No Comment — January 23, 2008, 7:59 am

Lorca’s Old Lizard

klee_tunisian-gardens

En la agostada senda
he visto al buen lagarto
(gota de cocodrilo)
meditando.
Con su verde levita
de abate del diablo,
su talante correcto
y su cuello planchado,
tiene un aire muy triste
de viejo catedrático.
¡Esos ojos marchitos
de artista fracasado,
cómo miran la tarde
desmayada!

¿Es éste su paseo
crepuscular, amigo?
Usad bastón, ya estáis
muy viejo. Don Lagarto,
y los niños del pueblo
pueden daros un susto.
¿Qué buscáis en la senda,
filósofo cegato,
si el fantasma indeciso
de la tarde agosteña
ha roto el horizonte?

¿Buscáis el azul limosna
del cielo moribundo?
¿Un céntimo de estrella?
¿O acaso
estudiasteis un libro
de Lamartine, y os gustan
los trinos platerescos
de los pájaros?

(Miras al sol poniente,
y tus ojos relucen,
¡oh dragón de las ranas!
con un fulgor humano.
Las góndolas sin remos
de las ideas, cruzan
el agua tenebrosa
de tus iris quemados.)

¿Venís quizá en la busca
de la bella lagarta,
verde como los trigos
de mayo,
como las cabelleras
de las fuentes dormidas,
que os despreciaba, y luego
se fue de vuestro campo?
¡Oh dulce idilio roto
sobre la fresca juncia!
¡Pero vivir!, ¡qué diantre!
me habéis sido simpático.
El lema de “me opongo
a la serpiente” triunfa
en esa gran papada
de arzobispo cristiano.

Ya se ha disuelto el sol
en la copa del monte,
y enturbian el camino
los rebaños.
Es hora de marcharse,
dejad la angosta senda
y no continuéis
meditando.
Que lugar tendréis luego
de mirar las estrellas
cuando os coman sin prisa
los gusanos.

¡Volved a vuestra casa
bajo el pueblo de grillos!
¡Buenas noches, amigo
Don Lagarto!

Ya está el campo sin gente,
los montes apagados
y el camino desierto;
sólo de cuando en cuando
canta un cuco en la umbría
de los álamos.


On the roasted path
I saw the good lizard
(with a touch of crocodile)
In meditation.
With the green gown
of an abbot of the devil,
his upright bearing
and a starched collar,
he has the sad aspect
of an old tenured professor.
Those pale eyes
of a broken artist,
how they watch the afternoon
dejected!

Is this, my friend,
your constitutional?
Please use your walking stick,
Don Lagarto, for you are very old,
and the children of the village
may surprise you.
What are you seeking along the walk,
my near-sighted philosopher,
if the indecisive phantasm
of the roasted afternoon
has ruptured the horizon?

Are you seeking the azure offerings
of the moribund skies?
A penny’s worth of a star?
Or perhaps
you’ve been reading a volume
of Lamartine, and
the plateresco trills
of the birds appeal to you?

(You watch the setting sun,
and your eyes gleam,
oh, dragon of the frogs,
with a human radiance.
Gondolas without the oars of
Ideas cross the darkened
waters of your
burned irises.)

Have you come looking
for that beautiful lizardess,
green as the wheatfields
of May,
as the long strands
of sleeping fonts,
which scorned you, and then
left you in your field?
Oh, sweet idyll, shattered
among the fresh sedges!
But, keep alive! What the devil!
I like you.
The motto “I oppose
the serpent” triumphs
in that grand double chin
of the Christian archbishop.

Now the sun has dissolved
in the chalice of mountains,
and the flocks
cloak the roadway.
The hour of farewell has come:
leave the dry way
and your meditations.
You will have time
to look at the stars
when the worms are devouring you
in their own good time.

Go home to your house
near the village, of the crickets!
Good night, my friend
Don Lagarto!

