Make your own free website on Tripod.com

|HOME|

 

 

 

YERMA

A TRAGIC POEM IN THREE ACTS AND SIX SCENES

 

by Federico Garcia Lorca (1934)

Translated by James Graham-Lujan and Richard L. O’Connell

 

 

CHARACTERS

 

YERMA

MARIA

JUAN

VICTOR

PAGAN CRONE

DOLORES

FIRST LAUNDRESS

SECOND LAUNDRESS

THIRD LAUNDRESS

FOURTH LAUNDRESS

FIFTH LAUNDRESS

SIXTH LAUNDRESS

FIRST YOUNG GIRL

SECOND YOUNG GIRL

THE FEMALE MASK

THE MALE MASK

FIRST SISTER-IN-LAW

SECOND SISTER-IN-LAW

FIRST WOMAN

SECOND WOMAN

THE CHILD

FIRST MAN

SECOND MAN

THIRD MAN

 

 

ACT ONE

SCENE 1

 

When the curtain rises Yerma is asleep with an em­broidery frame at her feet. The stage is in the strange light of a dream. A Shepherd enters on tiptoe looking fixedly at Yerma. lie leads by the hand a Child dressed in white. The clock sounds. When the Shepherd leaves,  the light changes into the happy brightness of a spring morning. Yerma awakes

 

 

VOICE, within, singing

                For the nursery, nursery, nursery

                  For the little nurse we’ll make

                   A tiny hut out in the fields

                   And there we’ll shelter take

YERMA. Juan, do you hear me? Juan!

JUAN. Coming

YERMA. It’s time now

JUAN. Did the oxen go by?

YERMA. They’ve already gone.

JUAN. See you later.

He starts to leave.

YERMA. Won’t you have a glass of milk?

JUAN. What for?

YERMA. You work a lot and your body’s not strong enough for it.

JUAN. When men grow thin they get strong as steel.

YERMA. But not you. You were different when we were first married. Now you've got a face as white as though the sun had never shone on it. I'd like to see you go to the river and swim or climb up on the roof when the rain beats down on our house. Twenty-four months we've been married and you only get sadder, thinner, as if you were grow­ing backwards.

 JUAN. Are you finished?

YERMA, rising. Don't take it wrong. If I were sick I'd like you to take care of me. "My wife's sick. I'm going to butcher this lamb and cook her a good meat dish." "My wife's sick. I'm going to save this chicken-fat to relieve her chest; I'm going to take her this sheepskin to protect her feet from the snow." That's the way I am. That's why I take care of you.                                                                                             

  JUAN. I'm grateful.

  YERMA. But you don't let me take care of you.                                                          

  JUAN. Because there's nothing wrong with me. All these things are just your imagination. I work hard. Each year I'll get older.

 YERMA. Each year. You and I will just go on here each year...'

  JUAN, smiling. Why. of course. And very peacefully. Our work goes well, we've no children to worry about.

  YERMA. We've no children. ...Juan!                                                                          

  JUAN. What is it?

  YERMA. I love you, don't I?                                                                                      

  JUAN. Yes, you love me.                                                                                           

  YERMA. I know girls who trembled and cried before get­ting into bed with their husbands. Did I cry the first time I went to bed with you? Didn't I sing as I turned back the fine linen bed-clothes? And didn't I tell you, "These bed-clothes smell of apples!"

  JUAN. That's what you said!

  YERMA. My mother cried because I wasn't sorry to leave her. And that's true! No one ever got married with more happiness. And yet...

  JUAN. Hush! I have a hard enough job hearing all the time that I'm...

  YERMA. No. Don't tell me what they say. I can see with my own eyes that that isn't so. The rain just by the force of its falling on the stones softens them and makes weeds grow-weeds which people say aren't good for anything. "Weeds aren't good for anything," yet I see them plainly enough-moving their yellow flowers in the wind.

JUAN. We've got to wait!

YERMA. Yes; loving each other.

 

Yerma embraces and kisses her husband. She takes the initiative.

JUAN. If you need anything, tell me, and I'll bring it to you. You know well enough I don't like you to be going out.

YERMA. I never go out.

JUAN. You're better off here.

YERMA. Yes.

JUAN. The street's for people with nothing to do.

YERMA, darkly. Of course.

 

The husband leaves. Yerma walks toward her sewing. She passes her hand over her belly, lifts her arms in a beautiful sigh, and sits down to sew.

 

YERMA.

 

From where do you come, my love, my baby?                  

"From the mountains of icy cold."

What do you lack, sweet love, my baby?

"The woven warmth in your dress."

 

She threads the needle.

      Let the branches tremble in the sun

      and the fountains leap all around!

    As If she spoke to a child.

      In the courtyard the dog barks,

      In the trees the wind sings.

      The oxen low for the ox-herd,

      and the moon curls up my hair.

      What want you, boy, from so far away?                   

                            Pause.

      "The mountains white upon your chest."

      Let the branches tremble in the sun

       and the fountains leap all around!

  

Sewing.

I shall say to you, child, yes, for you I'll torn and broken be.

How painful is this belly now, where first you shall he cradled! When, boy, when will you come to me?

Pause.

"When sweet your flesh of jasmine smells." Let the branches tremble in the sun and the fountains leap all around!

Yerma continues singing. Maria enters through the door carrying a bundle of clothes.

YERMA. Where are you coming from?

MARIA. From the store.

YERMA. From the store so early?

MARIA. For what I wanted, I'd have waited at the door till they opened. Can't you guess what I bought?

YERMA, You probably bought some coffee for breakfast; sugar, bread.

MARIA. No. I bought laces, three lengths of linen, ribbons, and colored wool to make tassels, My husband had the money and he gave it to me without my even asking for it.

YERMA. You're going to make a blouse?

MARIA. No, it's because . . . Can't you guess?

YERMA. What?

MARIA. Because . . . well  . . it's here now!

She lowers her head. Yerma rises and looks a her in admiration.

YERMA. In just five months?

MARIA. Yes.

YERMA. You can tell it's there?

MARIA. Naturally.

YERMA, with curiosity. But, how does it make you feel?

MARIA. I don't know. Sad; upset.

YERMA. Sad? Upset? Holding her.

But . .  when did he come? Tell me about It. You weren't expecting him.

MARIA. No, I wasn't expecting him.

YERMA. Why, you might have been singing; yes? I sing. You.. . tell me..

MARIA. Don't ask me about it. Have you ever held a live bird pressed in your hand?

YERMA. Yes.

MARIA. Well-the same way-but more in your blood.

YERMA. How beautiful!

She looks at her, beside herself.

MARIA. I'm confused. I don't know anything.

YERMA. About what?

MARIA. About what I must do. I'll ask my mother.

YERMA. What for? She's old now and she'll have for-gotten about these things. Don't walk very much, and when you breathe, breathe as softly as if you had a rose between your teeth.

MARIA. You know, they say that later he kicks you gently with his little legs.

YERMA. And that's when you love him best, when you can really say: "My child!"

MARIA. In the midst of all this, I feel ashamed.

YERMA. What has your husband said about it?

MARIA. Nothing.

YERMA. Does he love you a lot?

MARIA. He doesn't tell me so, but when he's close to me his eyes tremble like two green leaves.

YERMA. Did he know that you were...?

         MARIA, Yes.

YERMA. But, how did he know it?

MARIA. I don't know. But on our wedding night he kept telling me about it with his mouth pressed against my cheek; so that now it seems to me my child is a dove of fire he made slip in through my ear.

YERMA. Oh, how lucky you are!

MARIA. But you know more about these things than I do.

YERMA. And what good does it do me?

MARIA. That's true? why should it be like that? Out of all the brides of your time you're the only one who...

YERMA. That's the way it is. Of course, there's still 6m7. Helena was three years, and long ago some in my mother S time were much longer, but two years and twenty days-like me-is too long to wait. I don't think it's right for me to burn myself out here. Many nights I go out barefooted to the patio to walk on the ground. I don't know why I do it. If I keep on like this, I'll end by turning bad.

