Federico Garcia Lorca was easily one of Spain’s greatest ever creative talents, and his premature death at the hands of Franco’s fascists one of its greatest tragedies.
Lorca was many things. Artist, poet, playwright, musician, but across the board he was a true Andalucían, a man whose sensitive heart was worn on a sleeve embroidered from the sun of the south, and whose soul was moved by Granada’s gypsy cry. Reading Lorca’s poetry in both Spanish and even in English is to take a path across the heat-baked planes of the South of Spain. His words resonate with the visceral emotion which Andalucía lays bare. His verses are characterised by a spirit lifted free by the pure power of the sun’s optimism and the darker mysteries of the night.
Gardens of the Huerta de San Vicente today
Lorca, Granada’s favourite son, is everywhere in the city. He was the fresh human face of a city otherwise characterised by its ancient history. And today his forward thinking mind and bohemian spirit fits perfectly with the 21st century manifestation of Granada. While his tragic loss in the early months of the Spanish Civil War took Lorca from the city long ago, a reminder of his life in his most devoted home town remains in the form of the Huerta de San Vicente, the Lorca’s happy holiday home on the city’s outskirts. The pretty little white house would once have been surrounded by open countryside. Today, it remains a bucolic enclave in a concrete jungle, but happily the land immediately surrounding it has been converted into a park.
The Huerta de San Vicente in Lorca’s day
Lavishly planted with roses and agapanthus, cypress trees and palms, it a garden of reflection whose mood is somehow rendered all the more romantic by association with the home of a poet who used to find so much inspiration here. In fact Lorca was so moved by the Huerta that he used to refer to it as his “Poetry factory”. The energy which drove him to write the most spectacular poetry ripples through the house today, and the ability to walk within and around this space remains for me a true highlight of any Granada trip. It is a home exuding the creative energy and the familial love which was so clearly integral to Lorca’s writing, and the foundation of his overflowing love for the city which continued to inspire him right up until the end.
That inspiration resulted in the most stunning body of written works which today is Lorca’s lasting and most precious legacy. Moved by our visit to the Huerta, Dominik and I would sit up at night, both in Granada and then besides our jasmine tree in Marbella, reciting his verses, first in Spanish and then in English, loving how the sound of his verses would run over the tongue like water bubbling over a mountain brook, full of free sentiment and the most mellifluous melody.
This post includes my photos of the gardens surrounding the Huerta de San Vicente (photos inside the house were prohibited) as well as a glimpse of how the house, and of course Lorca himself, had looked. But it wouldn’t be complete without a few of his words too. Chosen at random from my precious anthology of his work, it was a coincidence that the page should fall open at a poem written in evident homage to both Granada and nearby Córdoba. It is a perfect demonstration of Lorca’s love for Andalucía, and his ability to capture its soul in just a few expertly chosen words.
Alba / Dawn
Campanas de Córdoba / Bells of Córdoba
en la madrugada. / in the early hours.
Campanas de amanecer /Bells of dawn
en Granada. / in Granada
Os sienten todas las muchachas / They hear you,
que lloran a la tierna / all the girls who cry
Soleá enlutada. / for the tender Soleá in mourning.
Las muchachas / The girls
de Andalucía la alta / of Andalucía the High
y la baja. / and the low
Las niñas de España, / Young girls of Spain
de pie menudo / with tiny feet
y temblorosas faldas, / and trembling skirts
que han llenado de luces / who’ve filled the crossroads
las encrucijadas. / with light.
¡Oh campanas de Córdoba / Oh bells of Córdoba
en la madrugada, / in the early hours
y oh campanas de amanecer / and oh, bells of dawn
en Granada! / in Granada!
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