The Modern Spanish Elegy: Antonio Machado's Lament for Federico García Lorca

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Stony Brook University]On: 01 November 2014, At: 17:29Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>Symposium: A QuarterlyJournal in Modern LiteraturesPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>The Modern Spanish Elegy:Antonio Machado's Lament forFederico Garca LorcaBruce W. Wardropperaa Duke UniversityPublished online: 06 Sep 2013.</p><p>To cite this article: Bruce W. Wardropper (1965) The Modern Spanish Elegy: AntonioMachado's Lament for Federico Garca Lorca, Symposium: A Quarterly Journal inModern Literatures, 19:2, 162-170, DOI: 10.1080/00397709.1965.10732856</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,</p><p></p></li><li><p>sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ston</p><p>y B</p><p>rook</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>7:29</p><p> 01 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p><p></p></li><li><p>BRUCE W. WARDROPPER</p><p>THE MODERN SPANISH ELEGY:ANTONIO MACHADO'S LAMENT FOR</p><p>FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA</p><p>ELEGIAC WRITING is, to a large extent, the literature of truancy fromorthodox religious faith. Grief, before it is forced into the conventionalforms of mourning, often causes the bereaved to question the lessonsof the pulpit. Even in ages of faith-the Middle Ages, the Baroque-the elegy surprises by its capacity to verge on the heterodox.' In periodswhen religious beliefs are less strictly supervised, or enforced, by theregulatory agencies of the Church, the elegy sometimes gives a pointedexpression to the divergency between a man's publicly expressed faithand his secret feelings about the mystery of human destiny.</p><p>In the eighteenth century, for example, Spanish poets and intellec-tuals professed to believe not only in Christianity but also in reason.Death obtruded on this comfortable belief. Since man's mortality isa phenomenon completely unexplained by reason, many Neo-Classicpoets shriek and sob uncontrollably in verse written on the occasionof a loved one's death. The mourner's life, which has hitherto seemedmeaningful and comfortable, is suddenly shorn of meaning and com-fort. The eighteenth-century elegy speaks above all of the poet'sfrustration. Why, asks the poem, does man have to die? To the manof reason there can be no answer to this question.</p><p>The horror felt by Neo-Classic man at a question which could neverbe answered is succeeded in the Romantic generation of poets byhonest doubt, by uncertainty about an afterlife. The Romantic poetfeels pity for himself at all times, and so has no need to be jolted intothis state by sudden bereavement. For the sensitive man, the poet,life on earth is hell enough. One might just as well be dead, whateverthe consequences to a possibly immortal soul. Suicide, then, is avalid solution to life's miseries. Zorrilla's poem A Ja memoria de Larra,which he recited at the suicide's burial, illustrates these points. Zor-rilla begins by evoking, as the Baroque elegists had, the macabre ofthe grave: he refers to Figaro's "cadaver sombrfo y macilento / Queen sucio polvo dormira manana." Seeing the emptiness of his life on</p><p>162.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ston</p><p>y B</p><p>rook</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>7:29</p><p> 01 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>BRUCE W. WARDROPPER 163</p><p>earth Lana had chosen the sleep of death which would enable him towake up in another world. Except for the implied endorsement ofsuicide, Zorrilla is here echoing the orthodox view of life and death,as it had beenexpressed, for example, in Calder6n's La vida es .rueitJ :</p><p>Mir6 en el tiempo el porvenir vado,Vado ya de ensueiios y de gloria,Y se entteg6 a ese sueiio sin memoriaQue nos lleva a otto mundo a despertar.</p><p>Larra on earth was a flower, doomed to shrivel and fade away. But thearoma persists after the flower has disappeared:</p><p>Todavla su aroma se percibe,Y ese verde color de la llanura,Ese manto de hierba y de frescura,Hijos son del arroyo creador,</p><p>At this point Zorrilla is harking back to the Renaissance vision of lifeand death. But he quickly returns to the macabre, to the reality ofputrefaction:</p><p>Ese retrato de hielo,Fetidez y cormpci6n....</p><p>Finally, having hinted at past solutions to the elegiac problem ofexpression, he reveals with no vacillation his doubts about the afterlife:</p><p>Poets: si en el no serHay un recuerdo de ayer,Una vida como aqulDetras de ese firmamento ...Consagrame un pensamientoComo el que tengo de ti.