Lorca raw: La casada infiel

This is a poem from Federico García Lorca’s Romancero Gitano–Gypsy Ballads–in Spanish, followed by a machine translation. I’m taking out of the drafts, where I have had it since June, and putting it up mostly so I can find it, but you never know who else might find it interesting.

[Some links, including Leonard Cohen, now added at the end.]

La casada infiel
A Lydia Cabrera y a su negrita

Y que yo me la llevé al río
creyendo que era mozuela,
pero tenía marido.

Fue la noche de Santiago
y casi por compromiso.

Se apagaron los faroles
y se encendieron los grillos.

En las últimas esquinas
toqué sus pechos dormidos,
y se me abrieron de pronto
como ramos de jacintos.

El almidón de su enagua
me sonaba en el oído,
como una pieza de seda
rasgada por diez cuchillos.

Sin luz de plata en sus copas
los árboles han crecido
y un horizonte de perros
ladra muy lejos del río.

Pasadas las zarzamoras,
los juncos y los espinos,
bajo su mata de pelo
hice un hoyo sobre el limo.

Yo me quité la corbata.
Ella se quitó el vestido.
Yo el cinturón con revólver.
Ella sus cuatro corpiños.

Ni nardos ni caracolas
tienen el cutis tan fino,
ni los cristales con luna
relumbran con ese brillo.
Sus muslos se me escapaban
como peces sorprendidos,
la mitad llenos de lumbre,
la mitad llenos de frío.

Aquella noche corrí
el mejor de los caminos,
montado en potra de nácar
sin bridas y sin estribos.

No quiero decir, por hombre,
las cosas que ella me dijo.
La luz del entendimiento
me hace ser muy comedido.

Sucia de besos y arena
yo me la llevé del río.
Con el aire se batían
las espadas de los lirios.

Me porté como quién soy.
Como un gitano legítimo.
La regalé un costurero
grande, de raso pajizo,
y no quise enamorarme
porque teniendo marido
me dijo que era mozuela
cuando la llevaba al río.

* * * * *
Via google translate, which doesn’t always get the grammatical forms, but doesn’t do too bad with the lexicon:

And I took her to the river
thinking that was a maiden,
but had a husband.

Santiago was the night of
by pledge.

The lanterns
and went on crickets.

In the last corner
I touched her sleeping breasts
and opened to me suddenly
like spikes of hyacinth.

The starch of her petticoat
sounded in my ear
as a piece of silk
rent by ten knives.

No silver light on their glasses
the trees have grown
and a horizon of dogs
far from the river barks.

Past the blackberries,
the reeds and the hawthorne
under his mop of hair
I made a hole in the earth.

I took off my tie.
She took off her dress.
I, the gun belt.
She, her four bodices.

Nor nard nor snail
have skin so fine
or glass with silver
shine with such brilliance.
Her thighs slipped away from me
like startled fish
half full of fire,
half full of cold.

That night I ran
the best of roads,
mounted on a nacre mare
without bridle stirrups.

I do not mean a man,
the things she told me.
The light of understanding
me more discreet.

Smeared with sand and kisses
I took her river.
Fought with the air
The swords of the iris.

I behaved like who I am.
As a gypsy.
I gave her a sewing
large satin straw
and did not want to fall in love
because they had a husband
I said it was a maiden¹
when the river was.


¹maiden, schmaiden:

mozuela [mo-thoo-ay’-lah]
1. A very young lass or woman: sometimes applied in contempt. (m & f)
2. A prostitute. (Vulgarism) (m & f)
1. Young, youthful. (m)

..and “wife” is esposa, casada is married person (f.)

Night of St. James must have been 24 July, the eve of the saint’s day on 25 July (not a lunar-calculated holiday, at least not now):

Fiesta de Santiago (Feast of St James). The famous Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage of thousands of people from all over Spain and many other parts of Europe to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela, takes place in the week leading up to St James’ Day, 25 July. The city also has its fiestas around this time. The streets are full of musicians and performers for two weeks of celebrations culminating in the Festival del Apóstol.

