Posts Tagged ‘Federico Garcia Lorca’

This is a re-posting from earlier. I took it down to make way for a time-specific post on Cinema-Based Well Dressing.
And so, avoiding further confusion, here we are:

The Sequence of St Eulalia is one the earliest surviving French hagiographies, in the vernacular. It dates from 880AD.
It is called a sequence because the manuscript contains three poems based on the St Eulalia legend. The first is a Latin fourteen-line poem, followed by the French vernacular poem, and then one in Old High German. It is surmised the Latin poem was the original of the manuscript, and the others added in response.

Poem is a wrong description: the Latin piece was written as prose but in assonantal couplets, and the whole piece ending in an unpaired coda verse form. The lines are mostly ten syllables in length, but this admits variations of eleven, twelve, even thirteen at one point.
Internal evidence of the French vernacular shows the composition to have been in the northern French region, indeed beyond, in modern Belgian Wallonia.
This is initially puzzling, because the Sequence manuscript was found in 880AD, in Barcelona.

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Eulalia was a twelve year old girl, from Merida, in northern Spain. She was known to be especially devout.  She was martyred for the intransigence of her belief, during the persecutions of Diocletian, around the year of 304AD.
Merida was the capital of Roman Lusitania; its ruins, part of an amphitheater, its bridge, and aqueduct  were still impressive in the 1850s.

The French vernacular begins:

Buona pulcella fut eulalia.
Bel auret corps bellezour anima
Voldrent la veintre li deo Inimi.
Voldrent la faire diaule seruir

This has been modernised:

Bonne pucelle fut Eulalie.
Beau avait le corps, belle l’âme.
Voulurent la vaincre les ennemis de Dieu,
Voulurent la faire diable servir.

It is interesting, instructive, even, to see how the French language has developed over time.
I made an attempt at Englishing the piece from the modernised French:

The good girl Eulalia
lovely of from, lovely of soul,
and ready to overcome the enemies of God,
was intent to make the devil serve
her, nor listen to his bad counselors.
She denounced them to God, who dwells in heaven.
Not for gold, nor silver, nor finery,
royal threat, nor prayer,
no thing could ever make her bend,
the young nun, from the love of God’s ministry.
And for this she was presented to Maximilian
who was at that time king of all the pagans.
He uttered: It matters little to me.
What he did not want
was to be called a Christian man.
And so he summoned together his forces
better to put her in chains,
and put her virginity in danger.
For that she died, in great honesty.
In the fire they threw her, but it would not burn
her, nor cook her flesh.
But that did not please the pagan king,
he ordered them with swords to cut off her head.
The young girl did not try to stop them
she wanted to leave her life, as ordained by Christ.
In the figure of a dove, she flew to heaven.
All pray for her, who deign to pray.
This you can thank Christ for
after death, that we can only leave
by his clemency.

There is an excellent paper on the background and context of the St Eulalia legend, transmission, and period, on Academia.edu, by Fabian Zuk, of the Universite de Montreal.  I give the link below:

https://www.academia.edu/30143399/Eulalia_and_her_Sequence_a_Bridge_between_the_Marca_Hispanica_and_the_Carolingian_Heartlands

There is an earlier version of the legend, as Fabian Zuk points out in his paper. This is the poem contained in the Peristephanon (Crown of Martyrs) by the Hibernian Latin writer, Prudentius (348 to 410AD).
Prudentius was another devout Christian; he was born in Saragossa, highly educated, and became an innovative writer for his period. It is claimed that he introduced a trochee-dominant prosody to the established Latin classical forms.
The Peristephanon is a collection of fourteen lyric poems by Prudentius, on Spanish and Roman martyrs.
Anyone who has translated Latin will know that a line’s word order is wholly dependent on the writer’s intent, emphasis, within that line. For those, like myself, without a classical education, the initial impact is one of chaos.
The following is from a literal Google Translate version of Prudentius’s ‘O in Honour passionis of Eulalia blessed martyr’, written in the 4thCentury AD:

next Southside location it is and took this ten excellent; city powerful; people abundant; and more blood martyrdom maiden powerful title. coursing tribe , and the nine three winters?quarter adtigerat; and clinking pears The distressed terrified rough butchers; execution himself sweet rata

As you can see….
The poem was written as a dedication of the remains of St Eulalia recently unearthed, transported, and then placed in a prepared tomb, in Barcelona. That explains the reference to placement at the beginning. Fabian Zuk investigates all this in great detail in his paper.

2
So why all this interest in St Eulalia? Especially as, until not many years ago, I had never even heard of her.
Blame it on Federico Garcia Lorca.
I was analysing the structure of his famous Gypsy Ballads collection, for my book on chiasmus and rings: Gifts of Rings and Gold:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gifts-Rings-Gold-Introduction-Ring-composition-ebook/dp/B01IRPODPW

The poem on St Eulalia occurs in the last three historical poems of the collection: Martyrdom of St Eulalia; Joke about Don Pedro on Horseback; Thamar and Amnon.

Lorca’s poem is in three parts. This is a form that the French form, above, cannot accommodate. The Prudentius poem, however, has a more discursive treatment. Here we begin to see how it can be opened up into a tri-partite structure. There are still details that do and do not coincide, however. One example is the Lorca addition of the double mastectomy of Eulalia/Olalla; her intransigence is also toned down, almost to oblivion.

