Federico García Lorca, Little Ballad of Three Rivers

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Little Ballad of Three Rivers
by Federico García Lorca

The Guadalquivir river
Flows between orange and olive.
Two rivers of Granada
Come down from snow to wheat field.

Ah, Love, the unreturning!

The Guadalquivir river
Has banks of ruddy garnet.
Two rivers of Granada—
One weeps, and one is bloody.

Ah, Love, lost in the air!

Seville has a highway
For stately sailing-vessels.
But for Granada water
Only the sighs go rowing.

Ah, Love, the unreturning!

Guadalquivir, high tower,
Wind among orange-blossoms.
Genil and Darro, lowly
And dead among the marshes.

Ah, Love, lost in the air!

Who says the water breeds
Will-o-the-wisps at twilight?

Ah, Love, the unreturning!

Bear olive and orange-blossom
Seaward, O Andalusia!

Ah, Love, lost in the air!

Translated by Rolfe Humphries

SOURCE: Poetry, April 1937 

PHOTO: Guadalquivir River, Seville, Spain. Seville is the capital and largest city of the Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Guadalquivir River, in the southwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula. At 408 miles, the Guadalquivir is the second longest river in Spain, and the country’s only river navigable by large ships, currently navigable from the Gulf of Cádiz to Seville. Photo by Gerhard Bögner, used by permission. 

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FROM Granadainsider.com: As the city of Granada, Spain, expanded in the 18th Century, the Darro River was paved over to control its flow and prevent floods. Another of Granada’s rivers, the Genil, travels from its source as spring melt in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and is dammed upstream and channeled into reservoirs supplying the city.  After picking up the Darro, the Genil continues its journey west out of the city, where it is joined by a smaller tributary, the Monachil, before merging with the Guadalquivir—one of Spain’s foremost rivers. These three rivers, the Darro, Genil, and Guadalquivir form the basis of one of Federico García Lorca’s most famous poems, “Baladilla de los tres ríos.” In the poem, the poet contrasts the expansive, free-flowing Guadalquivir with the paved-over Darro and dammed-up Genil. (Adapted from “The Two Rivers of Granada” by Derek Dohren, Granadainsider.com.)

PHOTO: Darro River, Granada, Spain. Photo by Erlantz Perez, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Federico García Lorca  (June 5, 1898-August 19, 1936) was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theatre director. García Lorca achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the  Generation of ’27, a group consisting of mostly poets who introduced the tenets of European movements (such as symbolism, futurism, and surrealism) into Spanish literature. He is believed to have been killed by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil WarHis remains have never been found. 

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