JOSÉ DE ESPRONCEDA AND THE POETRY OF THE BEGINNING OF THE 19TH CENTURY
 




Mariano José de Larra´s
personal objects

 
    1.-  Romantic poetry has its roots in enlightened poetry, from its neoclassical side and evidently, Preromantic.
 
   What we have left of the poetry by Madrid-born Mariano José de Larra (1809-1837) is scarce. We can appreciate in it the formation of genres like satire, so characteristic of the 18th century.
 
   The poetic training of Ángel Saavedra, Duke of Rivas (1791-1865), is equally illustrated, who didn´t cultivate the line of his Ballads until 1834, which dealt with medieval and classical Spanish themes. From his first epoch we remember With Eleven Mortal Wounds (1809), an autobiography and The Maltese Lighthouse (1828).

Illustrated text
from a ballad
by the Duke of Rivas
   Antonio García Gutiérrez, (1813-1884), from Cadiz, combined his neoclassic training with an interest in the Hispano-Arabic world which he reflected in his poems.
 
   Eugenio de Ochoa (1815-1872), ends this short list of romantic poets who started from the poems inspired by Manuel José Quintana, who continued his literary teaching until his death in 1857.

Portrait of García Gutiérrez

 
    2.-  José de Espronceda Delgado (1808-1842) was born in Almendralejo (Badajoz). He is indisputably the best Spanish poet of the first half of the 19th century.

Cover of Poems
by Espronceda
   A pupil of Alberto Lista, he co-founded the "Sociedad Numantina" along with several other students, which was destined to expel the Spanish monarchy.
 
His political tendencies were Republic and Democratic. Some of his contemporaries fairly contemptuously called him an anarchist.
 
   From his teacher, Lista, he was given the task of continuing "El Pelayo", a work to which he dedicated distinct moments between the years 1825 and 1835.
 
   He copied the medievalised poetry of Ossián in works such as Oscar and Malvina or the Farewell between the Greek Patriarch and the Apostate´s Daughter, but towards 1834 he wrote his Chant of the Crusader and showed the change towards a totally romantic and personal lyric.

1852 Edition of the Poems by Espronceda

   The most popular Spanish poetry of all time appeared at the beginning of 1835: the Pirate´s Song, learned off by heart by all educated Spanish-speakers.

Portrait of
José de Espronceda
   It is a song of liberty sung by an antisocial character, which suggests an aesthetic and exotic ideal filled with highlighted rhythm and music.
 
   From this work follow Under Sentence of Death, The Executioner and The Begger, poems in which Espronceda openly raises themes of social justice and reveals his Democratic ideology. His personal dignity was secured when he manifested openly and absolutely, his repulsion towards the death sentence.
   In 1838, he published his Chant of the Cossack and 1840 dated the second of his masterpieces: To Jarifa in an Orgy, in which he turns to a prostitute to share with her the disillusionment of a world which didn´t know how to meet his ideals.

Cover of The Student from Salamanca
   The two major works of his poetic production were written in his last two years of life: The Student from Salamanca, which is a narrative poem in which he recounts the death of Félix de Montemar, a type of Don Juan and model of the antisocial rebel, a true Titan of his time who didn´t hesitate in accepting death at the hands of the devil himself or from the woman he himself destroyed emotionally. An exhibition of meters with different numbers of syllables mark the most intense moments of the work.
 
   The Godforsaken World is the work which death did not allow Espronceda to finish. After a foreward inspired by Lord Byron, he narrates the adventures of an "Adam" who succeeds in recuperating his physical youth eternally, without his "social" maturity following this.

Autograph of the Chant for Teresa in The Godforsaken World

Portrait of
Father Arolas
It shows us the reactions of the good savage in a wicked society, which treats him with the habitual brutality. The second part of this work has always been the most noteable: The Chant to Teresa in which the author sublimates his feelings of disillusionment and sadness about society, love, glory and the world in which he had to live.
 
   Espronceda, the first poet of Spanish Romanticism, is without doubt, the most relevant figure of this half of the century.
 
    3.-  The Valencian Juan Arolas Bonet (1805-1849), of neoclassic training, wrote an erotic poetry which was attractive and suggestive. He dealt with Eastern themes, along the lines of Víctor Hugo, Lord Byron or even, A Thousand and One Nights, as well as religous themes. He wrote outstanding love poetry which was delicate and intelligent.
    4.-  "Galaxia Esproncediana" is the name given to poets who follow this master closely.

Enrique Gil
y Carrasco
   Antonio Ros de Olano is better known as a narrator than a poet, but prologued Espronceda´s The Godforsaken World and wrote poems surprising for their approach.
 
   Leon-born Enrique Gil y Carrasco (1815-1846) died in Berlin, and his poems, with frequent references to Espronceda, reflect a sensitivity superior to that of his contemporaries. The Captive, The Violet or The Drop of Dew have a nearly pre-Becquerian feeling. He also cultivated medieval themes in his novel and poems such as A Memory from the Templars.

Gabriel García Tassara
   Salvador Bermúdez de Castro (1817-1883), a poet from Cadiz, published his Poetical Essays in 1840. His ideology was Conservative, but he raised social and religious themes, in which The Doubt - the title of one of his famous poems - occupies a essential place.
 
   Gabriel García Tassara (1817-1875) was born in Seville and published his Poetry in 1872. His pessimistic and caustic tone brings him nearer to Espronceda at times, although this author always boasted of his Conservative beliefs. In his poem To Laura we find echos of Chant to Teresa.
 
   Miguel de los Santos Álvarez (1818-1892), from Valladolid, published his book María in 1840, from which Espronceda cited an octave and verse from this same octave in The Godforsaken World. His tone is very similar to that of his Extremaduran teacher, with whom he had a strong friendship. His poems remain still unedited today, although not forgotten.

D.Miguel Pérez Rosado.
Ph. D. in Hispanic Philology.