Last week on this little poetic spotlight segment I offered up a healthy dose of Spanish cuisine, in the form of Luis de Góngora, master of the aged Spanish poetic style of Culteranismo. This week, I find it only fitting to contrast Luis with his most bitter rival, in personage and in poetry: Francisco Gómez de Quevedo, proponent of the art of Conceptismo.
Quevedo was an intelligent man, but one possessed of a potentially vicious humor, and abrupt action. He was also–rather importantly to the understanding of the man–possessed of a number of physical handicaps that might have held back other men. It is not surprising, then, that the style he developed was often developed in an almost sardonic expression…a forward, witty realism to observing the world.
A part of the Baroque literary movement of the 16th and 17th centuries, Conceptismo was a poetic style that emphasized quick rhythms and simple, to the point turns of phrase. Though some might call it simple, its tones were possessed of a nevertheless playful sort of air, concise yet engaging, intricate yet easy to engage. Conciseness was key in this form, for all the wit that often comprised it, unlike its rival form.
What follows remains one of Quevedo’s more popular works…
Several reactions of his heart,
bobbing on the waves of Lisi’s hair
Within a curly storm of wavy gold
must swim great gulfs of pure and blazing light
my heart, for beauty eagerly athirst,
when your abundant tresses you unbind.
Just like Leander in a fire-tossed sea,
its love displays, extinguishes its life;
like Icarus, its golden path unsure,
its wings catch fire — in glorious flames it dies.
So very like the Phoenix, with its hopes
all burnt, whose expiration I lament,
it wants its death to make new lives from old.
So miserly and rich, in treasure poor,
in trials and hunger Midas imitates;
Tantalus in a fleeting fount of gold.
~Written by Francisco de Quevedo,
Translated by Professor Alix Ingber