Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Leonard Cohen's posthumous album (2019)
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Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by Hartmut »

So ..., “The Night of Santiago”, one of the songs on Leonard's new album “Thanks for the Dance”.

The song – like “Take This Waltz” – is based on a Spanish language poem by Federico García Lorca.

I've put together some resources about the poem and its translations, for anyone that is interested.

The original poem “La casada infiel”:

The classic translation (“The Faithless Wife”) by J. L. Gili:

A newer translation (“The Unfaithful Housewife”) by Conor O’Callaghan: ... -housewife

Some notes (that mention Leonard) on O’Callaghan's translation: ... rc-a-lorca

And, finally, Leonard's translation: ... -santiago/

It is also to be found in Leonard's “Book of Longing”, under the title “The Faithless Wife”. You can hear him read it in the audio version of that book.

The Philip Glass song based on Leonard's translation:
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by alb123 »

Thank you for sharing those links @Hartmut! :D :D :D

I'm shocked to learn this is not a 100% original Leonard Cohen idea/framework, however, I'm not shocked to learn Leonard got inspiration from a Federico García Lorca poem. Leonard really respected that man.
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by Hartmut »

alb123 wrote: Wed Dec 25, 2019 7:25 pm Thank you for sharing those links @Hartmut! :D :D :D
You're very welcome! :-)
alb123 wrote: Wed Dec 25, 2019 7:25 pm I'm shocked to learn this is not a 100% original Leonard Cohen idea/framework,
Then you'd better not examine the background of "Alexandra Leaving" too closely ...
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by its4inthemorning »

Hartmut, thanks for the links, I was not aware of the connection to Lorca's poem. Interesting that one of my favorite lines that I cited earlier, "Though I've forgotten half my life, I still remember this" does not seem to appear in Lorca's poem and was evidently Leonard's addition.

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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by kirahytrou65 »

Useful links! Thanks!
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by TomBohan »

Perhaps the reason for the wonderful couplet “Though I’ve forgotten half my life, I still remember this” appears in Night of Santiago, but not in La Casada Infiel comes from the fact that LC was an old man when he signed off on his version and García Lorca was a young man (in 1928) when he published his version.
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by fradi0 »

yeah I agree with you tom
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by ForYourSmile »

Very much in agreement, that line is understood very well by those of us who already have in our memory some moments of life. Whit this addition, the poem takes on a more nostalgic perspective.

Cohen's adaptations are free and, furthermore, we have to know the translation, which is also another adaptation. That is why I consider important the resources provided by Hartmut.

For example, I still think there is an important nuance between “wife” and “married” (of Castilian “casada”, from original poem “La casada infiel”). Married is just a social commitment, right?

Lorca's influence was fundamental in Cohen, it has lasted and he has always recognized it in many ways. In my opinion, the importance of the discovery has to do with Cohen's age and with the brilliance, strength and free expression of Lorca's work, more than with his literal content. Let's keep in mind when Cohen found that book, Lorca's assassination and the Spanish Civil War were myths of that time. I have perceived interpretations of Cohen that I understand as an idealized elaboration in the mind of an extraordinary poet. Cohen has been a powerful intellectual who has immersed in many different influences.

If you are interested in this relationship, I invite you to review “Influence of Federico García Lorca” is from 2005, in this forum you will find many other related topics. There tomsakic copied “The Faithless Wife”, at that time I still didn't have “Book of Longing” and it was a gift to me. tomsakic says “Sounds like a song to me…” and he was so right.
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Re: Some resources on “The Night of Santiago”

Post by I'm your fan »

Federico García Lorca's poem, La Casada Infiel, (The Unfaithfull Married) talks about his supposed meeting with a married girl (that he didn't know) in one part of the poem, Lorca says a resounding expression, “Fue la noche de Santiago y casi por compromiso” (“It was the night of Santiago and almost for commitment"); this phrase refers to the fact that at the same time that the young man was with his lover, the festival of Santiago Apóstol was being celebrated, a traditional festival that takes place in the City of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. That is why the expression called "Santiago night", and by "almost by commitment" refers to the fact that the gypsy goes with the woman almost out of obligation, not for his pleasure.
What is the night of Santiago?
Santiago el Mayor is the Spanish name of James the Great, also known as James, son of Zebedee, Saint James the Great, Saint James the Greater, Saint James the Elder, or Saint Jacob. He was the first among the apostles to acquire the martyr status. His holiday is celebrated on the 25th of July in Santiago de Compostela. If the 25th of July falls on Sunday, the year is called "Jacobean Year". So "la noche de Santiago" was the night of the 25th of July in Santiago de Compostela.
In the celebration of the 25th of July (which is particularly Santiago de Compostela celebration), the fire, the noise and even the smell of gunpowder marked, over many years, the magic of the night.
La Casada Infiel begins with: "Y que yo me la llevé al río/creyendo que era mozuela/pero tenía marido". ("And I took her to the river/believing she was a girl/but she had a husband".)
Then, there is an an engraving from the series Los Caprichos by the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). Los caprichos (The Caprices) is a set of 80 prints in aquatint and etching created by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya in 1797–1798, and published as an album in 1799.
One of the prints is a set of two prints called "Que se la llevaron...!" (They took her!) and " río creyendo que era mozuela" ( the river thinking she was a girl.)
Probably Lorca was influenced by Goya.
Goya's Caprichos ("Caprices") Caprichos are above all a satire conceived as a means to combat the vices of men and the absurdities of human conduct. Simplifying the series, we can group the prints around four major themes, all of them undoubtedly critical in tone. In the first of them, he deals with deceit in relationships between men and women: courtship as a habitual practice according to which modern men, busy with their various businesses, let their wives be accompanied on their outings by a gallant; prostitution that denigrated and exploited the status of both sexes; and unequal or convenience marriages, a common practice of his time and criticized by the enlightened. The satire of rudeness and ignorance, the result of the enlightened concern for this issue, is reflected in the Caprichos that show the consequences of wrong teaching in children; the false beliefs and the superstitions product of the ignorance; and witchcraft as the supreme manifestation of lack of instruction and superstition. The condemnation of the vices rooted in society, and particularly in the clergy, also have a place: vanity, gluttony, laziness, lust or greed are shown to us in a caustic way in another group of prints. Finally, other Whims show their protest against the abuses of power: the Inquisition, the arrogance of the ruling classes, the exploitation of the people and the injustices of the law.
Particularly, in the case of the Capricho Que se la llevaron, the author addresses the issue of the inability to understand between men and women. Of the latter, the scene alludes to "deceit and the mask", satirically representing the monastic lewdness identified with the hooded figure. Goya satirizes not only the religious, but also the woman victim of kidnapping, because he believes that only the woman who either does not want or does not know how to protect herself is kidnapped, so it is her own bad instincts or passions that make her take her away.
I hope my contribution can help you to understand a little more (or to shed some light on) the song "The Night of Santiago".
Alfonso Ansó Rojo.
Zaragoza (Spain)
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