Nelson Orringer

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference








Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Though praised by its author for its unity, Lorca’s Romancero gitano seemingly ends in disarray (Obras 3: 339).1 The final three ballads appear arbitrarily grouped under the rubric, Romances históricos. First, Martirio de Santa Olalla embellishes the martyrdom of fourth-century Saint Eulalia in Roman-ruled Mérida; next, Burla de Don Pedro a caballo parodies the cycle of fourteenth-century Pedro the Cruel; finally, Thamar y Amnón lyrically revisits the incest of 2 Samuel 13: 1. What unites the three, other than remote temporal settings, and what makes them historical ballads? C. Marcilly unconvincingly interprets the Don Pedro ballad as an allegory of Saint Peter’s three renunciations of Christ, appropriately placed between two additional religious ballads of Romancero gitano. Yet the religiousness of these two ballads is questionable. Also, the poem on Don Pedro, dated December 1921, preceded by three years the conception of Romancero gitano (Martín 344; García-Posada 9). The present study shows that Lorca grounds his understanding of historical balladry on the notion of Volksgeist or “cultural spirit,” filtered through mid- nineteenth-century philologist Agustín Durán; and that Lorca’s musical mentor and friend Manuel de Falla helps him focus Volksgeist theory on Andalusia, specifically, its gypsy component. The ballad on Don Pedro, Martín argues, contains a self-critique of Lorca as a poet (352).2 His later insertion of this poem into Romancero gitano, I will point out, implies his self-reevaluation as a “son of Andalusia,” according to C. Brian Morris.3 Lorca self-consciously embodies its Volksgeist, which he finds rooted in a feeling of insufficiency in the cosmos. All three of these historical ballads form a triptych, inspiring atavistic sentiments on the mystery of Andalusian aesthetic tradition, which defies that sense of helplessness.