Federico García Lorca

Your Childhood in Menton

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), celebrated Spanish poet and playwright and part of what is known as the Generation of ’27, was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. His style, rich in symbolism, had a strong impact on the work of many renowned poets of the century, from Pablo Neruda to Leonard Cohen. In 1936, on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, he was executed by a Nationalist firing squad for his homosexuality, his progressive views and his support for Spain’s Republican government. The poem “Your Childhood in Menton” is dedicated to his friend and fellow poet Jorge Guillén, another member of the Generation of ’27.

Ah, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
The train and the woman who fills the sky.
Your elusive solitude in hotels
and your pure mask of another sign.
It’s the sea’s childhood and your silence
where wise glass shattered.
It’s your unyielding ignorance, where
fire encompassed my torso.
I gave you a standard of love, O man of Apollo,
tears with a nightingale unhinged,
but, pasture of ruin,  you wore yourself down
for those aimless fleeting dreams.
Thought before you, light of yesterday,
signs of a possible destiny.
Your waist of restless sand
notices only the traces that do not climb.
But with the grief of Apollo delayed–
the grief I used to break the mask you wear –
I must search corners
for your warm soul, that alone does not understand you.
There, a lion, there, fury of heaven,
where I’ll let you graze on my cheeks;
and there, blue horse of my insanity,
haze and the pulse of a minute hand,
I must search for scorpion stones
and the dresses of your infant mother,
midnight tears and the torn rag
that swept moonlight from the dead man’s temple.
Ah, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
Strange soul, small and rootless,
I must search for you in my hole of veins.
Eternal love, love, impossible love!
Oh, yes! I want love. Love! Let me be.
Don’t muzzle me, you who seek
Saturn’s thorns in the snow
or who castrate animals for a heaven,
the clinic and jungle of anatomy.
Love, love, love. The sea’s childhood.
Your warm soul alone that cannot understand you.
Love, love, a doe’s flight
through the white’s eternal breast.
And your childhood, love, and your childhood.
The train and the woman who fills the sky.
Not you, not I, not the air, not the leaves.
Ah, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.

Translated by Liam Walke, freelance translator (Spanish/French>English) based in Montreal. He publishes his own poetry and prose here.

4 thoughts on “Federico García Lorca

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