MARIA. But look here, you infant, you're talking as if you were an old woman. You listen to me, now! No one can complain about these things. A sister of my mother's had one after fourteen years, and you should have seen what a beautiful child that was?

YERMA, eagerly. What was he like?

MARIA. He used to bellow like a little bull, as loud as a thousand locusts all buzzing at once, and wet us, and pull our braids; and when he was four months old he scratched our faces all over.

YERMA, laughing. But those things don't hurt.

MARIA. Let me tell you-

YERMA. Bah! I've seen my sister nurse her child with her

breasts full of scratches. It gave her great pain, but it was a fresh pain-good, and necessary for health.

MARIA. They say one suffers a lot with children.

YERMA. That's a lie. That's what weak, complaining mothers say. What do they have them for? Having a child is no bouquet of roses. We must suffer to see them grow. I sometimes think half our blood must go. But that's good, healthy, beautiful. Every woman has blood for four or five children, and when she doesn't have them it turns to poison as it will in me.

MARIA. I don't know what's the matter with me.

YERMA. I've always heard it said that you're frightened the first time.

MARIA, timidly. We'll see. You know, you sew so well

YERMA, taking the bundle. Give it here. I'll cut you two little dresses. And ....?

MARIA. For diapers.

YERMA, she sits down. All right.

MARIA. Well. . . See you later.

As she comes near, Yerma lovingly presses her hands against her belly.

YERMA. Don't run on the cobblestones.

MARIA. Good-bye.

She kisses her and leaves.

YERMA. Come back soon.

Yerma is In the same attitude as at the beginning of the scene. She takes her scissors and starts to cut. Victor enters.

Hello, Victor.

VICTOR, he is deep looking and has a firm gravity about him. Where's Juan?

YERMA. Out in the fields.

VICTOR. What's that you're sewing?

YERMA. I’m cutting some diapers.

VICTOR, smiling. Well, now!

YERMA, laughs. I'm going to border them with lace.

VICTOR. If it's a girl, you give her your name.

YERMA, trembling. How's that?

VICTOR. I’m happy for you.

YERMA, almost choking. No . . . they aren't for me. They're for Maria's child.

VICTOR. Well then, let's see if her example will encourage you. This house needs a child in it.

YERMA, with anguish. Needs one!

VICTOR. Well, get along with it. Tell your husband to think less about his work. He wants to make money and he will, but who's he going to leave it to when he dies? I'm going out with my sheep. Tell Juan to take out the two he bought from me, and about this other thing-try harder!

He leaves, smiling.

YERMA, passionately. That's it! Try . ..

I shall say to you, child, yes,

for you I'll torn and broken be.

How painful is this belly now,

where first you shall be cradled!

When, child, when will you come to me?

Yerma, who has risen thoughtfully, goes to the place where Victor stood, and breathes deeply-like one who breathes mountain air. Then she goes to the other side of the room as If looking for something, and after that sits down and takes up the sewing again. She be gins to sew. Her eyes remain fixed on one point.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE

SCENE 2

 

 

 

 

 

A field. Yerma enters carrying a basket. The First Old Woman enters.

YERMA. Good morning!

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Good morning to a beautiful girl! Where are you going?

YERMA. I've just come from taking dinner to my husband who's working in the olive groves.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Have YOU been married very long?

YERMA. Three years.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Do you have any children?

YERMA. No.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Bah! You'll have them!

YERMA, eagerly. Do you think so?

FIRST OLD  WOMAN. Well, why not?

She sits down.

I, too, have just taken my husband his food. He's old. He still has to work. I have nine children, like nine golden suns, but since not one of them is a girl, here you have me going from one side to the other.

YERMA. You live on the other side of the river?

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Yes. In the mills. What family are you from?

YERMA. I'm Enrique the shepherd's daughter.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Ah! Enrique the shepherd. I knew him. Good people. Get up, sweat, eat some bread and die. No playing, no nothing. The fairs for somebody else. Silent creatures. I could have married an uncle of yours, but then . . . I I've been a woman with her skirts to the wind. I’ve run like an arrow to melon cuttings, to parties, to sugar cakes. Many times at dawn I've rushed to the door thinking I heard the music of guitars going along and coming nearer, but it was only the wind.

She laughs.

You'll laugh at me. I've had two husbands, fourteen children-five of them dead-and yet I'm not sad, and I'd like to live much longer. That's what I say! The fig trees, how they last! The houses, how they last! And only we poor bedeviled women turn to dust for any reason.

YERMA. I’d like to ask you a question.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Let's see.

 

She looks at her.

 

I know what you're going to ask me, and there's not a word you can say about those things.

 

She rises.

YERMA, holding her. But, why not? Hearing you talk has given me confidence. For some time I've been wanting to talk about it with an older woman-because I want to find out. Yes, you can tell me-

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Tell you what?

 

YERMA, lowering her voice. What you already know. Why am I childless? Must I be left in the prime of my life taking care of little birds, or putting up tiny pleated cur­tains at my little windows? No. You've got to tell me what to do, for I'll do anything you tell me-even to sticking needles in the weakest pad of my eyes.

 

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Me, tell you? I don't know anything about it. I laid down face up and began to sing. Children came like water. Oh, who can say this body we've got isn't beautiful? You take a step and at the end of the street a horse whinnies. Ay-y-y! Leave me alone, girl; don't make me talk. I have a lot of ideas I don't want to tell you about.

 

YERMA. Why not? I never talk about anything else with my husband!

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Listen: Does your husband please you?

YERMA. what?

FIRST OLD WOMAN. I mean-do you really love him? Do you long to be with him?

YERMA. I don't know.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Don't you tremble when he comes near you? Don't you feel something like a dream when he brings his lips close to yours? Tell me.

YERMA. No. I’ve never noticed it.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Never? Not even when you've danced?

YERMA, remembering. Perhaps . .  one time . . . with Victor

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Go on.

YERMA. He took me by the waist and I couldn't say a word to him, because I couldn't talk. Another time this same Victor, when I was fourteen years old-he was a husky boy-took me in his arms to leap a ditch and I started shaking so hard my teeth chattered. But I've always been shy.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. But with your husband. ..?

YERMA. My husband's something else. My father gave him to me and I took him. With happiness. That's the plain truth. Why, from the first day I was engaged to him I thought about . . . our children. And I could see myself in his eyes. Yes, but it was to see myself reflected very small, very manageable, as if I were my own daughter.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. It was just the opposite with me. Maybe that's why you haven't had a child yet. Men have got to give us pleasure, girl. They've got to take down our hair and let us drink water out of their mouths, So runs the world.

YERMA. Your world, but not mine. I think about a lot of things, a lot, and I'm sure that the things I think about will come true in my son. I gave myself over to my husband for his sake, and I go on giving to see if he'll be born-but never just for pleasure.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. And the only result is-you're empty!

YERMA. No, not empty, because I'm filling up with hate. Tell me; is it my fault? in a man do you have to look for only the man, nothing more? Then, what are you going to think when he lets you lie in bed looking at the ceiling with sad eyes, and he turns over and goes to sleep? Should I go on thinking of him or what can come shining out of my breast? I don't know; but you tell me-out of charity!

She kneels.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Oh, what an open flower! What a beautiful creature you are. You leave me alone. Don't make me say any more. I don't want to talk with you any more. These are matters of honor. And I don't burn anyone's honor. You'll find out. But you certainly ought to be less innocent.

YERMA, sadly. Girls like me who grow up in the country have all doors closed to them. Everything becomes half-­words, gestures, because all these things, they say, must not be talked about. And you, too; you, too, stop talking and go off with the air of a doctor-knowing everything, but keeping it from one who dies of thirst.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. To any other calm woman, I could speak; not to you. I’m an old woman and I know what I'm saying.

