LUIS DE GÓNGORA Y ARGOTE
 


Portrait of Góngora
by Velázquez

 
    1.-  Luis de Góngora y Argote (1561-1627) from Cordoba, was the most controversial poet of the 17th century. His name was established after his association with the poetic group of 1927.
   Góngora saw very few of his poems published during his lifetime, some of which were in the collection of ballads and ill-kept editions, or in the famous The Best of Illustrious Poets by Pedro de Espinosa, printed in 1605.
 
    2.-  1609 was the year in which Góngora´s poetry was consecrated. Until then, his compositions consisted of, basically, short poems, ballads and sonnets.
 
   His burlesque and satirical poetry gained him respect from the poets of his time. It gave the impression of being outside the usual moral values and of proposing an anti-heroic ethic and an appreciation for the rural and acquiescent. Running parallel to this, we see he had a fondness for Andalucía as opposed to Madrid or Valladolid, places where the court resided and where our poet didn´t get the success he was aiming for.

Cover of the
Chacón Manuscript
   From looking at his themes, we note his preference for the burlesque. Tenderness showed a certain apprehension towards the gift of feminine seduction. The court, the almost anguished necessity to secure income and economic protection. Religion, the committment to superiors of the order, etc.
 
   This reflected the slow evolution towards more complex and elaborately formed expression, although he was never to abandon the simplicity and spontaneity of his first ballads and short poems.

Index of the
Chacón Manuscript
    3.-  In 1610, Góngora wrote his ode To the Taking of Larache, which, if not one of his masterpieces, indicated his future direction.

 
   In 1612, he wrote his Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea, which dealt with the disastrous love affair between the cyclops Polyphemus and the maiden Galatea. Although Luis Carrillo y Sotomayor had written a poem along similar lines a little earlier, Góngora´s masterpiece seems only to be indebted to the Latin poet Ovidio and his Metamorphosis.
 
   Polyphemus had a tremendous effect on society of that time. Because of this, his relationships with Quevedo and Lope de Vega worsened and new hostilites emerged. He was accused of being difficult, of being deliberately obscure, and was insulted by being branded "culterano" (Latinized, highly metaphorical style), where the author tried to copy the syntax and Latin vocabulary into his poems, with his difficult hyperbaton and his allusions and avoidance of referring to often very common objects.

Solitudes with comments
by Salcedo Coronel


Polyphemus with comments
by Salcedo Coronel
    4.-  The ultimate scandal followed the work, Solitudes (1613), which was split into two, unfinished and disconcerting for the readers of his time. One of the problems was that of his story-line: it dealt with the impressions of a pilgrim, who, saving his life after a shipwreck, was enjoying the pleasures of rural life when he came across a group of peasants who were ready to give him lodgings, and invite him to country weddings, which left him disillusioned about the courtesan life which he seemed to have led in another time. The second Solitude moves its setting to the world of fishermen who also overcome the shipwrecked pilgrim with the authenticity and simplicity of their lives.
 
   Again, his work - which was going to consist of four parts - was disturbing, because it dealt with themes of limited interest written in a high-sounding and heroic language. Todays well-read appear to agree that it deals with contempt for the court and praise for the small village in which Góngora expresses his disillusionment of some of the representatives of nobility and a few politicians from whom he received almost nothing.
    5.-  Around 1617, Góngora wrote his Panegyric to the Duke of Lerma, a poem which was left unfinished, perhaps because of the author´s feeling of failure at not obtaining the economic help he needed.
 
   A year later, 1618, he drew up his Fable of Pyramus and Tisbe, radically changing that which he wrote years earlier. The burlesque tone of this work appears to be a reaffirmation of the genre with which the author succeeded in his literary beginnings.
 
   Góngora continued writing successfully until nearly the end of his days. In 1626, economically and mentally finished, he decided to return to his home town, Córdoba, where he died a year later, surrounded by his family.

Edition of Works, Madrid, 1633
by Gonzalo de Hozes

Commentary by Salcedo Coronel
to Polyphemus by Góngora
    7.-  On our author´s death, several editions and commentaries emerged about his poems. During this same year, 1627, appeared Works in verse by the Spanish Homer, collected by Juan López de Vicuña and the Annotations by Díaz de Rivas. The Chacón Manuscript was edited in 1628, which was the manuscript most carefully and textually rewritten. Like the classic authors, Luis de Góngora received his commentaries from the most erudite of the time, as is proved in those by Salcedo Coronel, from 1629-1648, or in the Complete Readings of the Works by Luis de Góngora y Argote (1630), by José Pellicer de Salas y Tovar. In 1633, the edition of poems by Gonzalo de Hoces was printed, which serves as the last point in this list.
 
   But Góngora influenced not only the poetry of his time, but also other genres, such as the sacred oratory, through the admiration of authors like Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino (1580-1633). The Illustration was a flagstone for his poetry, which wasn´t to be lifted definitely until 1927.

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