Sonnets of Dark Love
   Federico García Lorca, translated Rafael Campo

   for Richard Howard and Robert Pinsky

Gongoran Sonnet in which the Poet Sends a Dove to His Beloved

I send this dove from Tuna to you.
With its endearing eyes and whitest feathers
it spreads love's fire, and also proffers
the Grecian laurel that the flames consume.

Its honest virtue and its supple throat
twice soiled by slime and scalding foam---
its tremors, frost and misty pearls combined---
bespeak the absence of your mouth. But wait,

just run your hands across its purity
and you will know its snowy melody,
as snowflakes swirl about and cloud your beauty.

Such is my heart---by night and through the day
deprived of you it cries pure melancholy,
imprisoned in dark love that will not die.



Love Sleeps in the Poet's Heart

You'll never understand my love for you,
because you dream inside me, fast asleep.
I hide you, persecuted though you weep,
from the penetrating steel voice of truth.

Normalcy stirs both flesh and blinding star,
and pierces even my despairing heart.
Confusing reasoning has eaten out
the wings on which your spirit fiercely soared:

onlookers who gather on the garden lawn
await your body and my bitter grief,
their jumping horses made of light, green manes.

But go on sleeping now, my life, my dear.
Hear my smashed blood rebuke their violins!
See how they still must spy on us, so near!



Sonnet about the Letter

My innermost of loves, my waking death,
in vain I still await your written word,
watching this flower wilt. I swear,
I'd give you up before I lose my sense.

It's air that is immortal; stone is dumb,
incapable of knowing shadow or
avoiding it. My deeply buried
heart rejects the frozen honey shed by the moon.

And yet I suffered over you. I gashed
my veins, at once a tiger and a bird,
white lilies dueling jaws about your waist.

So saturate my lunacy with words
or leave me finally to live in peace,
my soul's long night eternally devoid of stars.

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet who was murdered by the guarda civil during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. 1998 was the centenary of his birth.

Copyright ©1998 Rafael Campo. All rights reserved.

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