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.
One thought on “Lorca & Words & Borrowing”
I’ve known the poem in Spanish forever. But I didn’t know Verde que te quiero verde” was borrowed from a fold song.
If you don’t know Patxi Andion song Verde, a homage to Federico, I recommend you watch it. It adds the word Verde from Federico’s poem to his lyrics.