The Poem

As one might imagine from the title, “Landscape with Two Graves and an Assyrian Dog” is an unusual poem. The title suggests a painting of some sort—not an ordinary one, but a Surrealist painting such as Federico García Lorca’s fellow Spaniard Salvador Dalí might create. Such a painting almost always attempts to capture, on canvas, the illogical and imagistic nature of dreams.

García Lorca attempts something similar in his poem. The poem is relatively short, consisting of three stanzas easily contained on one page. It is written in free verse with lines of varying length. García Lorca also uses jagged, discordant language, which, when combined with the form and length of the poem, serves to mirror the ephemeral and illogical nature of a dream.

One thinks of dreams as making an appeal to the subconscious to discover or work out something. García Lorca makes the same appeal in his poem. The poem begins: “Friend/ get up and listen/ to the Assyrian dog howl.” Each of the three stanzas begins the same way, by urging a friend to arise and listen. The poem is written in the first person, as are most of García Lorca’s poems, and the speaker is most likely García Lorca himself. It is possible that García Lorca is trying to rouse a friend, but because of the commands, the reader feels that García Lorca is speaking directly to him or her, thus reaffirming this sense of urgency.

The poem shifts from this type of command...

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Forms and Devices

The most striking aspect of “Landscape with Two Graves and an Assyrian Dog” is the imagery. The images García Lorca uses are not the picturelike images one finds in the poetry of William Carlos Williams (which one can literally picture, such as “a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water”), but images one can picture both consciously and subconsciously. García Lorca’s images are images formed in the psyche. For example, when he says, “The grass of my heart is somewhere else,” he is speaking of the vital, natural, basic elements that are dear to him but are now lost.

García Lorca does not use these images to describe something, but to convey a mood or to express emotion. In this poem, García Lorca is profoundly stirred, excited, and his mind is racing, making wild associations at the speed of light. The images are so strong that the poem revolves around them. The odd juxtaposition of the images, one of his most startling techniques, creates an odd poetic tension that infuses each line with power.

One’s reaction to this poem is not intellectual, but emotional. Unlike many modern American poets, García Lorca does not attempt to encapsulate an idea in his poems, but instead attempts to translate the sensory nature of things into language. In “Landscape with Two Graves and an Assyrian Dog,” this is especially evident, because we see García Lorca express the mysteries of being human through subconscious intuitions. He...

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