YERMA. Then, God help me.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Not God; I've never liked God. when will people realize he doesn't exist? Men are the ones who'll have to help you.

YERMA. But, why do you tell me that? Why?

FIRST OLD WOMAN, leaving. Though there should be a God, even a tiny one, to send his lightning against those men of rotted seed who make puddles out of the happiness of the fields.

YERMA. I don't know what you're trying to tell me.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Well, I know what I'm trying to say. Don't you be unhappy. Hope for the best. You're still very young. What do you want me to do?

She leaves. Two Girls appear.

FIRST GIRL. Everywhere we go we meet people.

YERMA. With all the work, the men have to be in the olive groves, and we must take them their food. No one I left at home but the old people.

SECOND GIRL. Are you on your way back to the village?

YERMA. I'm going that way.

FIRST GIRL. I’m in a great hurry. 1 left my baby asleep and there's no one in the house.

YERMA. Then hurry up, woman. You can't leave babies alone like that. Are there any pigs at your place?

FIRST GIRL. No. But you're right. I'm going right away.

YERMA. Go on. That's how things happen. Surely you've locked him in?

FIRST GIRL. Naturally.

YERMA. Yes, but even so, we don’t realize what a tiny child is. The thing that seems most harmless to us might finish him off. A little needle. A swallow of water.

FIRST GIRL. You're right. I'm on my way. I just don't think of those things.

YERMA. Get along now!

SECOND GIRL. If you had four or five, you wouldn't talk like that.

YERMA. Why not? Even if I had forty.

SECOND GIRL. Anyway, you and I, not having any, live more peacefully.

YERMA. Not I.

SECOND GIRL. I do. What a bother! My mother, on the other hand, does nothing but give me herbs so I'll have

them, and in October we're going to the saint who, they say, gives them to women who ask for them eagerly. My mother will ask for them, not I.

YERMA. They, why did you marry?

SECOND GIRL. Because they married me off. They get everyone married. If we keep on like this, the only unmar­ried ones will be the little girls. Well, anyway, you really get married long before you go to the church. But the old women keep worrying about all these things. I'm nineteen and I don't like to cook or do washing. Well, now I have to spend the whole day doing what I don't like to do. And all for what? We did the same things as sweethearts that we do now. It's all just the old folks' silly ideas.

YERMA. Be quiet; don't talk that way.

SECOND GIRL. You'll be calling me crazy, too. That crazy girl-that crazy girl!

She laughs.

I'll tell you the only thing I've learned from life: every body's stuck inside their house doing what they don't like to do. How much better it is out in the streets. Sometimes I go to the arroyo, sometimes I climb up and ring the bells, or again I might just take a drink of anisette.

YERMA. You're only a child.

SECOND GIRL. why, yes-but I'm not crazy.

She laughs.

YERMA. Does your mother live at the topmost door in the village?

SECOND GIRL. Yes.

YERMA. In the last house?

SECOND GIRL. Yes.

YERMA. What's her name?

SECOND GIRL. Dolores. Why do you ask?

YERMA. Oh, nothing.

SECOND GIRL. You wouldn't be asking because of . .

YERMA. I don't know . . people say...

 SECOND GIRL. Well, that's up to you. Look, I'm going to take my husband his food.

She laughs.

That's something to see! Too bad I can't say my sweet­heart, isn't it?

She laughs.

Here comes that crazy girl!

She leaves, laughing happily. Good-bye!

VICTOR S VOICE, singing.

Why, shepherd, sleep alone?

Why, shepherd, sleep alone?

On my wool-quilt deep

you'd finer sleep.

Why, shepherd, sleep alone?

YERMA, listening.

                 Why, shepherd, sleep alone?

On my wool-quilt deep

you'd finer sleep.

Your quilt of shadowed stone,

                         shepherd,

and your shirt of frost,

                         shepherd,

gray rushes of the winter

on the night-tide of your bed.

The oak-roots weave their needles,

                         shepherd,

Beneath your pillow silently,

                         shepherd,

and if you hear a woman's voice

 it's the torn voice of the stream.

Shepherd, shepherd.

What does the hillside want of you,

                         Shepherd?

Hillside of bitter weeds.

What child is killing you?

The thorn the broom-tree bore!

She starts to leave and meets Victor as he enters.

VICTOR, happily. Where is all this beauty going?

YERMA. Was that you singing?

VICTOR. Yes.

YERMA. How well you sing! I'd never heard you.

VICTOR. No?

YERMA. And what a vibrant voice! It's like a stream of water that fills your mouth.

VICTOR. I'm always happy.

YERMA. That's true.

VICTOR. Just as you're sad.

YERMA. I'm not usually sad, but I have reason to be.

VICTOR. And your husband's sadder than you.

YERMA. He is, yes. It's his character-dry.

VICTOR. He was always like that.

Pause. Yerma is seated.

Did you take his supper to him?

YERMA. Yes.

She looks at him. Pause.

What have you here?

She points to his face.

VICTOR. Where?

YERMA, she rises and stands near Victor. Here . . . on your cheek. Like a burn.

VICTOR. It's nothing.

 YERMA. It looked like one to me. Pause.

VICTOR. It must be the sun...

YERMA. Perhaps...

Pause. The silence is accentuated and without the slight­est gesture, a struggle between the two begins.

YERMA, trembling. Do you hear that?

VICTOR. What?

YERMA. Don't you hear a crying?

VICTOR, listening. No.

YERMA. I thought I heard a child crying.

VICTOR. Yes?

YERMA. Very near. And he cried as though drowning.

VICTOR. There are always a lot of children around here who come to steal fruit.

YERMA. No, it's the voice of a small child.

Pause.

VICTOR. I don't hear anything.

YERMA. I probably just imagined it.

She looks at him fixedly. Victor also looks at her, then slowly shifts his gaze as q afraid. Juan enters.

JUAN. Still here? What are you doing here?

YERMA. I was talking.

VICTOR. Salud!

He leaves.

JUAN. You should be at home.

YERMA. I was delayed.

JUAN. I don't see what kept you.

YERMA. I heard the birds sing.

JUAN. That's all very well. But this is just the way to give people something to talk about.

YERMA, strongly. Juan, what can you be thinking?

JUAN. I don't say it because of you. I say it because of other people.

YERMA. Other people be damned!

JUAN. Don't curse. That's ugly in a woman.

YERMA. I wish I were a woman.

JUAN. Let's stop talking. You go home.

Pause.

YERMA. All right. Shall I expect you?

JUAN. No. I'll be busy all night with the irrigating. There's very little water; it's mine till sun-up, and I've got to guard it from thieves. You go to bed and sleep.

YERMA, dramatically. I'll sleep.

She leaves.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO

SCENE 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fast flowing mountain stream where the village women wash their clothes. The laundresses are arranged at vari­ous levels.

Song before the curtain rises.

SONG

Here in this icy current

         let me wash your lace,

         just like a glowing jasmine.

         is your laughing face.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. I don't like to be talking.

SECOND LAUNDRESS. Well, we talk here.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. And there's no harm in it.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. Whoever wants a good name, let her earn it.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

I planted thyme,

I watched it grow.

Who wants a good name

Must live just so.

They laugh

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. That's the way we talk.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. But we never really know anything for certain.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Well, it's certain enough that her husband's brought his two sisters to live with them.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS, The old maids?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Yes. They used to watch the church, and now they watch their sister-in-law. I wouldn't be able to live with them.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. Why not?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. They'd give me the creeps. They're like those big leaves that quickly spring up over graves. They're smeared with wax. They grow inwards. I figure they must fry their food with lamp oil.

THIRD LAUNDRESS. And they're in the house now?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Since yesterday. Her husband's going back to his fields again now.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. But can't anyone find out what hap­pened?

