The poetic and thematic impact of Lorca's poems on Shamlou's poetry

The poetic and thematic impact of Lorca’s poems on Shamlou’s poetry


Shokofeh Raeesi



Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)   is perhaps the most important Spanish poet, dramatist, musician of the twentieth century. He was born in Granada in 1899 and he was assassinated in 1936 after Spanish civil war. He was an outstanding lyric poet of European literature. “Perhaps his greatest achievement was his ability to avoid the trapping of a superficial folksy style by skillfully combining traditional popular motifs with a modern sensibility”(Soto, Francisco).

His evocative lyrical ambiguity through the use of different symbols underlines an obscurity that makes the reader thinks and comes up with different interpretation as a struggle to explore the enigmas of his poems.

Lorca in his poetry combined traditional or typical customs of Spanish culture with intertwining the surrealistic poetical and thematic tactics to transfer the social and cultural attitudes against the injustice about woman, black people, and minority.

His poetry have been translated into different languages and have been the object of study by critics all over the world.

“Few poets write of desire with such a passionate delicacy as Federico Garcia Lorca. Lyric, erotic and savage, his poems celebrate the anguish of absence, the bittersweet longing for what cannot be possessed” (Alison Croggon.)

Ahmad Shamlou(1925 —2000) , Iran’s most prominent contemporary poet ,recognized internationally, was a  poet, writer, and journalist. 

Shamlou’s poetry is complex, but his imagery, which constructs the significant part of his message and aesthetical feature is simple.  “For infrastructure and impact, he uses a kind of everyday imagery in which personified oxymoronic elements are spiked with an unreal combination of the abstract and the concrete thus far unprecedented in Persian poetry”

He is widely known as one of the effective Iranian poet that his fruitful years of his writing and translating helped to introduce many world authors and poets to Iran.

His six-volume  (The Book of the streets) is a main contribution in understanding the Iranian folklore beliefs and language.

His poetry has been translated into several languages; Shamlou is deeply influenced by Garcia Lorca,

Now I will discuss the poetic and aesthetic impact of Lorca’s poems on Shamlou poetry.

Analysis of impact of Lorca’s poems on Shamlou’s poetry

We can consider the Lorca’s poems as an abstract art in which the meaning is conveyed  through less literal rendering (denotative meaning) and  through more combination of colors, feelings, and rhythm with impressive juxtaposition of  the incongruous images directly or indirectly to prove his surrealistic ideology that is cleverly hidden in language of his poems.

In Lorca’s poems, the human emotions and nature characteristics are interrelated.

The close relation between human and nature is inspired by his delicate use of words such as, the tree, river, moon, nightingale, and etc.

Lorca’s poems are based on amalgam of natural themes and deep human emotions along with a surreal mixture and complication of such a close relation through inseparable strings of recursion of the images. Few poems you can find without such an interaction of forms and meanings.

Influenced by Lorca, Shamlou, the Persian poet, writer, and translator known for his complex prose and simple ,lively and colorful images in his poems. This influence created a new point of view poetically, culturally and politically which made his poems understood by many western people in literature. The significant themes created by Shamlou’s poems are common in Lorca’s poems and  they  are love, passion and affection along with social and political attitudes. Both poets  transferred the meaning of freedom as one of the important theme by desiring to administer the justice in their country.

Shamlou, like Lorca, tried to highlight the role of music or natural rhythm hidden behind the structure of sepid poetry with the use of figure of speech such as , symbols, oxymorons, natural images and personifications to mix the prose- like form with poetical distinction to create a unique and outstanding atmosphere.

Romanticism and emotional impact of Lorca’s poems together with surrealistic features influenced Shamlou to create  love poems that are unique and somehow weird to Persian readers.

Combination of allegory and abstraction together with cultural and poetical universal themes contribute to rich mode of expressions and aesthetical textures of both poets.

“Shamlou became a great poet of love, a poet as well of the natural world. But it was a love and a nature infused with a mystical otherness”

O Fairy in human form
whose body would not burn
except in the fire of illusion
your presence is a paradise
justifying escape from hell
it is an ocean overwhelming me
to wash me clean
of every lie
and of every sin.
And the dawn awakens by your hands.
– From Aida in the Mirror (trans. E. Kho’i)

Lorca defines his love and affection to his beloved through combination of nature with delicate feeling behind his words

No one understood the perfume
of the dark magnolia of your womb.
Nobody knew that you tormented
a hummingbird of love between your teeth

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

Everyday speech style of these two poets and the exclusive power of wording, description, wonderful imaging and emotional portraying the message through the intense natural images are common features that distinguished their works from simple stereotyped rendering in their era.

