Instead of Shakespeare’s seven ages of man (from As You Like It), here are Quevedo’s seven ages of women, (except the careful reader will notice that Quevedo has eight ages of women, dividing their lives into five year intervals from 15 to 55). I think most people would see this as very much written from the man’s point of view – the characteristics of women at their various age points are not necessarily positive, although that is not always the case. I sense an appreciation of women between the ages of 20 and 30, but after that, everything gets more difficult.
A LA EDAD DE LAS MUJERES
De quince a veinte es niña; buena moza
de veinte a veinticinco, y por la cuenta
gentil mujer de veinticinco a treinta.
¡Dichoso aquel que en tal edad la goza!
De treinta a treinta y cinco no alboroza;
mas puédese comer con sal pimienta;
pero de treinta y cinco hasta cuarenta
anda en vísperas ya de una coroza.
A los cuarenta y cinco es bachillera,
ganguea, pide y juega del vocablo;
cumplidos los cincuenta, da en santera,
y a los cincuenta y cinco echa el retablo.
Niña, moza, mujer, vieja, hechicera,
bruja y santera, se la lleva el diablo.
In fact, the whole of the sonnet sequences nicely from youthful innocence and charm in the first four lines, covering the years from 15 to 30; the next four lines cover the years from 30 to 40 and portrays woman as becoming more disputatious and contrarian, and even possible fodder for the Spanish Inquisition (although nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition…). The next 3 lines cover the period from 45 to 50, where she is too clever for her own good and wants people to believe she is some kind of saint. The final three lines take her past 55, when all she wants is to be some sort of icon. But then the kick in the tail comes in the final two lines and sum up what Quevedo was really trying to convey about women, with a great sequence of nouns building a cumulative impact. Girl, maid, woman, old woman, sorceress, witch, false saint, let the devil take her at whatever stage…
So I guess this is the opposite of a love poem.
The Poetry Dude