Lorca & Words & Borrowing

If you know early twentieth century poetry, then you probably have read Federico García Lorca’s “Romance sonámbulo” a few times.  If not, then I encourage you to.  It’s, from what I gather, part of a collection of Lorca’s poetry (Romancero gitano) that co-opts a traditional nationalistic form to express something rather antithetical to the official nationalistic pride in Spain in the early 1900s: los gitanos (read: gypsies).

The opening line of the poem — “Verde que te quiero verde.” — is borrowed, according to poet Juan Ramón Jiménez (see pp 70 of Carl Cobb’s book on the topic for more) from a Spanish folk song.  That song has the lines “Verde que to quiero verde / de color de aceituna.”

Lorca uses the phrase throughout the ballad (the typical English translation of ‘romance’ is ‘ballad’ in this context).  Is this part of capturing a shared song for others?  Would that have been so obvious to Lorca’s readers that they would have considered it normal to co-opt a lyric?  I hope to be on the look-out for other examples of borrowed phrases — in poetry or otherwise — that have become equally symbolic of, and perhaps attributable to, different literary and cultural sources.

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