</p><p>The noser represents the reality inherited from the rationalist eighteenthcentury. But the poetic imagination-historically informed, andselecting themes at random from the Medieval, Renaissance, andBaroque interpretations of death-tolerates at least the possibility ofmemory and thought beyond the grave. This genuine agnosticism,however unsatisfactory it may be from a philosophical point of view,may well be preferable as a vital posture to the hysteria of a MelendezValdes in the face of death.</p><p>The Romantics revert to the macabre of the Baroque, to a fascina-tion with worms in open tombs. But, after a century of Neo-Classic</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ston</p><p>y B</p><p>rook</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>7:29</p><p> 01 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>164 Slimmer r,l, SYMPOSIUM</p><p>rationalistic bewilderment, they are incapable of interpreting macabrefacts in the light of a religious faith. They half-believe in God, but intheir own special way, unorthodoxly or eclectically. For many ofthem death symbolizes God's lack of faith in man, the last and greatestbetrayal of man's self-confidence. Espronceda, in his Canto a Teresa,sees death as the expression of the Christian God's spite. Notwith-standing his dreams of self-aggrandizement man is a puny victimof divine malevolence. So the Romantic elegy is the poetry of self-pityraised to the ultimate degree. The poet's only possible response todeath is to blaspheme; or, as Espronceda put it, to spit at heaven,knowing that the spittle will fall back into the spitter's eye.</p><p>Two centuries have passed, during which, among poets, religiousfaith has progressively corroded. Elegists have sought, during thistime, to accommodate traditional elegiac forms and moods to thenew agnosticism. This accommodation proved-for the Neo-Classicand Romantic poets-to be impossible of achievement. They had tosacrifice the one thing man tries desperately to preserve when he isconfronted by death: his dignity as a human being. Formless wailing,the shaking of the fist in blasphemy, acceptance of death as nothingbut a fetid corpse-such answers to the riddle of mortality are notonly unsatisfactory: they repudiate man's humanity. It remained forthe poets of our age to make a dignified riposte-without losing sightof the formal elegiac tradition-to the absurdity, the waste, the nega-tivism of death.</p><p>In twentieth-century Spain, as in most other countries, few poetsinsist on their commitment to orthodox religious belief. But in theirelegies they have adopted a more dignified approach to man's insolubledilemma of death than was possible in the previous two hundredyears. Instead of the moans and shrieks, and the obsession with bonesand worms which characterized the elegy of their predecessors, con-temporary Spanish poets present us with an attempt to salvage fromdeath the meaning of a recently ended life. The old frustration andrage have yielded to a creative attitude towards death. The elegisttoday protests against death, feels anger or regret at the obliterationof a loved one; but, much as Jorge Manrique did in the fifteenth cen-tury, he consoles himself by recreating poetically the life that has beendestroyed. His procedure, however, is much less grounded in ortho-doxy than was Jorge Manrique's. He strives-by using to the fullthe twentieth-century techniques of imprecise symbolism, allusion,juxtaposition, and quotation-to extract from the memory of thatlife something we might call-poetically, if not in the strictest theol-ogy-a soul. By conferring a poetic immortality on that poetic soulhe has found a passable substitute for the spiritual immortality inwhich most poets no longer believe.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ston</p><p>y B</p><p>rook</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>7:29</p><p> 01 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>BRUCE W. WARDROPPER</p><p>I shall try to illustrate these generalizations by discussing the shortpoem by Antonio Machado on the death of Federico Garda Lorca,EI crimen Jue en Granada.3 This poem is in three sections. or move-ments. The first one. entitled EL CRIMEN.... describes the assassina-tion of the young poet.</p><p>Se le vio, caminando entre fusiles,por una calle larga,salir al campo frio.aun con estrellas, de la madrugada.Mataron a Federicocuando la luz asomaba.El peloton de verdugosno os6 mirarle la cara.Todos cerraron los ojos;rezaron: ini Dios te salva IMuerto cay6 Federico-sangre en la frente y plomo en las entraiias-.. .Que fue en Granada el crimensabed-s-jpobre Granadal-en su Granada....</p><p>The second section. headed EL POETA Y LA MUERTE. isconcemed not with more or less objective facts. or the assassination asseen by an observer. but with the way Lorca faced death. It is as some special empathy existing between poets. the poet Machadois able to enter into the feelings. at that moment. of the poet Lorca.The focus shifts to a close-up of the victim in his hour of crisis.