“Fortunately, somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether.”
Meditative Rose, Salvador Dalí, 1958
A rose in the high garden you desire.
A wheel in the pure syntax of steel.
The mountain stripped bare of Impressionist fog,
The grays watching over the last balustrades.
The modern painters in their white ateliers
clip the square root’s sterilized flower.
In the waters of the Seine a marble iceberg
chills the windows and scatters the ivy.
Man treads firmly on the cobbled streets.
Crystals hide from the magic of reflections.
The Government has closed the perfume stores.
The machine perpetuates its binary beat.
An absence of forests and screens and brows
roams across the roofs of the old houses.
The air polishes its prism on the sea
and the horizon rises like a great aqueduct.
Soldiers who know no wine and no penumbra
behead the sirens on the seas of lead.
Night, black statue of prudence, holds
the moon’s round mirror in her hand.
A desire for forms and limits overwhelms us.
Here comes the man who sees with a yellow ruler.
Venus is a white still life
and the butterfly collectors run away.
Cadaqués, at the fulcrum of water and hill,
lifts flights of stairs and hides seashells.
Wooden flutes pacify the air.
An ancient woodland god gives the children fruit.
Her fishermen sleep dreamless on the sand.
On the high sea a rose is their compass.
The horizon, virgin of wounded handkerchiefs,
links the great crystals of fish and moon.
A hard diadem of white brigantines
encircles bitter foreheads and hair of sand.
The sirens convince, but they don’t beguile,
and they come if we show a glass of fresh water.
Dalí and García Lorca
Oh Salvador Dalí, of the olive-colored voice!
I do not praise your halting adolescent brush
or your pigments that flirt with the pigment of your times,
but I laud your longing for eternity with limits.
Sanitary soul, you live upon new marble.
You run from the dark jungle of improbable forms.
Your fancy reaches only as far as your hands,
and you enjoy the sonnet of the sea in your window.
The world is dull penumbra and disorder
in the foreground where man is found.
But now the stars, concealing landscapes,
reveal the perfect schema of their courses.
The current of time pools and gains order
in the numbered forms of century after century.
And conquered Death takes refuge trembling
in the tight circle of the present instant.
When you take up your palette, a bullet hole in its wing,
you call on the light that brings the olive tree to life.
The broad light of Minerva, builder of scaffolds,
where there is no room for dream or its hazy flower.
You call on the old light that stays on the brow,
not descending to the mouth or the heart of man.
A light feared by the loving vines of Bacchus
and the chaotic force of curving water.
You do well when you post warning flags
along the dark limit that shines in the night.
As a painter, you refuse to have your forms softened
by the shifting cotton of an unexpected cloud.
The fish in the fishbowl and the bird in the cage.
You refuse to invent them in the sea or the air.
You stylize or copy once you have seen
their small, agile bodies with your honest eyes.
You love a matter definite and exact,
where the toadstool cannot pitch its camp.
You love the architecture that builds on the absent
and admit the flag simply as a joke.
The steel compass tells its short, elastic verse.
Unknown clouds rise to deny the sphere exists.
The straight line tells of its upward struggle
and the learned crystals sing their geometries.
But also the rose of the garden where you live.
Always the rose, always, our north and south!
Calm and ingathered like an eyeless statue,
not knowing the buried struggle it provokes.
Pure rose, clean of artifice and rough sketches,
opening for us the slender wings of the smile.
(Pinned butterfly that ponders its flight.)
Rose of balance, with no self-inflicted pains.
Always the rose!
Oh Salvador Dali, of the olive-colored voice!
I speak of what your person and your paintings tell me.
I do not praise your halting adolescent brush,
but I sing the steady aim of your arrows.
I sing your fair struggle of Catalan lights,
your love of what might be made clear.
I sing your astronomical and tender heart,
a never-wounded deck of French cards.
I sing your restless longing for the statue,
your fear of the feelings that await you in the street.
I sing the small sea siren who sings to you,
riding her bicycle of corals and conches.
But above all I sing a common thought
that joins us in the dark and golden hours.
The light that blinds our eyes is not art.
Rather it is love, friendship, crossed swords.
Not the picture you patiently trace,
but the breast of Theresa, she of sleepless skin,
the tight-wound curls of Mathilde the ungrateful,
our friendship, painted bright as a game board.
May fingerprints of blood on gold
streak the heart of eternal Catalunya.
May stars like falconless fists shine on you,
while your painting and your life break into flower.
Don’t watch the water clock with its membraned wings
or the hard scythe of the allegory.
Always in the air, dress and undress your brush
before the sea peopled with sailors and ships.
Federico García Lorca
The poem was first published in the original Spanish in April 1926 in the Revista de Occidente; a luxury edition to be published by Emilio Prados was planned for 1927 but never appeared.
‘The Ode constitutes not only a fervent affirmation of Lorca’s friendship with Dalí but an appraisal of contemporary painting as represented in Spain by his friend. Lorca admired in Dali’s work – as in that of his cubist predecessors – its symmetry, objectivity and lack of sentimentality, its flight from both outmoded realism and the “impressionist mist”… The Ode to Salvador Dalí is perhaps the finest paean to friendship ever written in Spanish, and the fact that it appeared in one of the most important journals in Europe filled the painter with pride, as he recalled in 1980. Nor did the poem fail to attract the attention of the critics…’ (Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca, 1989, p. 159-162).
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