Romance de La Pena Negra Essay

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A commentary of Romance de la pena negra, Federico García Lorca

Lorca described ‘Romance de la pena negra’ as one of the most representative poems from the ‘Romancero gitano’. The poem was written in 1924, when Lorca had been sent away from Granada, due to his homosexuality and was living in Madrid, the centre of the cultural ferment of the 1920’s. Here, he attended the ‘Institución Libre de Enseñanza’ (ILE), where he was inspired to search for the national Spanish spirit, through literature.

‘Romance de la pena negra,’ follows the typical writing structure of the ‘romance’ style. This includes otto-syllabic rhyme, direct speech from unidentified people, consonants, vocalic echo and rhyme in even lines in assonance, (in this case the “o” and “a” sounds). However, Lorca develops the ‘romance’ style, by adding extraordinary metaphors to his poems, masking the true meaning behind them. This links to Luis de Gongora’s style of writing, using narration covered up by metaphors; (Maurer.C, 1984) Lorca’s drawing of ‘the mask that falls’, which reveals a melancholic face, can be related to Picasso’s early period. This helps the reader interpret the ‘Romancero gitano’ as Lorca, revealing his true emotions using a series of masks. (Lorca.F, La Careta que cae, 1955)

Considering that Lorca was searching for the Spanish national spirit, he could not have chosen a better genre, given that the ‘Romance’ is one of the oldest verse forms in Spanish literature. The ILE also installed in him an interest in nature and his eye for telling natural detail is extremely obvious in his poetry, helping him to create such extraordinary metaphors.

The poem takes place in the dark before dawn, in a dream-like state, which is neither day nor night. He uses the images of the “monte oscuro”(3)[1] and ‘the crows searching for dawn’ to highlight Soledad’s long waiting throughout the course of the night, as she comes down the shadowed mount.

The protagonist’s name is extremely revealing. “Soledad” means loneliness, which could be interpreted as a consequence of suffering, in reference to the “pena de los gitanos”(43). This would mean that Soledad Montoya is the allegory of pain. This ties in with Lorca’s description of the ‘Romancero gitano’, “hay un solo personaje real, que es la pena que se filtra”. (Maurer.C, 1984) This highlights that the out casted characters in all of the poems revolve around the main character, “la Pena.”

Lorca uses a lot of intertextual references, for example “La Pena” that also relates to the Cante Jondo, an Andalucian folk music in which the woman is called “Pena.” Lorca first observed the Cante Jondo in 1922 and described it as having very deep roots in Spanish culture, another indication that Lorca was influenced by it, in his search for a Spanish national identity. (Maurer.C, 1984)

The next stanza of the poem gives a physical description of the gypsy girl, describing her skin as “cobre amarillo.”(5) The “amarillo” colour refers to the golden, brassy coloured skin that the Andalucian gypsies have, that has gone pale and yellow due to her pain and suffering.

The next image that Lorca uses is a very important one, “huele a caballo y a sombra.”(6) The horse here refers to a male macho figure and “sombra” evokes the idea of a mental death. If we take both images separately, we understand that the horse represents her longing for passion and sexual satisfaction, (that we know she has not encountered from her name, “Soledad”) and ‘she smells of shadows’ because she is wrapped in the darkness of the night. The “huele” appeals to the reader’s sense of smell making the image more vivid. The use of senses is also typical of the ‘romance’ style.

Lorca then describes Soledad’s breasts as “Yunques ahumados”(7) smoked anvils. Anvils are tools, which could possibly refer to the gypsies manufacturing trade. However, I think Lorca is going further, associating...
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