IMAGERY IN QUEVEDO'S LOVE POETRY
GERALD PAUL YOUNG
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
122 85 8395
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to
Drs. Allen, Lasley, and Abraham for their contributions of
time and effort in helping me to prepare this dissertation.
I must also thank my wife Mary for her help and encourage-
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Notes .... oo....oo .. .... ooo
I THE IMAGE OF THE LADY .......
Nature and the Lady's Beauty
The Lady and Her Admirers ...
II THE IMAGE OF THE POET ..........
Metaphorical Relationships ..
"Masks" of the Poet .........
Notes ... ........ .................**
III ASPECTS OF THE POET'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE
Seduction of the Lady .......
Notes .............. ................
IV THE NATURE AND COURSE OF LOVE .........
The Nature of Love ..................
The Course of Love ........
Notes ........... .. .... ........
@ .oee. 0a4 o0&4aa eee ee eeeeo oe e
Conclusions ..********************......... ... 166
Notes .....**************************** 172
Appendix ..........***** .....................* 173
Bibliography .**....*.......... ............. 175
Biographical Sketch ..*........*** ............ 178
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
IMAGERY IN QUEVEDO'S LOVE POETRY
Gerald Paul Young
Chairman: John J. Allen
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures
The love poetry of Quevedo consists of 220 pieces,
70 of which comprise the collection "Canta sola a Lisi."
This study divides these works into four major categories,
depending on the type of image that predominates in
each work. In one group of poems, the imagery is devoted
principally to portraying the poet's beloved. A second
group presents the image of the poet himself. A third
group contains images which portray aspects of the poet's
relationship to his lady. A fourth group contains imagery
which deals with the nature and course of love.
In the first group of poems, the poet's beloved is
portrayed in two principal ways--by comparing her beauty
to nature and by showing how her beauty affects her
admirers. When the lady is compared to nature, her
beauty is sometimes presented as being equal to nature's,
but in most images she is portrayed as having beauty
superior to nature's. In both types of relationships,
Quevedo relies heavily on conventional Petrarchan meta-
phors, which he varies by using several different linguis-
tic and literary devices.
In poems depicting the lady's effect on her admirers,
the power of her features, rather than their beauty, is
stressed. This power is manifested in four main ways:
(1) the lady destroys her admirers; (2) she overpowers
them; (3) she grants them benefits; (4) she combines
beneficence with her destruction and power.
The emphasis in the second major group of poems,
which depict the poet himself, is on showing him suffering
from unrequited love. His suffering is described in two
different types of imagery. Some works employ metaphors
that compare the suffering poet to natural phenomena
and to mythological creatures and personages to illustrate
his torment. In other works the poet is portrayed in
various situations (lost, at war, sick, sleeping, dying,
etc.) that dramatize his suffering in love.
The third major group of poems contain images that
(1) show the poet complaining to his lady because of the
ways she affects him, both when he is absent from her,
and when he is in her presence and (2) describe attempts
by the poet to seduce the lady.
The fourth and final group of poems can also be
divided into two sections. In the first section some
works define the nature of love, whereas others portray
the poet angrily complaining to love about its cruelty.
In the second section the poems are devoted to dis-
cussing aspects of the course of love, especially how
it is communicated, love triangles, warnings to pros-
pective lovers, and love after death.
Throughout the collection of love poetry, certain
types of images are noticeable because of the frequency
with which they occur, especially (1) images of heat and
light, (2) the vehemence with which the suffering lover
is portrayed, and (3) the preoccupation with death and its
relationship to love.
Although Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645)
has been acclaimed as an author since his own lifetime,
one important part of his literary production has been
neglected until this century his poetry. This neglect
is surprising in view of the fact that Quevedo was one
of the most prolific Spanish poets of the seventeenth
century--his total poetic production comes close to
One can only speculate as to why Quevedo's poetry
remained to a large extent unstudied for so many years,
but one very likely reason is that until this century
editions of Quevedo's poetry were in an appalling state.
The poet himself never attempted any organization or
publication of his own poems (although a few were pub-
lished by others during his lifetime), and every edition
since his death has either been incomplete, or riddled
with works of wrong or doubtful attribution, or both.
Finally in 1963, Jose Manuel Blecua published an
edition of Quevedo's complete poetic works (excluding,
however, his translations of foreign poetry), which metic-
ulously collates the most important early editions and
manuscripts and convincingly discards poems of mistaken
attribution.1 This work greatly facilitates any study
of Quevedo's poetry.
Even before Blecua's invaluable edition, however,
Quevedo's poetry was beginning to draw favorable critical
attention earlier in this century. His love poetry, in
particular, has undergone a most dramatic revaluation.
Celina Sabor de Cortizar, in La poesia de Quevedo,
traces the history of the changing critical attitudes
toward his amorous verse.2 She mentions that before 1930
such names as Ernest M6rim6e and Ludwig Pfandl were among
those who found Quevedo's love poetry lacking in quality.
Mrs. Cortazar marks 1930 as the turning point in the
critical appraisals of his amorous verse. Beginning with
Luis Astrana Marin's El cortejo de Minerva in that year,
Quevedo's love poems were regarded with steadily increas-
ing fervor, until in 1957 D&maso Alonso proclaimed Quevedo
to be "el mis alto poeta de amor de la literature espa-
My own interest in Quevedo's love poetry was first
aroused by Damaso Alonso's chapter on certain aspects of
Quevedo's poetry in his Poesia espanola: ensayo de meto-
dos y limits estilisticos.4 Like him, I was fascinated
by the seeming paradox of an author who could produce both
the bitter satire and scatology of the Buscon or the
Sueos, and the gayly colorful imagery and deeply moving
sentiments of his love poetry. I was inspired also by
Dfmaso Alonso to study Quevedo's imagery, although in this
case my interest was aroused mainly by Alonso's various
studies of this aspect of G6ngora's poetry.
Finally, I was encouraged by the fact that Alonso
and other commentators on Quevedo's love poetry often
mention the scarcity of critical works devoted to these
poems. At the present time only four works, besides
Alonso's, have dealt extensively with Quevedo's love
poetry. The most complete of these is Otis H. Green's
Courtly Love In Quevedo, which analyzes in detail the
tremendous debt which Quevedo's love poetry owes to the
tradition of courtly love.5 Joseph Fucilla and Carlo Con-
siglio have concentrated on the Petrarchan influences on
the love poetry. Fucilla, in his Estudios sobre el
petrarquismo en Espana, has done much to trace the sources
of several of Quevedo's love poems either directly to
Petrarch, or to imitators of Petrarch, such as Lulgi
Grotto. Consiglio's study, "El 'Poema a Lisi' y su
petrarquismo," provides a suitable complement to Fucilla's
work.7 In his article he investigates the question of
whether Quevedo's "Lisi" poems are an imitation of
Petrarch's Canzoniere. He concludes that although a few
works are direct imitations of poems from the Canzoniere,
the Petrarchan influence is for the most part indirect,
and no more prevalent than that found in the works of
Emilia N. Kelley's book, La poesia metaflsica de
Quevedo, analyzes many of Quevedo's love poems, but is
concerned with them to the extent that they are "meta-
physical poetry," a category which includes many works
which are not love poems. She is interested especially
in those love poems which express Quevedo's feelings about
the great perplexities of life life, death, God, time,
These four works, then, approach Quevedo's love poetry
from the point of view either of textual criticism or of
the history of ideas. There are, to be sure, other works
which study love poems by Quevedo, and many of them will
be mentioned throughout this study. But the four works
mentioned above seem to contain the most extensive treat-
ments of the subject.
My study will be limited to the 220 poems that
Blecua places under the headings "Poemas amorosos" and
"Canta sola a Lisi."9 These two sections include all of
Quevedo's serious love poetry, and exclude the occasional
satirical love poems found elsewhere. The predominant
verse form in both sections is the sonnet, which accounts
for 156 pieces. The remaining works consist of various
other verse forms, the most numerous of which are roman-
ces (18), madrigals (11), canciones (9), and silvas (8).
The section entitled "Canta sola a Lisi y la amorosa
pasi6n de su amante" calls for special comment. It
includes the seventy poems that Quevedo addresses to the
fictitious name "Lisi." Whether "Lisi" represents a
real or an ideal woman, or a combination of the two, is
impossible to assess at this point. Neither Quevedo nor
his contemporaries have left any evidence that would give
us a definitive answer to the question.
Such collections of love poems dedicated to one
woman are not unusual, however, in poetry of the Petrar-
chan tradition. Petrarch himself dedicated the poems of
his Canzoniere to "Laura," and Fernando de Herrera
addressed a series of poems in the sixteenth century to
"Luz" (the Countess of Gelves). Apart from the fact that
they are all addressed to Lisi, the poems of this section
differ little, if at all, from the rest of Quevedo's love
poetry; therefore, no distinction will be made between
works of the two sections in the following chapters.
Generally speaking, this study will attempt to
categorize and explain the various types of images used
in Quevedo's love poetry with an eye to clarifying the
meaning of the poetry on three different levels
(1) the individual poem, (2) groups of similar poems, and
(3) the collection of love poetry as a whole (especially
as it compares to other collections in the Petrarchan
The most convenient way of organizing the 220 love
poems is according to subject matter, since most poems
dealing with the same subject contain similar imagery.
The first chapter includes the fifty-two poems which
are devoted to describing the poet's beloved. The
fifty-seven poems of the second chapter describe the poet
himself. The sixty-seven works of Chapter III deal with
relationships between the poet and his beloved. And the
fourth chapter includes forty-nine poems which deal with
the emotion of love itself. The aforementioned figures
refer to the number of poems considered in each chapter;
the number actually quoted will be smaller. In addition,
although the imagery of most poems is predominantly of
one category or another, five poems contain sufficient
imagery of other categories to be considered in more than
one chapter (accounting for the total of 225 in the above
figures). An appendix at the end of this study will
include a list of the poems considered, compared to a
list of the ones actually quoted.
Throughout the four chapters an attempt has been made
to keep individual poems intact, although this is not
always possible, In fact, in the first chapter almost
no poems are analyzed as complete entities, because of
the peculiar nature of the images of feminine beauty.
These display such close similarity from poem to poem,
that they are almost like component parts which the poet
puts together in different ways to achieve varying end
products. In this one case, then, it seems more revealing
to study images isolated from their poems, and organized
into categories of similarity.
Finally, some of the more important terms to be used
throughout this study need to be discussed. This work
deals with "imagery," which is merely "images" taken
collectively. An image, according to Northrop Frye, is
"a formal unit of art with a natural content."10 That
is, images are the elements in a work of literature that
represent entities found in the natural world, whether
these be people, places, objects, events, emotions,
There are two kinds of images--literal and figura-
tive. In literal imagery the author describes exactly
what he means: in figurative imagery, he says one thing
but means another. That is, if the author describes a
beautiful woman, that is literal imagery. But if he
speaks of "gold," but actually means "hair," he is using
When an author uses figurative imagery, he usually
expresses both the figurative term and the literal term
to which it refers. This relationship between two images
is metaphor. The relationship itself can take on many
forms, including "comparison, contrast, analogy, simi-
larity, juxtaposition, identity, tension, collision,
fusion."12 Whenever the term "metaphor" is used in the
following chapters, an attempt will be made to clarify
which of the above-mentioned relationships is being
referred to at that point. In keeping with the usage
of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics,
the terms "subject" and "analogue" will be used to refer
respectively to the two basic parts of a metaphor--the
literal and the figurative image.13
The last three terms to be discussed concern the
three literary traditions from which Quevedo draws most
of his imagery courtly love, Petrarchism, and Neo-
Platonism. These will be only briefly discussed here,
since numerous references and explanations of them occur
throughout this study.
In Quevedo's love poetry courtly love and Petrarchism
are closely related. As explained by Bruce Wardropper,
the tradition of courtly love poetry dates back to medieval
Provence, where, while the lord of a castle was away on
the Crusades, his wife was in charge.14 The resident
poet of the household would address love poems to the
lady as a form of flattery. Since the lady was married,
the poetry had a hint of naughtiness or adultery about
it. And since the poet's love would never be returned,
his poems expressed the anguish of unrequited love.
The tradition of courtly love came to the Spanish
Renaissance and Baroque poets mainly through the Italian
poet Petrarch, who canonized and codified a system of
images to express the various aspects of courtly love
(e.g., the lady's beauty or the poet's suffering).
Quevedo's love poetry shows a strong Petrarchan influence
in its imagery.
In the sixteenth century another philosophy of love,
called either Platonism or Neo-Platonism, began challeng-
ing courtly love. Quevedo includes a few Neo-Platonic
poems among his amorous verse. Wardropper explains that
Neo-Platonic theories are inseparable from thought about
the cosmos; therefore, Neo-Platonic poems contain imagery
based on the Ptolemaic cosmology.15 These images will be
studied in greater detail later in this work.
Francisco de Quevedo, Obras completes I: Poesla
original (Barcelona: Planeta, 1963). Blecua has pub-
lished two later editions--the second of these (1968) is
used as the basis for this study, and will be referred
to as "Blecua" in subsequent notes. This edition is
smaller and more manageable than the three-volume third
edition (1969), which makes no changes from the second
concerning the texts or numbering of the poems. The
third edition differs mainly in that it presents addi-
tional bibliographical data about each poem, information
not pertinent to this study.
2La poesia de Quevedo (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor
de America Latina, 1968), pp. 39-40.
3Mrs. Cort&zar quotes from the third edition of
Alonso's Poesia esDanola: ensayo de metodos ~ limits
estillsticos. In the fifth and latest edition (Madrid:
Gredos, 1966), used in this study, the statement occurs
on p. 519.
"El desgarr6n afectivo en la poesla de Quevedo,"
5Courtly Love in Quevedo, Univ. of Colorado Studies:
Series in Language and Literature, No. 3 (Boulder:
Univ. of Colorado Press, 1952).
6Estudios sobre el petrarquismo en Espana, Revista
de Filologia Espanola, Anejo 72 (Madrids Consejo
Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1950).
