From an illustration by Rafael Alberti

N.B. One of Lorca’s Gypsy Ballads.   In the original, the term laguna (translated below as “lagoon”: first, second and last) is also meant to suggest that there was a gap –a textual lacuna — in a manuscript transmitting a traditional ballad about a certain Don Pedro. (I have argued that Lorca wrote a variation on the ballad traditions of the “dismal hunt”, in which a rider sets out to hunt and is instead of bringing down any game is, mysteriously, brought down himself. ) The poet plays with the idea that each lacuna in that missing source is a body of water, a lagoon, in a running poetic stream. “Continued” marks every spot where the ballad is picked up anew, supposedly according to the absent manuscript. Suffice it to say that the poet has created a fictional frame for his poem, which he nonetheless terms “historical in its theme.”

Down the trail

rode Don Pedro.

Oh the way

the gentleman wept!

Riding an agile

horse without bit,

he came looking for bread

and a loving embrace.

All of the windows

ask the wind

the reason for his weeping.


Under the water

the words resound.

Over the water

a bright round moon

is bathing,

stirring envy

in the other moon

in the sky!

At the water’s edge

a child

sees the moons and says,

Night, sound your cymbals!


To a distant city

has Don Pedro come.

A distant city

in a cedar wood.

Is it Bethlehem? Air so sweet

with rosemary and lemon verbena.

Clouds and rooftop terraces

gleam. Don Pedro

rides through broken arches.

Two women and an elderly man

with candleholders of silver, come

to intercept him.

The poplars say No

And the nightingale, Maybe.


Under the water

the words resound.

Over the water’s topknot,

a circle of birds and flames.

There are witnesses

in the canebrakes

who know what is missing.

A dream so definite without direction

in the wood of a guitar.


Down the open road

two women and an elderly man

with candleholders of silver

make their way to the cemetery.

They have found

Don Pedro’s darksome mount


among the saffron.

A secret voice of evening

bleated in the sky.

A unicorn of what is not

cracks his horn on crystal.

The great and distant city

is burning

and a man is weeping 

as he heads inland.

To the north there is a star.

To the south, a sailor.


Under the water

the words resound.

Silt of long-lost voices.

On the water’s cooling face

Don Pedro lies forgotten.

Oh! A playmate of the frogs.

2 thoughts on “Mockery of Don Pedro on Horseback by Federico García Lorca. Translated by Roberta Quance

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