Monday, September 20, 2010

Symbolism in Barbarous Nights

Animals and Birds:
Bull: The national symbol of Spain with the bullfight as Spain's national sport. Children are even taught in school to recognize the shape of Spain because it looks like a bull (In Search of Duende 95). Lorca himself greatly admired the bullfight because it is where "the duende is most impressive" because the fighter battles both death and "geometry" (Play and the Theory of Duende 69).
Horse: The horse is often a sexual image in Lorca, associated with gypsy drums and music in a way that relates to gypsy moon imagery as well (Allen).
Partridge: Commonly a symbol of the devil, but can also symbolize the church or Christ.
Rooster: This is the animal chosen to symbolize Lorca's avant-garde magazine gallo, released i 1928 in Granada. As a "rooster of resistance," it symbolizes the liberation from the "conservative tradition" in Granada that his magazine embodied (Sawyer-Lauçanno 3).

Red: First and foremost red is blood and is related to both life and death, the life-cycle and menstrual cycle, libido and Dionysus (Allen 7).
White: Virginity and purity at the same time as it suggests coldness, sterility and death (Havard 819).
Green: See "Verde."
Yellow/Gold: In Lorca's poetry, yellow often seems to signify childhood and warm colors are used to describe the landscape of Granada where he grew up (Allen). Also, executioners in Spain traditionally wore yellow or red (Brewer 1317).
Blue: In his essay, "Play and the Theory of the Duende," Lorca describes an Andalucian night as blue (15).
Gray/Silver: Associated with Lorca's New York poetry and also his use of "veiled tones" to evoke poverty and differentiate man-made objects from things found in nature.
Orange: Warm colors are typically associated with Andalusian imagery in Lorca's poetry.

Flowers and Trees According to Kate Greenaway's
Language of Flowers:
Camellias: Red--unpretending excellence; White--perfected loveliness
Cypress: Death and mourning
Iris: Message
Lily: Day--coquetry; White--purity, sweetness; yellow--falsehood, gaiety; of the Valley--return of happiness. Lorca also described himself as having within him a "white lily impossible to water," while the rest of the world saw him as a red rose, suggesting a profound fear or passion and sex (Stainton 65).
Myrtle: Love
Narcissus: Egotism
Oleander: Beware
Orange Blossom: Your purity equals your loveliness
Pine: Pity
Poplar: Black--courage; White--time
Red Rose: Love; Deep red--bashful shame
White Rose: I am worthy of you; Withered--transient impressions
Sunflower: Haughtiness
Spikenards: Also known as muskroot, this flowering plant from the Himilayas was traditionally made into an essential oil used as a perfume or medicinal oinment. This is the oil with which Mary Magdalene anoints Jesus.
Tulip: Fame; Red--declaration of love; Variegated--Beautiful eyes; Yellow--Hopeless love

Fruits and Food:
Apples: The symbol of temptation and the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden. Also, "hard apples" are used to describe the work of the "popular school" of embroidery in Granada in "History of this Rooster."
Lemon: Childhood.
Lorca's drawing of lemons.
Olives: One at a café with friends, Lorca told his company that he was going to Mass that afternoon because he was intoxicated by the ritual and the aroma of the incense. Dalí pointed at the table replied that he was more interested in this olive.
Shaddock: A south asian citrus fruit like a pomelo or a grapefruit.

Other References:
Boletos: Spanish for "tickets."
Boreal auroras: an inversion of the name for the colorful northern light phenomenon "aurora borealis," named after the Roman goddess of the dawn Aurora and the Greek word for wind.
Crepuscular: Of or relating to twilight (dawn or dusk).
Crinoline: A type of many-layered women's petticoat.
Dante: Author of the Divine Comedy, including the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, written in the 14th century.
"Great Stone Face": Buster Keaton was known for keeping a straight face while performing slapstick routines and ridiculous stunts. Some scholars believe this was related to traumatic childhood abuse by his father, who taught him to play it straight.
Hermetic song: As in songs sung in solitude.
Magnesium lights:
Megatherium: A pre-historic genus of giant sloths that lived in Central and South America, referring to their enormous, elephant-like size.
Meningitis: This disease affecting the brain and spinal cord caused by either bacterial or viral infection was a major problem around the world at the turn of the 20th century without much treatment. The line about "masks of meningitis" inverts one of the common treatment that calls for patients to wear masks so as to limit their contagion.
A Midsummer Night's Dream:
Miss Eleonora:
Moiré tie: A fabric with a wave pattern woven into it, such as "watered silk," so called for its appearance like water ripples.
Narcissus: The beautiful Greek mythological hero described by Ovid in book three of Metamorphosis who died starring at his own reflection with which he had fallen in love as punishment for his pride and vanity.
Natalia: Natalia Talmadge was Buster Keaton's first wife (1921-32), the sister-in-law of his boss in Hollywood, and a silent film actress with whom he had two sons.
"The Navigator": Buster Keaton's 1924 film in which he and his love interest are stranded on a ship adrift on the Pacific Ocean.
Polyphemus: The name of the cyclopse in Homer's Odyssey and one of the sea-god Poseidon's sons. His Greek counter part is Chronus, who became a god associated with time during the Renaissance.
Saetas: A song of traditional Andalusian flamenco music, related to Catholicism.
San Lazáro: Mystery, inner self, depth of feeling.
San Lucía: Associated with blindness and sickness; the surface, the superficial.
San Sebastían: The artist and his creation; homoeroticism; Lorca's relationship with Dalí.
Saturn: The Roman god of agriculture and harvest.