Distancing from traditional poetry and going beyond what a romantics and surrealist reader expects to satiate the feeling of their curiosity and uniqueness of Shamlou’s poems is possibly influenced by the ambitious and insatiable spirit of Lorca’s poems but with lessoning their ambiguity and complication in some ways.Lorca and Shamlou’s poems are admired because of their deep concepts of liberality, love, affection and passion.

Some of common figures of speech used both in Lorca’s and Shamlou’s poems

Now I will discuss the common figures of speech used by Shamlou and Lorca to clarify the artistic and poetic impact of Lorca on Shamlou. I represented them by giving some evidences and examples in both Lorca and Shamlou’s poems.

 The highlighted words show poetical literary personification.

Personification in Lorca’s poems:


Adam dreams in the fever of the clay
of a child who comes galloping
through the double pulse of his cheek

City That Does Not Sleep

The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats

Personification in Shamlou’s poem:

From “Bagh-e Ayeneh” first published in the anthology Bagh-e Ayeneh (Garden of Mirrors), 1956:

Within the wild cries of the lightening

As-if in plain conception of the rains

in the restless womb of the clouds,

Within the silent pain of the vines

when the embryo of grape growing on the end of their limbs,


فریادهای عاصیِ آذرخش ــ
هنگامی که تگرگ
                     در بطنِ بی‌قرارِ ابر
                                           نطفه می‌بندد

و دردِ خاموش‌وارِ تاک ــ
هنگامی که غوره‌ی خُرد
                             در انتهای شاخسارِ طولانیِ پیچ‌پیچ جوانه می‌زند

Symbols in Lorca’s poem: 

Gacela of the Dark Death

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas

I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that I have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that I am the small friend of the West wind;
that I am the intense shadows of my tears

Here “apples” are a symbol of “Garden Of Eden”, and the “child” symbolizes the ” renewal” and regeneration. Another symbol used by Lorca in this poem is “stable of gold” as reference of Christ’s nativity and “west wind” as spring.( Robert C. Allen) Lorca delicately symbolized what he thought not in a an clear way but he wanted to apply the symbols and words that are in nature have complexity of  duality of meanings. For instance, the child also represents a possible lover, the “high seas” also have underlying meaning as “death”, and the “stable of gold” also implies the wild violence of horses. This kind of symbolizing shows the heavy ambiguity and obscurity behind the symbols in Lorca’s poems and sometimes it is difficult to clarify the meaning certainly.


Now I will refer to the Shamlou’s poem, “Vasl”, first published in the anthology Lahzeh-ha va Hamisheh (Eternity and Moments) ,1964 that contains the symbols that the poet, like Lorca, used them to represent some meaning. But here we can say that possibly Shamlou didn’t use the symbols with the complexity of duality of meanings.

Symbols in Shamlou’s poem:

It is me,

Pulling out the nails

with my bare teeth

Yet holding wide open arms

آنک منم
میخِ صلیب از کفِ دستان به دندان برکنده

Here “the nails” is symbols of agony of poet and he struggled to fight with this agony produced by the oppression of sphere in  his era.


It is me,

standing by the broken cross

high, straight

lifted like a wail

آنک منم
          پا بر صلیبِ باژگون نهاده
با قامتی به بلندیِ فریاد

 As an allusion to the event of crucifying the Jesus in Christianity, poet likens himself to Jesus that had been oppressed by ignorant people. Shamlou symbolized “Broken cross” as defeated sphere and suppressed difficulties in his lifetime.


I could never believe the dark.

For the hope of a window,

at the end of such tight pass way,

was always shining in my heart


هرگز شب را باور نکردم
چرا که
       در فراسوهای دهلیزش
به امیدِ دریچه‌یی
                    دل بسته بودم

Here Shamlou uses “the night” possibly as a symbol of “oppression” and “subjugation”.

OXYMORON: A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined

Oxymoron elements in Lorca’s poems:

Aroblé, Aroblé

The girl with the pretty face
keeps on picking olives
with the grey arm of the wind
wrapped around her waist.
Tree, tree
dry and green

Before the Dawn

Upon the green night
the piercing saetas
leave traces of warm


A tree of blood soaks the morning
where the newborn woman groans

Oxymoron elements in Shamlou’s poems:

From “Bagh-e Ayeneh” first published in the anthology Bagh-e Ayeneh (Garden of Mirrors), 1956.