Now the people have left the field,
the mountains are muted,
the highway is deserted.
Only now and then,
a cuckoo sings in the shade
of the poplars.

Federico García Lorca, El Lagarto Viejo (Vega de Zujaira, July 26, 1920) first published in Libro de Poemas (1921)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2017

American Duce

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Prayer’s Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Bee-Brained

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Mothers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Facing the Furies

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The New Climate

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Snowden’s Box·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mrs. B’s Baby Village Day Care was on a frontage road between a mattress wholesaler and a knife outlet. There were six or so babies as regulars and another one or two on weekends when their parents were passing through looking for work. They wouldn’t find work, of course, all the security positions were full, the timber and ore had all been taken under the active-stewardship program, and the closest new start-up industry was the geothermal field hundreds of miles away. Mrs. B didn’t even bother to write those babies’ names down in her book. It was fifteen dollars a day and they had to be in reasonable health. Even so the occasional mischievous illness would arise and empty the place out.

Illustration (detail) by Taylor Callery
Post
The Forty-Fifth President·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mrs. B’s Baby Village Day Care was on a frontage road between a mattress wholesaler and a knife outlet. There were six or so babies as regulars and another one or two on weekends when their parents were passing through looking for work. They wouldn’t find work, of course, all the security positions were full, the timber and ore had all been taken under the active-stewardship program, and the closest new start-up industry was the geothermal field hundreds of miles away. Mrs. B didn’t even bother to write those babies’ names down in her book. It was fifteen dollars a day and they had to be in reasonable health. Even so the occasional mischievous illness would arise and empty the place out.

Photograph (detail) by Philip Montgomery
Article
A Prayer’s Chance·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mrs. B’s Baby Village Day Care was on a frontage road between a mattress wholesaler and a knife outlet. There were six or so babies as regulars and another one or two on weekends when their parents were passing through looking for work. They wouldn’t find work, of course, all the security positions were full, the timber and ore had all been taken under the active-stewardship program, and the closest new start-up industry was the geothermal field hundreds of miles away. Mrs. B didn’t even bother to write those babies’ names down in her book. It was fifteen dollars a day and they had to be in reasonable health. Even so the occasional mischievous illness would arise and empty the place out.

Photograph (detail) by Robin Hammond/NOOR
Article
Bee-Brained·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mrs. B’s Baby Village Day Care was on a frontage road between a mattress wholesaler and a knife outlet. There were six or so babies as regulars and another one or two on weekends when their parents were passing through looking for work. They wouldn’t find work, of course, all the security positions were full, the timber and ore had all been taken under the active-stewardship program, and the closest new start-up industry was the geothermal field hundreds of miles away. Mrs. B didn’t even bother to write those babies’ names down in her book. It was fifteen dollars a day and they had to be in reasonable health. Even so the occasional mischievous illness would arise and empty the place out.

Illustration (detail) by Eda Akaltun. Source photograph of Jairam Hathwar at the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee © Pete Marovich/UPI/Newscom
Article
My First Car·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mrs. B’s Baby Village Day Care was on a frontage road between a mattress wholesaler and a knife outlet. There were six or so babies as regulars and another one or two on weekends when their parents were passing through looking for work. They wouldn’t find work, of course, all the security positions were full, the timber and ore had all been taken under the active-stewardship program, and the closest new start-up industry was the geothermal field hundreds of miles away. Mrs. B didn’t even bother to write those babies’ names down in her book. It was fifteen dollars a day and they had to be in reasonable health. Even so the occasional mischievous illness would arise and empty the place out.

Illustration by Katherine Streeter

Estimated additional hours Americans would spend stoned annually if marijuana were legal in most states:

30,000,000,000

BirdLife International announced the discovery of a new species, a seed-eating finch with blue spots, that was discovered living in bamboo thickets on Carrizal Island, Venezuela; unfortunately, the bird’s only known habitat was destroyed in the construction of a new dam.

Three bodies were tossed from a low-flying plane in the Sinaloa state of Mexico.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today