Pastiche: Federico García Lorca’s Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

A pastiche is a work which imitates that of another work, artist, or period.

For my Individual Oral Presentation in junior year, I wrote a pastiche on Federico García Lorca’s “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias”, a poem in four parts. The poem is an elegy that Lorca wrote for his close friend, a bullfighter, or matador.

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I am posting this on my blog in the hopes that it can be useful to anyone else studying Lorca, interested in Spanish/Andalusian literature and culture, or looking for any sort of inspiration.

To understand Lorca’s poetry, it may be necessary to research the artistic idea of duende. You can read the original poem here.


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Today I will present a creative extension of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias. The lament was originally written in four parts as an elegy to the great bullfighter, who was fatally gored by a bull after an inspiring and heroic life as Lorca’s friend. I have written a pastiche, adding a fifth part to the lament, which envisions a spiritual encounter between Lorca and Ignacio.

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My intention was to continue the trends and motifs that were introduced in the first four parts of the lament based on knowledge of culture, context, and personality. To do this, I used repetition, symbolism, metaphors, and other figurative language to continue underlying themes, which include death and passion, the inevitability of time passing, and the beauty in suffering.

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I will now read you my pastiche.

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In The Silent Response, Ignacio calls to Lorca and they briefly meet in the same space-time realm. This calling and perceiving pattern is reinforced by the repetition “came as a” and “my friend” throughout. Initially, Lorca is confused, the silent response marked by an unknown entity, “It”. In line 1, “It came as a breeze.” However, after another calling and affirmation of the identity of the caller, “the one who was gored by the bull”, Lorca realizes the voice is Ignacio, and his interpretation of the voice changes from “it” to “he”. The way that Lorca perceives Ignacio shifts and grows in magnitude, from a breeze to a spark, showing the deepening encounter and profound message between the two separated friends. The use of italics differentiates Ignacio’s effect on Lorca from Ignacio’s message. Finally, the last stanza begins with “I come as silence.” The voice of Ignacio has taken over the poem, having Lorca’s full attention.

Next, the refrain of “my friend” affirms that the relationship between Ignacio and Lorca has not changed. The advice and encouragement given is Ignacio teaching out of brotherly love. The tone of the poem would be very different without this repetition as the love between Ignacio and Lorca would not be felt.

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We have now gone through repetition in my pastiche. I have also traced symbols throughout the original lament and incorporated them into the fifth section, some examples shown here.

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Firstly, half of the lament remembers Ignacio by the manner in which he died, especially in the first and second section. But, Ignacio’s message in the second stanza is that he doesn’t want his last memory to haunt Lorca, instead he wants to be recalled as a friend.

I then symbolize life as a circle, or a bullring, of which there is no escape, except for one way out: death. The circle represents being stuck in one dimension and one direction of time. The only way to get out of the circle of life is to leave it altogether. Hence, we have death represented as a “fall through the floor of the ring”. And, until the bottom of the ring caves in, no matter what happens in life, no matter what pain one may suffer, life will continue. The pains of life are symbolized by the banderillas, which are the spears with barbs that are thrust into the bull’s back to weaken it until the torero can do the final estocada, where he stabs the bull between the shoulder blades and through the heart. The bull will not die until then, despite being weak or in pain, like a human burdened and troubled by life, with the only possible escape and relief being death.

Two stanzas later, Ignacio states that his “battle of will is lost”. Lorca represents Ignacio as a hero with a tragic and violent death. Because it was so sudden, Ignacio did not get a chance to fight for his life in his last moments. His “last thread” was long ago snapped and his fate determined. However, his entire life was lived as a victory, and is now at peace and rest. To him, the calling from the living is darkness, which is characterized by “whining of black”, because death is better than life, which is painful and dark. This contradicts how the living think, because we think that in death, we no longer see, so death is darkness.

The horizon is symbolized as the ultimate destination of souls in the 6th stanza. One can never reach the horizon even though one may walk towards it their entire lifetime. The only way to reach that goal is through death, which consequently, is the destination. Reaching the horizon is how “you cheat time”, because that is how one journeys past a lifetime’s worth of travel, and reaches the ultimate destination of death, achieving immortality and timelessness of existence.

