Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías

by Federico Garcia Lorca

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465

When the sweat of snow was coming
at five in the afternoon,
when the bull ring was covered with iodine
at five in the afternoon.
Death laid eggs in the wound
at five in the afternoon.

In the above quote, surrealistic imagery is juxtaposed against macabre reality. "Sweat" and "snow" are particularly dissonant elements: the heat of the bullfight segues into the icy finality of death. There is no recourse for Ignacio as he succumbs to his wounds.

Additionally, "death" lays "eggs" in Ignacio's wounds. According to forensic scientists, blow flies lay eggs on a body not long after it becomes a corpse. When the eggs hatch, maggots come forth. So, we get the surrealistic "sweat of snow" imagery juxtaposed against the bull ring covered in iodine (traditionally included in preservation mixtures) and the initial progression of decomposition on Ignacio's body.

Now the dove and the leopard wrestle
at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolated horn
at five in the afternoon.

In the distance the gangrene now comes
at five in the afternoon.
Horn of the lily through green groins
at five in the afternoon.

In the above quotes, we see again the juxtaposition of the surreal with the gruesome. We also see the juxtaposition of opposites. This dual imagery has led many literary experts to assert that Ignacio's death is Dionysian in nature. Note the phrase "thigh with a desolated horn." Dionysus was said to have been born from Zeus' thigh after he was taken from his mother's womb.

Dionysus himself was also an ambivalent figure in Greek mythology and was sometimes depicted as an androgynous young god. Above, the peaceful dove wrestles with the fierce leopard. Meanwhile, gangrene sets in, but the next image is that of the "horn of the lily through green groins." The color "green" symbolizes growth, renewal, life, and fertility. Juxtaposed against gangrene and death, we get an obscenely jarring image. This Dionysian ambiguity highlights Lorca's deifying of his deceased friend.

To Lorca, his friend may be dead, but his rotting body remains the epitome of perfection (at least in his eyes).

His eyes did not close
when he saw the horns near,
but the terrible mothers
lifted their heads.
And across the ranches,
an air of secret voices rose,
shouting to celestial bulls,
herdsmen of pale mist.

Here, Ignacio's eyes do not "close." On earth, he may be dead. However, his spirit is preserved in the heavens. The secret voices proclaim his place among the celestial bulls of heaven. Meanwhile, Ignacio's blood christens "frozen horns" and a "thousand hoofs." It seems to be a living thing that flows towards the Guadalquivir river. In life as in death, Ignacio is invincible.


1) Archetypal Imagination: Glimpses of the Gods in Life and Art by Noel Cobb

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