7"El 'Poema a Lisi' y su petrarquismo," Mediterraneo,
13-15 (1946), 76-93.
La poesia metaflsica de Quevedo (Madrid: Guadarrama,
9pp. 335-487 and 491-541, respectively.
10Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton Univ.
Press, 1957), 36.
11See "Imagery," Princeton EncycloDedia of Poetry
and Poetics, ed. Alex Preminger (Princeton: Princeton
Univ. Press, 1965), PP. 363-70.
12"Metaphor," ibid., p. 490.
13See note 11.
(Z S-anish Poetry of the Golden Ae (New York:
AppIeton-Century-Crofts, 1971), P. 8-9.
15Ibid., p. 366.
THE IMAGE OF THE LADY
In The Icy Fire Leonard Forster has pointed out
that praise of the lady is one of the foremost topics
of Petrarchan poetry.1 Therefore, it is not surprising
that Quevedo, whose love poetry falls well within
the Petrarchan tradition, should devote almost one-
fourth of his poems to praising his lady's beauty.
The great majority of the images in these poems
can be organized into two categories based on the func-
tion that they perform. In the first category, the
images praise the lady's beauty by showing that it is
either equal or superior to the beauty of nature.
In the second category, the images praise her beauty
by demonstrating the devastating effect it has on her
Nature and the Lady's Beauty
Nature, as used in this section, refers to every-
thing in the universe except for divine and human beings,
and man-made creations such as portraits and statues.
This is in keeping with the. Renaissance idea that man,
although physically a part of nature, was spiritually
separated from it by the fact that he alone, of all
creatures, possessed a soul. In spite of man's spir-
itual superiority, in the physical realm nature was
considered the standard of perfect order and beauty.2
For a poet, then, to claim that his lady's beauty was
either equal or superior to natural beauty was great
The specific type of imagery to be studied in
this section is metaphor, in the sense that a subject,
the lady, is compared to an analogue, nature. The
metaphors will be studied from two points of view.
First, an attempt will be made to classify the various
types of subjects and analogues that Quevedo uses.
Then, the different kinds of relationships that he
sets up between the lady and nature will be analyzed.
In praising the lady's beauty, Quevedo usually
concentrates on specific parts of her body, although
in some metaphors he treats her general beauty, without
mentioning any particular part of the body. The areas
most often favored with praise are the eyes, hair,
cheeks, and lips. Other areas mentioned less often
are the face (whose images are related to those used
for the eyes), the teeth and mouth, and the hands and
neck. The metaphors describing the lady's general
beauty are obviously referring to her facial beauty,
since the analogues are usually closely related either
to those used with the eyes, or to those used with
the cheeks. The lady's laughter is another feature
which is subject to praise. The metaphors dealing
with it are especially interesting, because they have
an auditory, as well as a visual, basis of comparison.
Before studying the types of subjects and analogues
favored by Quevedo, it seems appropriate at this point
to discuss an important aspect of the metaphorical
process--the attributes which may form the bases of
metaphorical comparisons. This is a subject that will
play an important part in several of the following
sections. When Quevedo compares his lady's features
to natural phenomena, he implies that the two have
something in common. This something may be some phys-
ical, concrete attribute that they share, or it may
be a similar attitude which both subject and analogue
evoke in the reader. For example, if he compares his
lady's hair to gold, he may be emphasizing that both
share certain physical characteristics, such as color
and shininess; but he may also wish to evoke from the
reader the same attitude toward the lady's hair that
the latter would have toward golds a sense of admira-
tion for its beauty, its value, its desirability, etc.
In the present section, one of the principal goals
will be to isolate some of the ways in which Quevedo
achieves variety in his systems of subjects and ana-
logues. As far as the subjects are concerned, they
are varied less frequently and in fewer different ways
than the analogues. Of the individual features that
are used as subjects, the eyes seem to come in for
more variation than the other features. For instance,
poems #315, 316, 317, 428, and 436 are based on meta-
phors in which the respective subjects are the lady's
crossed eyes, her one eye, her blind eyes, her dis-
guised eyes, and her sleeping eyes.3 When the lady's
general beauty is the subject, Quevedo sometimes praises
the lady indirectly by praising portraits of her (#364,
465) or a statue of her (#507). Showing a similarity
to this technique of indirect praise are poems which
represent the lady as a mythological figures for example,
as Eurydice (#407), or as Juno and Venus (#352).
The two types of attributes that the subject and
analogue share--physical, concrete attributes as opposed
to attributes that evoke certain subjective attitudes--
might also be respectively called the denotative and
connotative meanings of imagery. The burden of convey-
ing these two kinds of meaning in a metaphor lies
mainly on the analogue, and this probably explains
why Quevedo's analogue system displays a much greater
variety than his system of subjects. In the following
discussion, while cataloguing the images that comprise
Quevedo's analogue system, it will also be demonstrated
how he varies his analogues by shifting their focus
from one to another of the possible denotations and
__ _ _ ___
connotations that form the bases of his comparisons.
The first analogues to be discussed are those
that describe the eyes. Throughout Quevedo's love
poetry, the lady's eyes receive far more attention
than any of her other features. This is probably due
to the fact that, as Otis H. Green has pointed out
concerning the courtly love tradition, love is trans-
mitted through the lady's eyes; in addition, the lady's
eyes are the principal source of her beauty.4 The
physical characteristic of the eyes which seems to attract
Quevedo's attention is their twinkle. This attribute
is translated into images of light such as dia, sol,
aurora, rayos, esfera, luz, lumbre, fuego, estrellas,
and planets. All the images that describe the lady's face,
and many of them that describe her general beauty, are
identical or closely related to those used with the eyes.
Dealing with the face are such images as sol, cielo, and
esfera. The lady's general beauty is described as cielo,
luz, cerco de luz, aurora, dia, and esfera.
As noted above, the physical quality of the lady's
eyes which probably provided the original basis for all
these images of light was their brightness, the way they
twinkled. What is fascinating, however, is the way in
which Quevedo, by concentrating on the various denotations
and connotations of these images, moves away from the
original comparison into all sorts of new areas of
For instance, the idea of twinkling eyes might
have led to their being compared to estrellas. Build-
ing on this idea, and to exaggerate their brilliance
even more, the eyes are then compared to all the stars--
firmamento, esfera, clelo--or they are compared to the
brightest stars: Sirio, the brightest star in the
constellation Canis Major, and sol, the brightest star
of all (from an earthly point of view). These heav-
enly bodies, including planets, are also nearer to
God and his perfection, and their images connote a
relationship between the lady's eyes and that divine
Building now on the image of the sun, the eyes
are further compared to dia, rayos (here "rays," and
not "lightning"), and aurora. Dia, besides denoting
a vast amount of light, connotes the idea of goodness
(as opposed to evil darkness). Aurora, which provides
the most beautiful display of light (as do the lady's
eyes), also connotes the joy of a new day, the end
of darkness--these are also qualities that would become
the lady's eyes.
Another physical characteristic connected with
most images of light is that of heat. Heat, as well
as the lady's eyes, can either be a source of good,
or a source of destruction: whence, images of fuego
and rayos (here "lightning"). This destructive capa-
ability of the eyes (and of the other features of the
lady) will be discussed at length in the second half
of this chapter.
Some generalizations can be made concerning the
way in which Quevedo plays up different attributes
of his images in order to achieve variety in his ana-
logue system. Leonard Forster has explained that in
the poetry of the Petrarchan tradition, the lady rep-
resents physical and spiritual perfection, and must
be described in superlative, hyperbolical terms.5
Based on what has just been seen concerning the images
that describe the lady's eyes, Quevedo follows several
trends in hyperbolizing his lady's beauty. He some-
times exaggerates by suggesting spatial vastness:
dia or aurora. On other occasions he evokes the image
of great numbers: estrellas become firmamento, esfera,
or cielo. (These images also connote spatial vastness.)
Moving in the opposite direction, he sometimes suggests
the concentration of great power into small spaces,
as, for example, when he compares the lady's eyes to
sol or Sirio. These same hyperbolical techniques will
be seen to function in the analogue systems that des-
cribe other of the lady's beautiful features.
The lady's hair, for instance, is another one
of her features which merits a great deal of atten-
tion. The physical characteristics of the hair which
seem to attract Quevedo's attention the most are its
_ __ ~
golden color (the Petrarchan lady is usually blond),
its sheen, its waviness, and its fine texture. From
the golden color come such images as oro, minas, teso-
ros, Indias, and moneda en coronas. It is clear from
these images, however, that the material value of gold,
rather than its color, is the attribute upon which
Quevedo expands the basic idea of gold. Minas and
Indias show the idea of spatial expansion applied to
golds tesoros and moneda en coronas represent an increase
The shininess of the hair gives rise to many of
the same images of light and heat that describe the
eyes: rayos, cielo, hoguera, dia, aurora, cometas,
and estrellas. Here the Idea of spatial expansiveness
is represented by clelo, dia, and aurora. Hoguera
is an example of an image which shows the concentration
of much heat and light into a small space. And cometas
and estrellas also connote the proximity of the hair
to divine perfection.
The lady's wavy hair is often metaphorized in
water images, which are more often than not combined
with images of light. Pi6lago de luz and golfos de
luz hyperbolize the wavy expanse of the lady's shiny
The fineness of the lady's hair is usually inter-
preted by one word: hebras. Two images, "oro en
hebras proceloso" (#349) and "hebra sutil en ondas
fulminante" (#445) introduce the idea of the danger
lurking in her hair for those who admire her.
The lady's cheeks are usually portrayed in images
which suggest their rosy glow against the creamy white-
ness of her skins nieve y rosa or jazmin y rosa.
(Some of the analogues quoted in this section are in
metaphors whose subjects are the lady's general beauty.)
Quevedo also applies his favorite methods of
hyperbole to the analogues that describe the cheeks.
By using the term flores, suggesting all flowers,
rather than just jasmines and roses, he evokes the idea
of great numerical quantity. Large spaces filled with
flowers are suggested by prados floridos, Jardin, and
sardines de Hibla (a mountain in Sicily known for its
flower-covered slopes). One technique of hyperbole
that Quevedo applies to images of the cheeks that he
does not use elsewhere is hyperbole by temporal expan-
sion. The time of the year most closely associated
with flowers is spring--hence, images which compare the
cheeks to mayo, mayo y abril, and primavera.
The analogues that describe the lady's cheeks
include an entire gamut of images, progressing from
a single flower, rosas, to two flowers, jazmIn y rosas;
then to a field full of flowers, prados floridos.
From there the progression proceeds to one month, mayo,
to two months, mayo y abril, then to the entire spring,
Probably the most intensely colorful images in
Quevedo's metaphors of feminine beauty are those that
deal with the lips. The physical characteristic of
the lips that seems to appeal most to Quevedo is their
redness. The most common images associated with the
lips are grana, rubi, pfrpura, clavel, coral, rosas,
and carmest. The hyperbolical devices used with images
of other parts of the body seem to be missing here.
Perhaps bright redness needs no exaggeration: it draws
enough attention as it is. At any rate, there is
another metaphorical device working here that should
be commented on. The connotation underlying all of
the above images (except perhaps for rosas and clavel)
is that they all represent something precious and L
rare. Grana and purpura were red dyes that were hard
to come by, and carmesi was silk dyed with grana.
Rubi was a precious stone, and coral had to be brought
from tropical seas. Even rosas and clavel, although
of no great material value, are precious in the sense
that all of nature's beautiful creations are match-
less. All of these connotations, of course, apply as
well to the lady's lips.
The lady's teeth in Quevedo's love poetry are
always brilliantly white. Perlas connotes that they
are not only white, but of great value. Indias exag-
gerates the idea of pearls to include all the treasures
of the East. The shininess of the teeth leads to their
being hyperbolically compared to auroras. And an
analogue such as Oriente might refer either to the
Indies or to the dawn.
The lady's hands and neck are always snowy white,
leading logically to an analogue such as nieve, which
is often hyperbolized spatially as Alpes.
The analogues used to describe the lady's laughter
are unique in that they include an auditory as well
as visual element. The two images in question are
"relampagos de risa carmesies" (#465) and "relampagos
* / de pfrpura" (#339). The interplay of attributes
here is unusual. For visual effects, relimpagos suggests
the lady's flashing white teeth, and carmesies and pfr-
pura suggest her brilliant red lips. The auditory
effects arise synesthetically from relimpagos: her
laughter bursts forth suddenly like the thunder accom-
panying lightning. Another connotation that relimpagos
may imply is the idea that the lady's laughter mortally
"strikes" her admirers.
The two images which have just been noted are, gram-
matically speaking, the combination of a noun plus an
adjective (the nouns: relampagos; the adjectives: car-
mesles and de pfrpura). This leads to the consideration
of another aspect of Quevedo's metaphors: the adjec-
tivization of the analogues. (In the following dis-
cussion single-word adjectives, adjectival phrases, and
adjectival clauses are all referred to as "adjectives.")
When Quevedo's analogues are modified, the adjec-
tives act like signposts to the reader to fill in
extra information about the metaphors in which they
occur. In a few metaphors the adjectives define or
emphasize certain characteristics that the subject and
analogue share. Three analogues that describe the
lady's hair will serve as examples of the technique:
"Crespas hebras, sin ley desenlazadas" (#443); "hebra
sutil en ondas fulminante" (#445); and "oro en hebras
proceloso" (#349). Most of these adjectives define
physical characteristics. The "threads" in the first
two examples are curly, wavy, and hanging free; the
gold in the third quotation is in threads. The adjec-
tives fulminante and proceloso imply both physical and
affective characteristics: they may refer respectively
to the shininess and disarrayed state of the hair,
or they may suggest the idea that danger lurks in the
lady's hairs her admirers may be "struck" by its
lightning, or "drown" in its stormy waves.
