Though we find
evidence for these strains in his verse, Lorca’s entire work
is written in an elegiac vein. "I am the enormous shadow of
my tears," Lorca wrote in Tamarat Divan. It is this
feeling that makes him the foremost modern elegiac poet of
Spain. As a poetic form, an elegy relates the experience of loss
and a search for consolation. It contrasts presence and absence,
the desire for fulfillment and its frustration by the world.
Language itself embodies the gap between the word and the world,
and the melancholic note in Lorca’s poems enforces the
contrast most poignantly.
conventional aesthetic imagery associated with this form, he
uses it to actually cast a cold eye on the world and its
forfeits. The elegiac mood is reflected in different ways. It
occurs in lines such as, Ammon is softly moaning/on the sheet’s
cool chill. /The ivy of a shiver/covers burning flesh. More
significantly, it crystallises into an evocation of longing
without object, as in Songs. In this sequence, the
indeterminacy of the object makes it seem more absent than ever
As he says in
the Poem of the Deep Song: It weeps for
distant/things. Hot southern sands/yearning for white
camellias/Weeps arrow without target/Evening without morning. Here,
as elsewhere in Lorca’s poetry, yearning is never explained,
nor is it fulfilled. It is only that things long to be
has produced a copious body of work in various poetic genres, it
is in the long sequence of poems, Poet in New York, that
he discovers the limitations of the earlier traditional forms.
It is also in this long poem that he confronted the urbanised
modernity of the New World, its squalor and vicious racism.
Written only a few years before his death, this poem may be
regarded as a turning point in his poetic career. Though
aspiring to a mythical finality and scope — like contemporary
American poet Hart Crane’s The Bridge — this poem
records the sordid present of America, particularly the feeling
of alienation among immigrants that the city induces.
As a city poet,
Lorca would bear comparison with Baudelaire or Eliot. But unlike
them, he does not generalise urban malaise, but accuses the
American industrial culture of vulgarity. In a poem with a
surrealistic title, Landscape of a Vomiting Multitude, he
writes, There were murmurings from the jungle of vomit/with
the empty women, with hot wax children/with unfermented trees
and tireless waiters/who serve platters of salt beneath harps of
saliva. This imagery reminds us of Salvador Dali who,
incidentally, was Lorca’s friend.
the steely lifelessness of New York, Lorca once again indirectly
evokes the pastoral peace of his native Andalusia. But he also
imbibes the fragmented consciousness produced by the city in his
staccato poetic style. The traditional poet of the early days is
transformed into a European modernist accommodating the
multiplication and commercialisation of death just as Joyce
accommodates Dublin’s decay in his Dublin stories as well as
One of the joys of this
collection is the extensive introduction by Christopher Maurer.
A leading Lorca scholar and editor, Maurer has put together the
most substantial collection of the poet, including many hitherto
unpublished works, as also some which had not been translated so
far. With a detailed account of the poet’s development at
various stages of his career, we are made aware of the many
stages through which Lorca’s poetry evolved. Maurer relates
these changes to Lorca’s essays and letters and offers an
integrated view of the author as one who gave voice, in the
turmoil of the thirties of the last century, to our deepest
hopes and anxieties.