Your bliss

is merciless indeed,

yet so gracious

And your breath

striking over the palm of my hands

feels like a green song


شادیِ تو بی‌رحم است و بزرگوار
نفس‌ات در دست‌های خالیِ من ترانه و سبزی‌ست

From “Safar” first published in the anthology Phoenix in The Rain in 1966

It surely was a sea

And It surely was dead and  dead for a long while

For its falling frail sky

was a grey roof over the spotless stillness

of winds, of waves and of its moist rays of light) sunlight: my translation)

with no sign of the breathing of any star

The sun in that land,

was swinging in the vastness of sphere

ceaselessly wandering  around a fearful doubt

a fearful doubt: to rise or to fall.


به دریایی مرده درآمدیم
                            با آسمان سربیِ كوتاهش
كه موج و باد را
به سكونی جاودانه
 مسخ كرده بود،
و آفتابی رطوبت‌زده
كه در فراخیِ بی‌تصمیمیِ خویش
                                        سرگردانی می‌كشید
در تردیدِ میانِ فرونشستن و برخاستن
به ولنگاری
            یله بود

The concept of “love” in Lorca’s and Shamlou’s poems.

The Lorca’s poems are the very poem of love. The words of love create the bridge between human feeling and external world.

Lorca is skillful at making the equivalence of word and feeling seem real. Language, desire, the elemental and the more-than-real blend together. In Lorca’s works, love inevitably points to question of power, oppression, repression , subjectivity and identity: “there is no longer a Lorca without Foucault and Freud , without feminism, theories of body, between various emerging eroticism”(Bristow,pp.197-228)

Creating an unstable but highly persuasive equivalence between love, nature and sexuality, Lorca’s technical construction of equivalence of sign and feeling, “sex”, ‘love’ and ‘nature’ surprised modern readers, who was producing ideas and images at a time their minds are making the psycho relation between these elements while reading the poems. The equivalences used by Lorca also tend to misrepresent the scope of Lorca’s writing on love, ignoring the fact , especially in the poetry there is  wide ‘variety of perspectives on love'(Walters,p.191)

Lorca is strong on companionship, on spiritual love, on love as commitment to others and to the fight against social injustice about women, homosexual men and black people (Ucelay, p.97).

However, sometimes, the complexity  of love description  takes the reader away from bodily conceptualizations.

As maintained by Feal Deibe (1973),  violence of unrequited passion between men and women in Lorca’s work is attributable to fear of the woman .

The ‘sonnet of the Garland of Roses’ works with sudden contrast, indicates discrepancy in the exchange of Love (Anderson 1990, p.313)

Another of his attitude toward love was his homosexual feelings.

As his writings of homosexual feeling we can refer to: “Ode to Walt Whitman,” the dramatic piece “The Public”, and the unfinished “The Destruction of Sodom”.

“Ode to Walt Whitman,” published in Mexico in 1934 in a limited edition of fifty copies, but never published in Spain during Lorca’s lifetime. It  indicates the poet’s own contradictions respecting homosexuality. “The ode represents a moralistic tone by making a clear distinction between a pure and desexualized homosexual love”.


Now I would represent some evidences of different meanings and manifestations of the concept of love in Lorca’s poems.

Ditty of First Desire

 In the green morning
I wanted to be a heart.
A heart.

turn orange-colored.
turn the color of love.)

 Songs, 1921-1924
translated by Alan S. Trueblood

در صبح سبز

می خواهم یک عشق باشم

می خواهم عشق باشم

روح ام سرخ شد

روح ام رنگ عشق شد

Here perhaps we can feel the satisfaction of Lorca with love but there is no specific beloved here the poet is serious about his love and insisted on  that as a volition. He wants to fall in love (positive attitude toward love), but in the next poem I will show the exact carnal and erotic meaning of love in Lorca’s poems that confuses the reader. 

In “faithless wife” he shows lust and carnal desire to the woman that had husband but she pretended that she is a maiden.

In the farthest street corners
I touched her sleeping breasts
and they opened to me suddenly
like spikes of hyacinth.
The starch of her petticoat
sounded in my ears
like a piece of silk
rent by ten knives

در گوشه‌ي دنج خيابان
سينه‌هاي لرزانش را به‌دست گرفتم
ناگهان چون سنبل بر من شكفتند.
و صداي لغزش زير دامني‌اش
مثل تكه‌اي حرير
در گوشم پيچيد

I took off my tie,
she too off her dress.
I, my belt with the revolver,
She, her four bodices.
Nor nard nor mother-o’-pearl
have skin so fine,
nor does glass with silver
shine with such brilliance.
Her thighs slipped away from me
like startled fish,
half full of fire,
half full of cold

