,

but gives up no sounds, crystals, fire, only bullrings

and bullrings, and more bullrings with no walls.

Now Ignacio the well-born lies on the stone.

Now it’s done. What passes? Contemplate his form!

Death has covered him with pale sulphur

given him the head of a dark minotaur.

Now it’s done! Rain penetrates his mouth.

Air rises mad from his sunken chest,

and love, soaked with tears of snow,

warms himself on the heights among herds.

What are they saying? A stinking silence settles.

We are with a laid-out corpse that vanishes,

with a clear form that held nightingales

and we see it riddled with countless holes.

Who disturbs the shroud? It’s not true what he says!

No one’s singing here, or weeps in a corner,

or pricks his spurs, or frightens off snakes:

here I want nothing but open eyes

to see that body that can’t rest.

I want to see the men with harsh voices here.

Those who tame horses and subdue rivers:

the men who rattle their bones and sing

with a mouth full of sun and flints.

I want to see them here. In front of the stone.

In front of this body with broken sinews.

I want them to show me where there’s an exit

for this captain bound by death.

I want them to show me grief like a river

that has sweet mists and steep banks

to bear Ignacio’s body, and let him be lost

without hearing the double snort of the bulls.

Let him be lost in the moon’s round bullring

that imitates, new, a bull stilled by pain.

let him be lost in the night with no singing of fish

and in the white weeds of congealed smoke.

I don’t want them to cover his face with a cloth,

so he can grow accustomed to death that he bears.

Go, Ignacio: don’t feel the hot bellowing.

Sleep, soar, rest: even the ocean dies!

4. The Soul Absent

Neither the bull nor the fig tree know you,

nor your horses, nor the ants under your floor.

Neither the child nor the evening know you,

because you have died forever.

The spine of rock does not know you,

nor the black satin where you are ruined,

Your mute remembrance does not know you,

because you have died forever.

Autumn will come with its snails,

grapes in mist, and clustered mountains,

but no one will want to gaze in your eyes,

because you have died forever.

Because you have died forever,

like all the dead of the Earth,

like all the dead forgotten

in a pile of lifeless curs.

No one knows you. No. But I sing of you.

I sing for others your profile and grace.

The famed ripeness of your understanding.

Your appetite for death, pleasure in its savour.

The sadness your valiant gaiety contained.

Not for a long time, if ever, will there be born,

an Andalusian so brilliant, so rich in adventure.

I sing his elegance in words that moan,

and remember a sad breeze through the olive-trees.

Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint

Don’t let me ever lose the wonder

of your eyes like a statue’s, or the stress

placed on my cheek at night.

by the solitary rose of your breath.

I’m afraid of being on this shore

a branch-less trunk: this deepest feeling

of having no bloom, or pulp, or clay

for the worm of my suffering.

If you’re my hidden treasure,

if you’re my cross, and my moist pain,

if I’m a dog, of yours, my master,

never let me lose what I have gained,

and decorate the branches of your stream

with the leaves of my enraptured autumn.

Wounds of Love

This light, this flame that devours,

this grey country that surrounds me,

this pain from a sole idea,

this anguish of the sky, earth and hour,

this lament of blood that now adorns

a lyre with no pulse, lubricious torch,

this weight of sea that breaks on me,

this scorpion that lives inside my breast,

are a garland of love, bed of the wounded,

where dreamlessly, I dream of your presence

among the ruins of my sunken breast.

And though I seek the summit of discretion

your heart grants me a valley stretched below,

with hemlock and bitter wisdom’s passion.

The Beloved Sleeps on the Breast of the Poet

You will never know how much I love you

because you sleep and have slept in me.

I hide you weeping, pursued

by a voice of penetrating steel.

A law that disturbs both flesh and star

pierces my aching breast now,

and clouded words have eaten at

the wings of your severe spirit.

A knot of people leap in the gardens

waiting for your body and my pain

on horses of light with emerald manes.

But, my beloved, keep on sleeping.

Hear my shattered blood in the violins!

Beware lest they still lie in wait for us!

Two Laws

Sketch of the Moon

The law of the past encountered

in my present night.

Splendour of adolescence

that opposes snowfall.

My two children of secrecy

cannot yield you a place,

dark-haired moon-girls of air

with exposed hearts.

But my love seeks the garden

where your spirit does not die.

Sketch of the Sun

Law of hip and breast

under the outstretched branch,

ancient and newly born

power of the Spring.

Now, bee, my nakedness wants

to be the dahlia of your fate,

the murmur or wine

of your madness and number:

but my love looks for the pure

madness of breeze and warbling.


I know that my outline will be tranquil

in the north-wind of a sky without reflections,

mercury of watching, chaste mirror

where the pulse of my spirit is broken.

Because if ivy and the coolness of linen

are the law of the body I leave behind,

my outline in the sand will be the ancient

unembarrassed silence of the crocodile.

And though my tongue of frozen doves

will never hold the flavour of flame,

only the lost taste of broom,

I’ll be the free mark of oppressed laws

on the neck of the stiff branch

and on the endless aching dahlias.

Night-Song of the Andalusian Sailors

From Cádiz to Gibraltar

how fine the road!

The sea knows I go by,

by the sighs.

Ay, girl of mine, girl of mine,

how full of boats is Málaga harbour!

From Cádiz to Sevilla

how many little lemons!

The lemon-trees know me,

by the sighs.

Ay, girl of mine, girl of mine,

how full of boats is Málaga harbour!

From Sevilla to Carmona

there isn’t a single knife.

The half moon slices,

and, wounded, the air goes by.

Ay, boy of mine, boy of mine,

let the waves carry off my stallion!

Through the pale salt-seams

I forgot you, my love.

He who needs a heart

let him ask for my forgetting.

Ay, boy of mine, boy of mine,

let the waves carry off my stallion!

Cádiz, let the sea flow over you,

don’t advance this way.

Sevilla, on your feet,

so you don’t drown in the river.

Ay, girl of mine!

Ay, boy of mine!

How fine the road!

How full of boats the harbour,

and how cold it is in the square!

Index of First Lines