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. She spent the night before last sitting on her doorstep-in spite of the cold.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. But why?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. It's hard work for her to stay in the house.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. That's the way those mannish creatures are. When they could be making lace, or apple cakes, they like to climb up on the roof, or go wade barefoot in the river.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. Who are you to be talking like that? She hasn't any children but that's not her fault.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. The one who wants children, has them. These spoiled, lazy and soft girls aren't up to having a wrinkled belly.

They laugh.

THIRD LAUNDRESS. And they dash face powder and rouge on themselves, and pin on sprigs of oleander, and go look­ing for some man who's not their husband.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. Nothing could be truer!

FIRST LAUNDRESS. But have you seen her with anybody?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. We haven't, but other people have.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. Always other people!

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. On two separate occasions, they say.

SECOND LAUNDRESS. And what were they doing?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Talking.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. Talking's no sin.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. In this world just a glance can be something. My mother always said that. A woman looking at roses isn't the same thing as a woman looking at a man's thighs. And she looks at him.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. But at whom?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Someone. Haven't you heard? You find out for yourself. Do you want me to say it louder?

Laughter.

And when she's not looking at him-when she's alone, when he's not right in front of her-she carries his picture in her eyes.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. That's a lie?

There is excitement.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. But what about her husband?

THIRD LAUNDRESS. Her husband acts like a deaf man. Just stands around blankly-like a lizard taking the sun.

Laughter.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. All this would take care of itself if they had children.

SECOND LAUNDRESS. All this comes of people not being content with their lot.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Every passing hour makes the hell in that house worse. She and her sisters-in-law, never open­ing  cir lips, scrub the walls all day, polish the copper, clean the windows with steam, and oil the floors: but the more that house shines, the more it seethes inside.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. It's all his fault; his. When a man doesn't give children, he's got to take care of his wife.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. It's her fault-because she's got a tongue hard as flint.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. What devil's got into your hair that makes you talk that way?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Well! Who gave your tongue per-mission to give me advice?

SECOND LAUNDRESS. Quiet, you two!

FIRST LAUNDRESS. I'd like to string all these clacking tongues on a knitting needle.

SECOND LAUNDRESS. Quiet, you!

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. And I the nipples of all hypocrites.

SECOND LAUNDRESS, Rush up! Can't you see? Here come the sisters-in-law.

There is whispering. Yerma's two sisters-In-law enter. The9 are dressed In mourning. in the silence, they start their washing. Sheep belts are heard.

 FIRST LAUNDRESS. Are the shepherds leaving already?

THIRD LAUNDRESS. Yes, all the flocks leave today.

 FOURTH LAUNDRESS, taking a deep breath. I like the smell of sheep.

 THIRD LAUNDRESS. You do?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Yes. And why not? The smell of what's ours. Just as I like the smell of the red mud this river carries in the winter.

THIRD LAUNDRESS. Whims!

FIFTH LAUNDRESS, looking. All the flocks are leaving together.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. It's a flood of wool. They sweep everything along. If the green wheat had eyes it'd tremble to see them coming.

THIRD LAUNDRESS. Look how they run! What a band of devils!

FIRST LAUNDRESS. They're all out now, not a flock is missing.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Let's see. No .  . Yes, yes. One is missing.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS. Which one?

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Victor's.

The two Sisters-in-law sit up and look at each other.

 FOURTH LAUNDRESS, Singing.

Here in this icy current

let me wash your lace.

Just like a glowing jasmine

is your laughing face.

I would like to live

 within the tiny snowstorm

that the jasmines give.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

Alas for the barren wife!

Alas for her whose breasts are sand!

FIFTH LAUNDRESS.

Tell me if your husband

has fertile seed

so water through your clothes

will sing indeed.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

Your petticoat to me

 is silvery boat and breeze

that sweep along the sea.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

These clothes that are my baby's

I wash here in the stream

to teach the stream a lesson

how crystal-like to gleam.

SECOND LAUNDRESS.

Down the hillside he comes

at lunchtime to me,

my husband with one rose

and I give him three.

FIFTH LAUNDRESS.

Through meadows at dusk comes

my husband to eat.

To live coals he brings me I give myrtle sweet.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

Through night skies he comes,

my husband, to bed.

I, like red gillyflowers,

he, a gillyflower red.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

And flower to flower must be wed

when summer dries the reaper's blood so red.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

And wombs be opened to birds without sleep

when winter tries the door and cold's to keep.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

The bedclothes must receive our tears.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

But we must sing in bed!

FIFTH LAUNDRESS.

when the husband comes

to bring the wreath and bread.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

Because our arms must intertwine.

SEGOND LAUNDRESS.

Because in our throats the light is rent.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS,

Because the leaf-stem becomes fine.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

And the hill is covered with a breeze's tent.

SIXTH LAUNDRESS, appearing at the topmost part of the swiftly flowing stream.

So that a child may weld

white crystals in the dawn.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

And in our waists be held torn stems of coral tree.

SIXTH LAUNDRESS.

So that oarsmen there will be

in the waters of the sea.

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

A tiny child, one.

SECOND LAUNDRESS.

And when the doves stretch wing and beak

THIRD LAUNDRESS.

an infant weeps, a son.

FOURTH LAUNDRESS.

And men push ever forward

like stags by wounds made weak.

FIRST LAUNDRESS. Joy, joy, joy!

of the swollen womb beneath the dress!

SECOND LAUNDRESS. Joy, joy, joy!

The waist can miracles possess!

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

But, alas for the barren wife!

Alas for her whose breasts are sand!

THIRD LAUNDRESS.

Let her shine out resplendent!

FOURTH LAUNDRESS. Let her run!

FIFTH LAUNDRESS.

And shine out resplendent again!

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

Let her sing!

SECOND LAUNDRESS.

Let her hide!

FIRST LAUNDRESS.

And sing once more.

SECOND LAUNDRESS.

Of whiteness like the dawn's

my baby's clean clothes store.

FIRST AND SECOND LAUNDRESS, they sing together.

Here in this icy current let me wash your lace.

Just like a glowing jasmine

is your laughing face. Ha! Ha! Ha!

They move the clothes in rhythm and beat them.

CURTAIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO

SCENE 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yerma's house. it is twilight. Juan is seated. The two Sisters-in-law are standing.

 

JUAN. You say she went out a little while ago?

The Older Sister answers with a nod.

She's probably at the fountain. But you've known all along I don't like her to go out alone.

Pause.

You can set the table.

The Younger Sister enters.

The bread I eat is hard enough earned!

To his Sister.

I had a hard day yesterday. I was pruning the apple trees, and when evening fell I started to wonder why I should put so much into my work if I can't even lift an apple to my mouth. I'm tired.

He passes his hand over his face. Pause.

That woman's still not here. One of you should go out with her. That's why you're here eating at my table and drinking my wine. My life's in the fields, but my honor's here. And my honor is yours too.

The Sister bows her head

Don't take that wrong.

Yerma enters carrying two pitchers. She stands at the door.

Have you been to the fountain?

YERMA. So we'd have fresh water for supper. The other Sister enters.

How are the fields?

JUAN. Yesterday I pruned the trees.

Yerma sets the pitchers down. Pause.

YERMA. Are you going to stay in?

JUAN. I have to watch the flocks. You know that's an owner's duty.

YERMA. I know it very well, Don't repeat it.

JUAN. Each man has his life to lead.

YERMA. And each woman hers. I'm not asking you to stay. I have everything I need here. Your sisters guard me well. Soft bread and cheese and roast lamb I eat here, and in the field your cattle eat grass softened with dew. I think you can live in peace.

JUAN. In order to live in peace, one must be contented.

YERMA. And you're not?

JUAN. No, I'm not.

YERMA. Don't say what you started to.

JUAN. Don't you know my way of thinking? The sheep in the fold and women at home. You go out too much. Haven't you always heard me say that?

YERMA. Justly. Women in their homes. When those homes aren't tombs. When the chairs break and the linen sheets wear out with use. But not here. Each night, when I go to bed, I find my bed newer, more shining-as if it had just been brought from the city.

