Da bienes Fortuna

Usually, Gongora’s poems are most remarkable for their very rich language and complicated, allusive sentence structures, which make them very interesting to read. But today’s poem is much simpler and more straightforward. It consists of a set of reflections on what I take to be a popular saying or proverb, “Cuando pitos flautas, cuando flautas pitos”, which I interpret as an example of the vagaries of life, such as the Rolling Stones later took up in their song “You can’t always get what you want”, from the Let it Bleed Album. In how many other ways was Gongora like Mick Jagger? Answers welcome in the comment box.

Da bienes Fortuna
que no están escritos:
cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

¡Cuán diversas sendas
Se suelen seguir
En el repartir
Honras y haciendas!
A unos da encomiendas,
A otros sambenitos.
Cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

A veces despoja
De choza y apero
Al mayor cabrero,
Y a quien se le antoja;
La cabra más coja
Pare dos cabritos.
Cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

Porque en una aldea
Un pobre mancebo
Hurtó sólo un huevo,
Al sol bambolea,
Y otro se pasea
Con cien mil delitos.
Cuando pitos flautas,
cuando flautas pitos.

From <http://www.poesi.as/index6.htm&gt;

The first four line stanza sets out the premise, that Fortune doesn’t always turn out the way you expect, and quotes the proverb, which will be repeated for emphasis at the end of each of the following stanzas.

The first stanza gives the example of the randomness of distribution of honours and punishments, with some getting commendations and others getting penitential gowns (worn by prisoners on their way to prison or execution), seemingly at random.

The next stanza takes a bucolic turn saying the best and worst goatherds can often equally be deprived of the best grazing ground; while, among the goats, it can be the lame goat which is rewarded by giving birth to twin kids.

Finally, the randomness of justice is illustrated in the final stanza with the poor villager who only stole an egg ending up swinging on the gibbet, while the fellow who committed lots of serious crimes take a carefree stroll down the main street.

Popular proverbs were widespread and well known in Spain. It is a running joke in Don Quijote that Sancho Panza never stops speaking in proverbs, to the exasperation of Don Q. Here, Gongora makes a nice poem with the same idea.

The Poetry Dude

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