Es hielo abrasador, es fuego helado,

Quevedo’s definition of love would be instantly familiar to readers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century; in fact he is making fun of the almost universal use of paradoxical opposites to depict the contradictions and confusions of the state of being in love. Whether you read Shakespeare, or Gongora, Ronsard or Marvell, you will find this kind of imagery trotted out to depict being in love. So this poem accumulates examples in every line and it ends up being a humorous skit on the poetic style of the time.

Francisco de Quevedo
Definición del amor

Es hielo abrasador, es fuego helado,
es herida que duele y no se siente,
es un soñado bien, un mal presente,
es un breve descanso muy cansado.

Es un descuido que nos da cuidado,
un cobarde con nombre de valiente,
un andar solitario entre la gente,
un amar solamente ser amado.

Es una libertad encarcelada,
que dura hasta el postrero paroxismo;
enfermedad que crece si es curada.

Éste es el niño Amor, éste es su abismo.
¿Mirad cuál amistad tendrá con nada
el que en todo es contrario de sí mismo!

From <;

You can go through each line and instantly see the poetic oppositions – ice and fire, pain and numbness, dreaming and wakefulness, fatigue and rest, and this just in the first quatrain of the sonnet. And so on through the penultimate stanza of the sonnet.

And in the final three lines the poet points the finger at Cupid, saying how could he be a friend of anybody if he is completely made up of contradictions and opposites. So the takeaway is that love is not to be trusted, which might be a fair enough conclusion in any age and in any style.

The Poetry Dude


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