JUAN. You yourself realize that I've a right to complain. That I have reasons to be on the alert!

YERMA. Alert? For what? I don't offend you in any way. I live obedient to you, and what I suffer I keep close in my flesh. And every day that passes will he worse. Let's be quiet now. I'll learn to bear my cross as best I can, but don't ask me for anything. If I could suddenly turn into an old woman and have a mouth like a withered flower, I could smile and share my life with you. But now-- now you leave me alone with my thorns.

JUAN. You speak in a way I don't understand. I don't deprive you of anything. I send to nearby towns for the things you like. I have my faults, but I want peace and quiet with you. I want to be sleeping out in the fields-thinking that you're sleeping too.

YERMA. But r don't sleep. I can't sleep.

JUAN. Is it because you need something? Tell me. An­swer me!

YERMA, deliberately, looking fixedly at her husband. Yes, I need something.

Pause.

JUAN. Always the same thing. It's more than five years. I've almost forgotten about it.

YERMA. But I'm not you. Men get other things out of life: their cattle, trees, conversations, but women have only their children and the care of their children.

JUAN. Everybody's not the same way. Why don't you bring one of your brother's children here? I don't oppose that.

YERMA. I don't want to take care of somebody else's children. I think my arms would freeze from holding them.

JUAN. You brood on this one idea till you're half crazy-instead of thinking about something else-and you persist in running your head against a stone.

YERMA. stone, yes; and it's shameful that it is a stone, because it ought to be a basket of flowers and sweet scents.

JUAN. At your side one feels nothing but uneasiness, dissatisfaction. As a last resort, you should resign yourself.

YERMA. I didn't come to these four walls to resign my sell. When a cloth binds my head so my mouth won't drop open, and my hands are tied tight in my coffin-then, then I'll resign myself!

JUAN. Well then, what do you want to do?

YERMA. I want to drink water and there's neither water nor a glass. I want to go up the mountain, and I have no feet. I want to embroider skirts and I can't find thread.

JUAN. What's happened is that you're not a real woman, and you're trying to ruin a man who has no choice in the matter.

YERMA. I don't know what I am. Let me walk around; get myself in hand again. I have in no way failed you.

JUAN. I don't like people to he pointing me out. That's why I want to see this door closed and each person in his house.

The First Sister enters slowly and walks toward some shelves.

YERMA. It's no sin to talk with people.

JUAN. But it can seem one.

The other Sister enters and goes toward the water jars, from one of which she fills a pitcher.

JUAN, lowering his voice. I'm not strong enough for this sort of thing. When people talk to you, shut your mouth and remember you're a married woman.

YERMA, with surprise. Married!

JUAN. And that families have honor, And that honor is a burden that rests on all.

The Sister leaves slowly with the pitcher.

But that it's both dark and weak in the same channels of the blood

The other Sister leaves with a platter in almost a processional ­manner. Pause.

Forgive me.

Yerma looks at her husband. He raises his head and his

glance catches hers.

Even though you look at me so that I oughtn't to say to you: "Forgive me," but force you to obey me, lock you up, because that's what I'm the husband for.

The two Sisters appear at the door.

YERMA. I beg you not to talk about it. Let the matter rest.

JUAN. Let's go eat. The two Sisters leave.

Did you hear me?

YERMA, sweetly. You eat with your sisters. I'm not hungry yet.

JUAN. As you wish. He leaves.

YERMA, as though dreaming.

Oh, what a field of sorrow!

Oh, this is a door to beauty closed:

to beg a son to suffer, and for the wind

to offer dahlias of a sleeping moon!

These two teeming springs I have

of warm milk are in the closeness

of my flesh two rhythms of a horse's gallop,

to make vibrate the branch of my anguish.

Oh, breasts, blind beneath my clothes!

Oh, doves with neither eyes nor whiteness!

Oh, what pain of imprisoned blood

is nailing wasps at my brain's base!

But you must come, sweet love, my baby,

because water gives salt, the earth fruit,

and our wombs guard tender infants,

just as a cloud is sweet with rain.

She looks toward the door.

Maria! Why do you hurry past my door so?

MARIA, she enters With a child in her arms. I hurry by whenever I have the child-since you always weep!

YERMA. Yes, you're right.

She takes the child and sits down,

MARIA. It makes me sad that you're envious.

YERMA, It's not envy I feel-it's poverty.

MARIA. Don't you complain.

YERMA. How can I help complaining when I see you and the other women full of flowers from within, and then see myself useless in the midst of so much beauty!

MARIA. But you have other things. if you'd listen to me you’d be happy.

YERMA. A farm woman who bears no children is useless like a handful of thorns-and even bad- even though I may be a part of this wasteland abandoned by the hand of God.

                                  Maria makes a gesture as if to take the child.

Take him. He's happier with you. I guess I don't have a mother's hands.

                                     MARIA. Why do you say that?

YERMA, she rises. Because I'm tired. Because I'm tired of having them, and not being able to use them on something of my own. For I'm hurt, hurt and humiliated beyond endurance, seeing the wheat ripening, the fountains never ceasing to give water, the sheep bearing hundreds of lambs, the she-dogs; until it seems that the whole countryside rises to show me its tender sleeping young, while I feel two hammer-blows here, instead of the mouth of my child.

MARIA. I don't like you to talk that way.

 YERMA. You women who have children can't think about us who don't! You stay always fresh, with no idea of it, just as anyone swimming in fresh water has no idea of thirst.

MARIA. I don't want to tell you again what I've always said.

YERMA. Each time I have more desire and less hope.

MARIA. That's very bad.

YERMA. I'll end up believing I'm my own son. Many nights I go down to feed the oxen-which I never did before, because no woman does it-and when I pass through the darkness of the shed my footsteps sound to me like the footsteps of a man.

MARIA. Each one of us reasons things out for herself.

YERMA. And in spite of all, I go on hoping in myself. You see how I live!

MARIA. How are your sisters-in-law?

YERMA. Dead may I be, and without a shroud, if ever I speak a word to them.

MARIA. And your husband?

YERMA. They are three against me.

MARIA. what do they think about it?

YERMA. The wildest imaginings; like all people who don't have clear consciences. They think I like another man. They don't know that even if I should like another man, to those of my kind, honor comes first. They're stones in my path, but they don't know that I can be, if I want to, an arroyo's rushing water and sweep them away.

One Sister enters and leaves carrying a piece of bread.

MARIA. Even so, I think your husband still loves you.

YERMA. My husband gives me bread and a house.

MARIA. What troubles you have to go through! What troubles! But remember the wounds of Our Lord.

They are at the door.

YERMA, looking at the child. He's awake now

MARIA. In a little while he'll start to sing.

YERMA. The same eyes as yours. Did you know that? Have you noticed them?

Weeping.

His eyes are the same as yours!

Yerma pushes Maria gently and she leaves silently.

Yerma walks toward the door through which her hus­band left.

SECOND GIRL. Sst!

YERMA, turning. what?

SECOND GIRL. I waited fill she left. My mother's expect­ing you.

YERMA. Is she alone?

SECOND GIRL. With two neighbors.

YERMA. Tell them to wait a little.

SECOND GIRL. But, are you really going to go? Aren't you afraid?

YERMA. I'm going to go.

SECOND GIRL. That's up to you!

YERMA. Tell them to wait for me even if it's late!

Victor enters.

VICTOR. Is Juan here?

YERMA. Yes.

SECOND GIRL, acting the accomplice. Well then, I'll bring the blouse later.

               YERMA. Whenever you like.

The Girl leaves.

Sit down.

VICTOR. I'm all right like this.

YERMA, calling. Juan!

VICTOR. I've come to say good-bye.

He trembles a little, but his composure returns.

YERMA. Are you going with your brothers?

VICTOR. That's what my father wants.