Most of the adjectives used in Quevedo's analogue
system have a somewhat different purpose from that just
cited. These other adjectives seem to be designed
to help the reader determine the subjects that the
analogues are describing. Most of these adjectives
refer to particularly human traits that the analogues,
if taken literally, could not have. For example, if
the lady is metaphorized as Mayoo en zapatillos" (#428)
or "firmamento que vives en el suelo" (#407), it is
quite clear to the reader that mayo and firmamento
are being used figuratively to describe someone who
wears shoes or lives on the ground. When encountering
the images "elocuente rubi," "sonoro clavel," and
"coral sabio" (#501), the reader knows on several accounts
that they refer to the lady's lips. First of all,
if he has read Quevedo's other love poems, and the
love poetry of other Golden Age poets, he recognizes
these terms as standard analogues for the lips. If
there is any doubt, however, as to the reference of
the analogues, the adjectives remove it. Only images
describing the lady's lips could be described as elo-
quent, sonorous, or wise.
The subjects of the metaphors just studied were
explicitly stated in the poems; the adjectives acted
merely as guideposts to help the reader find the cor-
rect subject. In some metaphors, however, the subjects
are not explicitly stated; consequently, the adjectives
take on an extra dimensions they help reveal the
nature of the "hidden" subject. This particular tech-
nique is common to most Spanish Baroque love poets,
and has been termed by Damaso Alonso as methfora im-
pura--an analogue, the subject of which is not expressed,
but is implied by other evidence, such as the adjec-
The adjectives used in these metaforas impuras
take several forms. Sometimes they describe the color
of the subject--the lady's shiny blond hair is "bionde
stelle" (#326, written in Italian) and her dark eyes
are "estrellas negras" (#4431 note that this image is
an oxymoron). Sometimes the adjectives refer to human
traits--the lady's face is an "animado cielo" and an
"esfera raclonal"; her eyes are "vivos planets" (all
three examples from #443). Finally, the hidden subject
"eyes" is often revealed by adjectives that refer to
their duality: "duplicado Sirio" (#482), "dos soles"
(#482), and "diviso il sole" (#326).
Another rhetorical device used by Quevedo in his
analogue system moves in the opposite direction from
the clarifying effect of the adjectivization toward
a more oblique expression of the analogues. The device
referred to here is periphrastic allusion. This is a
technique in which the poet avoids mentioning the con-
ventional Petrarchan analogues--oro, rosa, nieve, estre-
llas, etc.--by using geographical, mythological, or
astronomical allusions which will call the more con-
ventional images to the reader's mind without explic-
itly mentioning them.
In the realm of geographical allusions, Quevedo
usually chooses the names of places (continents, cities,
rivers, and mountains) that are famous for a certain
item produced there, or for some other characteris-
tic. For instance, probably the most commonly used
geographical allusion in his love poetry is to the
Indies (or to the Orient). Since Quevedo's love poetry
often compares the lady's features to precious stones
or metals (rubi, diamante, perlas, oro, etc.), and
since the Indies were the reputed source of fabulous
treasure, any mention of them or the Orient would con-
jure up visions of great riches in the reader's mind.
The lady's general beauty is frequently compared to
the Indiess "Traigo todas las Indias en mi mano"
(#465, which describes a portrait of his lady that the
poet carries in his ring); "Desde la plant al cabello /
es hecha de las dos Indias" (#429: here she is equal
to the East and West Indies); and in #428:
A la feria va Floris,
porque tenga la feria
mAs joyas que el Oriente.
The lady's hair is conventionally compared to
gold; therefore, allusions to places that are famous
for producing gold can be expected. The Tagus River,
for example, was noted for containing gold; hence,
such an image as "junto la pena al Tajo con el Nilo"
(#349, which describes the lady's hair and tears).
The Indies appear as a prime source of gold in "Indias
son tus sienes" (#431). And in a combined Biblical
and geographical reference, the lady parting her hair
is portrayed thus: "Dividio mano nevada / tanto Ofir
y tanto Tibar" (#429).7
The cheeks, because of their rosy blush and fair
skin, are conventionally compared to roses and jas-
mines, or just flowers in general. Mt. Hibla in Sicily
was noted for the flowery display on its slopes hence,
"abriendo paso los Alpes / a los sardines de Hibla"
(#429). This image refers to the lady's hands, "Alpes,"
brushing away her hair and revealing her cheeks.
(The hands were most commonly compared to snow; there-
fore, the allusion to the Alps, famous for their snow-
covered loftiness.) The reference to Mt. Hibla is
combined with an allusion to the island of Paros in
this image: "cuando Hibla matiza el mArmol paro"
(#501). Paros was celebrated for its marble; conse-
quently, the rosiness of the lady's cheeks against
the whiteness of her complexion is strikingly portrayed
as the flowers of Mt. Hibla reflected in Parian marble.
The final geographical allusion to be discussed
here concerns the lips. The lips are usually compared
to red objects. In ancient times Tyre was the source
of the finest quality pirpura and grana, expensive
red dyes. Therefore, an image such as "a Tiro dan
sus labios grana" (#445) calls to mind the rich redness
of the lady's lips. (This type of metaphor, in which
the subject is viewed as superior, rather than equal,
to the analogue, will be discussed later.)
Mythological allusions occur frequently through-
out Quevedo's love poetry their use as a periphrasis
for conventional analogues is only one of various parts
that they play throughout these works. In sonnet
#305 the uniqueness of the lady's beauty is likened
to the uniqueness of the phoenix (i.e., there was only
Aminta, si a tu pecho y a tu cuello
esa f6nix preciosa a olvidar viene
la presunci6n de Gnica que tiene,
en tu rara belleza podrA hacello.
(The phoenix in this poem is actually a diamond pen-
dant around Aminta's neck.) In another image, the
metaphorical brightness of the lady's beauty likens
her to the driver of Phoebus's chariot (a periphrasis,
then, for the sun)i "la Caballera del Febo, / toda
rayos y celajes" (#427).
The hair is another feature that acts as a subject
in metaphors whose analogues are periphrased by mytho-
logical allusions. In this case, the gold of the hair is
referred to as objects touched or owned by King Midass
"ondas ricas del rey Midas" (#501) or "Crespas hebras
. .. / que un tempo tuvo entire las manos Midas" (#443).
Periphrastic allusions from the realm of astro-
nomy are infrequent but interesting. In sonnet #465
the analogy of the lady's beauty to heavenly bodies
is treated: "Traigo el campo que pacen estrellado /
las fieras altas de la piel luciente." Here, in an
image of glittering loveliness, the allusion is to the
Since the eyes are so often compared to stars,
astronomical allusions are to be expected in metaphors
involving them. For example, in "Siempre con duplicado
Sirio cueces / las entranas" (#482), the lady's eyes
are likened to the brightest star in the constellation
Canis Major, Sirius.
In the following section the stress will be on
studying the types of relationships that the poet estab-
lishes between the lady and nature. It has been stated
that a metaphor is a comparison between a subject and an
analogue. It is important to remember here that the term
"compare" means more than just "to regard as similar";
it also implies "the weighing of parallel features for
relative values." This latter definition is especially
noteworthy, because, as will be seen, Quevedo's metaphors
often do go further than merely finding similarities
between the lady and nature.
Nature was considered the supreme source of beauty
during the Renaissance and Baroque. Even in metaphors
that equate the lady's beauty to nature, the fact that
nature is being used as the standard of beauty establishes
it as, in fact, superior. Nevertheless, Baroque poets,
including Quevedo, developed a series of metaphorical
relationships which reverse this fundamental order, and
emphasize the superiority of the lady's beauty. The
-- -- I
effect of these metaphors is to increase the praise of
the lady's beauty to a great extent. In Quevedo's love
poetry there are four basic types of metaphorical rela-
tionships that stress the superiority of the lady over
natures (1) competitive and related images, (2) images in
which the lady is mistaken for nature, (3) images in
which nature imitates the lady, and (4) images in which
the lady suspends natural laws. It is interesting to
note how these four categories follow a pattern of ascen-
ding supremacy of the lady over nature.10
The first category consists of a frequently used type
of metaphor in which the poet weighs the respective beauty
of the lady and nature, and finds nature inferior. This
type of metaphor has been called "competitive imagery" by
Arnold G. Reichenberger, because many of the metaphors
in this group portray the lady and nature in some kind
of active--even warlike--competition.11
For instance, one verb that frequently appears in
these images is vencer--the lady "conquers" nature. In
poem #445 the poet, addressing a sailor in search of
treasure, states "Si buscas flores, sus mejillas bellas /
vencen la primavera y la manana." From one of the basic
metaphors listed in the first part of this chapter--
cheeks=flowers--a new metaphor is formed that states that
the lady's cheeks are more beautiful than flowers. In
this metaphor, then, the word "conquer" is merely a sub-
stitute for "are more beautiful than."
There are other images, however, in which the term
veneer is used in a more literal sense. Although these
images ultimately imply the superiority of the lady's
beauty, most of them are expressed in terms of the
lady's power over nature, her ability to make natural
phenomena behave in unexpected ways. In "La lumbre que
muri6 de convencida / con la luz de tus ojos" (#309),
the conquest of the lady's eyes is that a candle flame
is extinguished. In #303 the lady's lips "conquer"
a carnation, which "blushes" with shame (i.e., it turns
to a darker shade of red):
Basthbale al clavel verse vencido
del labio en que se vio (cuando, esforzado
con su propria vergUenza, lo encarnado
a tu rubi se vio mas parecido).
In #389 the lady's eyes achieve a great victory
indeed--they "conquer" the sun by making it grow dimmer
(the poet, while inviting the lady to stroll through
the fields, assures her that she has nothing to fear from
the hot sun):
Si te detiene el sol ardiente y puro,
ven, que yo te aseguro
que, si te ofende, le has de veneer luego,
pues se vale 61 de luz y tu de fuego.
Some generalizations can be drawn from the competitive
images just studied that will apply to most of the images
in this category. First, it is interesting to note that
they can all be reduced to metaphors containing the basic
subjects and analogues listed in the first part of this
chapters cheeks>flowers (read ">" as "is/are more
beautiful than"), eyes>fire, lips>carnations, eyes>sun.
Second, as witnessed especially by the last two quotes,
these images are usually fairly long and involved, includ-
ing secondary metaphors (e.g., labio=rubi in #303) and
many of the linguistic devices discussed earlier: adjec-
tivization of the analogue (in #389, "sol ardiente y puro,"
the adjectives could apply as well to the eyes) and hyper-
bole by temporal expansion (in #445, flowers are hyper-
bolized as primavera and manana). Another factor which
adds to the length of the competitive images is the fact
that the poet so often does comment on the effects on
nature of the competition with the lady--the flame goes
out, the carnation blushes, the sun grows dimmer. Some
images are lengthened by further comments by the poet
which define more precisely the attributes of the sub-
ject and analogue which are in competition, as in #389,
"se vale 61 de luz, y tu de fuego."
Quevedo uses other terms besides vencer to express
an active competition between the lady and nature. In
#348 the lady's beauty (metaphorized as llama) "tramples"
the dawn: "no invidiosa / su llama, que tus luces atro-
pella." In #309 her eyes "joust" with the firmament and
"wound" it "que con el firmamento, en estacada, /
rubrica en cada rayo una herida." (The rays of her
starry eyes are the lances that she jousts with. The
bloodiness of the wounds is implied by rubrica.)
In some of the images which show active competition,
the lady does not always come out a winner. Nature
sometimes takes revenge on the lady for her superior
beauty, as in #317, in which the envious sun, day, and
stars blind the lady:
Invidia, Antandra, fue del sol y el dia,
en que tambien pecaron las estrellas,
el quitaros los ojos, porque en ellas
el fuego blasonase monarquia.
In other images, nature tries to use the lady's beauty
to its own advantage. In #313 the candle burns the lady's
hair in order to steal "wealth" from it (note the emphasis
on the material value of gold): "Enriquecerse quiso, no
vengarse, / la llama que encendi6 vuestro cabello."
There are other types of images that are related to
the "competitive" images in that they also show that,
after weighing the respective merits of the lady and
nature, the poet concludes that the lady's beauty is
superior. They are different from the "competitive"
images, however, because they do not depict any active
competition between the lady and nature.
In one group of images the lady and nature seem to
be on the verge of some sort of struggle, but the lady's
scornful attitude and superior beauty and power discour-
age the natural elements (sometimes described as "cowardly")
from attempting to compete. Instead, they envy her beauty
from afar. Quevedo seems to think carnations particularly
meek, as in the following three examples:
(1) Y cuando con rel&mpagos te ries,
de purpura, cobardes, si ambiciosos,
marchitan sus blasones carmesies. (#339)
(2) Mas con tus labios quedan vergonzosos
(que no compiten flores a rubles)
y palidos despues, de temerosos. (#339)
(3) Apenas el clavel, que a la manana
guard en rubl las lgrimas que llora,
se atreverA con 61, cuando atesora
la sangre en si de Venus y Diana. (#320)
The intricate interplay of metaphorical devices
in these three examples is noteworthy. In the first two
the poet describes the reaction of the carnations before
the lady's more beautiful lips--they wither or grow pale.
All three examples contain images referring to the lady's
lips: in (1), the purpura in "relampagos de pirpura"I
in (2), rubies; in (3), in a mythological allusion, her
lips are like those of Diana and Venus.
In another group of images related to competitive
imagery, the lady is portrayed as having a greater
amount of beauty than nature, as in #445: "Si buscas
perlas, mAs descubre ufana / su risa que Colon en el
mar de ellas"; or in #428:
A la feria va Floris,
porque tenga la feria
mas joyas que el Oriente,
mas luces que la esfera.
The lady, ever generous, has so much more beauty that
she can afford to "give" some of it to nature: "a Tiro
dan sus labios grana" (#445); ors
Esas dos mejillas
de lo que les sobra,
prestan al verano
lo que a mayo adorna. (#431)
In the fourth and final set of images related to
competitive imagery, the lady knows so much more about
beauty that she "teaches" nature how to be lovely
A ser sol al mismo sol,
a ser dia al mismo dia,
ensenaba con los ojos
la belleza de Florinda. (#420)
Sometimes nature, recognizing the lady's superiority,
"learns" to be beautiful from hers "para que, a presumir
de tiria grana, / de tu pirpura liquida aprendiese"
(#303, in reference to a carnation which learns to be
red from the lady's blood); and "0 quiso introducir en sol
su llama, / y aprender a ser dia, a ser aurora" (#313, in
reference to a candle flame which came too close to the
lady's hair in order to learn to be day and dawn).