Herbert Ramsden, in his ‘Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, Eighteen Commentaries’ (Manchester University Press, 1988) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lorcas-Romancero-Gitano-Eighteen-Commentaries/dp/0719078245
writes that Lorca purposedly labelled Eulalia/Ollalla ‘la gitana Santa’, a gipsy saint, even though she had lived and died over a thousand years before the gipsies entered Spain. He also notes that Lorca, ‘characteristically ahistoricist’, integrated the gipsy into mainstream culture this way, so ‘elevating the gipsy’. By adapting a more popular form of the name, Olalla, he further cemented the connection. The gipsy is, paradoxically, a symbol of the eternal outsider. Yet Lorca’s ‘ahistoricism’ identified the moment in time that such outsider-ness was becoming a dangerous position.

There is one point of connection between the vernacular French, Prudentius, and Lorca, and that is the potential assault on Eulalia/Olalla’s virginity. From the French, I give
‘and put her virginity in danger’ Englished from Qu’elle perdît sa virginité. Prudentius gives us, ‘The grace of [Eulalia’s} maidenhood [shielded]  behind the covering  of her head’.
Lorca wrote of Olalla’s sex which trembled as a bird ensnared, and her hands leap across.
Reader, take heart: she was only burned, decapitated, and masectomied.

This last detail, an addition by Lorca, occurs nowhere in the records. There is that terrible painting, though, by Bernadino Luini, where St Agatha carries her severed breasts on a tray, as Olalla in the poem. And interestingly, St Agatha was a patron saint of, among many places, Zamarramala, a province of Segovia. St Agatha was also a young girl, fifteen at the time of her own martyrdom.

What can we say about this assault upon young, outspoken, women?
It is not necessarily their vehicle for their opposition we notice, that is, their religiousness, but the form the oppression takes. It is their female identity that is attacked – their breasts, the threat of rape.
All the authority of the Church is here, but it is subtly enforced. They are applauded for their devoutness, but the indictment is still there: the terrible cost of female outspokenness, and of having a female body, with its possibilities. It is this sexuality the poem addresses partly, with that ‘Beau avait le corps’,  ‘Bel auret corps’, and the body-assault.
So why was she matryred? It is only in the Prudentius poem you get an indication: she was not just a devout believer, intransigent, but she openly mocked and attempted to over-turn the altars and images of the ‘pagan’s’ gods. Prudentius has her vehemently abusing the pagan leader, verbally.
Here we have it, the prize cannon in a woman’s armoury: speech. Not only has she the body of the fallen Eve, Eve as Magdalene, but also the gift of speech that can run rings around poor little man’s abilities.

In her way Eulalia can be said to inhabit the ambiguous transitional space between Mary and Magdalene figures. As Mary figure she connects with Lorca’s young female-centred poems of the first half of his collection. This is particularly clear in the sexual threats of the Preciosa poem. But also she connects with the gipsy nun, and with the gipsy madonna of one of the centre poem, St Gabriel. Soledad Montoya of the Black Pain, and the unnamed woman in Sleepwalking Ballad, introduce more nuanced, transitional, even median, characters. The faithless wife in the ballad is most certainly a Magdalene figure, as are, I would suggest, the grieving mothers in The Feud. This ambiguity of the Mary and Magdalene transitional moment is more fully drawn in the last poem of the collection, Thamar and Amnon, with the rape of half sister by half brother.

The Lorca Olalla poem plays also with time periods: he gives us a before martyrdom, during, and glorification in future times. This structure connects with the central poem of the collection, St Rafael. In this poem Lorca introduces another marginalised religious figure, St Tobit.
Each of these three centre poems is based on a city’s patron saint  – except St Rafael, the St Tobit poem, who was not the patron saint of its linked city of Cordoba. Lorca envisages Cordoba as Roman, Muslim, and modern city, each glimpsed in the water (a major motif in Lorca). Three time periods, again.
The tale of St Tobit/Tobias is fascinating for its own sake, a two-part story of father and son, linked by an angel in disguise. The angel exorcises a demon from the son’s wife, which caused her to kill her previous husbands. Definitely a Magdalene type woman, then rendered as Mary.

If anyone has a decent translation of the Prudentius Eulalia poem, I would be most grateful to them if they would point out a copy to me.

 

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Why that title?
Partly because of the position of the letter G: when you recognise the form of a ring-composition text, you will recognise this positioning of G was not random.

What is the difference between a chiasmic form of text, and a ring-composition text?
Read, and find out!

In this book I attempt to align the ancient use and craft of chiasmic structures to The Arts of Memory.

I attempt to trace the transmission of these crafts and skills through history.
– There is evidence of their use in the ancient middle-east, and in early Greece.
– They next re-emerged in grand style in the 10th-11th-12th-and 13th centuries in Western Europe: a great flowering of chiasmic and ring forms.
– Our times have classic examples of the form – in surprising places!

Chiasmic form is so deeply rooted in our thinking, the structures of our thought. How did this happen? What are the consequences? Is it possible to break away?

Read the book, and find out!