YERMA. He must be old now.

VICTOR. Yes. Very old.

Pause.

YERMA. You're right to change fields.

VICTOR. All fields are alike.

YERMA. No. I'd like to go very far away.

VICTOR. It's all the same. The same sheep have the same wool.

YERMA. For men, yes; but it's a different thing with women. I never heard a man eating say, “How good these apples are!" You go to what's yours without bothering over trifles. But for myself, I can say I've grown to hate the water from these wells.

VICTOR. That may be.

The stage is in a soft shadow.

YERMA. Victor.

VICTOR. Yes?

YERMA. Why are you going away? The people here like you.

VICTOR. I've behaved myself.

Pause.

YERMA. You always behave yourself. When you were a boy, you carried me once in your arms, do you remember that? One never knows what's going to happen.

VICTOR. Everything changes.

YERMA. Some things never change. There are things shut up behind walls that can't change because nobody hears them.

VICTOR. That's how things are.

The Second Sister appears and goes slowly toward the door, where she remains fixed, illuminated by the last light of evening.

YERMA. But if they came out suddenly and shrieked, they'd fill the world.

VICTOR. Nothing would be gained. The ditch in its place, the sheep in fold, the moon in the sky, and the man with his plow.

YERMA. The great pity is we don't profit from the ex­perience of our elders!

The long and melancholy sound of the shepherds' conch-shell horns is heard.

 VICTOR. The flocks.

JUAN, enters. Are you on your way?

VICTOR. Yes. I want to get through the pass before daybreak.

JUAN. Have you any complaints to make against me?

VICTOR. No. You paid me a good price.

JUAN, to Yerma. I bought his sheep.

YERMA. You did?

VICTOR, to Yerma. They're yours.

YERMA. I didn't know that.

JUAN, satisfied. Well, it's so.

VICTOR. Your husband will see his lands overflowing.

YERMA. The harvest comes to the worker who seeks it.

The Sister who was at the door leaves and goes into another room.

JUAN. Now we haven't any place to put so many sheep.

YERMA, darkly. The earth is large.

Pauses.

JUAN. We'll go together as far as the arroyo.

VICTOR. I wish this house the greatest possible happiness.

He gives Yerma his hand.

YERMA. May God hear you! Salud!

Victor is about to leave, but, at an imperceptible move­ment from Yerma, he turns.

VICTOR. Did you say something?

YERMA, Salud, I said.

VICTOR. Thank you.

They leave. Yerma stands, anguished, looking at her hand that she gave to Victor. She goes quickly to the left and takes up a shawl.

SECOND GIRL, silently, covering her hard. Come, let's go.

YERMA. Come.

They leave cautiously. The stage is almost in darkness. The First Sister enters with a lamp that must not give the stage any light other than its own. She goes to one side of the stage looking for Yerma. The shepherds' conch-shell horns sound.

SISTER-IN-LAW, in a low voice. Yerma!

The other Sister enters. They look at each other and go toward the door.

SECOND SISIER-IN-LAW, louder. Yerma!

FIRST SISTER-IN-LAW, going to the door, and in an im­perious voice. Yerma!

·                         The bells and horns of the shepherds are heard. The stage is quite dark.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

 

ACT THREE

SCENE 1

 

 

 

 

 

The house of Dolores, the sorceress. Day is breaking.

Enter Yerma with Dolores and two Old Women.

DOLORES. You've been brave.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. There's no force in the world like desire.

SECOND OLD WOMAN. Hut the cemetery was terribly dark.

DOLORES. Many times I've said these prayers in the cemetery with women who wanted to have a child, and they've all been afraid. All except you.

YERMA. I came because I want a child. I don't believe you're a deceitful woman.

DOLORES. I'm not. May my mouth fill with ants, like the mouths of the dead, if ever I've lied. The last time, I said the prayers with a beggar woman who'd been dry longer than you, and her womb sweetened so beautifully that she had two children down there at the river because there wasn't time to get to the village-and she carried them herself in a diaper for me to take care of.

YERMA. And she was able to walk from the river?

DOLORES. She came; her skirts and shoes drenched with blood-- but her face shining.

YERMA. And nothing happened to her?

DOLORES. What could happen to her? God is God.

YERMA. Naturally, God is God. Nothing could happen to her. Just pick up her babies and wash them in fresh water. Animals lick them, don't they? I know a son of my own wouldn't make me sick. I have an idea that women who've recently given birth are as though illumined from within and the children sleep hours and hours on them, hearing that stream of warm milk filling the breasts for them to suckle, for them to play in until they don't want any more, until they lift their heads, "just a little more, child..." --and their faces and chests are covered with the white drops.

DOLORES. You'll have a child now. I can assure you, you will.

YERMA. I'll have one because I must. Or I don't under-stand the world. Sometimes, when I feel certain I'll never, ever . . . a tide of fire sweeps up through me from my feet and everything seems empty; and the men walking in the streets, the cattle, and the stones, all seem to be made of cotton. And I ask myself. "Why are they put here?"

FIRST OLD WOMAN. It's all right for a married woman to want children, of course, but if she doesn't have them, why this hungering for them? The important thing in life is to let the years carry us along. I'm not criticizing you. You see how I've helped at the prayers. But what land do you expect to give your son, or what happiness, or what silver chair?

YERMA. I'm not thinking about tomorrow; I'm thinking about today. You're old and you see things now like a book already read. I'm thinking how thirsty I am, and how I don't have any freedom. I want to hold my son in my arms so I'll sleep peacefully. Listen closely, and don't he frightened by what I say: even if I knew my son was later going to torture me and hate me and drag me through the streets by the hair, I'd still be happy at his birth, because It's much better to weep for a live man who stabs us than for this ghost sitting year after year upon my heart.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. You're much too young to listen to advice. But while you wait for Cod's grace, you ought to take refuge in your husband's love.

YERMA. Ah! You've put your finger in the deepest wound In my flesh!

DOLORES. Your husband's a good man.

YERMA, she rises He's good! He's good! But what of it? I wish he were bad. But, no' He goes out with his sheep over his trails, and counts his money at night. When he covers me, he's doing his duty, but I feel a waist cold as a corpse's, and I, who've always hated passionate women, would like to be at that instant a mountain of fire.

DOLORES, Yerma!

YERMA. I'm not a shameless married woman, but I know that children are born of a man and a woman. Oh, if only I could have them by myself'.

DOLORES. Remember, your husband suffers, too.

YERMA. He doesn't suffer. The trouble is, he doesn't want children!

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Don't say that!

YERMA. I can tell that in his glance, and, since he doesn't want them, he doesn't give them to me. I don't love him; I don't love him, and yet he's my only salvation. By honor and by blood. My only salvation.

FIRST OLD WOMAN, with fear. Day will soon be breaking. You ought to go home.

DOLORES. Before you know it, the flocks will be out, and it wouldn't do for you to be seen alone.

YERMA. I needed this relief. How many times do I repeat the prayers?

DOLORES. The laurel prayer, twice; and at noon, St. Anne's prayer. When you feel pregnant, bring me the bushel of wheat you promised me.

FIRST OLD WOMAN. It's starting to lighten over the bills already. Go.

DOLORES. They'll soon start opening the big street doors; you'd best go around by the ditch.

YERMA, discouraged. I don't know why I came!

DOLORES. Are you sorry?

YERMA. No!

DOLORES, disturbed. If you're afraid, I'll go with you to the corner.

FIRST OLD WOMAN, uneasily. It'll lust he daylight when you reach home.

Voices are heard.

DOLORES. Quiet?

They listen.

         FIRST OLD WOMAN. It's nobody. God go with you

         Yerma starts toward the door, but at this moment a knock is heard. The three Women are standing. DOLORES. Who is it?

             VOICE. It's me.

YERMA. Open the door,

         Dolores is reluctant.

         Will you open or not?

Whispering is heard. Juan enters with the two Sisters.