Even though the competitive and related images
stress the superiority of the lady's beauty over nature's,
the fact remains that nature in these images is still the
standard by which the lady's beauty is measured. How-
ever, in the next category of images, it will be seen
that this concept begins to break down. Here the lady
has achieved the same perfection of beauty that only
nature has held until now. This complete equality of the
lady and nature leads to the lady herself being mistaken
In #376, for instance, the lady is mistaken for the
dawns "las fuentes y las aves te cantaron, / que por la
blanca Aurora te tuvieron." In the same sonnet, her eyes
are mistaken for real sunlight
El sol dorado que tus ojos via
dudaba si su luz o la luz dellos
prestaba el resplandor al claro dia.
It is interesting to note that It Is nature herself who
becomes confused by the lady's perfect beauty. In the
first quote, the fountains and birds began to sing, mis-
taking the lady for dawn; in the second example, the sun
itself was confused as to whether it or the lady's eyes
were causing the daylight.
One of Quevedo's favorite ways of portraying this
mistaken identity between the lady and nature is to play
on the conventional comparisons of certain of the lady's
features to flowers. In these usually prolonged images,
the lady's face is mistaken for a flower garden by a
group of bees, as in #504:
Haces hermoso engaho a las abejas,
que cortejan solicltas tus flores;
llaman a su codicia tus coloress
su instinto burlas y su error festejas.
In #433, the poet enumerates exactly which of the lady's
features attract the bees--her cheeks are roses and lilies;
her lips, carnations her sweet breath, jasmine and vio-
lets; her overall beauty, springs
que, buscando flores,
que son sus mejillas
rosas y azucenas;
sus labios claveles,
jazmin y violetas,
el aliento dulce,
y ella primavera.
In a third set of images, the traditional order of
nature as the standard of beauty, with the lady aspiring
to imitate its perfection, has been completely reversed.
Now the lady has become the undisputed standard of beauty,
and nature is either "honored" by its similarity to her,
or, in some images, actively imitates her. An interesting
similarity which runs through many of these images is the
idea of painting. In #307, for example, the poet dis-
cusses the difficulty of painting a portrait of the lady.
In two images he considers using natural phenomena to por-
tray her loveliness, but then rejects them as not beautiful
enough "En nieve y rosas quise florecerosi / mas fuera
honrar las rosas y agraviaros," and "dos luceros por ojos
quise daros; / mas ucuAndo lo soTiaron los luceros?" If
the lady's cheeks were portrayed as roses, it would honor
the roses, but insult the lady (because roses would not
be lovely enough). He could use stars for her eyes, but
when did stars ever dream of being so lovely?
In a continuation of the painting motif, poem #429
offers a series of images which depict nature as "painting"
itself in imitation of the lady
A hurto la estan copiando
mayo y abril las mejillas,
y, a su imitacibn, las flores
pomposamente se pintan.
Mal imitados borrones
de su perfecci6n divina
muestran floridos los prados,
hacen las riberas ricas.
In his doctoral thesis, Hans Frankel points out that a
hurto implies that nature is ashamed of its inferiority,
and must imitate the lady on the sly.12 Note also how the
poet describes the flowery fields as badly imitated
sketches of the lady--"mal imitados borrones"--implying
that nature cannot hope to actually equal the lady's
In the fourth and final category, the lady's victory
over nature is complete. In these images the lady's
beauty is endowed with the ability to alter or suspend
natural laws. Not only has she become superior to nature
in beauty, but she also usurps its role as a source of
power. In two images, for instance, the lady's beauty
suspends natural laws by causing a river to stop flowing,
and a spring to flow faster "las aguas de Pisuerga se
pararon / y aprendieron a amar cuando te vieron" (#376),
and in #389, in reference to a spring in which the lady
watches her reflection:
Las aguas que han pasado
oir&s por este prado
llorar no haberte visto, con tristeza;
mas en las que mirares tu belleza,
ver&s alegre risa,
y c6mo las dan prisa,
murmurando su suerte a las primeras,
por poderte gozar las venideras.
The idea here is that the waters of the spring which have
carried her reflection rush forward both to tell the
water ahead of their good fortune, and to allow the
following waters the honor of reflecting the lady's image.
Another group of images dealing with the lady's
power to suspend natural laws portray her as being able to
make natural phenomena behave the reverse of what one
would normally expect. In #376 she can make stones turn
soft by merely touching them: "cuantas peas tocaste,
se ablandaron." She can make water and snow burn by
looking at them "A poder vos mirar, la fuente fria /
encendiera cristales en centellas" (#317), and "que la luz
de tus ojos es de suerte, / que aun encender podrA la
nieve fria" (#308). She can also perform the opposite
feat--freezing fire--with the coolness of her snowy-white
skins "milagro fue pasar por vuestro cuello / y en tanta
nieve no temer helarse" (#313, in which a candle flame
comes dangerously close to the lady's neck).
Related to these images of reverse phenomena are
images which demonstrate the lady's ability to turn dark-
ness into light. The general concepts of light and dark
are manifested in various ways. Im poem #407 darkness is
represented by the ancient Greek concept of the under-
world--a gloomy place inhabited by shades. This poem com-
pares the lady and the poet to Eurydice and Orpheus; the
poet decides that his lady could never be Eurydice, because
being like the firmament, she could never be a "shade":
firmamento que vives en el suelo,
no podia ser que fueras
sombra, que entire las sombras asistieras;
que el inferno contigo se alumbrara.
In the same poem the concept of light is manifested as
dawn, which is brought to night by the lady's face (com-
pared to Apollo in his chariot):
y tu divina cara,
como el sol en su coche,
introdujera auroras en la noche.
In other images the source of light is the lady's
eyes, which can turn night into day, as in #476:
Bien pueden alargar la vida al dia,
suplir el sol, sostituir l'aurora,
disimular la noche a cualquier hora,
vuestros hermosos ojos, Lisis mia,
In #326 the lady's eyes in the night are compared to the
rebirth of the day after sunset:
Diviso il sole partoriva 11 giorno,
languido nella tomba d'occidente;
risorse dal sepolchro il lume ardente
di blonde stelle coronato intorno.
The remainder of the images in this fourth category
are similar to those already studied in that they also
show how the lady is above the mandates of natural law.
They are different, however, in that they stress the
benevolent effect that the lady has on whatever she comes
into contact with. In poem #376, for example, the lady
makes barren fields burst into blooms "Saliste, Doris
bella, y florecieron / los campos secos que tus pies
pisaron." (This is also an implicit comparison to Venus,
who was often portrayed as causing flowers to spring forth
from dry fields.)
In two other images, the flowers that the lady wears
take on new and unusual characteristics
no temas que el color que tienes muera,
estando en una parte tan dichosa.
Siempre verde serAs, siempre olorosa,
aunque despoje el cielo la ribera;
triunfaras del invierno y de la esfera. (#370)
L6grese en tu cabello, respetada
del ano; no mal logre lo que crias
adquiera en larga vida eterna aurora. (#446)
Here the flowers, through contact with the lady, attain
eternal freshness, fragrance, and dawn. They become
immune to the change of the seasons and the effects of
In the final set of images, the lady's beauty
inspires destructive forces to become benevolent. When
Jupiter sends his thunder-bolts to earth, they descend to
her as gifts of golds
A ti el trueno es requiebro, si amenaza
el tirano, le atiende en el tesoro,
cuando su sien temor precioso enlaza.
Al robre baja en rayo y a ti en oro. (#453)
In poem #385 sickness and even death avoid the lady, in
respect for her beauty. This long work describes a lady
with an eye ailment who, having been ordered by her doc-
tor to cut her hair, refused to do so. Her fever, for
instance, left her so as not to oblige her to cut her
hairs "que aun por no te obligar a tal locura, / a si
se corrigi6 la calentura." Her health, jealous of the
sickness's closeness to her, returns
y la salud, de invidia, se tornara,
pues estaba, sin duda, ya celosa
de ver en ti la enfermedad hermosa.
Even death, in a great victory for the lady, does not
dare to offend hers "que ofender tal belleza quien la
viera, / hasta en la Muerte atrevimiento fuera."
The Lady and Her Admirers
Quevedo devotes a large number of images to depicting
the various ways in which the lady influences the
behavior or status of her admirers. The term "admirer"
refers to the human and divine characters who are described
as being in love with the lady. This group includes the
poet himself, usually speaking in the first person singular.
Before analyzing any specific images, it will be
helpful to discuss some generalities which will apply to
most of the images in this section. Structurally, most
of them can be divided into three parts, consisting of a
subject (one of the lady's features), an analogue (usu-
ally one of those studied at the beginning of this chapter),
and a statement referring to the lady's influence over her
admirers (expressed in terms of the analogue). For
example, in an image such as "quien los ve es ceniza, y
ellos fuego" (#308), the three respective parts are
(1) the lady's eyes, (2) fire, and (3) the lady's observers
reduced to ashes (by the fire of her eyes).
Each of these images, then, is actually an equa-
tional metaphor followed by a statement concerning the
lady's effect on her admirers. The type of influence
exerted on the latter by the lady's features may serve
as a convenient basis of organization for the images in
this section. The four major types of influence exerted
by the lady are (1) destruction, (2) power, (3) beneficence,
and (4) destruction and power combined with beneficence.
In the images that describe the destructive powers of
the lady's features, the eyes are the most frequently used
subject. These are usually compared to images of heat
and light, most of them similar, if not identical, to the
analogues studied in the first part of this chapter. Some
of these analogues are rayo and relAmpago (#499), fuego
(#499 and #476), luz (#499 and #476), aurora (#476), sol
(#476), and estrellas (#415). The difference between these
metaphors and the ones studied earlier is that here the
damaging effects, rather than the beautiful qualities, of
heat and light are stressed (e.g., heat burns and dazzling
Variety is achieved in this analogue system by uti-
lizing some of the same techniques that were studied pre-
viously. Two analogues, for example, are referred to by
periphrastic allusions, one astronomical and one mytho-
logicals in #482 the eyes are compared to Sirio, a
periphrasis for estrella and an allusion to one of the
brightest stars in the heavensI in #411 the eyes are lik-
ened to Faetonte, a periphrasis for sol and an allusion to
the myth of Phaethon, who carelessly drove the chariot of
the sun and almost burned up the earth. Four other ana-
logues contain mythological allusions, although they are
not periphrastic. Both #411 and #417 refer to the lady's
eyes as being stronger than Jupiter's lightning-bolts,
and #417 also compares them to Mars's sword. ("Sword"
is an analogue not mentioned previously, and evidently
exclusive to images that describe the lady's influence
over her admirers.) The effect of relating the lady's
features to these heavenly bodies and heavenly beings is
to hyperbolize their power.
The third part of these images, in which the lady's
influence over her admirers is described, is usually
expressed in terms of the analogue. Images of heat and
light, for example, usually portray the lady as burning
those whom she looks ati "Siempre con duplicado Sirio
cueces / las entranas" (#482), or (referring to the lady's
eyes looking at the poet) "lo miren reducido a sombra
ardiente" (#476). In some images the lady's admirers
merely "die," without any special mention of the means by
which their deaths occur (in the Petrarchan tradition,
the "life" and "death" of a person usually refer res-
pectively to his happiness or suffering in love)s "la
vita che di al glorno, a me la tolse" (#326), ors
Quien os ve, claras estrellas
de amor, si human se atreve
a mirar luces tan bellas,
no paga lo que las debe,
si no muere por ellas. (#415)
In some poems the effect of the lady on her admirers
is expressed in quite an extended fashion. The poem first
cites an example of destruction unrelated to the lady,
then relates the lady's destruction of her admirers to
the example. Poem #499, a sonnet, is devoted entirely
to such a process. The quatrains cite the example of
parched fields, which look forward to the rain, until
they realize that it comes accompanied by deadly light-
ning: "Mas quieren verse secos que abrasados, / viendo
que al agua la acompaha el fuego." The tercets then
explain how, in similar fashion, the poet looked forward
to seeing his lady's eyes, until he realized that they
would strike and burn him:
No de otra suerte temen la hermosura
que en los tuyos mis ojos codiciaron,
anhelando la luz serena y pura;
pues luego que se abrieron, fulminaron,
y amedrentando el gozo a mi ventura,
encendieron en ml cuanto miraron.
Poem #411, a madrigal, follows a similar procedure.
The first four lines relate how Jupiter punished Pha-
ethon for almost burning up the earth:
Jfpiter, si venganza tan several
tomaste de Faetonte
porque, descaminando el Sol al dia,
encendi6 el rio, el mar, el llano, el monte
The poet then concludes that Jupiter should wreak the
same vengeance on the lady, whose eyes are just as des-
ucuAnto mayor conviene,
que la tomen agora tus enojos
de aquellos sin pledad divinos ojos
que abrasan desde el suelo
hombres y dioses, mar y tierra, y cielo?
Quevedo rarely varies the subjects in the images
that display the lady's destructive power. In two poems,
however, he varies the images of the eyes by treating the
lady's disguised eyes (#428) and her sleeping eyes (#436).
In the former the eyes are swords (implied by the words
filos and aceros), and in the latter the eyes are rayos,
The statements of influence stress in both cases that
the lady's eyes are still destructive even when covered.
In poem #428 the disguised eyes are like swords which,
though sheathed, still cut (the souls of her admirers)s
;Oh qu6 filos tienen,
qu6 aceros gastan
ojos que envainados
cortan las almas:
In #436 the poet explains how the lady's eyes kill even
when closed--in this case by withholding the pleasure
of their beauty from her admirers
El regatear los rayos
retirados y soberbios,
es no matar, fulminantes,
para matar, avarientos.
