Mientras por competir con tu cabello

Back to the 16th century, Spain’s golden age of poetry, theatre, painting, political ascendancy and expansion into the New World. This sonnet is by Luis de Gongora, one of Spain’s greatest poets of this or any age. I fell in love with this sonnet the first time I read and I hope many of you do too. A bit like Shakespeare, Gongora is a master of rich, baroque language and syntax and exuberant imagery.

Mientras por competir con tu cabello
Oro bruñido al sol relumbra en vano,
Mientras con menosprecio en medio el llano
Mira tu blanca frente al lilio bello;
Mientras a cada labio, por cogello,
Siguen más ojos que al clavel temprano,
Y mientras triunfa con desdén lozano
Del luciente cristal tu gentil cuello,
Goza cuello, cabello, labio y frente,
Antes que lo que fue en tu edad dorada
Oro, lilio, clavel, cristal luciente,
No sólo en plata o vïola troncada
Se vuelva, más tú y ello juntamente
En tierra, en humo, en polvo, en sombra, en nada

From <http://www.poesi.as/index58.htm&gt;

I love the symmetry of this poem, the formal perfection of the repetition of the key words and concepts to underscore the theme of carpe diem, or gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The repetition of “mientras” at the beginning of the first, third, fifth and seventh lines creates suspense, a suspense which is resolved when each element described in the first eight lines of the poem – cabello/oro, frente/lilio, labio/clavel and cuello/cristal – is repeated and then in the final twist given new meaning by the magnificent stretched-out final line – tierra, humo, polvo, sombra, nada. Life, beauty and youth are transient, decay and death are inevitable. This idea is akin to the skull placed in portraits of royalty and nobles of the time – a reminder of mortality. But this poem says that you should enjoy life while you can, seize the moment and don’t let it slip away.

The structure of this poem gives a stunning impact to a fairly conventional and widespread idea, and this reader is left gasping at the talent and ability of the poet to pull it off..

A good poem to learn by heart..
The Poetry Dude


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