The Unfaithful Housewife

By Federico García Lorca 1898–1936 Federico Garcia Lorca

Translated from the Spanish by Conor O’Callaghan Read the translator's notes

For Mary Peace

Then I led her to the river
certain she was still a virgin
though she had a husband.
The fourth Friday in July,
as good as on a promise.
The street lights were vanishing
and the crickets flaring up.
Last bend out of town
I brushed her sleepy breasts.
They blossomed of a sudden
like the tips of hyacinths
and the starch of her petticoat
bustled in my ear like silk
slit by a dozen blades.
The pines, minus their halo
of silver, grew huger
and the horizon of dogs
howled a long way from the river.

Past the blackberry bushes,
the rushes and whitethorn,
beneath her thatch of hair,
I made a dip in the sand.
I took off my neckerchief.
She unstrapped her dress.
Me my gun and holster,
she her layers of slips...
Not tuberose, not shell,
has skin as half as smooth
nor does mirror glass
have half the shimmer.
Her hips flitted from me
like a pair of startled tench:
the one full of fire,
the other full of cold.
That night I might
as well have ridden
the pick of the roads
on a mother-of-pearl mare
without bridle or stirrups.
Gentleman that I am,
I won’t say back the scraps
she whispered to me.
It dawned out there
to leave my lip bitten.
Filthy with soil and kisses,
I led her from the river
and the spears of lilies
battled in the air.

I behaved only the way
a blackguard like me behaves.
I offered her a big creel
of hay-colored satins.
I had no wish to fall for her.
She has a husband after all,
though she was still a virgin
when I led her to the river.

Source: Poetry (June 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2011


Born near Granada in Fuente Vaqueros, Spain, to a prosperous farm owner and a pianist, prominent20th-century Spanish poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca studied law at at the University of Granada before relocating to Madrid in 1919 to focus on his writing. In Madrid he joined a group of avant-garde artists that included Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel. The group, collectively known as the “Generation of ’27,” introduced . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Desire, Relationships, Men & Women


Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue

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