1 ago. 2011

Fray Luis, San Juan, Santa Teresa

One thing the three greatest 16th century religious poets / thinkers had in common was that they were from converso families. Fray Luis de León got in trouble with the Inquisition for translating the Song of Songs directly from the Hebrew, rather than from the Latin vulgate. The language of this translation was a direct source for the greatest poem of Juan de Yepes (Saint John of the Cross), the "Cántico espiritual." What was essentially a collection of Hebrew wedding songs ended up in the Bible. Christian interpretations of this erotic poetry allegorized it. The bridegroom is Christ, etc... So in the "Cántico espiritual" the speaker of the poem is female and the "amado" is a divine figure.

The poet-professors of the Generation of 1927, like Guillén and Dámaso Alonso, wanted to be mysticize the mystic, so they argued that the allegorical, religious, mystical reading of the text was tacked-on. They wanted to read it as expression of a human love, invoking some version of the intentional fallacy. After all, if you didn't know this was mystic poetry, you would not see any religious content at all. It's about a woman waking up an seeing that her lover has gone, etc...

Valente re-mysticizes this poetry, arguing against Guillén and Alonso. Of course, I agree with him, pretty much. You cannot read poetry apart from the literary and intellectual tradition to which it belongs. San Juan draws inspiration from Islamic mysticism too, if we accept the conclusions of Luce López Baralt in San Juan de la Cruz y el Islam.

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