There are many poems in which great poets pay tribute to other great poets, either in recognition of following their tradition, or to acknowledge their influence and inspiration or perhaps to put themselves in the company of poets known to be masters of their art. Here , we have a poem by Lope de Vega in praise of his almost exact contemporary, Luis de Gongora. They could have been rivals, but this poem looks a genuine appreciation of the great Gongora’s poetic gift.
In some ways, I think of Lope de Vega as the closest Spanish equivalent of Shakespeare, for his mastery of both theatre and poetry, and his willingness to push the envelope, particularly in dramatic themes (think for example of Fuenteovejuna, or El Caballero de Olmedo).
With all that as background, here is the sonnet (of course), which one genius, Lope, wrote to celebrate another genius, Gongora…
A don Luis de Góngora
Lope de Vega
Claro cisne del Betis que, sonoro
y grave, ennobleciste el instrumento
más dulce, que ilustró músico acento,
bañando en ámbar puro el arco de oro,
a ti lira, a ti el castalio coro
debe su honor, su fama y su ornamento,
único al siglo y a la envidia exento,
vencida, si no muda, en tu decoro.
Los que por tu defensa escriben sumas,
propias ostentaciones solicitan,
dando a tu inmenso mar viles espumas.
Los ícaros defienda, que te imitan,
que como acercan a tu sol las plumas
de tu divina luz se precipitan.
This is a poem of two halves (Brian)… In the first half, Lope praises Gongora’s musicality, the fact that the words of his poems elevate the qualities of the musical instruments or choral arrangements which might accompany them. In the second half of the poem, Lope points the finger at those who write praises of Gongora just to make themselves well-known – like Icarus, as they approach Gongora, the glue that holds their feathers together will melt and they will fall back to earth.
Which leaves Gongora and Lope alone at the pinnacle of their accomplishments.
The Poetry Dude