An Exegesis of the first song of Federico García Lorca’s Gypsy Ballads:  the Romance of the Moon, Moon


Author: Arturo Pagán, Ph.D. student in Multi-Sector Communications program

About Federico García Lorca

García Lorca was a Spanish poet, playwright and director who lived from 1898 – 1936.  He is part of the poets of the Generation of 27, a groups who brought elements of European movements into Spanish Literature such as futurism, surrealism, and symbolism.  It is believed he was murdered at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War by Nationalist forces. 

(“Federico García Lorca Predicted His Own Death in a Poem.,” 2021)

Lorca was born and raised in Southern Spain in the greater Granada area which had a deep influence in his work, particularly the rich culture of Andalucía, and themes of gypsies, nature, Jewish/Roman beliefs, and children.  During his adolescence, he developed an affinity for music, being inspired by Debussy, Chopin and Beethoven as well as some Spanish composers.  This affinity also contributes to the musical eloquence of his poems with a mathematical precision – all of the poems in the collection the Gypsy Ballads are composed in octosyllabic verse. 

Lorca was an artist and writer who had great interaction with the artistic community of Spain in the 20s – he was friends with surrealists Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñel.  It is rumored that while there was a strong mutual passion between Dalí and Lorca, it is rumored Lorca’s sexual advances towards Dalí were rejected.  Lorca’s art covered themes of Andalusian motifs, cubist syntax and sexual identity, as well as portraits which represented his conviction that sorrow and joy were as inseparable as life and death. (“Federico García Lorca,” 2022)    He is known for three plays, Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding)Yerma, and the House of Bernarda Alba, which are tragedies speaking against some of Spain’s cultural and social norms at the time. 

Lorca spent some time in NYC, studying at Columbia University and returned home to 30s at the time when Spain was in the midst of a civil war.  While he was known to have friends in both the Republican and Nationalist movements, he was perceived to be a socialist with outspoken political views who engaged in homosexual and abnormal practices – it appears his sexuality more than his politics were what led to his execution in 1936 at the young age of 38. (“Federico García Lorca Predicted His Own Death in a Poem.,” 2021)  His remains are still missing.  Franco’s regime placed a ban García Lorca’s work, which was not rescinded until 1953. (“Federico García Lorca,” 2022)

What is interesting is that he predicted his own death while in New York:

Then I realized I had been murdered.
They looked for me in cafes, cemeteries and churches
…. but they did not find me.
They never found me?
No. They never found me.

From “The Fable And Round of the Three Friends,”
Poet in New York (1929), García Lorca

Pericope:  Romance de la luna, luna  – Ballad of the moon, moon

Romance de la luna, luna La luna vino a la fragua
Con su polisón de nardos
El niño la mira, mira
El niño la está mirandoEn el aire conmovido
Mueve la luna sus brazos
Y enseña, lúbrica y pura
Sus senos de duro estañoHuye luna, luna, luna
Si vinieran los gitanos
Harían con tu corazón
Collares y anillos blancosNiño, déjame que baile
Cuando vengan los gitanos
Te encontrarán sobre el yunque
Con los ojillos cerradosHuye luna, luna, luna
que ya siento sus caballos
Niño, déjame
No pises mi blancor almidonadoEl jinete se acercaba
Tocando el tambor del llano
Dentro de la fragua, el niño
Tiene los ojos cerradosPor el olivar venían
Bronce y sueño, los gitanos
Las cabezas levantadas
Y los ojos entornados¡Cómo canta la zumaya!
Ay, ¡cómo canta en el árbol!
Por el cielo va la luna
Con un niño de la manoDentro de la fragua lloran
Dando gritos, los gitanos
El aire la vela, vela
El aire la está velando 
Ballad of the moon, moon Moon came to the forgein her petticoat of nardThe boy looks, looksthe boy looks at the MoonIn the turbulent airMoon lifts up her armsshowing — pure and sexy — her beaten-tin breasts Run Moon run Moon MoonIf the gypsies camewhite rings and white necklacesthey would beat from your heart Boy will you let me dance — when the gypsies comethey’ll find you on the anvilwith your little eyes shut Run Moon run Moon MoonI hear the horses’ hoofsLeave me boy! Don’t walkon my lane of white starch The horseman came beatingthe drum of the plainsThe boy at the forgehas his little eyes shut Through the olive grovesin bronze and in dreamshere the gypsies cometheir heads riding hightheir eyelids hanging low How the night heron singshow it sings in the treeMoon crosses the skywith a boy by the hand At the forge the gypsiescry and then screamThe wind watches, watchesthe wind watches the Moon(Foundation, 2022)

