restricted access The Sonnet as Mirror: Metapoetry and Self-Referentiality in Lope de Vega’s Rimas
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T H E S O N N E T A S M I R R O R : M E T A P O E T R Y A N D S E L F - R E F E R E N T I A L I T Y LN L O P E D E V E G A S RIMAS Mark J. Mascia Sacred Heart University The poetry of Lope de Vega has been most frequently studied for its amorous, spiritual, or autobiographical aspects. There has also been some interesting criticism done on Lope's general views of poetics , theory, and language, yet there has been considerably less work which directly points to the metapoetic and self-referential aspects of Lope's poetry.1 To understand what makes such aspects metapoetic or self-referential , it is necessary to arrive at a practical definition of metapoetry. For this study, metapoetry is to be understood as lyrical works that refer in some way to their existence as artistic constructs and those which include an evaluation or examination of poetry —be it Lope's or someone else's. Insightful in examining the varieties of metapoetry is the relatively recent work on Spanish metapoetry by Leopoldo Sanchez Torre, La poesia en el espejo del poema. His definition of metapoetry includes not only the break between text and textual commentary, but also an examination of the multifaceted roles of the metapoem as a personal poetics or literary criticism: "La metapoesia, independientemente del elemento del proceso poetico en el que se focalice su reflexion sobre la poesia, no solo puede manifestarse como indagacion leorica sobre la poesia, sino tambien, muchas veces, como exposition de una poetica personal, como manifiesto o declaration de principios, como critica literaria o como autocritica" (137).2 In this essay, I will examine nine of Lope de Vega's sonnets which contain and express the very reason for their construction as poetry, taken from his initial poetry collection, the Rimas of 1602. The most frequent self-referential type of sonnet in this collection is the sonnet which details its genesis through its emotional and psychological underpinnings. Most often it is love which compels the poet to write these compositions. In this case, a particular woman, such as the "Lucinda" frequent in Lope's early sonnets, is mentioned as the reason for undertaking the poetic enterprise. These poems most often have their literary roots in Petrarchist tradition and the cancioneros. Another type is the sonnet which simply refers to its own construction, without necessarily mentioning emotional stimuli on the part of the author. These poems, more often than not, are metapoetic in the strict sense that they openly detail their existence as artistic constructs. Finally, there is the sonnet which CALIOPE Vol. 7, No. 1 (2001): pages 51-72 52 «S Mark J. Mascia acts as a vehicle for literary self-eternalization and, implicitly at least, public recognition. On some occasions, this type of sonnet merges with the first type, where there is an affective stimulus underlying the poem's reason for being. In general, what will emerge through the study of these works is a Lope beset by the need to make his artistic endeavours their own self-evident object, whether it is due to an emotional bond with another human being, a bond with the actual written work itself, or a need to validate himself as an artist. For Lope, poetry is a life-affirmingact of emotional and intellectual discharge which merits its own oftentimes narcissistic self-objectification. Sonnet 1 Sonnet 1 of the Rimas, known by its initial line as "Versos de amor, .conceptos esparcidos" (1989: 23), focuses primarily on the poetry which Lope produces. It serves as an introduction to what will be an emotionally charged collection on both love and its versed elaborations: Versos de amor, conceptos esparcidos, engendrados del alma en mis cuidados; partos de mis sentidos abrasados, con mas dolor que libertad nacidos; expositos al mundo, en que perdidos, tan rotos anduvistes y trocados, que solo donde fuistes engendrados fuerades por la sangre conocidos; pues que le hurtais el laberinto a Creta, a Dedalo los altos pensamientos, la furia al mar, las llamas al abismo...