Ballad of the Moon, Moon

by Federico Garcia Lorca

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Since it is the first poem in Romancero gitano, 1924-1927 (1928; The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, 1951, 1953), “Ballad of the Moon, Moon” sets the tone and also signals the role of the moon and other natural elements in the book. The moon appears in the smithy (gypsies were often blacksmiths) dressed as a woman, wearing a bustle of white lilies (suggested by the moon’s whiteness), and she begins a lascivious dance in front of a little boy left in the shop by his parents. García Lorca renders the spell cast on the boy through rhyme and repetition: “The boy stares and stares at her./ The boy keeps staring hard.” Captivated, the boy warns the moon that she must flee before the gypsies return or they will chop her up for necklaces and silver rings, typical gypsy jewelry. The words that he uses to caution the moon are incantatory, “Run away, moon, run away, moon.”

The moon, however, refuses to be frightened and answers the boy with her own prediction: When the gypsies come, they will find you on the anvil with your tiny eyes shut. Enthralled, the boy draws near. A rider is heard galloping across the plain, and in the smithy the boy’s eyes are shut. The moon gives way to the sound of dry hooves pounding on the ground, which suggests death.

The gypsies return through the olive groves, their bronze faces also under the spell of the moon. A barn owl hoots, and through the sky goes the moon, taking a boy by the hand. The boy’s body lies inside the smithy, but his spirit has gone with the moon. The gypsies, upon discovering their loss, commence to wail and shout. Outside, the air, this time a sympathetic element of nature, watches over them.

There are many stories in Greek and Roman mythology of the moon descending to the earth to capture a young man and take him away. The most famous case is the handsome Greek shepherd Endymion, whom the moon goddess found irresistible. Thus did García Lorca create a modern mythology for his gypsies, weaving strands of ancient tales and local Andalusian culture.

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