A one hundred year old poem by Federico Garcia Lorca

Lorca 1919

I am, quite frankly, in love with poetry. Off the very top of my midsummer head, I love poets such as Alice Oswald, Helen Mort, W B Yeats, Pablo Neruda and Carol Ann Duffy. In fact, it was whilst reading Helen Mort’s astounding Division Street in Bristol Central Library a couple of years ago that the breath was taken from me and I put the book down to revel in that moment of aesthetic arrest. It was then that I realised I had fallen in love with poetry in the way I once fell in love with people.

But all of that notwithstanding, the greatest of poets, the one I love the most deeply and tenderly of all, is a poet whose very name is like a bubbling spring, that most Andalusian of poets, that great champion of otherness, that poet, playwright and musician whose presence could light up a room and who was one of the first sacrificial lambs of the Spanish Civil War: Federico Garcia Lorca. You see, as a teenager fresh out of sixth form, I took up residence in Seville, Spain and soon became a convert to the culture of the deep south, with its centuries’ old flamenco art form and its shimmering, simmering, percussive moods. Lorca’s Romancero Gitano was a key text, which I would perform aloud in the street as poetry and set to music.

I went on to read Spanish and French at university and became a translator/interpreter and lecturer.  But I was such a Lorca purist, I honestly believed he was untranslatable. Kind of strange given my profession. Well, let’s just say I’ve had a change of heart and today, incidentally the day of the new moon in Cancer, myself newly arrived in Ireland, I decided to write a blog about this, culminating with a fresh translation of one of Lorca’s earliest poems. He wrote it at the age of 20, the same age he was in the famous photo I have added above.   And because I want to encourage you to always listen to and read poetry in its original language, even and especially if you don’t speak or understand that language, I am also including the original poem. I have recorded the poem in Spanish because I wanted you to hear the rhythm and sounds of it, but to make that available I will need to upgrade my site to premium. So I’ll do that when I make my next sale on etsy. If you’re into vintage then check that out too by the way – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/queenofvintagevamp?ref=seller-platform-mcnav

So without further ado, my translation, followed by the original.  (My preference, however, is to read originals and translations side by side. I have a Rilke book like that.)


May 1919


My heart rests beside the cold spring.

(Fill it with your threads,

spider of forgetting.)


The water from the spring was singing it her song.

(Fill it with your threads,

spider of forgetting.)


My awake heart was speaking its loves.

(Spider of silence

weave it your mystery.)


The water from the spring listened to it sombrely.

(Spider of silence

weave it your mystery.)


My heart spills into the cold spring.

(Faroff white hands,

stop the waters.)


And the water carries it away singing for joy.

(Faroff white hands,

there’s nothing left in the waters!)


Federico García Lorca from The Book of Poems

Translated by Hazel Loveridge




Federico García Lorca

Mi corazón reposa junto a la fuente fría.

(Llénala con tus hilos,
araña del olvido).

El agua de la fuente su canción le decía.

(Llénala con tus hilos,
araña del olvido).

Mi corazón despierto sus amores decía.

(Araña del silencio,
téjele tu misterio).

El agua de la fuente lo escuchaba sombría.

Araña del silencio,
téjele tu misterio).

Mi corazón se vuelca sobre la fuente fría.

(Manos blancas, lejanas,
detened a las aguas).

Y el agua se lo lleva cantando de alegría.

(¡Manos blancas, lejanas,
nada queda en las aguas!)



3 thoughts on “A one hundred year old poem by Federico Garcia Lorca

  1. Oh, my dearest Federico! His poems were magnificent, but perhaps more-so, were his insurmountable plays; in fact, I still believe him to be the Spanish approximation to Shakespeare, albeit a tad more severe and surrealistic.
    If you love Pablo Neruda and Federico, perhaps you’ve heard of the former’s Ode to the latter, which he sent as correspondence? It is not an easy text to discover, but stands as one of the greatest (if not the absolute greatest) ode from author-to-author.
    Regardless, you are an architect of a masterful translation. I’ve never read him in English, thus, I cannot withstand any comparison, but I’m very enchanted by the work you’ve woven, and I’m sure he would be as well.

  2. Ah yes thanks for reminding me of that ode, I have just revisited it and it really is quite remarkable. Neruda’s autobiography gives fascinating details on his close friendship with Lorca and is really worth reading. It is entitled ‘Confieso que he vivido’- did you know he was a diplomat who had a pet mongoose? I also love Neruda’s poem to the Spanish Republic – deeply moving. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging words!

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