Poetic Spotlight: Not All Sweet Nightingales

Luis de Gongora, painted by Diego Velázquez in...

Luis himself. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Onward, to España, where the Bullfights in Pretzels and Bullfights (the name of this segment on dVerse Poetry) got its fame! This week, we’re examining a piece by one Luis de Góngora y Argote, a masterful lyric poet of the Spanish Baroque variety.

One of the most prominent Spanish poets of his time (late 1500s to early 1600s), Luis’s writings are characterized by what we now call today, Gongorism, in honor of the man. The style–also known as Culteranismo–is an ornamental one, utilizing vast vocabulary and a message often swimming in an ocean of metaphors and a complex syntactical order. It even had a counterpart, produced by one of Luis’s contemporaries–Francisco de Quevedo. Francisco’s style, Conceptismo, counteracted Culternaismo with a more witty style despite simple vocabulary, and attempted to put multiple meanings into as few words as possible.

Today’s piece, “Not All Sweet Nightingales,” offers a fine sampling of Luis’s style.

“NOT ALL SWEET NIGHTINGALES”

THEY are not all sweet nightingales

That fill with songs the flowery vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the winds in the smiling dells;

Magic bells of gold in the grove,

Forming a chorus for her I love.

Think not the voices in the air

Are from the wingéd Sirens fair,

Playing among the dewy trees

Chanting their morning mysteries;

Oh! if you listen, delighted there,

To their music scattered o’er the dales,

They are not all sweet nightingales

That fill with songs the flowery vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the winds in the smiling dells;

Magic bells of gold in the grove,

Forming a chorus for her I love.

Oh! ’twas a lovely song — of art

To charm — of nature to touch the heart;

Sure ’twas some shepherd’s pipe, which played

By passion fills the forest shade;

No! ’tis music’s diviner part

Which o’er the yielding spirit prevails.

They are not all sweet nightingales

That fill with songs the flowery vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the winds in the smiling dells;

Magic bells of gold in the grove,

Forming a chorus for her I love.

In the eye of love, which all things sees,

The fragrance-breathing jasmine trees–

And the golden flowers — and the sloping hill–

And the ever melancholy rill–

Are full of holiest sympathies,

And tell of love a thousand tales.

They are not all sweet nightingales,

That fill with songs the cheerful vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the wind in the smiling dells,

Bells of gold in the secret grove,

Making music for her I love.

Till I too shared thy heavenly rest.

~Written by Luis de Argote y Góngora,
Translated by John Bowring
Advertisements

One thought on “Poetic Spotlight: Not All Sweet Nightingales

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s