SECOND SISTER-IN-LAW, Here she is,

YERMA. Here I am.

JUAN. What are you doing in this place? If I could shout rd wake up the whole village so they'd see where the good name of my house has gone to; hut I have to swallow everything and keep quiet-because you're my wife.

YERMA. I too would shout, if I could, so that even the dead would rise and see the innocence that covers me.

JUAN. No, don't tell me that? I can stand everything but that. You deceive me; you trick me, and since I'm a man who works in the fields, I'm no match for your cleverness.

DOLORES. Juan!

JUAN. You, not a word out of you!

DOLORES, strongly. Your wife has done nothing wrong.

JUAN. She's been doing it from the very day of the wedding. Looking at me with two needles, passing wakeful rights with her eyes open at my side, and fining my pillows with evil sighs.

YERMA. Be quiet!

JUAN. And I can't stand any more. Because one would have to he made of iron to put up with a woman who wants to stick her fingers into your heart and who goes out of her house at night. In search of what? Tell me? There aren't any flowers to pick in the streets.

YERMA. I won't let you say another word. Not one word more. You and your people imagine you're the only ones who look out for honor, and you don't realize my people have never had anything to conceal. Come on now Come near and smell my clothes. Come close! See if you can find an odor that's not yours, that's not from your body. Stand me naked in the middle of the square and spit on  me. Do what you want with me, since I'm your wife, but , take care not to set a man's name in my breast.

JUAN. I'm not the one who sets it there. You do it by your conduct, and the town's beginning to say so. It’s beginning to say it openly. When I come on a group, they all fall silent; when I go to weigh the flour, they all fall silent,  and even at night, in the fields, when I awaken, it seems to  me that the branches of the trees become silent too.

YERMA. I don't know why the evil winds that soil the wheat begin-but look you and see if the wheat is good? 

JUAN. Nor do I know what a woman Is looking for out­  side her house at all hours.

YERMA, bursting out, embracing her husband. I'm looking  for you. I'm looking for you. it's you I look for day and night without finding a shade where to draw breath. It's your blood and help I want.

JUAN. Stay away from me.

YERMA. Don't put me away-love me?

 JUAN. Get away?

YERMA. Look how I'm left alone? As if the moon searched  for herself in the sky. Look at me?

She looks at him.

JUAN, he looks at her and draws away roughly. I-et me be-once and for all!

DOLORES. Juan?

Yerma falls to the floor.

YERMA, loudly. When I went out looking for my flowers, I ran into a wall. Ay-y-y! Ay-y-y! It's against that wall I'll break my head.

JUAN. Be quiet. Let's go.

DOLORES. Good God!

YERMA, shouting. Cursed be my father who left me his blood of a father of a hundred sons. Cursed be my blood that searches for them, knocking against walls.

JUAN. I told you to be quiet!

DOLORES. People are coming! Speak lower.

YERMA. I don't care. At least let my voice go free, now that I'm entering the darkest part of the pit.

She rises.

At least let this beautiful thing come out of my body and fill the air.

Voices are heard.

DOLORES. They're going to pass by here.

JUAN. Silence,

YERMA. That's it! That's it! Silence. Never fear.

JUAN. Let's go. Quick!

YERMA. That's it! That's it! And it's no use for me to wring my hands! It's one thing to wish with one's head...

JUAN. Be still!

YERMA, low. It's one thing to wish with one's head and another for the body- cursed be the body!-not to respond. It's written, and I'm not going to raise my arms against the sea. That's it! Let my mouth be struck dumb!

She leaves.

 

QUICK CURTAIN

 

 

 

 

ACT THREE

SCENE 2

 

 

 

 

 

Environs of a hermitage high in the mountains. Down-stage are the wheels of a cart and some canvas forming the rustic tent where Yerma is. Some women enter carry­ing offerings for the shrine. They are barefoot. The happy Old Woman of the first act is on the stage.

 

SONG

 

Heard while the curtain is still closed.

 

You I never could see

when you were fancy free,

but now that you’re a wife

I’ll find you, yes,

and take off your dress,

you, pilgrim and a wife

when night is dark all 'round,

when midnight starts to sound.

OLD WOMAN, lazily. Have you already drunk the holy water?

FIRST WOMAN. Yes.

OLD WOMAN. Now let's see this saint work.

FIRST WOMAN. We believe in him.

OLD WOMAN. You come to ask the saint for children, and it just happens that every year more single men come on this pilgrimage too; what's going on here?

She laughs.

FIRST WOMAN, Why do you come here if you don't be­lieve in him?

OLD WOMAN. To see what goes on. I'm just crazy to see what goes on. And to watch out for my son. Last year two men killed themselves over a barren wife, and I want to be on guard. And lastly, I come because I feel like it.

FIRST WOMAN. May God forgive you!

She leaves.

OLD WOMAN, sarcastically. May He forgive you.

She leaves. Maria enters with the First Girl.

FIRST GIRL. Did she come?

MARIA, There's her cart. It was hard work to make them come. She's been a month without getting up from her chair. I'm afraid of her. She has some idea I don't under-stand, but it's a bad idea.

FIRST GJBL. I came with my sister. She's been coming here eight years in vain.

MARIA. The one who's meant to have children, has them.

FIRST GIRL. That's what I say.

 Voices are heard.

MARIA. I’ve never liked these pilgrimages. Let's get down to the farms where there are some people around.

FIRST GIRL. Last year, when it got dark, some young men -pinched my sister's breasts,

MARIA. For four, leagues 'round nothing is heard hut these terrible stories.

FIRST GIRL. I saw more than forty barrels of wine back of the hermitage.

MARIA. A river of single men comes down these moun­tains.

They leave. Voices are heard. Yerma enters with six Women who are going to the chapel. They are barefooted and carry decorated candles. Night begins to fall.

MARIA.    

 Lord, make blossom the rose,

 leave not my rose in shadow.

SECOND WOMAN

 Upon her barren flesh

make blossom the yellow rose.

MARIA.              

And in your servants' wombs

the dark flame of the earth.

CHORUS OF WOMEN.

Lord, make blossom the rose, leave not my rose in shadow.

They kneel.

YERMA.

The sky must have such gardens

 with rose frees of its joy,

 between the rose and the rose,

one rose of all the wonder.

Bright flash of dawn appears,

and an archangel guards,

 his wings like storms outspread,

 his eyes like agonies.

While sweet about its leaves

the streams of warm milk play,

play and wet the faces of the tranquil stars.

Lord, make your rose tree bloom

upon my barren flesh.

They rise.

SECOND WOMAN.

Lord, with your own hand soothe

the thorns upon her cheek.

YERMA.

Hark to me, penitent

in holy pilgrimage.

Open your rose in my flesh

though thousand thorns it have.

CHORUS OF WOMEN.

Lord, make blossom the rose,

leave not my rose in shadow.

YERMA.

Upon my barren flesh

one rose of all the wonder.

They leave.

Girls running with long garlands in their hands appear front the left. On the right, three others, looking back­ward. On the stage there is something like a crescendo of voices and harness bells, and bellringers' collars. Higher up appear the Seven Girls who wave the gar­lands toward the left. The noise increases and the two traditional Masks appear. One is Male and the other Female. They carry large masks. They are not in any fashion grotesque, but of great beauty and with a feeling of pure earth. The Female shakes a collar of large bells. The back of the stage fills with people who shout and comment on the dance. it has grown quite dark.

CHILDREN. The devil and his wife! The devil and his wife!

FEMALE.

In the wilderness stream

the sad wife was bathing.

About her body crept

the little water snails.

The sand upon the banks,

and the little morning breeze

made her laughter sparkle

and her shoulders shiver.

Ah, how naked stood

the maiden in the stream!

BOY..

Ah, how the maiden wept!

FIRST MAN.

Oh, wife bereft of love

in the wind and water!

SECOND MAN.