Another of the lady's features endowed with destruc-
tive capabilities is her snowy-white skin, which in
two poems (#306 and #317) is paradoxically compared to
fire. The poet seems to achieve this jump from snow to
fire by concentrating on the dazzling whiteness of the
lady's skin. Then focusing on the heat that this bright-
ness might give off, he compares the snowy-whiteness to
fire. This sort of three-stage metaphorical progression
is closely related to what Damaso Alonso calls a metafora
de segundo grado.13 It is also similar to one of Arthur
Terry's definitions of a conceit, in that it compares
two apparently dissimilar entities, snow and fire, on the
basis of one attribute that they happen to share--
shininess.14 The effect of all this is that in #306 the
poet is "killed" by the fire of the lady's hand (which is
covering her eyes)s
Lo que me quita en fuego, me da en nieve
la mano que tus ojos me recata;
y no es menos rigor con el que mata,
ni menos llamas su blancura mueve.
And in #317 the dazzling whiteness of the lady's face
blinds him who dares to gaze upon hers
Hoy clega juntamente y desdeiosa,
sin ver la herida ni tender al ruego,
vista ceg&is al que miraros osa.
La nieve esquiva oficio hace de fuego.
The fourth and final group of images which describe
the lady's ability to destroy her admirers has her general
beauty has their subject. Many of these images have no
expressed analogue; therefore, it must be inferred from
the terminology used. For instance, in images which
speak of the lady's admirers as being "blinded" by looking
at her, one can probably assume that the implied analogue
is something like "fire" or "light": "no es possible sin
cegar miraros" (#307) and "y vi donde el mismo ver /
fue ocasion para cegar" (#415). Other images describe
the lady's admirers as being "killed" by her beauty, as
Todo amante libre
se ponga en cobro;
que, si suelta la cara,
The implication here (affirmed by the context of the
poem), is that the lady's beauty is like a sword.
Another image in which a sword analogue is used (here
expressed, rather than implied) is "para todos Durandarte"
(#427; an allusion to Roland's sword).
An extended metaphor referring to the lady's general
beauty is found in #312, a sonnet. The quatrains and
first tercet present a graphic description of the suf-
ferings of the Trojan War. Then the final tercet states
that if Paris had seen the poet's lady, instead of Helen,
the Trojan War never would have happened, because he
would have "died"s
no lloraran, Aminta, los troyanos,
si, en lugar de la griega hermosa Helena,
Paris te viera, causa de su muerte.
The second group of images which display the lady's
influence over her admirers show the lady's "power" over
her suitors. These images are different from those just
studied in that the terminology is much less harsh.
Instead of "burning," "blinding," and "killing" her
admirers, her the lady "conquers," "captures," "binds
up," or "imprisons" those who dare to gaze upon her.
In addition, with a few exceptions, the statements of
effect (the third structural element) in these images
are not as closely related to the analogues as in the
first group. That is, there is an obvious connection
between stating that the lady's eyes are like fire, and
saying that they "burn" her admirers; however, the con-
nection is not so obvious when one says that her eyes
are like daylight, and that they "imprison" those who
look at her.
As always, the lady's eyes dominate this set of
images, and as always they are compared to images of heat
and light. Some specific examples are rayos, ardiente
valentia, and luces (all from #316), luces (#443), and
primeros mobles (#333). The effect these phenomena have on
her admirers is that they conquer hearts, win victories,
and triumph over nations (note the hyperbole by spatial
and numerical expansions the lady conquers whole nations
Aun faltan a sus rayos corazones,
victorias a su ardiente valentla
y al triunfo de sus luces aun naciones. (#316)
The lady is often portrayed as the "monarch" of her
suitors: "por quien a ser monarca Lisi aspira, / de
libertades, que en sus luces ata" (#443). Notice here
how her lights "bind up" her captives. And finally,
in a type of imagery taken from Neo-Platonism (used
only occasionally by Quevedo), the lady's eyes are
Prime Movers which control the poet's powers in the same
way that the real Prime Mover controls the movement of
Primeros mobles son vuestras esferas,
que arrebatan en cerco ardiente de oro
mis potencias absortas y ligeras.
One image dealing with the eyes, but with a slight
variation, appears in #316, in which the single eye
of a one-eyed lady is the subject. The poet states that
if with only one eye--compared to dia--she can kill
and imprison men, there would be no power left for a
second eye, even if she had ones
Si en un ojo no mAs, que en vos es dia,
tienen cuAntos le ven muerte y prisiones,
al otro le faltara monarqula.
The two images which deal with the lady's hair
share one aspect--they both depict her admirers as being
"bound" by her hair. In #385 the poet warns a doctor not
to cut the lady's hair, because he would also be cutting
all the lives of her lovers, who are caught in its
"pues cortara, en los lazos que hoy celebras, / tantas
vidas amantes como hebras." In #326, the lady's blond
"mane" has bound up the poet's hearts "Ligommi 11 core
11 biondo crin." The idea of binding is, of course,
closely related to that of capturing or imprisoning found
in the other images in this section.
In a final image, the lady's general beauty is not
compared to any specific analogue, but is pictured
as "capturing" or "carrying away" the poet's love.
This image occurs in #364, in which the poet describes how
the effects that a portrait of Fills has on him are like
those that the real Filis would have:
En el llevar tras si mi fe y deseo
es Fills viva, pues su ser incluye,
con cuyo disfavor siempre peleo.
The next category--beneficence--contains images
which are somewhat the opposite of the first category
("destruction"). In these images the lady is portrayed
as either mercifully withholding her destructive powers,
or as improving her admirers' status through contact
with her beauty.
In two images the lady's eyes are compared to
estrellas negras (#443) and luces sacras and augusto
dia (#333). In the former image the lady "courteously"
holds back the destructive potential of her eyes "en
nieve estrellas negras encendidas, / y cort6smente en
paz de ella guardadas." The latter image utilizes Neo-
Platonic terminology--the lady's eyes are like the heav-
enly spheres whose revolutions cause a silent, harmonious
music. As the poet gazes at her eyes, they produce a like
harmony in his souls
Las luces sacras, el augusto dia
que vuestros ojos abren sobre el suelo,
con el concento que se mueve el cielo
en mi esplritu explican armonia.
In poem #477 the final tercet offers two images con-
cerning the lady's general beauty, which is compared to
cielo and llama. (In this poem the poet addresses a child
sleeping in Lisi's lap.) In the first image the idea
is expressed that since Lisi is heaven, the child becomes
an angel. Furthermore, the child is protected from dis-
illusionment (sueno) in Lisi's laps "que tu eres Angel,
que tu cama es cielo, / y nada serA sue-no en esa cama."
In the second image, the child becomes a "phoenix" in
Lisi's flame. This image plays on the two meanings of
f6nixs a mythological creature and also a person endowed
with extraordinary powers. The image also expresses the
idea that Lisi's flame is more glorious than the phoe-
nix's: "que habitas fenix mAs gloriosa llama."
The images included in the fourth and final category
display how the destruction and power exerted by the lady's
beauty can also be, marvelously and paradoxically,
Included among the images which show the lady's
destructive power combined with beneficence are one in
which the lady's eyes bring both life and death: "en
donde vive Amor cuanto ella mata" (#443). In a second
image her general beauty both cures the afflicted and
afflicts the healthy (#427): "la que deshace los tuer-
tos, / y la que los clegos hace." (The word tuertos
here is actually a pun, since it means both "one-eyed
persons" or "torts." The phrase "deshace los tuertos"
could mean, in keeping with the chivalric language used
throughout this poem, "she rights torts.") Finally,
even though her beauty has reduced the poet to ashes,
they are the ashes of the phoenix (therefore, the poet
will rise again): "y aunque amor en ceniza me convierte, /
es de f6nix ceniza" (#308).
The lady's power over her admirers is also viewed
as beneficial, as in #315, which plainly states con-
cerning the lady's eyes: "su conquista / da a l'alma
tantos premios como enojos." In another image dealing
with the lady's eyes, she passes their "tyrannous ardor"
through her snowy-white hand (i.e., she covers her eyes
with her hand) in order to temper its effect:
Si de tus ojos el ardor tirano
le pasas por tu mano por templarle,
es gran piedad del coraz6n human. (#306)
In a final image using Neo-Platonic terms, the lady's
face is like the stars in that it can influence both
favorably and unfavorably
En ella la dorada monarqula
mAs eficaz influye y reverbera:
es tu desd6n constelaci6n several,
y tu favor la que es benigna envia. (#482)
1The I Fire (London: Cambridge Univ. Press,
1969), pp. 8-9.
2Arthur Terry, ed., An Anthology of Spanish Poetryi
1500-1700 (New Yorks Pergamon Press, 1965), I, xxi.
3For convenience, Blecua's numbering of the love
poems is used throughout this study.
Courtly Love, p. 82.
5The Icy Fire, p. 9.
Ensayos sobre poesia espanola (Madrid: Revista de
Occidente, 194 )-, 46. Note that Alonso uses metafora
to refer to the analogue in a metaphor of which the subject
is not expressed.
7"Oro de Ofir" and "oro de Tibar" are terms that
refer to the purest unalloyed gold, according to the
Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe,
1930), XL, 574. "Ophir" is mentioned in the Bible
(I Kings 9:28) as a land rich in gold.
8This is also an allusion to the Caballero del Febo,
a character appearing in chivalric romances. Blecua
explains (p. 464) that this poem was dedicated to an
actress. The imagery suggests that she was noted for her
roles in chivalric plays.
9Explained by Blecua, p. 506.
10A somewhat similar classification is used by Hans
Frankel in his doctoral thesis, Figurative Language in
the Serious Poetry of Quevedo (Univ. of California at
Berkeleyi Library Photographic Service, 1942), pp. 21-71.
His arrangement lacks my fourth category, and he includes
only a few of Quevedo's love poems.
11"Competitive Imagery in Spanish Poetry," Annali
dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale, 4 (January 1962),
12Figurative Language, p. 45.
13Poesia espa7ola, p. 371.
1Anthology, II, xl.
15The source of Neo-Platonic imagery is the Ptole-
maic cosmology, a fact noted by Bruce Wardropper in his
Spanish Poetry of the Golden Age, p. 10. Ptolemy viewed
the cosmos as a system of concentric spheres, at the center
of which was the earth, surrounded by the spheres of the
various planets and stars. One of the outermost spheres
was the Prime Mover, which caused all the other spheres
THE IMAGE OF THE POET
In this chapter the term "poet" refers not to
Quevedo, the historical personage, but to his poetic
"mask," the fictional face which he chooses to reveal
in his poems and which may or may not have some rela-
tionship to his real personality.
As in the previous chapter, the majority of the
images to be studied presently belong to the conventional
stock of Petrarchan imagery. The poet is presented
in such imagery as suffering dreadfully because of
his lady's disdain, and yet loving every minute of it.
This paradoxical state of affairs is often reflected
in such oxymoronic images as Leonard Forster's "icy
Therefore, whereas the lady was described in images
which emphasized her beauty and power, the poet is
usually portrayed in much more unpleasant terms.
For instance, one group of images used with great
frequency in poems describing the poet, and which is
hardly to be found in those depicting the lady, deals
with the four traditional elements of ancient science--
fire, water, earth, and air. The emphasis here, as
will be seen, is on the first two elements, since the
poet is usually burning in the "fire" of love and
pouring forth "rivers" of tears because of it.
Another important difference between the images
of this chapter and those of the first lies in their
structures. In Chapter I the great majority of images
were metaphors--if not the more traditional equational
metaphor (A=B), then at least some type of relationship
set up between two images. In Chapter II the proportion
of metaphors to the total number of images to be studied
is smaller. The poet is often described not by comparing
him to some external phenomenon, but by portraying him
in certain situations which emphasize his suffering
in love. These latter images are "literal" in that
they portray the subject directly, without recourse
This chapter, then, will be divided into two main
parts. The first part will study metaphorical images
in which either the poet or something closely related
to him (such as his tears) is the subject. The second
part will study imagery in which the poet is depicted
in various situations--wearing various "masks" as it
were--that emphasize his suffering in love.
It will be helpful at this point to make some
general comments on the metaphors involving the poet.
First, the metaphors studied in this chapter are, for
the most part, much longer and more involved than those
studied in the first chapter. It is not unusual, in
fact, to encounter an entire sonnet based on one meta-
phor. The systems of subjects and analogues used in
these metaphors are also less varied than those of
the first chapter. The subjects in this chapter are
almost always the poet, or something closely related
to him, such as his tears or his tearful eyes, his
heart, his veins, etc.
Predominant among the analogues are images of
fire and water, and the various forms in which these
elements may manifest themselves (e.g., heat, volcanoes,
ice,snow, rivers, etc.).
One procedure frequently used by Quevedo is to
compare his poetic self to some natural phenomenon
in an attempt to demonstrate his suffering in love.
For example, in some poems the poet compares himself
The basic metaphor in #293 is that the poet compares
himself to Mt. Etna. The entire sonnet is devoted
to elaborating on this comparison, to show how it is
possible to compare two such unlikely entities as a
human being and a volcano. The quatrains describe
Mt. Etna at length:
Ostentas, de prodigios coronado,
sepulcro fulminante, monte aleve,
las hazanas del fuego y de la nieve,
y el incendio en los yelos hospedado.
Arde el hibierno en llamas erizado,
y el fuego en lluvias y granizos bebe
truena, si gimes; si respiras, lueve
en cenizas tu cuerpo derramado.
The most extraordinary characteristic of Mt. Etna,
according to the quatrains, is that at its peak fire
and snow, heat and cold, can exist side by side.
This paradox is emphasized by a series of pairs of
contrasting images (pointed out by DAmaso Alonso in
his Poesia espanolal): fuego-nieve, incendio-yelos,
hibierno-llamas, and fuego-lluvias y granizos. (Note
the ever-present elements of fire and water.)
The tercets draw the comparison between the poet
and Mt. Etna. The poet first states that If he had not
been born, the volcano would be unique in the strange
properties that it possesses:
Si yo no fuera a tanto mal nacido,
no tuvieras, ;oh Etna:, semejante:
fueras hermoso monstro sin segundo.
But since he also burns (with love) in lofty snow
(the lady's disdain), he is an imitation of Mt. Etna:
Mas como en alta nieve ardo encendido,
soy Encelado vivo y Etna amante,
y ardiente imitaci6n de ti en el mundo.
