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VELOS NEGROS AND BLANCAS VS. MORENAS: A MOTIF SUBVERTED? John Gornall Tattenhall, near Chester, UK The white skin of a young novice contrasted with her black veil was clearly by the Spanish mid fourteenth-century a useful poetic strategy for suggesting, from the male viewpoint, her unsuitability for a convent. The mismatch struckJuan Ruiz when ogling Doña Garoça at mass:¡Valme, Santa María! ¡Mis manos me aprieto!¿quién dio a blanca rosa abito, velo prieto? Más valdrié a la fermosa tener fijos e nieto que atal velo prieto nin que ábitos ciento. ' (Libro de buen amor 1 500) A man's song from an early sixteenth-century play by Sánchez de Badajoz implies the same opposition: No me las enseñes más, que me matarás. Estávase la monja en el monesterio, sus teticas blancas de so el velo negro. Más, que me matarás. (Corpus #375B) I Alberto Blecua suggests "abito escueto" for the manuscript readings of "ábitos ciento" (557). La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 127-31 128John GornallLa coránica 30.1, 2001 This article will suggest that this male contention "velos negros do not suit niñas bhncas" might have provoked an ironic riposte in thewoman's song 'Aunque me vedes / morenica en el agua' (Corpus #213). H Aunque me vedes morenica en el agua no sere yo frayla H Una madre que a mi crio5 mucho me quiso y mal me guardo a los pies de mi cama los canes ato atólos ella10 desátelos yo metiera madre al mi lindo amor no sere yo frayla. (Margit Frenk, Cancionero de galanes 66~67)2 Anthologies arranged thematically place Corpus #213, aptly, among Reluctant Novice songs.3 But interpretations have hinged largely on the connotation oímorena. Bruce W. Wardropper argued in favor of a supposed unattractiveness ofmorenas in general, compounded in this case by the girl's predicament: The lover sees the girl bathing; she protests that, though she is dark-skinned —that is, in folk song, quite unattractive— she nevertheless refuses to be forced into a nunnery. She is resigned to the fact that her lover, having seduced her, now despises her and is repelled by her lack of beauty. But the customary 2 The unique source is apliego suelto, BN-Madrid R-4885, entitled "Cantares de diuersas sonadas con sus deshechas muy graciosas ansi para baylar como para tañer", without date (or place ofpublication), but dated to c. 1520 (Frenk, Cancionero de galanes xxxiv). A second stanza repeats the first parallelistically. Some editors print the song in long lines, but Antonio Sánchez Romeralo, who studied the metrics oftraditional lyric, favored the layout of thepliego (#212). Frenk, Cancionero de galanes was the poem's first printing in modern times. 3 The song appears in Dámaso Alonso andjosé Manuel Blecua #178;José María Alín, El cancionero español #210; Sánchez Romeralo, "Antología popular" #212; Frenk, Lírica española #122; and Alín, Cancionero traditional #177. Velos negros and Blancas vs. Morenas1 29 penalty assessed against the seducer's victim —the cloister— she will not pay. ("The Reluctant Novice" 245). Although Wardropper adduced many analogues for the unattractiveness of morenas ("The color problem"), there also exists evidence in the opposite direction: for example, "Yo me soy la morenita, / yo me soy la morena" (Corpus #1360) and "Soy hermosa y agraciada", some versions ofwhich begin "Soy morena ..." (Corpus #123). Morenas can be attractive and this "morenica" is surely one of them. Her possession ofa "lindo amor" (v. 13), and the known erotic connotations of water, surely militate against the idea that it is her unattractiveness that is forcing her into a convent. Later critics have in fact seen h morenez as erotic symbolism rather than as a shortcoming in female beauty. Paula Olinger says that "in the estribillo [oí Corpus #213] the girl openly admits that she has experienced sexual involvement because she describes herself as 'morenica en el agua'. Both her color and the fact that she is already in the water tell us in symbolic language what the gloss makes clear: "metiera, madre, / al mi lindo...


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