Other Symbols:
Arrows/target: San Sebastían was killed by arrows and the arrow became a motif in the work of Lorca and Dalí; both the symbol of King Ferdinand who expelled the Moors from Granada and one of the symbols of the Falange, a radical Right-wing group that took power during the Civil War in Spain.
Country of the Dead: Lorca may be referring to his own beloved Spain and not the underworld, and in his essay Play and the Theory of Duende he notes how Spaniards welcome death, celebrate it as "a national spectacle" in the bullfight, and that a "dead man is more alive in Spain as a dead man than anyplace else in the world" (64).
Jasper: A speckled or striped stone with religious meaning that is generally red, yellow, brown or sometimes green. In Revelation 21, jasper is used to describe the "shining" city of New Jerusalem and makes up the first layer of the city's foundation. It is also one of the twelve stones in the High Priest Aaron's breastplate, described in Exodus 28. Its symbolism includes "blood atonement" via the sacrifice of Christ, prosperity, protection from spirits, and the "perfection of saints" (Gaylord).
Moon and stars: Eternity and romance (Maurer). The moon is also connected to the tambourine, the Basque drum, horses and hypnosis by its importance in gypsy fertility spells that thus link all of these both natural and cultural symbols and images to the essence of traditional womanhood (Allen 17).
Neuter moon: Latin for "neither," as in neither male or female, stripping the moon of its typical gendered image and symbolism.
Ocean/wave/tide: "Sexual and emotional freedom" associated with Cadaqués where he spent his spring with Dalí in 1925 in contrast to the "repressed desires" represented by "landlocked Granada" where he missed his friend and love; the Mediterranean as a "life-giving force" (Stainton 136-7). Wind too becomes associated with libido (Allen).
Thread/embroidery: In "The History of This Rooster," a prose piece written to launch his avant-garde magazine gallo in 1928 and to "attack...the conservative tradition in Granada," there is a rivalry between "two great schools of embroidery" in town (Sawyer-Lauçanno 3, 29). The first school is the Sacred Convent of Santo Domingo, associated with purity, tradition, and wealth, while the second is the "more popular, more art" of Paquita Raya (29). It is the latter embroiderer to which Don Alhambro, the magazines fictional founder, goes to have his rooster emblem realized. At the end of the story, the rooster resurrects himself after Don Alhambra has been martyred in order to return and take his place as the title of the magazine, "four bright yellow hens" are embroidered onto silk (33).

Works Cited:

Allen, Rupert C. The Symbolic World of Federico García Lorca. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. 1972. Print.

Brewer, Ebeneezer Cobham. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Co. 1905.

Gaylord, Harry A. "Christian Symbolism in the Breastplate of Judgement--Chapter 12." Web. 10-6-10. <>.

Havard, Robert G. “The Symbolic Ambivalence of ‘Green’ in García Lorca and Dylan Thomas.” JSTOR. 1972. 6/10/2010. Web.

Lorca, Federico Garcìa. In Search of Duende. Ed. Christopher Maurer. New Directions. 2010. Print.

Maurer, Christopher. Sebastian’s Arrows: Letters and Mementos of Salvador Dalì and Federico Garcìa Lorca. Swan Isle Press. 2005. Print.

Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher. “Introduction.” Barbarous nights: legends and plays from the Little theater/Federico Garcia Lorca, Trans. Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. 1991. Print.

Stainton, Leslie. Lorca: A Dream of Life. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1999. Print.

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