Little Viennese Waltz – Poem by Federico García Lorca

“Take This Waltz” is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, originally released as part the 1986 Federico García Lorca tribute album Poets in New York (Poetas en Nueva York) and as a single. The song was later included in Cohen’s 1988 studio album I’m Your Man, in slightly re-arranged version (with addition of violin and Jennifer Warnes’s duet vocals, both absent from the 1986 version). The song’s lyrics are a loose translation, into English, of the poem “Pequeño vals vienés” by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca(one of Cohen’s favourite poets). The poem was first published in Lorca’s seminal book Poeta en Nueva York.

Below is the English version of Federico García Lorca’s poem to commemorate the 118th anniversary of his birth.

In Vienna there are ten little girls,
a shoulder for death to cry on,
and a forest of dried pigeons.
There is a fragment of the morning
in the museum of winter frost.
There is a thousand-windowed dance hall.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this close-mouthed waltz.

Little waltz, little waltz, little waltz,
of itself of death, and of brandy
that dips its tail in the sea.

I love you, I love you, I love you,
with the armchair and the book of death,
down the melancholy hallway,
in the iris’s darkened garret,
in our bed that is the moon’s bed,
an in the dance the turtle dreams of.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this broken-waisted waltz.

In Vienna there are four mirrors
in which your mouth and the echoes play.
There is a death for piano
that paints little boys blue.
There are beggars on the roof.
There are fresh garlands of tears.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this waltz that dies in my arms.

Because I love you, I love you, my love,
in the attic where the children play,
dreaming ancient lights of Hungary
through the noise, the balmy afternoon,
seeing sheep and irises of snow
through the dark silence of your forehead.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this ” I will always love you” waltz

In Vienna I will dance with you
in a costume with
a river’s head.
See how the hyacinths line my banks!
I will leave my mouth between your legs,
my soul in a photographs and lilies,
and in the dark wake of your footsteps,
my love, my love, I want to leave
violin and grave, the ribbons of the waltz.

Federico García Lorca, Poeta en Nueva York, 1929 y 1930.

6 thoughts on “Little Viennese Waltz – Poem by Federico García Lorca”

    1. No: The album (LP) from which this song comes. I haven’t done a proper look (life’s a bit hectic here today), but it seems the vinyl version can be had for a fortune and there’s no CD/download/streaming version, as one might expect.

      Talking of Jennifer Warnes (as you did), have you heard her CD of Cohen covers, Famous Blue Raincoat? It really is worth tracking down.

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