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PN Review 276
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This poem is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

Tamar and Amnon Federico García Lorca

The moon circles in the sky
over the parching lands,
while the summer sows
murmurs of tiger and flame.
Above the roof tops
metal nerves were sounding.
Curly gusts of air
came with the bleating of wool.
Earth offers herself
seething with scars,
or shivering with sharp
cauteries of white lights.

Tamar dreamed -
birds in her throat -
to the sound of cold tambourines
and moon zithers.
Her nakedness in the roof angle -
sharp polestar of palm -
asks of her belly snow
and hail of her spine.
Tamar sang
naked on the terrace.
Around her feet
five doves of ice.
Amnon, slim and sharp,
looked at her from the tower,
his groin full of foam,
of tremors his face.
His bright nakedness
stretched on the terrace,
between his teeth the murmur
of an arrow that has struck.
Amnon was looking
at the round low moon,
and he saw in the moon the hard
hard breasts of his sister.

Amnon at half past three
lay down on the bed.
The whole room was a torment
under his wing-brimming gaze.
Burnished sand, massive light
buries villages under it,
or reveals a fleeting
coral of rose and dahlia.
The well's crushed liquid
breeds silence in jars.
On mossy boles
the taut cobra sings.
Amnon moans in bed
over cool cool sheets.
Ivy of shuddering swarms
over his burned flesh.
Silent Tamar entered
the silence of the room,
all hue of vein and Danube
darkened by distant touches.
- Tamar, blanket my gaze
with your absolute dawn.
The threads of my blood weave
frills for your skirt.
- Brother, let me go.
Your kisses on my spine
are wasps and little winds
in double swarms of flutes.
- Tamar, in your high breasts
two fishes call to me,
in the penfold of your fingertips
the murmur of a rose.

The king's one hundred horses
were neighing in the bailey.
Slenderness of the vine
withstood bucketed sun.
Now he grabs her by the hair,
now he rips her blouse.
Warm corals draw
streams on a blond map.

O what shrieks were heard
high above the houses!
What thickness of knives
and tunics torn to pieces.
By the sad staircases
slaves rush up and down.
Pistons and thighs work
under clouds that stopped.
Around Tamar they howl,
the virgin gipsies,
others collect the drops
of her martyred flower.
White linen turns crimson
in locked bedrooms.
Fishes and vines exchanged
murmurs of cool dawn.

In a rage the violator
Amnon flees on his mare.
Negroes shoot arrows at him
from walls and lookouts.
And when the four hoof beats
were four vibrations only,
David took a pair of shears,
and cut the strings of his harp.

Note: Translation (1960) by Rafael Nadal and Christopher Middleton, revised (1987) by C.M. and Leticia Falcón.

Federico García Lorca's 'Thamar y Amnon' appeared in his Romancero gitano of 1928. For the present reworking of an earlier translation published in a student magazine (Lucifer, King's College London, 1960) I am much indebted to a recent seminar paper by Leticia Falcón of the University of Texas at Austin, in which she compared five existing translations. Having first located the source of which the poem itself is a translation - an illustrated and annotated Spanish Vulgate of 1819 - Ms Falcón worked on three areas in which the translations tended to dilute or distort the original. These areas were (1) the cultural lexicon, i.e. terms and figures from a world of shepherds, (2) the cosmic context in which the scenes unfold, (3) the unevasive erotic vocabulary. (English can hardly capture specific tonal and prosodic features - the aural impact of Spanish images, and Lorca's remaking of traditional octosyllabic ballad measures.)

This poem is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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