I wonder how many people know that Lope de Vega’s first name was Felix. I certainly didn’t realise until I saw his full name attached to this poem. Well, I think its appropriate, as his output of poems and plays was so prolific that he must have been really happy at what he was doing.
This sonnet is a tour de force of verbs and adjectives, piled one on top of the other to build a powerful portrait of the meaning of love. It is both playful and pointed, and makes more impact for combining these qualities.
The title announces the poem both in form and content, with two contradictory verbs capturing the tension of love – “To faint, to dare” – trepidation and foolhardy courage competing for the upper hand in the mind of the lover.
DE FELIX LOPE DE VEGA
Desmayarse, atreverse, estar furioso,
áspero, tierno, liberal, esquivo,
alentado, mortal, difunto, vivo,
leal, traidor, cobarde y animoso;
no hallar fuera del bien centro y reposo,
mostrarse alegre, triste, humilde, altivo,
enojado, valiente, fugitivo,
satisfecho ofendido receloso;
huir el rostro al claro desengaño,
beber veneno por licor suave,
olvidar el provecho, amar el daño;
creer que el cielo en un infierno cabe,
dar la vida y el alma a un desengaño,
esto es amor: quien lo probó lo sabe.
The two verbs kick off the poem itself also, followed by an accumulation of adjectives describing the many-faceted emotions experienced by the confused lover. The reader is left reeling by this collection of conflicting states, just as the mind of the poet must have been. The second four lines continue in the same spirit, with yet more adjectives, the poet’s virtuosity carrying us forward with every word, every line.
In the final six lines, it is the verbs which regain the upper hand, each one expressing one of the paradoxes of love, until the final line proclaims that all this is love, and whoever has experienced it knows it well.
I think Lope was right, and this is a wonderful, vibrant expression of the contradictions of love.
The Poetry Dude