The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Dead Gallop,” also variously translated from the Spanish as “Death Gallop” or “Gallop Toward Death,” is the opening poem of Pablo Neruda’s Residence cycle. The poem is written in five stanzas, each consisting of an uneven number of lines, the longer opening stanzas ending with considerably shorter lines. In reading the poem through, one gets a feeling of galloping or moving rapidly toward an abrupt ending. Feeling the dramatic impact of the poem is important to understanding the various disjointed images that describe the speaker’s movement toward death.

The poem begins with what appear to be sagacious observations about nature; each element seems connected to a crucial function in the universe. Ashes, seas, bells, and plums constitute some of the many sights, sounds, and smells of life. Oddly, however, these objects do not have any obvious connection with one another, although they are linked by the fact that they are “like” or “as” one another in certain ways.

In the second stanza, elemental and essential things are further examined in images such as wheels, the limbs of trees, and lilacs. The third stanza continues the span across the natural world, although the emphasis is on the way things move or remain still, depending on “what my pale heart” expects from the experiences themselves. With the first reference to a personal “my” in the poem, the speaker introduces himself. Now the reader realizes that a...

(The entire section is 509 words.)