</p><p>Se le vio caminar solo con Ella.sin miedo a su guadafia.- Ya el sol en torre y torre; los martillosen yunque-yunque y yunque de las fraguas.Hablaba Federico.requebrando a la muerte, Ella escuchaba."Porque ayer en mi verso. companera,sonaba el golpe de tus secas palmas,y diste el hielo a mi cantar, y el filoa mi tragedia de tu hoz de plata.te cantare la carne que no tienes,los ojos que te faltan,tus cabellos que el viento sacudla,los rojos labios donde te besaban....Hoy como ayer, gitana, muerte mla,que bien contigo a solas,por estos aires de Granada lmi Granadal"</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ston</p><p>y B</p><p>rook</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>7:29</p><p> 01 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>166 SII",,,,,,. 19'J SYMPOSIUM</p><p>The final section, which lacks a title, is a kind of epitaph.</p><p>Se Ie vio caminar....Labrad, amigos,</p><p>de piedra y suefio, en el Alhambra,un tumulo al poeta,sobre una fuente donde llore el agua,y etemamente diga:el crimen fue en Granada len su Granadal</p><p>The poem is not perhaps, in the strictest sense of the word, an elegy.It is as much a political protest as a disengaged lament. The word"ime, "el crimen," is pinned not on death itself, as it might have beenin an older elegy, but on some specific men: on Lorca's betrayers,captors, judges, and executioners. The poem is nevertheless elegiacin tone, and especially in sections II and III. If the first movementcontains a protest against a crime committed by an illegal authority forpolitical motives, the remainder of the work consists of reflectionson death, imagines and endorses an attitude towards death, and appealsfor the reader's assent to this view of death. The main point of thepoem, reinforced by its repetition in the title and the refrain, is thatLorca was only incidentally the victim of death, and was essentiallythe victim of man's inhumanity. This much is obvious; I shall notunderline it further. I propose to treat the poem as an elegiac expres-sion (which indeed it is), rather than as a political protest (which italso is).</p><p>Each leiss of the romance begins with the phrase "se Ie vio," but inthe second section the phrase is continued metaphorically, and in thethird it is interrupted. In the first movement these words introducea prosaic, relatively unambiguous, account of Lorca walking to hisexecution. The formula "se Ie vio" implies both the fact that therewere witnesses of the crime and the fact that Machado was not oneof these witnesses. He was, as a matter of historical fact, on the otherside of an impassable battlefront. There he could rely only on hear-sayto discover the circumstances of Lorca's death. But he is consoledby the thought that there were observers who would one day speakout with accusing voices. "Se Ie vio" closes the distance between thepoet who is writing and the poet who has been murdered. The settingMachado imagines, but with a severely disciplined imagination: along street, a cold countryside, stars, the end of night, the first crackof dawn, and a volley of bullets. It is the classical scene against whicha thousand senseless executions have been carried out. Conventionalas is this description, it is tinged with more than the customary pathos.On the one hand, Lorca was innocent; on the other hand, his mur-derers were hypocritical and inhuman. It is this last detail which</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ston</p><p>y B</p><p>rook</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>7:29</p><p> 01 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>BRUCH W. WARDROPPHR 167</p><p>moves the reader particularly. The iring squad cannot look theirvictim in the face, knowing that he is innocent and unafraid. Theyclose their eyes to the horror they are about to commit. But thisguilty closing of the eyes dissolves into the closing of eyes in hypo-critical prayer. They pray not the usual "May God save your soul"but the perverse "May not even God save you now." The assassinationitself is evoked unequivocally: "blood on his brow and lead in hisbowels." And then the refrain leads the reader from this objective-prosaic and political---consideration of facts to the affective, patheticcircumstance of the execution: the long street, the cold countrysidebelong to Granada, the murdered poet's native city. A lamentableGranada it is, since it too is a slave to inhumanity and hypocrisy. It toois an accomplice in this unworthy act of murder.</p><p>The second section, as we have seen, begins with the same reminderof the fact that there were witnesses...</p></li></ul>