Fernando de Herrera’s “Canciones”: Jihad Meets Holy War
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 11, Number 1, 2005
- pp. 49-62
- View Citation
- Additional Information
FERNANDO DE HERRERA’S “CANCIONES”: JIHAD MEETS HOLY WAR Elizabeth Teresa Howe Tufts University S pain under Philip II was a country at war with its political and religious enemies—both real and imagined—on every side. To the north the French Huguenots and especially the Dutch Calvinists threatened the rule of this most Catholic king. To the south and east the Moslem Moors, Berbers, and Ottoman Turks were a constant thorn in the side, not just of Spain but of its Christian neighbors as well. Within the country proper, the presence of a Morisco majority in Andalucía made Christian control of the region tenuous at best, a threat made palpable by the Alpujarras uprising of 1568. Equally unnerving to the clerics of the Inquisition was the perceived threat to orthodoxy posed by the presence of conversos and alumbrados within the very hierarchy, as the deposing and imprisionment of Archbishop Carranza, the primate of Spain, suggested. As a result, the Spanish monarch increasingly saw himself and his mission in Messianic terms, and, by extension, the Spanish people as the new chosen race ordained by God to protect and extend Catholic orthodoxy in the world.1 This perception of Spain and Philip influences two of the heroic canciones of Fernando de Herrera. In each poem, Herrera recalls the historical battles of Lepanto and Alcazarquivir in turn, addressing Philip, first in celebration of the great victory over the Ottoman Turks in 1571 and then to lament the destruction of the Portuguese expedition led by his nephew, the impetuous young King Sebastián, in 1578. By combining Biblical imagery and geographic references with the form of the heroic ode, the poet creates works which “ocupa[n] la más alta herarquía de la escala poética” (López Bueno 733).2 Lepanto For many scholars of Spanish Golden Age literature the battle of Lepanto is notable principally for the participation of one Miguel de Cervantes as a soldier in the service of Spain. Some thirty years after the event, Cervantes’s cautivo could still wax eloquent about “aquel día, que fue para la cristiandad tan dichoso, porque en él se desengañó CALÍOPE Vol. 11, Number 1 (2005): pages 49-62 50 Elizabeth Teresa Howe D D D D D el mundo y todas las naciones del error en que estaban, creyendo que los turcos eran invencibles por la mar, en aquel día . . . donde quedó el orgullo y soberbia otamana quebrantada” Don Quijote 1.39, 398). For historians, the battle is at least noteworthy for the remarkable feat of papal diplomacy that made allies of erstwhile rivals in the formation of the Holy League. By joining forces, the navies of Venice, Spain, and the Papal States proposed to confront the Ottoman Turks for control of the eastern Mediterranean and the safety of Christendom. Some have called the enterprise the last crusade (Elliot 238), while others have described it as the last, great naval engagement of the ancient world (Marx 122-23). In the tactics and armaments employed on that October day in 1571, galley was pitted against galley and sword and arrow competed equally with shot and shell to determine the outcome.3 The victory of the Christian forces under the command of Don Juan de Austria had an electifying effect on the governments and peoples who had, for so long, suffered the brunt of attacks and raiding parties along virtually the whole of the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts. When news of the victory reached Venice, it “was received with an outburst of religious fervour not witnessed since the first Crusade” (Fuller 1.576). Otis Green describes the effect of the victory on the arts: It was celebrated in music by Juan Brudieu, chapelmeister of the cathedral of Seo de Urgel, and by Don Fernando de los Infantes, a Cordovan cleric and musician residing at Rome. Tintoretto sought to eternalize it in painting; in this effort he was followed by Titian. There were statues, medallions, friezes; and in Rome the ceiling of a church was adorned with an inscription in gold leaf—gold taken as booty in the battle. (3.359) And there were poems as well. José L...