In the following stanza, time is described as amorphous and unpredictable and represented by “the face of the clock”, which no one has seen the true form of. And if it were not so, time and life would cease to exist. This extends to death: if death does not exist, then neither would life. “The infant being born” is unseasoned, yet both the newborn and Lorca have no idea of what will happen in the next moment, which demonstrates time’s unpredictability and puts them as equal in the face of fate. “Walk, fall, crawl” parallels with the ending of Lorca’s third section of the lament. In death, one can “sleep, fly, rest”, but life is the opposite, with no rest, stumbling, and pain. Ignacio communicates that the journey to the end is not easy but Lorca must keep going. “Keep climbing”, in contrast to walking, suggests that life is hard, like a staircase going up that never ends until it collapses into death.

By the next stanza, Ignacio has taken over the poem’s content. He describes his experiences from death as restful, the feeling personified by “the eyelids of the heart” closing for good.  The phrase “the moon will sing” personifies the familiar yet unexpected quality of places we have heard of but never been to, and is a surreal demonstration that death can be completely different from what we expect. We cannot expect that death will hurt because we have never been there.

The second to last stanza describes the situation in life, which Ignacio now has a retrospective view of. Life has pain and suffering. The living are dead to the spiritual world. Lorca himself has written, “A dead man in Spain is more alive when dead than anywhere else on earth.” Death is a new beginning; hence, “what’s past is prologue”. This is a line from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, which I have borrowed to place in new context.

In the last stanza of my pastiche, Ignacio describes the intangible concept of duende, as well as the nature of their spiritual encounter. In a bullfight, ole is an exclamation used by the spectators for spectacular passes done by the torero. This is Ignacio’s way of saying that life, which is tragic, is also fantastic and beautiful. By this stanza, what Ignacio says is what Lorca feels, for they are melded together in emotion. This is characterized by the first line, “I come as silence”, not “he came as silence”. He also describes his state in death as a stone that’s not cold, because death has not killed his ability to feel warmth and love, and he is more alive than ever. Both describe the encounter as intangible, like words that can only be felt. Occurring only in the spiritual world, Ignacio physically touch Lorca, but he can touch his spirit, which, in Spanish culture, is the duende, the artistic and emotional inspiration of the soul. In Spanish, duende was translated from “owner of the house”, and in a way, the duende owns the person that they possess. There is a difference between inspiration from muses and duende; the muse is passive and easily scared off, the duende is violent and causes discomfort, hence the biting and clawing. In awakening Lorca’s duende, Lorca is struck with dark sound and the ability to make art, and the struggling begins, because duende is a struggle, not a thought, a power, not a work. The duende brings the artist face-to-face with death, shows him the limits of intelligence, and allows Lorca to create spine-chilling work. And duende can never repeat itself, like a storm or the surface of the sea. Lorca being called to write in his blood symbolizes the duende causing pain in his soul, and a beauty in suffering. In bullfighting, one can see the effects of duende the best, because it is a pure struggle with death and precision. The duende is mandatory to drive home the nail of artistic truth at the time of the estocada. Finally, ole has a phonetic resemblance to Allah, which is called out when the duende arrives in Arab art. The duende calls to the artist with the offering of a real, poetic escape from the world.

So, in conclusion, through analyzing my pastiche, we have also covered the main themes: the beauty in suffering and grief, inevitable pain in the human life cycle, the question of reality and time that passes, and also the influence of duende on the artist to create something raw and real.

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Finally, I will finish with a quote from George Orwell. (read quote) We can see the influence of duende reaching beyond Spain’s borders, because we all feel it when we witness a great work that skill and logic alone cannot accomplish. Perhaps Lorca has just been trying to put this intangible force of human creativity and soul into words.

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This is my own work, and as much as I enjoy helping other people with ideas, inspiration, and knowledge, please do not claim it as your own.

Thank you!

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