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The Stephen Spender Prize 2016 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

14-and-under category, commended

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2016 booklet
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years


Thomas Delgado-Little

The Crime


1. The Crime
He was seen walking between rifles,
along a long road,
leading to a cold field,
accompanied by the stars of dawn.
They killed Federico,
when the light peered out.
The pack of executioners dared not look at his face.
All closed their eyes;
they prayed: Not even God can save you!
Federico fell, dead
– blood on the temple and lead in the gut –
And the crime took place in Granada
– poor Granada! – to think, in his Granada.

2. Death and the Poet
He was seen walking alone with Her,
unafraid of her scythe.
The sun drifts from tower to tower, hammers
on anvil – anvil upon anvil in the forges.
Federico spoke,
flirting with death. She listened.
'For yesterday in my verse, comrade,
the beat of your dry palms echoed,
you threw ice on my song, and sharpened my tragedy
with the blade of your silver sickle,
I will sing of the flesh that you do not have,
your missing eyes
your hair blown away by the wind,
red lips that were once kissed…
Today, as yesterday, gypsy, my death,
so happy alone with you,
through the breeze of Granada, my Granada!'

3.
He was seen walking…
My friends, carve
at the Alhambra in stone and dream
a tomb to the poet,
on a fountain where water can weep,
and forever repeat:
The crime was in Granada, in his Granada!

Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Delgado-Little
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El Crimen Fue En Granada


1. El Crimen

Se le vio, caminando entre fusiles,
por una calle larga,
salir al campo frío,
aún con estrellas, de la madrugada.
Mataron a Federico
cuando la luz asomaba.
El pelotón de verdugos
no osó mirarle la cara.
Todos cerraron los ojos;
rezaron: ¡ni Dios te salva!
Muerto cayó Federico.
–sangre en la frente y plomo en las entrañas–.
…Que fue en Granada el crimen
sabed –¡pobre Granada!–, en su Granada…

2. El Poeta y la Muerte

Se le vio caminar solo con Ella,
sin miedo a su guadaña.
Ya el sol en torre y torre; los martillos
en yunque – yunque y yunque de las fraguas.
Hablaba Federico,
requebrando a la muerte. Ella escuchaba.
'Porque ayer en mi verso, compañera,
sonaba el golpe de tus secas palmas,
y diste el hielo a mi cantar, y el filo
a mi tragedia de tu hoz de plata,
te cantaré la carne que no tienes,
los ojos que te faltan,
tus cabellos que el viento sacudía,
los rojos labios donde te besaban…
Hoy como ayer, gitana, muerte mía,
qué bien contigo a solas,
por estos aires de Granada, ¡mi Granada!'

3.
Se le vio caminar..
Labrad, amigos,
de piedra y sueño, en el Alhambra,
un túmulo al poeta,
sobre una fuente donde llore el agua,
y eternamente diga:
el crimen fue en Granada, ¡en su Granada!

Antonio Machado
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Translation commentary

As a young boy, I visited Antonio Machado's tomb in Collioure. I couldn't stop thinking about his journey to the French border with his mother at the end of the Spanish Civil War as Franco's forces took over the remaining Republican strongholds in Catalonia. Here was a man who died three days before his mother, who is buried alongside him. It shouldn't be this way. There is a melancholy tone to this story that I also see in his poetry. This poem is also about death, the death of a fellow poet, Federico García Lorca, another victim of the Spanish Civil War. While Machado's passing came at the end of the War, Lorca's came at its beginning. And in this poem Machado delivers a eulogy to his dead friend.

The poem presents Lorca's death, not as an accident of war but as a crime committed by lawless troops operating like wild animals – this is why I have translated 'pelotón de verdugos' as 'pack of executioners'. I have tried to capture the repetition in the poem, the constant message that Lorca was killed in his home city of Granada; it is as if the city betrayed him and sent him to his death, a Christ-like martyr walking to be shot at dawn. The phrase 'se le vio caminando' or 'caminar' (he was seen walking) begins each verse, another example of the repetition that is a trademark of the poem. It is as if people saw him pass and did nothing. Granada is like a character in the poem, with references to its famous Alhambra palace, its breezes, and its gypsies. In this poem I like to think Machado is talking to Lorca. In the year of the 80th anniversary of Lorca's death, Machado reminds us of why Lorca matters today.

Thomas Delgado-Little