كراواتم را درآوردم
او لباس‌اش را
كمربندم را كه هفت‌تيري برآن بود كندم
او نيم‌تنه‌اش را.
هيچ صدف و مرواريدي
پوستي چنان دلپذير نداشت
و هيچ بلور نقرفامي
چنان درخشندگي‌اي.
ران‌هايش مي‌گريختند از دستانم
چون ماهي جهنده
و تنش
نيمي آتش و
نيمي يخ.
آن شب

In “Seranata” again there is the manifestation of interwoven sexual love and the grief ” 

The night soaks itself
along the shore of the river
and in Lolita’s breasts
the branches die of love

بر کناره‌های رود
شب را بنگرید که در آب غوطه می‌خورد.
و بر پستان‌های لولیتا
دسته‌گل‌ها از عشق می‌میرند

Naked the night sings
above the bridges of March.
Lolita bathes her body
with salt water and roses.

The branches die of love

(Translated from Spanish by Derek Parker)

بر فراز پل‌های اسفندماه
شب عریان به آوازی بم خواناست.
تن می‌شوید لولیتا
در آب ِ شور و سنبل ِ رومی.
دسته‌گل‌ها از عشق می‌میرند

Now I will represent some of the poems of Shamlou that transfer the same theme, erotic and carnal love of his beloved woman, Ayda, in the anthology of  “Ayda dar ayeneh( Ayda in the mirror)

“Your kisses

are chattering sparrows of the orchard

Your breasts

the hive of all the hillsides

your body

an eternal mystery

granted to me

in an immense privacy.”

بوسه‌های تو

گنجشکَکانِ پُرگوی باغ‌اند
و پستان‌هایت کندوی کوهستان‌هاست
و تنت
رازی‌ست جاودانه
که در خلوتی عظیم
                       با من‌اش در میان می‌گذارند

In another poem, Ayda in the mirror(ayda dar ayeneh) from the anthology of “Ayda in the mirror”,  Shamlou describes the sexual love in the kisses of his beloved.

Your lips are as delicate as a poem

Your lips turns the erotic kisses into

 Such a pleasant shame with

that a cave animate

turns into a human being

(My translation)

     به ظرافتِ شعر
شهوانی‌ترینِ بوسه‌ها را به شرمی چنان مبدل می‌کند
که جاندارِ غارنشین از آن سود می‌جوید
تا به صورتِ انسان درآید

In “before dawn” Lorca possibly fears of love and complains that love is blind and unreasonable and also he confessed his hopelessness or opposition to that.

“But like love
the archers
are blind”

In “farewell” (Bedrood) from the anthology of “fresh air”, Shamlou is also hopeless and has a negative attitude as Lorca toward love that is manifested in the anthology of “fresh air”

The gods didn’t save me

Your union didn’t save me either

Your heart beside me was meaningless

Your heart beside me was in compassionate (my translation)

. خدایان نجاتم نمی‌دادند
پیوندِ تُردِ تو نیز
نجاتم نداد

کنارِ من قلبت آینه‌یی نبود
کنارِ من قلبت بشری نبود…

Respectively, Shamlou’s poem “Roxana” represents longing for his lost beloved, whose voice informs him of his inadequacy: “If you were capable of coming, I would have taken you with me. / You would have become a cloud and upon our meeting fire would have / sparked from our hearts and brightened up the sea and the sky.”

This theme of disappointment and regret reminds us the same in one of Lorca’s poems, “ode to Walt Whitman”.

“Not for a moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies,…”

As can be seen, not exact but similar fluctuation of   the attitudes toward love is apparent in Shamlou’s poems like ones of Lorca.

 Comparison between Roxana and “ode to Walt Whitman” shows that in Shamlou’s poems the language has an almost Whitmanian scope, and also the focus of meaning is on the lost beloved just like Lorca’s poems.

According to Federico Bonaddio in Lorca’s poems we can see different attitudes and in some parts complicated and vague toward love. In some of his poems because of the symbolic and surrealistic style of his language it is difficult to judge and distinct whether there is a real or beyond real manifestation of love or beloved. For instance, in Lorca’s Sonnets of Dark Love, the beloved’s sex is not explicitly recognizable. But I think this complexity and ambiguity is much less than in Shamlou’s poems. Maybe since the level of tolerance of ambiguity for Persian readers and west readers are different.

Shamlou is mostly influenced by Lorca in the style, theme a, figures of speech, imagery ,atmosphere, and  the texture of poems.