The reference of alta nieve to the lady's disdain is
explained by Gonzalez de Salas, the friend and some-
times collaborator of Quevedo, in his edition of Quevedo's
In the final tercet the poet is also compared to
Enceladus, the Titan who was pinned under Mt. Etna
by Jupiter--his breath was supposed to cause Etna's
fire and smoke. The comparison with the giant is based
on the idea that just as the latter is being punished
by and suffers in Etna's fire, the poet is punished
by and suffers in his love for his lady. These compar-
isons of the poet to mythological characters are quite
common, and will be studied further in another section.
Quevedo employs a device in this poem which was
seen only rarely in the first chapter, but which will
occur quite frequently in this one. As seen in the
quatrains of #293, the analogue of the metaphor "poet=
Etna" is also the center of an elaborate system of
images. Some of these are related not only to Mt.
Etna, but also to the poet, such as the "fire-ice"
images quoted above. Others refer only to Mt. Etnas
"sepulcro fulminante," "monte aleve," and "truena, si
gimesl si respiras, llueve / en cenizas tu cuerpo derra-
mado." The number of images referring to the analogue
in proportion to those referring to the subject varies
greatly in these extended metaphors--these different
proportions will be discussed as each individual case
Poem #302 is another example of the suffering
poet being compared to a volcano, this time to Mt.
Vesuvius. Here the basis of comparison is the fact
that the green, pleasant slopes of Vesuvius hide the
fiery volcanic activity inside. In like manner, the
poet appears harmless on the outside, but seethes with
the fires of love within. The entire sonnet has a
closely knit structure. The quatrains and first tercet
describe Mt. Vesuvius. Just as in the previous sonnet
there is a series of fire-snow opposition, here the
image motif consists of a fire-vegetation opposition,
which reflects the paradoxical nature of both Vesuvius
and the poet.
The imagery of the first three stanzas reflects
the history of Vesuvius. In ancient times its appar-
ently harmless slopes were well cultivated and popu-
Salamandra frondosa y bien poblada
te vio la antiguedad, column ardiente,
joh Vesubio, gigante el mAs valiente
que al clelo amenazo con diestra osada:
The salamander, according to ancient science, could
live in fire without being burned. The volcano, then,
had the same appearance to the ancients as the sala-
mander--to them it seemed totally unaffected by the
fire inside. It was also a "leafy" salamander, covered
with luxuriant vegetation. The last two lines of the
quatrain personify Vesuvius as a giant threatening
the heavens with his right hand--an image which empha-
sizes the volcano's immense size and power.
Later, after the slopes of Vesuvius had been covered
with so many flowers that it looked like a garden
in the shape of a pyramid, it erupted:
Despues, de varias flores esmaltada,
jardin piramidal fuiste, y luciente
mariposa, en tus llamas inclemente,
y en quien toda Pomona fue abrasada.
During the eruption the fire, combined with the multi-
colored slopes, made it appear as a glittering butter-
fly--luciente mariposa. As in the first quatrain,
this stanza also ends with a reference to the destruc-
tive potential of Vesuvius's fire--the merciless oblit-
eration of the surrounding countryside.
After the first eruption (in modern times), the
volcano becomes the eternal abode of fires
Ya, fenix cultivada, te renuevas,
en eternos incendios repetidos,
y noche al sol y al cielo luces llevas,
Here, the ability of Vesuvius to continue existing in
the midst of fire is likened to the phoenix, a fantas-
tic creature which is eternally reborn after burning
to ashes. Note the continuation of the fire-vegetation
motif in f6nix cultivada. The parallel with the imagery
of the quatrains continues, as this tercet ends with
an allusion once more to the magnitude of Vesuviuss
"y noche al sol y al clelo luces llevas." Here the
fires of the volcano are so great as to darken the
day (with smoke and ashes) and light up the night
The final tercet introduces the poet and compares
him to Vesuviuss
iOh monte, emulaci6n de mis gemidoss
pues yo en el coraz6n y tu en las cuevas,
callamos los volcanos florecidos!
They are both "flowery volcanoes"--they both conceal
fires within, the poet in his heart and Vesuvius in
its caverns, while they maintain peaceful exteriors.
This final comparison reveals the double meaning
of certain images found in the first three stanzas.
Emilia N. Kelley in La poesia metafisica de Quevedo
has suggested that the three animals mentioned in the
first three stanzas--the salamander, butterfly, and
phoenix--may also refer to the poet.3 He is like both
the salamander and phoenix, because he lives in spite
of being burned (by the fires of love). A possible
connection between the poet and the luciente mariposa
stems from the fact that in Classical Greek the word
psyche means both "soul" and "butterfly." Alexander
A. Parker has pointed out how in another poem mariposa
is used in this same way.4 The word luciente would
refer to the poet's soul "burning" with love.
Quevedo uses other natural phenomena besides vol-
canoes to exemplify the poet's suffering. For instance,
in several poems the poet's situation is related to
a river or brook. The relationship between the poet
and the river is established in various ways. In some
poems the procedure is similar to what we witnessed
in the volcano sonnets--Quevedo describes some charac-
teristic of a river which he then parallels to the
poet-lover's amorous condition.
Poem #296, for example, compares a babbling brook
to the poet's heart. Just as the brook was flowing
merrily along until it met with disaster by being hurled
down a mountainside, so the poet's heart entered into
love innocently happy, ignorant of the sorrow which
The quatrains and the first tercet are devoted to
developing the description of the brook. Throughout
the description the brook is personified as innocently
lovely and happy. The emphasis of the imagery in the
first quatrain is on the brook's peacefulness and
Torcido, desigual, blando y sonoro,
te resbalas secret entire las flores,
hurtando la corriente a los calories,
cano en la espuma y rubio con el oro.
The first two lines suggest the brook's soft murmuring!
the third line depicts the water's shady coolness; and
the final line adds a bit of color--the whiteness of
foam and the yellow of gold. (The latter image is
similar to one often found in poems about the Tagus
River, which was renowned for the gold contained in
The second quatrain emphasizes the merriness of
En cristales dispensas tu tesoro,
liquid plectro a rusticos amores;
y templando por cuerdas ruiseiores,
te ries de crecer con lo que lloro.
The second and third lines introduce an image frequently
found in other "river poems"--the idea of the river
as a singer, or, as here, a musician. The romantic
effect of the brook's sound on the rustic lovers who
visit its banks is depicted as the brook "plucking"
(plectro) the instrument of love. And the brook inspir-
ing nightingales to sing is metaphorized as its "tuning"
nightingales (like cords on a stringed instrument)s
"templando por cuerdas ruisenores." The final line
introduces still another commonplace in "river poems"--
the idea that the river laughs, even though filled with
the poet's copious tears: "te ries de crecer con lo
The first tercet continues the idea of the "happy"
brook, and then abruptly changes tone:
De vidro, en las lisonjas, divertido,
gozoso vas al monte; y, despenado,
espumoso encaneces con gemido.
Happy, amused, beautiful, with its water sparkling
as if made of diamond-shaped glass crystals (lisonJas
de vidro), the brook continues merrily along--until,
hurled down a mountainside, it grows old with a groan.
The final tercet introduces the poets
No de otro modo el corazon cuitado,
a la prison, al llanto se ha venido
alegre, inadvertido y conflado.
In the same way that the brook meets unexpectedly with
disaster, so the poet's heart comes unaware and trusting
to sorrow and imprisonment.
Poem #347 follows a similar procedure, although
here (as in several other poems) the allusion is to
a specific Spanish river, the Guadiana. This river
is noted especially for the fact that it goes under-
ground at several points along its course,
o en las grutas sedientas tenebrosas
los raudales undosos despareces,
y de nacer a Espana muchas veces
te alegras en las tumbas cavernosas.
In the first tercet the poet compares this phenom-
enon to the fact that his tears are continually stopping
6mulos mis dos ojos a tus fuentes
ya corren, ya se esconden, ya se paran,
y nacen sin morir al llanto ardientes.
In the second tercet, the poet compares himself
to the Guadiana in a second wayi "todo soy semejante
a tus corrientes, / que de su propio tmuulo se amparan."
Just like the Guadiana, the poet takes refuge in his
own tomb. That is, he seeks his own destruction by
persisting in love. This comparison stems from the
multiple meanings of the word timulo, which is here
a metaphor both for "caves" (for obvious reasons),
and for the poet's body (a poetic convention in Que-
vedo's day: body tomb, based on the Greek pun soma=
A third and final example of this same device is
poem #500, concerning the Nile and using some of the
astronomical terminology studied in Chapter I. This
sonnet adds a new twist, in that the river image is
related not only to the poet but also to his beloved.
The first quatrain discusses that aspect of the
Nile that relates to the poet's tears--the fact that
the Nile's origin is unknown (at least this was the
case in Quevedo's time)s "Dichoso tf, que naces sin
testigo / y de progenitores ignorados, / ;oh Nilo!"
The second quatrain follows with that characteris-
tic of the Nile that relates to the poet's beloved--
the fact that the influence of the constellation Canis
Major (of which Sirius is the brightest star) causes
the Nile to overflow in the summer:
El humor que, sediento y enemigo,
bebe el rabioso Can a los sagrados
rios, le aiade pr6digo a tus vados.
That is, the water that the summer heat evaporates from
other rivers is added to the waters of the Nile to
make it overflow.
The first tercet introduces the image of the poet
and relates it to the first quatrains
No de otra suerte, Lisis, acontece
a las undosas urnas de mis ojos,
cuyo ignorado origen enmudece.
The poet's tears are similar to the Nile in that he
also keeps their origin--his love for Lisis--a secret
(as is proper in courtly love).5
The second tercet compares the cause of the Nile's
overflow to Lisi, the cause of the poet's overflowing
Pues cuanto el Sirio de tus lazos rojos
arde en bochornos de oro crespo, crece
mas su raudal, tu yelo y mis enojos.
The red ribbon in Lisis' golden hair is likened to
Sirius shining in the summer heat. Just as the latter
situation causes the Nile to overflow, Lisis' beauty
increases the poet's sorrows to make his tears over-
A second type of "river poem" describes a specific
river in detail, but the description has little to do
with the nature of the poet himself, Instead, the
river is depicted as merely the receptacle of the poet's
tears. The first quatrain of #378, for example, is
devoted to describing the Tagus. The river is por-
trayed as stealing its beautiful proportions and move-
ment from the body of the poet's beloved, who bathed
in its waters:
Tu, rey de rios, Tajo generoso,
que el movimiento y calidad hurtaste
al cuerpo de alabastro que balaste,
gentil en proporci6n, gallardo, hermoso.
In the next six lines the poet asks the Tagus to
perform certain services for his lady, thereby describ-
ing various characteristics of the river, Since the
river is musical, he asks it to be his lady's musician:
"ora natural mGsico ingenioso / seas." The river brings
fertility, so it should offer her the valley where
it grew the branch with which she is crowned "ora
el valle le ofrezcas do engendraste, / para su frente,
el ramo victorioso." Finally, the river's water is
clear, so it should be the lady's mirrors "ora, sueltas
del hielo tus corrlentes, / le des espejo."
Only in the final four lines does the poet enter
que, cuando quiera en ti ver sus despojos,
junto con su hermosura represents
mi llanto con que creces y est&s ricos
vean siquiera mis lagrimas sus ojos.
When the poet's beloved looks at her reflection
in the Tagus, the poet hopes she will also see the
tears with which he has filled the river.
Similarly, in #447 the quatrains describe the
Guadalquivir close to its source, "en las altas sierras
de Segura," where it is formed from melting ice, "en
cuna naces, liquida, de yelo." It then plunges down
the mountains "se retuerce corriente por el suelo, /
despues que se arroj6 por pena dura."
Here the poet pours his tears into the river to
make it grow, and so that they may be offered to Lisi
Aqui el primer tribute en llanto envlo
a tus raudales, porque a Lisi hermosa
mis l&grimas la ofrezcas con que creces.
(The ideas of the poet paying "tribute" with his tears,
and making the river "grow with them, are commonplaces
in the river poems.)
In the final tercet the poet expresses the fear
that by the time the Tagus reaches Lisi, it will be
so large that it will have forgotten the tears added
to it when it was a brooks
mas temo, como a verla llegas rio,
que olvide tu corriente poderosa
el aumento que arroyo me agradeces.
In the third type of "river poem," the poet addres-
ses a particular river by name, but gives no specific
description of it. These poems have so many points
in common that it will be more convenient to organize
their images into categories according to similarity,
rather than to study each poem separately.
Some poems begin by asking the river to stop
running while the poet sings his lament:
iFrena el corriente, oh Tajo retorcido!,
; 0 0 0 0 0 a 0 0 * 0 0 0 0 0 0
en tanto que al rigor de mi cuidado
busco (ay, isi le hallase:) algun olvido. (#319)
Deten tu curso, Henares, tan crecido,
en tanto que, content, mi ganado
goza del bien que pierde este afligido. (#362)
Or else the river itself stops upon hearing his sad
lament: "y cantando frene su curso y brios / tanto
puede el dolor en un ausente!" (#318).
Another common image is that of the poet's weeping
"strengthening" the river or making it grow (implying
the copiousness of his tears): "Esforzaron mis ojos
la corriente / de este, si fertil, apacible rio" (#318);
"donde una vez los ojos, otra el canto, / pararon y
crecieron ese rio" (#403); or "Fabio le daba en tribute, /
deshecha en llantos, el alma" (#432). One example
which gives a somewhat different twist to this image
is found in #390, where several rivers are said to
pass through the poet's eyes: (after naming the Euphra-
tes, Tagus, Peneus, Xanthus, Alpheus, and Nile) "Como
por vuestras urnas, sacros rios, / todos pasad por estos
The poet often describes the reflection of his
eyes in the water. Displaying a bit of conceptista
word-play, Quevedo states:
Hoy me fuerzan mi pena y tus enojos
(tal es por ti mi llanto) a ver dos mares
en un arroyo, viendo mis dos ojos. (#318)
That is, the reflection of his teary eyes is paradox-
ically like two "seas" in a brook. And in the same
vein there is in #432 an example of chiasmust "En
el agua entrambos ojos, / y en entrambos ojos agua."
