Federico Garcia Lorca’s ‘Gacela of Unforseen Love‘ presents the anguish that being in love can cause, especially when that love cannot be realized. The poem features a series of images designed to convey the despair of the narrator as they long for their loved one yet cannot seem to reach them.
Gacela of Unforseen Love Federico Garcia LorcaNo one understood the perfumeof the dark magnolia of your womb.Nobody knew that you tormenteda hummingbird of love between your teeth.A thousand Persian little horses fell asleepin the plaza with moon of your forehead,while through four nights I embracedyour waist, enemy of the snow.Between plaster and jasmins, your glancewas a pale branch of seeds.I sought in my heart to give youthe ivory letters that say "siempre","siempre", "siempre" : garden of my agony,your body elusive always,that blood of your veins in my mouth,your mouth already lightless for my death.
Gacela of Unforseen Love
The ‘Gacela of Unforseen Love‘ explores how love and despair are inextricably linked with one another.
Written across four stanzas, the poem features a series of images, many of which draw upon the natural world, to capture the essence of unattainable love. The use of the past tense suggests that the narrator’s lover is gone although it is unclear whether they have died or simply no longer reciprocate the narrator’s feelings. Regardless of the reason, the narrator’s anguish is unmissable.
Federico Garcia Lorca was born in Fuente Vaqueros, a small village near Granada in 1898. A poet and playwright, he is broadly regarded as one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language. He was tragically murdered in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War, most likely on account of his homosexuality.
The ‘Gacela of Unforseen Love‘ is taken from his collection, The Tamarit Divan, which was published posthumously in 1940 although the poems were written between 1931-1934. Like much of Lorca’s poetry, it is informed by his close connection to the Andalusian landscape, culture and history, particularly the region’s Arabic connections.
No one understood the perfume
of the dark magnolia of your womb
Nobody knew that you tormented
a hummingbird of love between your teeth.
The poem begins with the hyperbolic claim that no one understood certain, specific details of the poem’s addressee, albeit implying that the narrator themselves did. This emphasizes the narrator’s attachment to the person, as well as their bitterness that they are no longer together. Likewise, the description of “dark magnolia” is oxymoronic because magnolias are often white. This could reflect the fact that love is both light and idyllic when one is experiencing it but dark and depressing when they have lost it.
Lorca used a metaphor to describe how the addressee tortured a hummingbird of love between their teeth. The hummingbird could represent the narrator themselves, who felt trapped while in love with the addressee yet appears to long for that entrapment now that it is over. Finally, the use of the direct address creates an intimacy to mirror the poem’s amorous atmosphere.
A thousand Persian little horses fell asleep
in the plaza with moon of your forehead,
while through four nights I embraced
your waist, enemy of the snow.
These lines evoke the seemingly incongruous purity and passion of the love affair, which is now over. The metaphorical horses which are lulled to sleep, evoke a serene quality to imply the lover is kind and gentle. The pure and innocent connotations of the white moon support this. However, these gentle images are juxtaposed by the metaphorical claim that the lover’s waist was the “enemy of the snow.” Since snow is also associated with innocence and purity, the metaphor opposes the lover to these qualities. Moreover, in order to be an enemy of snow, the lover’s waist may omit heat which is associated with passion and sexual desire. Thus Lorca presents the figure as both pure and an object of desire.
Between plaster and jasmins, your glance
was a pale branch of seeds.
I sought in my heart to give you
the ivory letters that say “siempre”,
Lorca uses another metaphor when describing the addressee’s glance to be a “branch of seeds.” This is significant as seeds connote new life and growth which, when coupled with the earlier mention of the lover’s womb, implies the narrator not only feels the loss of their partner but also the loss of the child they might have had together. Furthermore, seeds represent part of the natural, cyclical process of the natural world, which is juxtaposed by Lorca’s mention of ivory, which does not decay or break down. This implies the narrator is in denial about the end of their relationship and wishes it to remain unchanged.
“Siempre”, “siempre”: garden of my agony,
your body elusive always,
that blood of your veins in my mouth,
your mouth already lightless for my death.
The final stanza begins with the repetition of the word “siempre” which translates as ‘always’ or ‘forever’ to showcase how, in spite of the relationship has ended, the narrator’s feelings remain unchanged. The poem ends with the unsettling metaphorical description of the addressee’s blood in the narrator’s mouth, implying his love has given way to an almost vampiric obsession. Likewise, the lover’s mouth is described as flightless, and the narrator mentions their own death, possibly symbolizing how, in the narrator’s eyes, a part of them both died when their relationship ended.
A Gacela is a Spanish version of a Ghazal, which is a form of Arabic verse concerned with mourning, loss, and romantic love. Lorca’s poem does not follow the traditional rules of a Ghazal, but his reference to the form is part of his wider appreciation of Arabic culture in Southern Spain.
The tone is one of anguish and regret as a result of having lost the love of another person. Lorca’s narrator is inconsolable in their despair and rather than offering them comfort, their memories of the relationship make its absence all the more painful.
On the one hand, naming the poetic form in the title serves to elevate the narrator’s suffering by immediately comparing it to all the Gacelas which came before it. Moreover, the use of the adjective “unforseen” could be regarded as dramatic irony, given how nobody can truly predict how love will make them feel until they are experiencing it.
Lorca was murdered by right-wing factions in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War, near his home city of Granada. No definitive reason has been given for his death, but it is thought that it was a result of his homosexuality, although the liberal tendencies of his plays may have been a factor too. Much of his work was subsequently censored until the death of Spain’s dictator, Franco, in 1975. Lorca’s body has never been recovered.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Gacela of Unforseen Love‘ might want to explore other Federico Garcia Lorca poems. For example:
- ‘Romance Sonámbulo‘ – One of Lorca’s defining works, the poem tells of doomed love and features some of the poet’s most beautiful imagery.
- ‘Sonnet Of The Sweet Complaint‘ – A poem of paranoid love, taken from Lorca’s posthumous collection, Sonnets of Dark Love, which remained unpublished for decades as it depicted homosexual desire.
Some other poems that may be of interest include:
- ‘Hymn to Aphrodite‘ by Sappho – This ancient poem captures the universal and timeless trials of the human heart.
- ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure – First‘ by Emily Dickinson – The poet brilliantly explores the needs and wants of the heart.