In his Ode to Walt Whitman, Lorca asks “Whose perfect voice will sing the truths of wheat?”
Throughout the poem, he is lamenting the absence of men of the calibre of the “lovely Walt Whitman”. The truths of wheat… Federico Garcia Lorca uses symbolic, nature imagery throughout his work.
Whilst addressing sexuality in his Ode to Walt Whitman – he and Whitman were both homosexual – Lorca is here also addressing the hypocrisy of what is considered natural and unnatural.
He writes of the world of industry:
“Ninety thousand miners taking silver from the rocks
and children drawing stairs and perspectives.
But none of them could sleep,
none of them wanted to be the river,
none of them loved the huge leaves
or the shoreline’s blue tongue”
It is a theme he explored often; human sexuality, morality, and how people either deny themselves, or indulge themselves – those whom he refers to as “Sleepless enemies of the love that bestows crowns of joy.”
I recently came across a wonderful article written by Robert Lima, entitled “Toward the Dionysiac: Pagan Elements and Rites in Yerma“. Lorca wrote Yerma (barren in Spanish) about a childless woman living in rural Spain. As Lima puts it, Lorca introduces “natural factors that are in obvious opposition to the unnatural state of affairs in Yerma’s relationship with each of the three men in her life”.
It has been suggested that Yerma is the work of Lorca’s most directly associated with his assassination in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. It most openly challenges the institution of Catholicism and the strict sexual morality of Spanish society.
“The four elements begin to appear in the very first scene of Yerma, either singly or in combinations, and continue to be a major frame of reference in the rest of the play. Through the elements, Lorca is able to create a symbolic pattern that is both ironic (in that it is Yerma who most frequently and intuitively refers to the pagan elements yet cannot assimilate them, and portentuous (in that they build towards the full manifestation of the Dionysiac in the final scene of the play)” – Robert Lima from Toward the Dionysiac: Pagan Elements and Rites in Yerma
(Link to full text below)
“Not for a moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders frayed by the moon,
nor your thighs pure as Apollo’s,
nor your voice like a column of ash,
old man, beautiful as the mist”
from Ode to Walt Whitman, F.G. Lorca