Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“The Guitar” typifies García Lorca’s purpose in the cante jondo: to approximate in print something of the auditory experience in hearing the music. Two characteristics are notable. The sound of the guitar is like a wail (llanto), the same word that refers to the flamenco singing. “The lament of the guitar begins” is the opening line of the poem, and it is repeated two lines later. The guitar’s lament is monotonous and repetitious (like the wind and the rain), and García Lorca achieves this effect through further repetition. Three times he writes the phrase, “It is impossible to silence it.” Meanwhile, the strength of the guitar’s sound is sufficient to break the wine cups of dawn. Flamenco players sing and dance all night, and their revelry persists until daybreak.
For what does the guitar wail? Why is its sound so heartbreaking and haunting? In a series of brilliant metaphors, García Lorca supplies some answers, summarized in the simple lines, “It weeps for/ things far away.” “Sand of the warm south/ asking for white camellias” associates the guitar with Andalusia, situated on the Mediterranean Sea with its beaches and flowers. “It weeps arrow without target/ evening without morning.” Arrows without targets and evenings without mornings are metaphors of disorientation. Another cause for its grief is “The first dead bird/ upon the branch,” a reference to the loss of innocence, a theme that appears often in García Lorca’s verse.
Finally, this instrument that evokes so many poignant feelings itself becomes a metaphor: “Oh, guitar!/ Heart grievously wounded/ by five swords.” It is a splendid example of a García Lorca metaphor. The body of a guitar roughly approximates the shape of a heart, which is wounded by the five fingers of the person playing it. The image also evokes the common household religious print of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, wounded by the grief of the world.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Bonaddio, Federico, ed. A Companion to Federico García Lorca. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell & Brewer, 2007.
Cobb, Carl. Federico García Lorca. Boston: Twayne, 1967.
Craige, Betty Jean. Lorca’s “Poet in New York”: The Fall into Consciousness. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1977.
Edwards, Gwynne. Lorca: Living in the Theatre. London: Peter Owen, 2003.
Gibson, Ian. Federico García Lorca: A Life. New York: Pantheon, 1989.
Honig, Edwin. García Lorca. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1963.
Staunton, Leslie. Lorca: A Dream of Life. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.
Stone, Rob. The Flamenco Tradition in the Works of Federico García Lorca and Carlos Saura: The Wounded Throat. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 2004.