The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Gacela of the Dark Death” is a short lyric poem in free verse. The poem is composed of twenty-four lines divided into five stanzas. The title, “Gacela of the Dark Death,” identifies the poem as a gacela, a form perfected by the fourteenth century Persian poet Hafiz. Gacelas are typically short, usually rhymed, verses that often mix religious mysticism, eroticism, and daily experience. In Federico García Lorca’s gacelas, images drawn from his surrealistic and folk-inspired imagination figure prominently. Moreover, “Gacela of the Dark Death” has a place in Diván del Tamarit in that the typical movement of the collection as a whole is from a remembrance of erotic familiarity to a confrontation with and recognition of the inevitability of death. Death is the condition most associated by García Lorca with lost love, and water is a frequent symbol portending death.

The poem is written in the first person. A poet may adopt a first-person narration strategically, to speak through a persona whose outlook on life and point of view may differ from his or her own. No such difference, however, is implied in “Gacela of the Dark Death.” In the intimate, personal tradition of the lyric poet, the narrator speaks directly to the reader, establishing a foundation of personal experience. The reader is placed in a position to experience life as the narrator does, with all of life’s immediate sensations.


(The entire section is 429 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Repetition is one important element of “Gacela of the Dark Death.” Emphasis is continually placed on personal experience through the repetition of “I want.” Metaphors of dreams and sleep lend a spiritual, metaphysical quality to the poem; it is through the force of these images that the narrator is able to transcend conventional experience. The image of the child is also central to the poem, in that it is the child’s ability to experience nature completely and without reservations and anticipations that allows an awareness of nature as a transforming entity.

References to apples are frequent in García Lorca’s poetry, and they usually represent the forbidden knowledge Eve attained. In the first and last stanzas of “Gacela of the Dark Death,” the apple is used to confirm the narrator’s desire to merge an eternal moment of sexual communication with a sense of eternal time (that is also death). In Diván del Tamarit the flow of water, which signals timeless death, is reminiscent of an Arabian, especially Moorish, sensual appreciation of water. This twin dread of and fascination with death is characteristic of García Lorca’s poetry.

The sea has usually stood in García Lorca’s work for infinity and death. To be touched by the sea in life is to become ready for whatever destiny awaits. Such a readiness enables the recipient to be better prepared for that destiny.

Literary Style

(Poetry for Students)

Lorca’s somewhat loose metrical and rhythmic pattern in the poem is an important stylistic device and may relate to the...

(The entire section is 396 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Poetry for Students)

Lorca denied ever writing about politics, yet “Gacela of the Dark Death” was written during an extremely turbulent time in Spanish...

(The entire section is 278 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Poetry for Students)

Lorca’s Romancero gitano (Gypsy Ballads) (1928) is his most famous collection of poetry, in part because it so successfully blends...

(The entire section is 204 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Poetry for Students)

Allen, Rupert C., The Symbolic World of Federico García Lorca, University of New Mexico Press, 1972, pp. 1–7....

(The entire section is 310 words.)