Let her say for whom she longs!

FIRST MAN.

Let her say for whom she waits!

SECOND MAN.

Ah, with her withered womb and her color shattered!

FEMALE.

When night-tide falls I'll tell,

when night-tide glowing falls.

In the night-tide of the pilgrimage

 I'll tear my ruffled skirt.

BOY.

Then quickly night-tide fell.

Oh, how the night was falling!

 See how dark becomes

the mountain waterfall,

Guitars begin to sound.

MALE,            he rises and shakes the horn.

Ah, how white

the sorrowing wife!

Ah, how she sighs beneath the branches!

Poppy and carnation you'll later be

when the male spreads out his cape.

He approaches.

If you come to the pilgrimage

to pray your womb may flower

don't wear a mourning veil

but a gown of fine Dutch linen.

Walk alone along the walls

where fig trees thickest grow

and bear my earthly body

until the white dawn wails.

Ah, how she shines!

How she was shining,

ah, how the sad wife sways!

FEMALE.

Ah, let love place on her

wreathes and coronets,

let darts of brightest gold

be fastened in her breast.

MALE.

Seven times she wept

and nine she rose,

fifteen times they joined

 jasmines with oranges.

THIRD MAN

Strike her now with the horn!

SECOND MAN.

With both the rose and the dance!

FIRST MAN.

Ah, how the wife is swaying!

MALE.

In this pilgrimage

 the man commands always.

Husbands are bulls.

The man commands always a

and women are flowers,

for him who wins them.

BOY.

Strike her now with the wind!

SECOND MAN.

Strike her now with the branch!

MALE.

Come and see the splendor

of the wife washed clean!

FIRST MAN.

Like a reed she curves.

MEN.

Let young girls draw away!

MALE.

Let the dance burn.

And the shining body

of the immaculate wife.

They disappear dancing amidst Smiles and the sound of beating palms. They sing.

The sky must have such gardens

with rose trees of its joy,

between the rose and the rose

one rose of all the wonder.

Two Girls pass again, shouting. The Happy Old Woman enters.

OLD WOMAN. Let's see if you'll let  us sleep now. But pretty soon it'll be something else.

         Yerma enters.

         You.

 Yerma is downcast and does not speak.                                                                       

Tell me, what did you come here for?

 YERMA. I don't know.                                                                                                 

 OLD WOMAN. Aren't you sure yet? Where's your husband?

 Yerma gives signs of fatigue and ads like a person whose head is bursting with a fixed idea.

 YERMA. He's there.

 OLD WOMAN. What's he doing?

 YERMA. Drinking.

  Pause. Putting her hands to her forehead.

Ay-y-y!

 OLD WOMAN. Ay-y, ay-y! Less "ay!" and more spirit. I couldn't tell you anything before, but now I can. 

 YERMA, What can you tell me that I don't know already?

 OLD WOMAN. What can no longer he hushed up what shouts from all the rooftops. The fault is your husband's. Do you hear? He can cut off my hands if it isn't. Neither his father, nor his grandfather, nor his great-grandfather behaved like men of good blood. For them to have a son heaven and earth had to meet-because they're nothing but spit. But not your people. You have brothers and cousins for a hundred miles around. Just see what a curse has fallen on your loveliness.

YERMA. A curse. A puddle of poison on the wheat heads.

OLD WOMAN. But you have feet to leave your house.

YERMA. To leave?

OLD WOMAN. When I saw you in the pilgrimage, my heart gave a start. Women come here to know new men. And the saint performs the miracle. My son's there behind the chapel waiting for me. My house needs a woman. Go with him and the three of us will live together. My son's made of blood. Like me. If you come to my house, there'll still be the odor of cradles. The ashes from your bedcovers will be bread and salt for your children. Come, don't you worry about what people will say. And as for your husband, in my house there are stout hearts and strong weapons to keep him from even crossing the street.

YERMA. Hush, hush! it's not that, I'd never do it. I can't just go out looking for someone. Do you imagine I could know another man? Where would that leave my honor? Water can't run uphill, nor does the full moon rise at noonday. On the road I've started, I'll stay. Did you really think I could submit to another man? That I could go asking for what's mine, like a slave? Look at me, so you'll know me and never speak to me again. I'm not looking for anyone.

OLD WOMAN. When one's thirsty, one's grateful for water.

YERMA, I'm like a dry field where a thousand pairs of oxen plow, and you offer me a little glass of well water. Mine is a sorrow already beyond the flesh.

OLD WOMAN, strongly. Then stay that way-if you want to! Like the thistles in a dry field, pinched, barren!

YERMA, strongly. Barren, yes, I know it! Barren! You don't have to throw it in my face. Nor come to amuse yourself, as youngsters do, in the suffering of a tiny animal. Ever since I married1 I've been avoiding that word, and this is the first time I've heard it, the first time it's been said to my face. The first time I see it's the truth.

OLD WOMAN. You make me feel no pity. None. I'll find another woman for my boy.

She leaves. A great chorus is heard distantly, sung by·              the pilgrims. Yerma goes toward the can, and front behind it her husband appears.

YERMA. Were you there all the time?

JUAN. I was.

YERMA. Spying?

JUAN. Spying.

YERMA. And you heard?

JUAN. Yes.

YERMA. And so? Leave me and go to the singing.

She sits on the canvases.

JUAN. It's time I spoke, too.

YERMA. Speak!

JUAN. And complained.

YERMA. About what?

JUAN. I have a bitterness in my throat.

YERMA. And I in my bones.

JUAN. This is the last time I'll put up with your con­tinual lament for dark things, outside of life~ for things in the air.

YERMA, with dramatic surprise. Outside of life, you say? In the air, you say?

JUAN. For things that haven't happened and that neither you nor I can control.

YERMA, violently. Go on! Go on!

JUAN. For things that don't matter to me. You hear that? That don't matter to me. Now I'm forced to tell you. What matters to me is what! can hold in my hands. what my eyes can see.

YERMA, rising to her knees, desperately. Yes, yes. That's what! wanted to hear from your lips . . . the truth isn't felt when it's inside us, but how great it is, how it shouts when it comes out and raises its arms! It doesn't matter to him! Now I've heard it!

JUAN, coming near her. Tell yourself it had to happen like this. Listen to me.

~He embraces her to help her rise.

Many women would be glad to have your life. Without children life is sweeter. I am happy not having them. !it’s not your fault.

YERMA. Then what did you want with me?

JUAN. Yourself!

YERMA, excitedly. True! You wanted a home, ease, and a woman. But nothing more. Is what I say true?

JUAN. It's true. Like everyone.

YERMA. And what about the rest? What about your son?

JUAN, strongly. Didn't you hear me say I don't care? Don't ask me any more about it! Do I have to shout in your ear so you II understand and perhaps live in peace now!

YERMA. And you never thought about it, even when you saw I wanted one?

JUAN. Never.

Both are on the ground.

YERMA. And I'm not to hope for one?

JUAN. No.

YERMA. Nor you?

JUAN. Nor I. Resign yourself!

YERMA. Barren!

JUAN. And lie in peace. You and I-happily, peacefully. Embrace me!

He embraces her.

YERMA. What are you looking for?

JUAN. You. In the moonlight you're beautiful.

YERMA. You want me as you sometimes want a pigeon to eat.

JUAN. Kiss me . . . like this.

YERMA. That I'll never do. Never.

Yerma gives a shriek and seizes her husband by the throat. He falls backward. She chokes him until he dies. The chorus of the pilgrimage begins.

YERMA. Barren, barren, but sure. Now I really know it for sure. And alone.

She rises. People begin to gather.

Now I'll sleep without startling myself awake, anxious to see if I feel in my blood another new blood. My body dry forever! What do you want? Don't come near me, because I've killed my son. I myself have killed my son!

A group that remains in the back ground, gathers. The chorus of the pilgrimage is heard.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

 

 

|HOME|