restricted access Lope de Vega’s “Alcides Nueuo” and Satan’s Sect: A Case for Local Readings
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L O P E D E V E G A S " A L C I D E S N U E U O " A N D S A T A N ' S SECT: A C A S E F O R L O C A L R E A D I N G S Alexander J. McNair University of Wisconsin-Parkside L ope de Vega addressed the following sonnet to Philip III ("Al rey nuestro seftor") shortly after the death of the latter's father, King Philip II: Alcides nueuo, en cuyos ombros tiernos, Mientras descansa el gran Filipo Atlante, Cargan dos mundos, porque sois bastante,. Si los huuiera, para mas gouiernos. Objeto de los cielos sempiternos, Como el espejo al Sol, luz en diamante, Iupiter Espanol, Cesar Infante, Mas digno de viuir siglos eternos. Aqui, donde mi Isidro fue nacido, Nacistes vos, tan bien auenturado, Quanto deueis de estarle agradecido. Vuestros antecessores le han honrado, Ya Reyna en Dios, si Labrador ha sido, Iuntad el cetro a su diuino aradp. Lope includes this sonnet as front material in the first edition of his Isidro, a long hagiographic poem composed between 1596 and 1598.1 Philip II died in September of 1598 and the "aprovacion" page that prer cedes the sonnet carries the date "a 22. dias del mes de Enero 1599" (sic), suggesting that the sonnet might have been written in the final months of 1598. At least on the surface, the sonnet appears to suggest little about the debates over statecraft or the mounting economic crisis that met the new king as he ascended the throne. As most dedicatory sonnets, it seems hyperbolic, if only conventional, in its flattery of the king: mythological allusions to Hercules ("Alcides"), Jupiter, and the burden of Atlas; the equation of king and sun, king and God; the request that Philip honor Madrid's humble patron, Isidore the Ploughman. We can, of course, read this sonnet as a cultural artifact, a typical dedicatory/hortatory poem, and it would be completely comprehensible given the general historical context with which the reader expects to confront early modern poetry of this sort. The poem's formulaic mythological allusions and regal apoCALIOPE Vol. 7, No. 1 (2001): pages 29-49 30 37 note, assuring the new Hercules, whose "ombros tiernos ... cargan dos mundos," that he could do it even if there were more to govern: "porque sois bastante, / si los huuiera, para mas gouiernos." Lope is optimistic here as he is in Fiestas de Denia. At the beginning of the second quatrain Lope gives the reader a reason why he should have so much confidence in those delicate shoulders and their ability to take on the burden of Atlas, reminding Philip III, as Rivadeneira did, that the king is God's minister on Earth: Objeto de los cielos sempiternos, Como el espejo al Sol, luz en diamante, Iupiter Espanol, Cesar Infante, Mas digno de vivir siglos eternos. This quatrain resonates with the language of Rivadeneira's Tratado: "el buer\ rey," Rivadeneira tells us, is "vicario y ministro" of God (470) or, a "participation del ser y poder divino" (452). Lope calls him the "Objeto de los cielos sempiternos." Rivadeneira also tells the prince that a king is "como otro sol en el mundo, y un dios en la tierra" (470). Lope's "el espejo al sol, luz en diamante" echoes the rhetoric used by Rivadeneira, but modifies it ever so slightly to produce an unexpected effect. Indeed, Lope invokes the commonplace that the light provided by the king is not only nurturing as the sun, it is brilliant, dazzling as the light reflected and refracted when cast on a diamond; however, Lope's use of the mirror demonstrates a different property of the king's light: that it can be manipulated in powerful ways. The light in the diamond astonishes us and the sunlight reflected in the mirror can beckon us from afar, but it can also blind us if we are too close, and even burn if reflected in a certain way. Lope's contemporary Sebastian de Covarrubias notes that the "espejo es simbolo del verdadero amigo, que, consultado, nos responde verdad," but he also records...