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Arbolé, Arbolé . . . Analysis

Author: poem of Federico García Lorca Type: poem Views: 0

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English Translation

Tree, tree

dry and green.

The girl with the pretty face

is out picking olives.

The wind, playboy of towers,

grabs her around the waist.

Four riders passed by

on Andalusian ponies,

with blue and green jackets

and big, dark capes.

"Come to Cordoba, muchacha."

The girl won't listen to them.

Three young bullfighters passed,

slender in the waist,

with jackets the color of oranges

and swords of ancient silver.

"Come to Sevilla, muchacha."

The girl won't listen to them.

When the afternoon had turned

dark brown, with scattered light,

a young man passed by, wearing

roses and myrtle of the moon.

"Come to Granada, inuchacha."

And the girl won't listen to him.

The girl with the pretty face

keeps on picking olives

with the grey arm of the wind

wrapped around her waist.

Tree, tree

dry and green.

Translated by William Logan

Original Spanish

Arbolé, arbolé,

seco y verdí.

La niña del bello rostro

está cogiendo aceituna.

El viento, galán de torres,

la prende por la cintura.

Pasaron cuatro jinetes

sobre jacas andaluzas,

con trajes de azul y verde,

con largas capas oscuras.

"Vente a Córdoba, muchacha."

La niña no los escucha.

Pasaron tres torerillos

delgaditos de cintura,

con trajes color naranja

y espadas de plata antigua.

"Vente a Córdoba, muchacha."

La niña no los escucha.

Cuando la tarde se puso

morada, con lux difusa,

pasó un joven que llevaba

rosas y mirtos de luna.

"Vente a Granada, muchacha."

Y la niña no lo escucha.

La niña del bello rostro

sigue cogiendo aceituna,

con el brazo gris del viento

ceñido por la cintura.

Arbolé, arbolé.

Seco y verdé.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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In literature the connotative meanings associated with the color green are as wide and varied as they are interesting. To the Latin, Greek, and Old English poets green is usually associated with nature, vitality, and ripeness, but Homer did juxtapose the color beside ideas concerning fright and fear; it therefore usually possesses a positive connotation which is usually associated with earthly elements or forces, but it can also connote fear, dread, and sin. The famous green sash adopted by Gawain became a sign and reminder to the Knights of Camelot about mankind’s mortal and sinful nature. The connotative meaning shifted slightly over time; consequently, during Shakespeare’s lifetime well into the early Romantic period of Shelley & Byron, the color took on pretty much a strictly negative connotation associated with envy, jealousy, naiveté and foolishness. A disease during the renaissance that afflicted pubescent girls was called the “green sickness” and this may account for the negative shift, although it’s mere theory, the rationale should be obvious – calling the disease “green” literally signified the absence of any reddish color, or vitality associated with human beings. Shakespeare uses the color at various instances in a variety of plays, but almost all of the expressions carry a negative connotation and are usually associated with jealousy or envy. Interestingly, in religious iconography and symbolism green is the color associated with spring, hope, salvation, and rebirth, consequently many of the robes and vestments of the Christian (Catholic) church adopt the color at various times. Green is found in Dante’s Purgatorio, the realm of hope (as opposed to Hell – where no hope exists). Ultimately, due to the varied nature (no pun intended) of the color, its connotative changes throughout time, perhaps the color symbolizes inconstancy itself. Perhaps green is the ultimate color that represents human, natural, and existential mutability.
Regarding Lorca’s “Arbole, Arbole”: I think the interesting thing that Lorca’s doing with the color green is that he’s juxtaposing it against all of the various forces that try to act upon the girl. In a way, the tree and the girl become a single metaphor that speaks to the experience of youth and vitality, and perhaps (when read ambiguously) innocence. The idyllic tone should be relatively obvious because the tree and the girl form a kind of pastoral and symbiotic relationship that seems mutually beneficial. She tends to its fruit, harvesting the olives, and the tree, wind, and other natural forces provide the experience and bond the girl seems to need. Adding to this harmonic pattern is the fact that she’s “wrapped” by the “wind”. The personification of nature embracing the girl makes it seem that the girl is much more interested in preserving her current state of being (which seems intimately connected to the earth). The boys of various shapes and types encourage her to leave her current situation (read existential state) but she doesn’t even “listen” to them, which posits or premises a moral or existential response which is acutely aware of her own self, and by implication, perfectly satisfied with that self. In rejecting the young suitors the image of the working girl is the dominant image associated with the poem. She envelops the lusts of the boys in much the same way as the wind envelops her. And though the boys’ attraction to her beauty posits an almost fatal quality, a femme fatale archetype, the girl stoically resists Athena-like and almost holy indifferent.
There are a variety of contrasting images and forces in Lorca’s works. I would say these oppositions are a few of the most prominent and interesting stylistic feature of his poetic style. Lorca juxtaposes a kind of connotative permanence, as evidenced in the almost defiant and feminized tree and peasant girl, against the impermanent bravado and raw sexuality associated with the boys. It may be that each opposition (the girl and nature v. the boys and humanity) and the interaction (or lack thereof) is itself a kind of allegory; perhaps Lorca’s showing the experiential truth that human beings are torn between the desire to connect with the land and the agrarian self, but the modern world compels them to deny that desire in favor of satisfying our desire for a more human connection (Marxist & Freudian readings aside, the possibilities are seemingly endless).
You may also notice further oppositions in the poem. The first few set of boys are described as “Riders…on Andalusian ponies” which makes their actions seem hurried and their gestures toward the “pretty faced” girl (perhaps) insincere? Whereas, the girl simply and stoically picks olives. In other words, the boys are all “going places” and she remains where she is. The first two sets of boys’ attire are described in terms of their colors, which in turn implies a type of fashionable complexity, yet the girl’s described in terms of her natural aesthetics: e.g., her “pretty face”, which implies a kind of organic simplicity. Olive tress have a notorious reputation for maturing slowly and living long, whereas the bull fighters are trained at early ages and literally try to extinguish life as quickly and efficiently as possible (they often die in sport as well – is she another trophy they try to lull into confusion?) The Olive tree (and it’s branches) are traditionally symbols of peace, and the bull-fighting males act as almost dramatic foils, further distancing the bullfighters from the bucolic life associated with the Olive grove. In Homer’s Odyssey the Olive tree is associated with home, family, and rest, and to extend the pattern interpretively, perhaps the young males seek to uproot the traditional notions of life and the family, transplanting it into new platitudes of experience.
The always interesting Ars Poetic: You may want to note that the girl is working this entire time from morning through sunset, and this may lend itself to some interesting interpretations of what Lorca may be saying about writing poetry and the craftsmanship it entails. Poets and critics may read labor in certain poems as metaphors and symbols for the poet’s method, feelings, and opinions about the nature of his own craft.
A Brief Analysis of Lorca's "Arbole, Arbole"
by Andrew S. Engwall

| Posted on 2009-11-18 | by a guest

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