Analysis of Romance of the moon, moon

Romance of the moon was the first poem of the Romancero Gitano – the Gypsy Ballads, a book which was published in 1928, with 18 ballads telling the difficult stories of the Gypsy people living in Andalucía, Spain and who were marginalized particularly before the period of fascism in Europe.  Romance of the moon is the story of a young boy in a blacksmith shop who dies and interacts with the moon. As with the other poems in the Ballads, the reader should be aware the stories are told from the perspective of a speaker who is already dead.

The story is a beautiful interaction between the boy and the moon who is personified and symbolizes death and takes the boy by the hand – a touching interaction which symbolized a sad event.  The imagery is vivid, the moon is a beautiful, very feminine being which is intensely white like the tuberose flower which was associated with funerals.  This poem which talks about death also makes vivid use of the color white (the moon, the tuberose).  Lorca in some of his other poems uses a color as part of the rhyme.  In “Verde que te quiero verde,” green is the color of death. 

There is then a beautiful dialogue between the moon and the boy, the boy asking her to leave as his people, the gypsies would make necklaces and rings from her heart (this makes sense as they were in a blacksmith shop) and the moon tells him that once the gypsies come, they will find him lifeless over the anvil with his eyes closed.   The beauty of myth and reality dancing together.

There is then an allusion to the gypsy people, bronzed and dreaming and the Zumaya, a nocturnal bird of prey which is found in towers and steeples and is a bird associated with death which sings on a tree as the sky the moon walks with with boy – an image of a mother accompanying her son.

The gypsies then cry out – representing the pain of the family, of the community and the wind watches to ensure, accompany the boy to his eternal rest. 

There is rich imagery provided in the poem – a personification of the moon, death that comes like a horseman, and the wind which watches over and ensures the passing.  There is symbolism in the metals (the moon has breasts of tin), the gypsies can make jewelry from the moon’s heart, the boy dies over the anvil and the air and wind have a purpose.  There is an active use of repetition “Huye, luna, luna, luna” – “El niño la mira, mira, el niño las está mirando…” and metaphors – the air is turbulent and the moon raises up her arms showing her pure and sexy breasts… the wind watches. (“▷ Análisis Romance de la Luna ️»【Federico García Lorca】,” 2020)

Lorca dedicated the poem to his sister and he is the lyrical speaker – transmitting emotions, feelings and ideas through the poem and also inviting the reader to take an active role which works in Spanish, but not in the English translation where the two lines could be rewritten as – “The moon looks, LOOK…” “The wind watches, WATCH…” 

As mentioned earlier, the poem is highly structured in isosyllabic metre (eight syllables in each line), and assonant rhyme in evenly numbered lines, which is common in Spanish romance poetry.  This lends the poem a beautify, melodic rhythm which conveys though a strong sense of suspense, a playful dance and a sad tragedy. 

Garcia Lorca’s plays, Blood Weddings, Yerma, and the House of Bernarda Alba are regularly performed in New York at the Repertorio Español, 138 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016.


▷ Análisis Romance de la Luna ️»【Federico García Lorca】. (2020, May 9). Tallando Poemas.

Federico García Lorca. (2022). In Wikipedia.

Federico García Lorca predicted his own death in a poem. (2021, August 19). Literary  Hub.

Foundation, P. (2022, April 24). Ballad of the Moon Moon by Federico García Lorca( [Text/html]. Poetry Magazine; Poetry Magazine.

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