In “Rider’s Song,” one of his most popular short poems, García Lorca has written a parable about the unattainability of goals. The refrain that frames the poem, “Córdoba/ Far away and alone,” indicates in somber tones the rider’s destination. Córdoba in the eleventh century was the capital of Arabic Spain and the richest city in Europe, and for a modern traveler it is still a city of great cultural wealth.
Mounted on a valiant black pony, olives in his saddlebag, the moon lighting his way, conditions seem optimum for the rider. The moon is usually a malevolent figure in García Lorca’s poetry, however, and it soon turns red, the color of violence and blood. “Although I know the roads/ I’ll never reach Córdoba,” exclaims the narrator, and the reader discovers why: “Death is looking at me/ From the towers of Córdoba.” The road seems suddenly long, and the poem ends the way that it began: “Córdoba/ Far away and alone.” The poem takes on special meaning for the reader who knows that García Lorca greatly feared death and was executed at the age of thirty-eight in the midst of a brilliant career.