Agora con la aurora se levanta

Here is a very nice sonnet from one of my favourite poet-priests of the sixteenth century, Fray Luis de Leon, the bard of Salamanca. And on a quite unpriestly subject – the irrational exuberance of the illusion of love, followed by the inevitable let down as reality steps in.

Fray Luis de León

Agora con la aurora se levanta
mi Luz; agora coge en rico nudo
el hermoso cabello; agora el crudo
pecho ciñe con oro, y la garganta;

agora vuelta al cielo, pura y santa,
las manos y ojos bellos alza, y pudo
dolerse agora de mi mal agudo;
agora incomparable tañe y canta.

Ansí digo y, del dulce error llevado,
presente ante mis ojos la imagino,
y lleno de humildad y amor la adoro;

mas luego vuelve en sí el engañado
ánimo, y conociendo el desatino,
la rienda suelta largamente al lloro.

From <;

A big part of the charm of this poem is its momentum, carried along by the open vowel sounds and repetition of “agora”, 6 times in the first eight lines. This creates a sense of urgency and also suspense in the poem which carries the reader forward and stops him from being tempted to linger on particular words or constructions.

It is dawn, right now, and the light catching the lover’s hair and neck and breasts covers them with a golden aura. This is the impossible dream of love as an ideal, flawless, at one with the golden dawn. The first eight lines are focussed entirely on this interaction between the dawn’s light and the poet’s loved one, you could easily imagine this as a painting with the sun’s rays illuminating the face of a renaissance beauty. In the ninth line, the poet enters more directly, describing how he adores this ideal vision, even while acknowledging that he is in error.

But then in the final three lines, he confronts reality, it is just a vision, an ideal which is imagination has conjured up. Realising the impossibility of the beauty he has described, the poet gives way to tears.

The Poetry Dude


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