In “The Guitar,” Lorca describes feelings of infinite sadness through the mournful sounds of a guitar. The personified instrument conveys hopelessness through its “weeping” musical notes. Lorca employs visual, audio, and tactile imagery to communicate a depthless sorrow.
The first image is a metaphor for when the guitar starts playing:
goblets of dawn
This substitution of fragile glass breaking for the commencement of music makes the instrument sound jarring. Visual and audio imagery of fancy drinking vessels being forcefully thrown and shattering expresses discord and violence. Notably, this event occurs at the beginning of day, perhaps after a night of drunken celebration that has gone wrong.
In the next example of imagery, Lorca uses a simile to describe the guitar’s melody:
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
This visual, audio, and tactile imagery appeals to three senses: the reader can see and hear dripping water, hear and feel cold blowing wind, and see and feel the snow-covered ground. This complex imagery conveys the bottomless discomfort of a frigid and wet winter day, the opposite of pleasant music.
Lorca also communicates the hopelessness of sorrow and the fact that nothing can be done to alleviate this sadness. He uses tactile and visual imagery to create an impossible scene:
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Obviously, flowers cannot thrive in an arid, dry desert. Furthermore, the white camellias—which symbolize love and affection—sharply contrast the yellow sands. This image also emphasizes the distance and incongruity between a fertile garden and a barren desert.
Visual imagery of absence highlights what is missing and the impossibility of attainment, just as the lack of any hope, happiness, or mere contentment permeate Lorca’s endless sorrow. He presents an
arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Having no goal or destination, the arrow is just a projectile shot in futility. An evening that never turns into morning thus becomes escapable darkness and death—there is no closure. Does the bird die overnight (and thus not wake up singing to welcome the morning)? Has the bird been shot by the arrow? No, it could not have been killed by the arrow, because the arrow has no target. Therefore, the lifeless bird—like sadness without a specific cause—simply appears. Also, how can the bird still be standing on a branch? If it were dead, it would have probably fallen to the ground.
Lorca closes the poem with imagery that continues to personify the guitar. Here, he compares it to wounded soldier:
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.
He cries out to mourn the guitar, both the source and messenger of sad notes. Lorca conflates the guitar with a human fatally stabbed in the heart with not only one or two swords. This hyperbolic image of five swords sticking out of a chest conveys the finality of misery like death.