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A READING OF THE PARA YSO OF SOTO DE ROJAS Alan S. Trueblood Brown University The critic~! re-evaluation of Gongora in our ceptury, launched by the Sevillian homage of 1927, brought in its train renewed interest in a number of minor poets who, dazzled by Gongora's achievement , had set out on their own down, the trail he blazed. Though Gongora, by temperament a loner, showed no inclination to foster d,scipleship, the challenge of his daring descriptive lyricism, supported as it was by sheer genius, proved irresistible. A case in point is Pedro Espinosa. Gongora's Soledadeshad hardly begun to circulate , around 1613, before his own first Soledadwas being penned. After four decades the challenge was still being felt in force. Pedro Soto de Rojas's Paraysocerrado paramuchos,jardinesabiertosparapocos dates from mid-century (1652).1 In the interim, poet after poet, all inevital?ly of lesser stature, had sought to emulate Gongora's achievement. I am using the term "emulation" advisedly in speaking of the attitude of the gongorinostoward Gongora. It stresses the element of willingness, even willfulness, in their cultivation of his maniera. This is not a case of surrepetitious or unconscious influence, much less of influence struggled against. Emulation is a willing acknowledgement of the creative stimulus transmitted by a talent recognized as superior. Its purpose, of which it usually falls short, is to equal, even to outstrip, what that talent has achieved. The term has the further advantage of stressing the agency of the creating artist, thereby avoiding overextending the range of a concept like intertextuality. A corollary assumption in what follows is that in literary analysis critical objectivity or impartiality is neither attainable nor desirable. On the contrary, a critic's powers will be at their most effective if some degree of elective affinity draws to the text. Soto's hilltop carmenand the residence it contains (it is too small to be called an estate), closed to all but a very few, provide a personal precinct to which, in his later years, he has retreated permanently in frustration, embitterment and disgust at the world outside. A reading of his biography, so carefully documented by Gallego Morell (1948), makes it plain that he is himself partly to blame for his desenCALfOPE Vol. II, No. 2 (1996): pages 5-29 6 ~ Alan S. Trueblood ~ gafio. He is a disappointed clerical seeker after high office who is unable to secure any benefice beyond that of canon of the small collegiate church of El Salvador on the Albaicfn. His unruly, irascible temperament helps explain the frequent, sometimes violent disputes with fellow clerics and the failure to obtain preferment despite prolonged and sometimes unauthorized stays in Madrid, one of which in fact eventuated in house arrest back home. Soto's spiritual vocation is nevertheless undoubtedly genuine; his is not a basically secular spirit like that of his fellow canon Gongora. And he goes further in what would today be called a vocation for scholarship. He is the possessor of a thorough, if not always prof~mnd, humanistic, patristic and Biblical culture which he is not averse to displaying. (The margins of Paraysopresent an almost unbroken succession of abbreviated cross-references.) His omnipresent erudition can be highly specialized, though at the price of making it as much a weakness as a stre?gth with respect to his performance as a poet. Poetry, in turn, if not a vocation, is an avocation to which he is strongly drawn. The soledadSoto enjoys in his garden is one of aloneness verging on aloofness, not one of loneliness; of self-sufficiency vis-a-vis the rest of humanity and openness only to God. The formality of the garden is tempered for the reader by a curious effect of familiarity arising from its intimate significance for its designer and proprietor, the same familiarity surrounding Lope's references to the humble patio garden he tended himself and Fray Luis's to the garden planted by his own hand. No more than these is Soto's garden designed for display . The occasional touches of flamboyance in his presentation of it surely correspond to a strain in his nature not quite extinguished by his reclusion and...


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