The final image to be studied in this third group
of "river poems" is that of the laughing or singing
river. In two poems the poet tells the river not to
sing or laugh, because it would not be proper to do
these things, since their streams are filled with his
Que mal parece, si tus aguas frias
son lAgrimas las mAs, que triste arrojo,
que canten, cuando lloro, siendo mias. (#362)
Que no es razon que, si tus aguas frias
son lagrimas llovidas de mis ojos,
rian cuando las lloran anslas mias. (#319)
In two other poems the brooks voluntarily stop
their happy sound. In #403 the brook stops "murmuring"
and learns to "groan" after the poet's examples
El arroyo mas blando,
de mi justo dolor reprehendido,
deja de murmurar y va llorando,
y aprende, entire las guijas, mi gemido.
In #432 the brooks weep and do not sing, because they
are filled with the poet's tears
Los arroyos de crystal
con sus guijuelas no cantan,
porque las ligrimas mias
hacen que lloren mis anslas.
Another large group of poems continues to compare
the poet's situation in love to natural phenomena.
Here, however, many different types of phenomena are
described, and to create a separate category for each
one would be too cumbersome. Therefore, they have all
been placed in one section.
Two poems relate the poet's feelings to the spring--
the theme of both is that the poet's inner suffering
contrasts sharply with the pleasant outside weather.
In poem #481 the quatrains and first tercet des-
cribe the spring, emphasizing the burst of color and
light after the gloomy winter. The first quatrain,
for instance, evokes the image of April's colorful
meadows and green woods after the gloomy, icy winters
Colora abril el campo que mancilla
agudo yelo y nieve desatada
de nube obscura y yerta, y, bien pintada,
ya la selva lozana en torno brilla.
The brooks begin to flow and babble, after the sun
releases them from their icy imprisonment:
Los terminos descubre de la orilla,
corriente, con el sol desenojada;
y la voz del arroyo, articulada
en guijas, llama l'aura a competilla.
The image of the poet is introduced in the final
S6lo no hay primavera en mis entranas,
que habitadas de Amor arden infierno,
y bosque son de flechas y guadanas.
There is no spring inside the poet. Cupid (Amor) lives
there where it burns infernally, and where instead of
the pleasant green spring woods, there exists a forest
of arrows and scythes.
Poem #466 follows a similar procedure, with the
quatrains and first tercet describing the spring, and
the final tercet referring to the poet. The first
quatrain seems to be a display of Quevedo's classical
Ya titul6 al verano ronca seina
vuela la grulla en letra, y con las alas
describe el viento y, en parleras galas,
Progne cantora su dolor desdeRa.
GonzAlez de Salas explained the classical sources of
these images In his edition of Quevedo's works.6
The overall plan of the stanza is to describe three
birds that are considered signs (titul6) of spring.
The first line was inspired by Publius Sirus, and
refers to the hoarse cry of the stork (the word verano
here refers to spring, according to Gonzalez de Salas).
The next two lines, taken from several sources, including
Cicero and Martial, describe the crane, which in flight
looks like a letter of the alphabet, as "writing"
on the wind. The final image refers to the swallow
(Progne), singing in merry disdain of its winter sorrow.
The rest of the description contains many images
similar to those in #481. The absence of clouds in
the sky is evoked bys "Semblante azul y alegre el cielo
ensena, / limpio de nubes y impresiones malas." The
first tercet offers us once more the picture and sound
of the brook "released" from its icy imprisonment by
the suns "de la carcel del yelo desatado, / temple el
arroyo el ruido en armonia."
The final tercet, which speaks about the poet,
employs the fire-ice opposition seen in earlier poems.
In contrast to the pleasant weather without, the poet's
soul, paradoxically as ever, burns with love while
freezing in Lisi's disdains
Yo solo, ;oh Lisi!, a pena destinado,
y en encendido invierno l'alma mia,
ardo en la nieve y yelome abrasado.
In two other poems the poet's situation in love
is related to fire images. In #314, as in the two
previous poems, the poet's inner feelings are contrasted
to the surrounding environment. The quatrains and
first tercet describe the effects of the dog days on
the earth's water supplies. The sun is so hot that
steam rises from the oceans "El pielago encendido
est& exhalando / al sol humos en traje de vapores."
Even the blood and humors within the human body burns
"y, en el cuerpo, la sangre y los humores / discurren
sediciosos fulminando." The drying up of fountains,
brooks and rivers is depicted as the day assuaging
B&bese sin piedad la sed del dia
en las fuentes y arroyos, y en los rios
la risa y el crystal y la armonla.
After this hyperbolization of the summer heat,
it seems even more extraordinary that the poet's tears
have escaped evaporation--not only because they are
so copious, but also because, since they are shed in
tribute to his lady's disdain, they are respected by
S61o del llanto de los ojos mios
no tiene el Can Mayor hidropesia,
respetando el tribute a tus desvios.
Poem #345 compares, rather than contrasts, the
poet's feelings to the analogues, which in-this case
consist of a candle-flame and a forest fire. The first
quatrain demonstrates what happens when one blows on
ZNo ves, piramidal y sin sosiego,
en esta vela arder inquieta llama,
y cuan pequeno soplo la derrama
en cadaver de luz, en humo clego?
No matter how brightly a candle burns, a small puff
of air will extinguish it. On the other hand, a forest
fire behaves quite differently
ZNo ves, sonoro y animoso, el fuego
arder voraz en una y otra rama,
a quien, ya poderoso, el soplo inflama
que a la centella dio la muerte luego?
The same puff of air that killed the candle-flame
will only incite a raging forest fire to burn even
The tercets clarify the exemplary nature of the
quatrains. A love affair in its beginning stages is
like a candle-flame:
Ansi pequeo amor reci&n nacido
muere, Alexi, con poca resistencia,
y le apaga una ausencia y un olvido.
A mere absence or lapse of memory will end a beginning
love affair with little resistance. But if allowed
to grow, love reacts like a forest fires
mas si crece en las venas su dolencia,
vence con lo que pudo ser vencido
y vuelve en alimento la violencia.
That which extinguished the candle-flame made the forest
fire grow stronger. In like manner, that which extin-
guished a beginning love, resistance, only makes a
more advanced affair grow stronger--it feeds on strong
Two more poems use a combination of element (fire,
water, earth, air) images to clarify the poet's love
feelings. Poem #444 is based on a fire-water opposition,
similar to the fire-ice poems seen earlier. With all
the tears that he has shed, everyone wonders that the
poet has not turned into fountains and rain, and that
he does not run liquifieds
Los que clego me ven de haber llorado
y las lagrimas saben que he vertido,
admiran de que, en fuentes dividido
o en lluvias, ya no corra derramado.
At the same time it is amazing that his heart can
burn so in love for Lisi, and yet he does not emit
sparks and black smoke:
Pero mi coraz6n arde admirado
(porque en tus llamas, Lisi, est& encendido)
de no verme en centellas repartido,
y en humo negro y llamas desatado.
In the poet natural laws are suspended--long,
deep rivers (his tears) do not extinguish fires (his
love)s "En.ml no vencen largos y altos rios / a incen-
dios." Water and fire co-exist peacefully within him;
they perversely remain friends in order to make him
La agua y el fuego en ml de paces tratanj
y amigos son, por ser contrarios mlosl
y los dos, por matarme, no se matan.
In #406, a madrigal, the poet discusses how his
amorous sentiments relate him to all four elements,
Each element is inhabited by a particular type of
creature--the bird in the air, the fish in water, the
salamander in fire, and man on earths
Esta la ave en el aire con sosiego,
en la agua el pez, la salamandra en fuego,
y el hombre, en cuyo ser todo se encierra,
est& en sola la tierra.
Only the poet, tormented as always, inhabits all
four elements: "Yo solo, que naci para tormentos,
estoy en todos estos elementss" His mouth breathes
air, his body wanders over the earth, his eyes are eter-
nally in water (tears), and his heart and soul dwell
in fire (love):
la boca tengo en aire suspirando,
el cuerpo en tierra esta peregrinando,
los ojos tengo en agua noche y dia,
y en fuego el coraz6n y la alma mia.
Finally, in #502 the effect of love on the poet
is like the effect of an ivy on the tree that it clings
to. The ivy seems a "green labyrinth" enveloping
the poplar that it "offends" (because it ruins whatever
y en verde labirinto comprehend
la estatura del alamo que ofende,
pues cu&nto le acaricia, le arruina.
The observer, upon seeing the ivy's leafy splen-
dor, is not sure whether it embraces or imprisons
the trees "si es abrazo o prision, no determine /
la vista, que al frondoso halago atiende." Only the
tree trunk understands whether the ivy is a blessing
or notes "el tronco solo, si es favor, entlende, /
o carcel que le esconde y que le inclina."
In the same way, Lisi's love, to all outward
appearances, appears a blessing to the poets
iAy, Lisi!, quien me viere enriquecido
con alta adoraci6n de tu hermosura,
y de tan nobles penas asistido.
But if the observer will ask his passion and fortune,
he will discover that what appears to be a blessing
is actually an imprisonment of his senses:
pregunte a ml passion y a mi ventura,
y sabra que es prisi6n de ml sentido
lo que juzga blas6n de ml locura.
The fourth category of analogues to which the
love-sick poet is related concerns fantastic or mytho-
logical creatures. These images are usually closely
associated to fire imagery. In poem #450, for instance,
the quatrains are devoted to demonstrating how the
poet's own suffering in the fires of love make the
phoenix's and the salamander's powers seem believable.
He proves that the phoenix can be renewed in fire,
since he himself is reborn in the fire of love (related
to the idea of love's paradoxical power of both blessing
and cursing those who suffer from it): "Hago verdad
la fenix en la ardiente / llama, en que renaciendo
me renuevo." His heart defends the question of the
existence of the salamander, since it drinks fire
(love) thirstily, and lives in fire, and yet does not
La salamandra fria, que desmiente
noticia docta, a defender me atrevo,
cuando en incendios, que sediento bebo,
mi corazbn habitat y no los siente.
The idea of the "cold" salamander in the midst
of fire is found also in #379, where the poet is depicted
as cold in his lady's disdain, and yet burning with
En sustentarme entire los fuegos rojos,
en tus desdenes Asperos y frios,
soy salamandra, y cumplo tus antojos.
The fifth and final type of analogue used by
Quevedo to exemplify the poet's suffering concerns
mythological or legendary personages. These images
are usually fairly extended, often involving entire
poems. The mythological characters involved are usually
those who passed through trials and tribulations (like
the poet in love)--Ulysses, Hercules, Midas, Orpheus,
Icarus, Tantalus, and others. Those images which
involve entire poems (or the major part of a poem)
will be studied first, followed by a survey of more
Although in some poems the poet is compared to
mythological characters, in other poems the relation-
ship between them and the poet is different. For
example, in #299 the poet's suffering is seen as being
able to replace something that a mythological character
might have removed. In the second quatrain the allusion
is to Phaethon:
Si el dia, por Faet6n descaminado,
hubiera todo el mar y aguas bebido,
con el piadoso llanto que he vertido,
las hubieran mis ojos renovado.
That is, if the sun-chariot, misguided by Phadthon,
had burned all the earth's water, the poet's abundant
tears would have replaced it. (Note that all these
cases are hypothetical ones--Phaethon was stopped before
the sun could dry up the water.)
Likewise, if Ulysses had been able to keep all
the winds imprisoned, the poet's sorrowful sighs would
have replaced them
Si las legiones todas de los vientos
guardar Ullses en prisl6n pudiera,
mis suspiros sin fin otros formaran.
The allusion here is to the tenth book of the Odyssey,
in which Aeolus gives all the winds (except Zephyr)
to Ulysses in a wineskin. Once again, the tercet pre-
sents a hypothetical case--Ulysses was not able to keep
the winds imprisoned.
The final tercet presents the example of Orpheusi
Si del inferno todos los tormentos,
con su music, Orfeo suspendiera,
otros mis penas nuevos inventaran.
If Orpheus had been able to stop the torments of hell
with his music, the poet-lover's sufferings would have
replaced them with new torments.
In #449, probably one of Quevedo's best known
sonnets ("En crespa tempestad del oro undoso"), the
poet suffering in love is compared to four mythological
characters.7 The entire sonnet is based on a comparison
of Lisi's wavy blond hair to a stormy sea of fire.
The poet's admiration of her hair is pictured as his
heart in some kind of physical contact with it.
In the second quatrain, his heart "swimming" in
her hair is like Leander swimming the stormy Helles-
pont to prove his loves "Leandro, en mar de fuego
proceloso, / su amor ostenta, su vivir apura." His
heart in her bright gold hair is like Icarus risking
death to get close to the suns "Icaro, en senda de
oro mal segura, / arde sus alas por morir glorioso."
In the final tercet, his heart hungering for
Lisi's hair is like Midas's hunger for gold--they are
both punished for its "el castigo y la hambre imita
a Midas," Its frustrated attempts to possess her hair
is like Tantalus's frustrated attempts to reach the
water around hims "Tantalo en fugitive fuente de
Poem #452 describes what would happen if Hercules
came alive again--the poet's tormented heart would
recreate the beasts that caused Hercules's original
s6lo en mi corazon hallara fieras,
que todos sus trabajos renovaran,
leones y centauros y quimeras.
Other poems contain isolated allusions to mytholo-
gical characters. For instance, in #297 the poet has
an inferno (love) within him. He is a prisoner of love,
and the musicc of his chains makes him another Orpheuss
La vida es mi prisi6n, y no lo creo;
y al son del hierro, que perpetuamente
pesado arrastro, y humedezco ausente,
dentro en mi proprio pruebo a ser Orfeo.