[Text and YouTube link.]
[text & tr. Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili]
[Leonard Cohen:

Here of all places I don’t have to explain how I fell in love with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I was 15 years old and I was wandering through the bookstores of Montreal and I fell upon one of his books,and I opened it,and my eyes saw those lines “I want to pass through the Arches of Elvira,to see her thighs and begin weeping”. I thought “This is where I want to be”… I read alone “Green I want you green “I turned another page “The morning through fistfulls of ants in your face” I turned another page “Her thighs slipped away like school of silver minnows”. I knew that I have had come home. So it is with a great sense of gratitude that I am able to repay my debt to Federico Garcia, at least a corner, a fragment, a crumb, a hair, an electron of my debt by dedicating this song, this translation of his great poem “Little Viennese Waltz”, “Take This Waltz”….

It was a long time ago in a book store in Montreal I stumble on a book by a great Spanish poet. And in this book he invited me to enter a universe of ants and crystals and arches and minnows and thighs that slipped away like herds of tiny fish…

You know it was many years ago in the city of Montreal that I stumbled upon this volume. I opened it and I accepted the poet’s invitation to enter into this world where fistfuls of ants were thrown at the sun and crystals obscured the pine trees and there were the arches of Elvira to pass through and begin weeping and there were those thighs that slipped away like schools of silver minnows. That was the irresistible seductive invitation I could not resist. I slipped into that fist, I did, I lived among the ants and I learned their ways. I mastered the crystals. I healed many alcoholic gurus with my crystal powers. I passed through the arches of Elvira and I did, I began weeping. That’s nothing new. I saw those thighs glistening like hunting horns and I touched them, I did, I pulled my hand away and I slipped away like a school of silver minnows. I’ve never left that world….

There are two poems connected with Lorca in Book of Longing.

The Faithless Wife (after the poem by Lorca)

The Night of Santiago
And I was passing through
So I took her to the river
As any man would do

She said she was a virgin
That wasn’t what I’d heard
But I’m not the Inquisition
I took her at her word

And yes she lied about it all
Her children and her husband
You were meant to judge the world
Forgive me but I wasn’t

The lights went out behind us
The fireflies undressed
The broken sidewalk ended
I touched her sleeping breasts

They opened to me urgently
Like lilies from the dead
Behind a fine embroidery
Her nipples rose like bread

Her petticoat was starched and loud
And crushed between our legs
It thundered like a living cloud
Beset by rator blades

No silver light to plate their leaves
The trees grew wild and high
A file of dogs patrolled the beach
To keep the night alive

We passed the thorns and berry bush
The reeds and prickly pear
I made a hollow in the earth
To nest her dampened hair

Then I took off my necktie
And she took of her dress
My belt and pistol set aside
We tore away the rest

Her skin was oil and ointments
And brighter than a shell
Your gold and glass appointments
Will never shine so well

Her thights they slipped away from me
Like schools of startled fish
Though i’ve forgotten half my life
I still remember this

That night I ran the best of roads
Upon a mighty charger
But very soon I’m overthrown
And she’s become the rider

Now as a man I won’t repeat
The things she said aloud
Except for this my lips are sealed
Forever and for now

And soon there’s sand in every kiss
And soon the dawn is ready
And soon the night surrenders
To a daffodil machete

I gave her something pretty
And I waited ’til she laughed
I wasn’t born a gipsy
To make a woman sad

I didn’t fall in love. Of course
It’s never up to you
But she was walking back and forth
And I was passing through

When I took her to the river
In her virginal apparel
When I took her to the river
On the Night of Santiago

And yes she lied about her life
Her children and her husband
you were born to judge the world
Forgive me but I wasn’t

The Night of Santiago
And I was passing through
And I took her to the river
As any man would do


Posted in Poetry. Comments Off on Lorca raw: La casada infiel