As the climax of his manifestation of love in his poems maybe  we can refer to ” ayda in the mirror” in which we are evident that the character of woman with its real appearance as a female is illustrated by Shamlou  and the relation between a  man and a woman( lover and beloved) is clarified  and is different from the ” lyric of last solitude”(ghazal-e akharin enzeva)in which Shamlou describes himself as a child that he is dependent on the love of her beloved as a mother( relation of mother and the child instead of man and woman). In ” Ayda in the mirror” the poet that was sick of people and oppression of sphere fell in love with his beloved ‘Ayda’ and describes his love and passion.

The concept of freedom in Lorca’s and Shamlou’s poems

Lorca as a humanist poet and anti-fascists   was a patriot and he loved the people of his country. “his  poems, especially the Gypsy Ballads, describe the ‘guardians civil’ as the natural enemies of both gypsies and marginal figures including against anarchists that were popular in rural areas of Southern Spain”.

The emphasis of Lorca’s work is on the desire to give back the rights of marginalised people (the poor, gypsies, and women).

Respectively, Lorca announced in his manifesto On Sat. 15 Feb. 1936, the day before the Spanish

Election, Mundo obrero (the communist newspaper): “Political parties separated by considerable theoretical divergences, but united in defense of freedom and the

Republic, have wisely joined forces in the formation of a broadly based Popular Front. We intellectuals, artists and members of the liberal professions would fail in our duty if,

at this time of undeniable political gravity, we refrained from making public our opinion on a situation of such importance” (From Ian Gibson’s The death of Lorca. Published in Chicago by J. Philip  O’Hara, Inc. in 1973).

Lorca wanted to write for his people to warn them of the oppression of the government and disclose all the truths about savagery of political men in his country. His life is summarized in his struggle to resist against injustice and invite the people in his poems to break the silence.

Accordingly, illustration of oppression has been represented in one of Lorca’s poems that I will discuss here.

In his poem “ballads of the Spanish civil guard” he made images, with his wonderful imagery tactics, about the oppressors that threaten the deep concept of freedom.

When night came near,
night that night deepened,
the gypsies at their forges
beat out suns and arrows.
A badly wounded stallion
knocked against all the doors.
Roosters of glass were crowing
through Jerez de la Frontera.

چندان که شب فرود می آمد
شب ، شبِ کامل ،
کولیان بر سندان های خویش
پیکان و خورشید می ساختند.
اسبی خون آلوده
بر درهای گنگ می کوفت

 خروسانِ شیشه یی بانگ سر می دادند.


The city, free from fear,
multiplied its doors.
Forty civil guards
enter them to plunder.
The clocks came to a halt,

شهر ، آزاد از هراس
درهایش را تکثیر می کرد.
چهل گارد سیویل
از پی تاراج بدان در آمدند.
ساعت ها از حرکت باز ایستاد

Like Lorca, Shamlou struggled against oppression. He found himself in prison more than once.  He was one of the first to warn of the injustice in his famous poem “In This Deadend“:

They smell your breath.
You better not have said, “I love you.”
They smell your heart.
These are strange times, darling…
And they flog
at the roadblock.
We had better hide love in the closet…
In this crooked dead end and twisting chill,
they feed the fire
with the kindling of song and poetry.
Do not risk a thought.
These are strange times, darling…
He who knocks on the door at midnight
has come to kill the light.
We had better hide light in the closet…
Those there are butchers
stationed at the crossroads
with bloody clubs and cleavers.
These are strange times, darling…
And they excise smiles from lips
and songs from mouths.
We had better hide joy in the closet…
Canaries barbecued
on a fire of lilies and jasmine,
these are strange times, darling…
Satan drunk with victory
sits at our funeral feast.
We had better hide God in the closet.
– (trans. M.C. Hillmann)

“He had a lifelong commitment to freedom”, while the troubles of his country sometimes made him disappointed.

In his anthology of “Abraham in the fire” he illustrated his social and political attitudes toward “freedom” , “patriotism” and his oppressed people.

In “herald”(esharati) from the anthology of “Abraham in Fire”(1973), the poet  claims for freedom and transfers  his message to all his people as ” to achieve the freedom” and he is regretful that he didn’t succeed in achieving  the freedom in his era. So he asks the reader to do their best to achieve this precious stone.


We possessed all the mighty words of this world

and we did not speak.

We did not speak

of the long awaited Name!

For we were not denied any word

but one word,

-One Word-



We did not speak

we did not speak of the Word

But you drew.

You draw!


تمامی‌ الفاظِ جهان را در اختیار داشتیم
آن نگفتیم
           که به کار آید
چرا که تنها یک سخن
                          یک سخن در میانه نبود:
ــ آزادی!

ما نگفتیم

تو تصویرش


Source by shokofeh

Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

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