The final stanza of #390 alludes to Tantalus
("Tu, que del agua yaces desdenado, / con sed burlado,
en fuente sumergido"); to Sisyphus ("tu, que a s6lo
bajar subes cargado"); and to Prometheus ("y ti, por
los penascos extendido, / para eterno alimento conden-
ado"). The poet tells them that he will imitate their
torments (with his love sufferings)s "todos venid,
ioh pueblos macilentos:s / ver6isme remedar vuestros
"Masks" of the Poet
Another way in which Quevedo dramatizes the poet's
suffering in love is to depict the poet in various
situations or poses. These poses have been termed by
some critics as the poet's "masks," to differentiate
them from the poet's real personality, which may or
may not coincide with his poetic self.8
In the first two categories to be studied, the
"poet as pilgrim" and the "poet as prisoner," the dis-
tinction between mask-wearing and metaphor is not as
clear-cut as with the later categories (the suffering
poet, the weeping poet, the sick poet, the poet at war,
the sleeping poet, and the poet longing for death).
The reason these first two categories have been included
in the second part of this chapter is a question both
of meaning and of mechanics.
In the first part of the chapter the images to
which the poet is related represent non-human entities,
progressing from the least to the most anthropomor-
phic--from inanimate objects (volcanoes, rivers, etc.),
to animate creatures (the salamander, the phoenix),
to mythological beings (who, if not actually super-
natural, have at least powers beyond those of ordinary
men). The second part of the chapter is reserved for
The difference in mechanics is that in every poem
cited in the first part, the comparison between the
subject (the poet) and the analogue (a non-human entity)
is explicitly stated the poet is like a volcano, or
a river, or the phoenix, or Phagthon. In the poems
of the second part no comparison is stated the poetic
"I" is the pilgrim or the prisoner described in the
For instance, two very similar poems depict the
poet as a pilgrim lost in the wilderness (a common-
place in poetry of the Petrarchan tradition). In
#363 the poet-pilgrim timorously crosses the top of
a mountains "Por la cumbre de un monte levantado, /
mis temerosos pasos, triste, guio." Night falls, and
he finds himself lost, with only his hope to inspire
him to continues "Llega la noche, y hallome enganado, /
y sl6o en la esperanza me conflo."
He arrives at a river, but there is.no way to
cross "llego al corriente mar de un hondo rio: /
ni hallo barca ni puente, ni hallo vado." Although
the sound of the water consoles him somewhat, he is
disturbed at being lost "dame content el agua con
su ruido / mas en verme perdido me congojo."
He finds the tracks of someone who was there before
him--he wonders sadly if the other was also lost:
Hallo pisadas de otro que ha subido;
parome a verlas; pienso con enojo
si son de otro, como yo, perdido.
Poem #480 has many parallels to #363. The poet
once more stumbles blindly over a high mountain:
"Por yerta frente de alto escollo, osado, / con pie
dudoso, clegos pasos gulo." Once again night falls,
and the poet finds himself at the edge of a river;
he looks for a way to cross:
Cae del clelo la noche, y al cuidado
presta enganosa paz el sueno frlol
llevame a yerma orilla de alto rio,
y busco por demAs o puente o vado.
As in #363, the poet finds the tracks of another
pilgrim, who, much to the poet's sorrow, also lost
En muda send, obscure peregrine,
sigo pisadas de otro sin ventura,
que para mi dolor perdib el camino.
The main difference between the two poems lies
in the fact that #480 makes two references to the poet's
love. In the first quatrain, the poet states that
he is guided by the light of the very fire (love)
that burns hims "sigo la escasa luz del fuego mio, /
que avara alumbra, habi6ndome abrasado." In the final
tercet there is also a conventional reference to Lisi,
Poem #363, on the other hand, is almost allegorical
in its avoidance of any explicit mention of love.
Both poems, however, imply more about love than
they explicitly state. The first image in both poems,
that of the pilgrim stumbling blindly over a high moun-
tain top, suggests both the danger of love and the
helpless desperation of the poet. The idea of a deep
river blocking his path implies that the way of love is
hopeless and leads nowhere. His finding the footprints
of another pilgrim emphasizes that all who enter in love
Another group of poems depict the poet as a prisoner.
The prison is, of course, love, and the lady is often
portrayed as the captor* The poet's attitude toward his
imprisonment varies from poem to poem. In some works,
he is so content in his shackles that he abhors the
time when he was frees
Yo las adoro y nunca las padezcoo
y en la red y prisiones amarrado,
lo que vivl sin ellas aborrezco. (#483)
He is sometimes himself amazed that he can feel this
y que est6 yo en su cadena
tan content con mi pena
como ella en verme penar;
Laue puede ser? (#421)
Even Jove, Phoebus, and Cupid envy his bonds "El lazo
me invidiaron Jove y Febo; / Amor, del cebo, invidia la
In other images the poet, although adoring his
captor, hates his imprisonment
Perdi mi libertad y mi tesorol
perdi6se ml esperanza de atrevida.
iTriste de mi, que ml verdugo adoro! (#372)
Although his lady is beautiful, his imprisonment is hard
"Si hermoso el lazo fue, si dulce el cebo, / fue tirana
la red, la prison dura" (#483).
In a third set of images, the poet ruefully describes
his present captivity, and remembers longingly his former
days of freedom. In #403 the poet feels "chained" to
the memory of his lost happiness "Aqul vivo amarrado /
a la memorial de mi bien perdido." This represents a
different twist, in that the poet's memories, rather
than his beloved, torment him. But now he is so much
in his lady's power, that he lacks the strength to
regain his lost liberty:
Mas hAllome en prisi6n tan de su parte,
joh libertad!, que faltas a mi pecho
para poder sin Fill desearte. (#300)
The ambiguity of the two categories just studied--
the "poet as pilgrim" and the "poet as prisoner"--is that
they may be viewed either as implied metaphors (the poet
is like a pilgrim or a prisoner), or as masks of the
poet (the poet wearing the mask of a pilgrim or a pris-
oner). In the remaining categories, however, no such
ambiguity exists. They are definitely not metaphorical,
since it would be tautological to say "the poet is like
the weeping poet," etc.
The first of the remaining categories might be
termed "the suffering poet." This is a very general
category, encompassing a variety of ways in which the
poet's suffering is depicted. One sonnet, #371, seems
to say almost everything there is to say about someone
suffering in love. The first quatrain pictures the
poet as being in a sort of limbo. He burns, but is
never consumed he cannot stop crying he never tires,
even after all his travails; and although he longs for
death, it never comes
Tras arder siempre, nunca consumirmel
y tras siempre llorar, nunca acabarmel
tras tanto caminar, nunca cansarme;
y tras siempre vivir, jams morirme.
In the second quatrain, the poet is not able to
extricate himself from love's cruel grasp. He cannot
repent, even after so much evil (courtly love, as explained
by Arthur Terry, is basically "sinful"9); after so much
deception, he still cannot see the truth; and after so
much sorrow and pain, he can neither be happy nor laugh:
despues de tanto mal, no arrepentirme;
tras tanto engano, no desenganarme;
despu6s de tantas penas, no alegrarmes
y tras tanto dolor, nunca reirme.
The first tercet continues in much the same vein
as the quatrains. In the final tercet, the poet decides
that any struggle against love is hopeless--he will be
dead before he will have learned his lesson: "Antes
muerto estare que escarmentado." Instead of persisting in
his resistance, he decides to give in and wallow in his
misfortune: "ya no pienso tratar de defenderme, / sino
de ser de veras desdichado."
Other poems continue this catalogue of the poet's
torments. One aspect stressed frequently is the paradox-
ical effects that love has on him. For instance, a
lover's sorrows are also a cause for joy (this is prob-
ably related to the courtly love idea that it is a priv-
ilege to serve one's lady): "los amantes, / que fabrican
de lastimas sus gozos" (#486), and "en ti mi mismo mal
me da alegria" (#357).
He is happy in his suffering, and esteems her who
offends him the most:
Que me muestre yo content
de este mal que no se entiende;
que estime a quien mAs me ofende,
cuando crece mi tormento. (#421)
Because of this state of affairs, those who see his
suffering often envy him: "envidien mi dolor, si son
constantes" (#486), and "viendo ya la pasi6n que en mi
alma lidia, / unos tendrAn consuelo, otros invidia" (#390).
The poet lives in constant torment: "mi corazon
es reino del espanto" (#485). In his life, being sad is
the rule, being happy the exception: "Mi mal es propio,
el bien es accident" (#374). He himself realizes how
foolish it seems to persist in this torments "necio en
ser en mi dano porfiado" (#379).
The second category might be termed "the weeping
poet." His tears begin in the morning even earlier
than the dew: "madrugan mAs en mi que en las auroras /
lagrimas a este llano" (#398). In fact, the poet cries
night and day: "Lloro mientras el sol alumbra, y cuando
descansan en silencio los mortales" (#372); and "Desde el
un sol al otro, . / y de una sombra a otra, siempre
His eyes seem to have been made for crying more
than for any other purpose:
y tanto, que persuade la tristeza
a mis dos ojos que nacieron antes
para llorar que para verte, sueno. (#398)
His eyes are being used up in crying: "En triste humor
los ojos voy gastando" (#372); nevertheless, his eyes
cannot stop, even though they are made useless by so many
tears: "sin poder hartarse / del llanto mismo en que se
ve anegada" (#403).
Poem #392, although not actually concerned with the
weeping poet, has a great deal to say about his tears.
They speak for him: "lenguas de un pensamiento recatado,"
and "muda y tierna elocuencia derramada." They are parts
of his soul ("del alma parties) which are poured fourth
as liquid fire: "alma en liquido fuego transformada."
His tears, then, reveal what his words cannot express.
The third category portrays the sick poet (the
sickness, naturally, is love). Poem #426, entitled
"Alegorica enfermedad y medicine de amante," is devoted
entirely to expanding this theme. The conventional
images used to describe the suffering poet are here
expressed in medical terms. The "fire" within the poet
becomes "fever": "Mi coraz6n, lo primero, / en fiebre
hermosa se quema." His longing for his beloved is com-
pared to the thirst caused by dropsy:
T6mese de hidropesia
mi ardiente sed, pues se aumenta
y arde mAs, aunque mis ojos
mares de l&grimas viertan.
Finally, his irrevocable commitment to love is com-
pared to a disease, for which even the ancient sages knew
no cure: "No studies mi enfermedad / en Galeno ni Avi-
The fourth category depicts the poet at war--some-
times with his lady, sometimes with love. In the former
case, even though he tries to defend himself against
his beloved, his attempts are futile, like fighting air
or water: "armas a Antandra aumento acobardado; / aire
abrazo, agua aprieto, aplico arenas" (#336, in which
every word begins with "a"). The lady's features "sacked"
his heart, like a band of marauders:
Una risa, unos ojos, unas manos
todo mi coraz6n y mis sentidos
saquearon, hermosos y tiranos. (#442)
Even after she has conquered him she mistreats the spoils--
him--and shows her power by despising her victory:
Agora, amenazAndome atrevido,
Amor aprieta aprisa arcos, aljaba;
aguardo al arrogante agradecido. (#336)
Here the emotion love is personified as Cupid (Amor),
ready to assail the poet with his arrows.
Most of the time, however, the poet struggles against
love. In #486 his conflicting emotions are seen as a
civil war within him: "no me concede tregua ni reposo /
esta guerra civil de los nacidos." He is especially
vulnerable to these inner conflicts while sleeping: "y
duro campo de batalla el lecho" (#359). His thoughts
of love attacking him in his sleep are like corsairs
attacking a sleeping ship
Algunos enemigos pensamientos,
cosarios en el mar de amor nacidos,
mi dormido batel han asaltado. (#356)
The fifth category deals with the sleeping poet. The
poet's struggles with love disturb his sleep as much as
his waking hours. In fact, he often cannot sleep, because
his sorrows keep him awakes
hacen inobedientes mis dos ojos
a la ley de las horas
no han podido veneer a mis dolores
las noches, ni dar paz a mis enojos. (#398)
Therefore, he begs Morpheus, the god of sleep, to grant
Dame, cortes mancebo, algun reposol
debate alguna pausa mi torment. (#398)
In the same poem, he states that he longs for sleep not
in order to rest, but because sleep is like death (and
therefore frees him from his struggles): "Pues no te
busco yo por ser descanso, / sino por muda imagen de la
Even when he is able to fall asleep, the poet's
dreams give him no rest. In #366 he dreams that his
beloved kills him, and he.goes to hell. He awakes,
amazed that a dream could torment him sos
Y lo que mAs en esto me dio espanto
es ver que fuese sueno algo de aquello
que me pudiera dar tormento tanto.
But in poem #359 the poet does a complete about-face.
Instead of longing for sleep, he hates it, because it
prevents him from seeing his beloved therefore, sleep to
him is worse than deaths
El sueio, que es imagen de la muerte,
en mi a la muerte vence en aspereza,
pues que me estorba el sumo bien de verte.
In the final group of images, the poet either longs
for death, or is dying. The word "death" is used in two
different ways. It either refers to real death (the end of
life), or is used as a metaphorical expression for love
(in Petrarchan fashion). In the first sense, the poet
time and time again longs for death, as a means of ending
the torments caused by loves "%CuAndo aquel fin a ml
vendrA forzoso?" (#492), or "&Cuando . / traerhs,
;oh muerte fria: / lo que te ruego mas . ?" (#403).
But wish as he might, death never comes "La condici6n
del hado desdeBoso / quiere que le codicie y no le
In other poems the poet expresses the paradoxical
notion that his sufferings in love have made his life so
miserable, that his life is really deaths "Quiere el
Tiempo enganarme lisonjero, / llamando vida dilatar la
muerte" (#492), and "Mejor vida es morir que vivir
~___ ______ ___
In many poems the dying poet is a metaphor for the
poet in love. He dies merely by gazing upon his lady's
Por beber yo con la vista
en labios, coral y perlas,
preciosa muerte me aguarda.
Or else he lives in his lady's presence, and dies in her
Solo sin vos, y mi dolor present,
mi pecho rompo con mortal suspiro;
s6lo vivo aquel tiempo cuando os miro. (#374)
In any event, he is only happy with what kills him (his
lady), "que he venido a tener s61o por gloria / vivir
content en lo que mas me matal" (#374).
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