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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Lyric and epic poetry


Lyric and epic poetry.]

While the Spanish theatre and the Spanish novel were of world-wide significance, furnishing models which affected the literature of other peoples, Spanish lyric poetry had only national importance, but it has a special interest at this time in that it was the most noteworthy representative of the vices which were to contribute to destroy Spain's literary pre?minence. In the first place, lyric poetry was an importation, for the Italian lyrics overwhelmed the native product and even imposed their form in Castilian verse. Much excellent work was done, however, notably by Garcilaso de la Vega (1503-1536). Eminent on another account was Luis de Argote y G?ngora (1561-1627), commonly referred to by the name of his mother, G?ngora. G?ngora affected to despise popularity, declaring that he wished to write only for the cultivated classes. To attain this end he adopted the method of complicating the expression of his ideas, making violent departures from the usual order of employing words (hyperbaton), and indulging in artificial symbolism. This practice, called euphuism in English, for it was not peculiar to Spain but became general in Europe, won undying fame of a doubtfully desirable character for G?ngora, in that it has ever since been termed _gongorismo_ in Spanish, although the word _culteranismo_ has also been applied. Similar to it was conceptism, which aimed to introduce subtleties, symbols, and obscurities into the ideas

themselves. It is natural that the lyric poetry of the later seventeenth century should have reached a state of utter decline. Epic poetry did not prosper in this era; its function was supplied by romance.

[Sidenote: Achievements in satire, panegyrics, and periodical literature.]

In addition to the various forms of prose writing already discussed, there were many others, and great distinction was achieved in them by the Spaniards of the _siglo de oro_. Among the many who might be mentioned was Francisco de Quevedo, especially famous as a satirist and humorist. One interesting type of literature was that of the panegyrics of Spain in answer to the Hispanophobe works of foreigners, who based their characterizations of Spaniards in no small degree, though not wholly, on the exaggerated condemnation of Spain's dealings with the American Indians by Bartolom? de Las Casas, himself a Spanish Dominican. The _Pol?tica indiana_ of Sol?rzano belongs in this class of literature, as a refutation, though a reasoned one, of the indictment of Las Casas and others. In addition to the already-mentioned "relations of events," forerunner of the modern newspaper, it is to be noted that the _Gaceta_ (Gazette), the official periodical, began to be published in the seventeenth century. With regard to the non-Castilian parts of Spain it need only be said that Castilian triumphed as the literary language, although works in the vernacular continued to be published in Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca.

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