Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter is a long elegy divided into four parts corresponding to four dramatic movements. It was written to commemorate and celebrate the death of a man who many considered the bravest and most gallant matador of Spain. Ignacio Sánchez Mejías was also Federico García Lorca’s great friend. In this poem, there is complete identification between poet and speaker.
The first part of the poem, “The Goring and the Death,” starts at the very hour of the tragedy—“at five in the afternoon”—and proceeds to dwell on all the horrific details of the bull ring. A child brings a white sheet; lime is spread to soak up the blood; we can see and smell the chemicals of death, the chloride and the iodine. Surprisingly, what is missing is the fallen hero himself. It is as if the speaker cannot bring himself to look at his friend, lying bleeding in the sand, and instead must concentrate on what surrounds his body. The cadence is like that of a muted, tolling bell as after every stark image, the litany-like response “at five in the afternoon” is repeated.
The scene then shifts to Ignacio’s deathbed, where the killer bull, “El Granadino,” has become a bellowing nightmare that roars in triumph in the bullfighter’s ears in his delirium. The clinical facts of a terrible death by gangrene poisoning are expressed poetically, but the agony cannot be hidden by beautiful words. Sensing that, again, after every image, the speaker drums into the listener the hour of the incident, until, finally, the poetic voice rises in protest at the significance of these “terrible fives.”
The same fever pitch continues into the second section, “The Spilt Blood.” The speaker shouts that he does not want to see Ignacio’s blood in the sand and that no one can force him to gaze on it. (In this context, it is interesting to note that García Lorca did not witness the accident and later could not bring himself to visit his...
(The entire section is 809 words.)