- Of Cautivas and Collares: Re-Figuring the Ideology Behind A Lo Divino Poetry
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 12, Number 1, 2006
- pp. 37-58
- View Citation
- Additional Information
OF CAUTIVAS AND COLLARES: RE-FIGURING THE IDEOLOGY BEHIND ALO DIVINO POETRY Tyler Fisher Magdalen College University of Oxford A t the close of the sixteenth century a Cistercian abbot, Lorenzo de Zamora, penned an Apología contra los que reprehenden el uso de las humanas letras and included it as a preface to a re-edition of his massive theological treatise, Monarquía mística de la Iglesia.1 Overall, the arguments of Zamora’s apology represent a standard defense of the study of secular literature and pagan myths, as well as standard prescriptions for how a Christian writer or preacher could properly use such texts in the composition of sermons and edifying literature. His justifications and admonitions frequently reflect those of similar Patristic apologies, such as Basil the Great’s “On the Right Use of Greek Poetry” and Justin Martyr’s Cohortatio ad Graecos, which endorse the use of select aspects of Hellenic learning for their compatibility with Christian doctrine. Zamora revives these ideas by applying them to contemporary Spanish literature. He broadens his apology’s application by conflating scholarly study with textual production, the writing of homilies with the composition of literature for wholesome entertainment, and Græco-Roman myths, pagan philosophies, and classical poetry with various genres of contemporary, secular literature. In keeping with the ideology of his age, he treats the categories “pagan,” “secular,” and “Gentile” as interchangeable synonyms; “letras humanas” and “letras divinas” are the two broad categories in dynamic opposition for Zamora. At times, Zamora’s manner of updating and conflating obscures his objective and message, but it also allows for fruitful and wide-ranging treatments of traditional arguments, as we shall see in his exposition of Old Testament figures in relation to the use of secular literature. Zamora organizes his Apología like St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae, by adopting a quasi-forensic format. He begins by presenting in a very convincing manner objections to the position he will take, then states his position, and finally answers the objections in order. For the sake of providing context, I will summarize Zamora’s argument now. The opening pages of the Apología take up three reasons in support CALÍOPE Vol. 12, Number 1 (2006): pages 37-58 38 Tyler Fisher D D D D D of an outright ban on the use of secular literature—reasons which Zamora claims had once convinced him but which he has since rejected after long study. First, Plato expels poets from his ideal polis. Likewise, the Spartans, according to Plutarch, banished the influential Greek lyricist Archilochus for his imprudent verse. Such poets, Zamora writes, are justly rejected “como a artífice[s] de mentiras, y fabricador[es] de novelas poeticas” (fol. A1v ). It is the old, stock charge: poets are liars— otiose fabulists at best, and dangerous falsifiers at worst. The second reason follows from the first, in presenting a corresponding rejection by the Church. Many of the “santos padres de la Iglesia Griega y Latina,” Zamora notes, have repudiated secular knowledge and literature as having no place in the Church. They discard even Aristotle, Pindar, and Aesop as the origin of heresies. The “buen Teólogo” should know nothing of them (fol. A4r ). Finally, there is Scriptural basis for renouncing the study and use of secular letters. Zamora cites five biblical passages which he identifies as standard ammunition for those who object, without qualification, to secular texts for Christian readers.Arepresentative example is Isaiah 1.22, calling Israel to repentance.2 The Authorized Version renders the verse as follows: “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water;” and Zamora, presumably adopting the voice of his opponents, glosses the passage broadly: “Son tus predicadores, pueblo mío, taverneros alevosos y traydores, que mezclan con la pureza del vino de mi palabra, el agua turbia y cenagosa de las dotrinas agenas” (fols. A4v -A5r ). Christian truth, he goes on, should not be mixed like a cheap alloy with “dotrinas agenas” and artificial, rhetorical adornment. Rather, one should heed St. Paul’s admonitions to Timothy: Maintain a steadfast adherence to the preaching of unadorned truth, for a time will come when men will spurn pure...