Paradigms of National Identity in Francisco de Quevedo’s Poetry: Los (Des)Engaños de la Grandeza
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 12, Number 1, 2006
- pp. 59-77
- View Citation
- Additional Information
PARADIGMS OF NATIONAL IDENTITY IN FRANCISCO DE QUEVEDO’S POETRY: LOS (DES)ENGAÑOS DE LA GRANDEZA Mark J. Mascia Sacred Heart University Para Bárbara-Ann Tuozzolo “. . . habemos de ser, déste hasta el último día de nuestra vida, verdaderos amigos.” Miguel de Cervantes, Rinconete y Cortadillo F rancisco de Quevedo’s vast poetic corpus has most often been examined for its moral, amorous, or satirical aspects, among others. One key aspect of his lyrical works which has to some degree remained less studied is Quevedo’s stance on Spanish national identity. Existing scholarship on this topic often falls within the larger category of scholarship on satirical or political poetic works or on Quevedo’s many prose writings.1 The purpose of this study is to examine the ways in which Quevedo explores Spanish national identity and to arrive at a conclusion as to what he had considered paradigmatic about being Spanish. While an exhaustive account of Quevedo’s beliefs regarding Spanish identity as seen is his poetry would be impossible for this study, several select poems of varying lengths demonstrate these beliefs in depth. A number of sonnets, many of which are encomiastic in nature and most of which come from the posthumously published El Parnaso español (1648) contain what can best be described as a generally traditionalist (and, in today’s parlance, stereotyped) stance on hispanidad. At the same time, a longer poetic work, the Epístola satírica y censoria contra las costumbres presentes de los castellanos, evinces a far more critical and disenchanted outlook on Spanish identity while adding an element of wistful nostalgia for an unspecified past. What will emerge from this study is that Quevedo’s portrayal of national identity cannot be reduced to a single paradigm and, as a result, is nuanced as it is often contradictory.2 Quevedo’s beliefs about Spanish identity are informed by a sense of desengaño pervasive in much of his work (including prose as well) which is rigidly hierarchical as it is reactionary. CALÍOPE Vol. 12, Number 1 (2006): pages 59-77 60 Mark J. Mascia D D D D D In sum, there are two distinct paradigms of hispanidad throughout Quevedo’s poetry. On the one hand, Quevedo crafts a notion of national identity based on noble and martial ideals, creating an image of Spain as a leader among nations for its warlike propensities and its sense of national honor. This occurs most notably his sonnets, and is generally limited to a faith in the uppermost stratum of the social pyramid, as the Habsburg monarchs of Spain, as well as a number of key military notables, are seen to uphold these values. On the other hand, Quevedo at times reserves scorn for much of Spanish society, as he believes that Spain has become weaker, burdened by the vastness of its own empire, and has largely forsaken its ancient martial principles through corruption and vice. This characterization of Spain occurs in the aforementioned Epístola above all but also is vaguely alluded to in some of his sonnets. However, it is always assumed that Spain is in one basic respect superior to its European neighbors and rivals: when Spain’s military glory is not apparent, the vices which originated in other lands affect an otherwise uncorrupted people. These two competing paradigms—the portrayal of a knightly and militant Spain and its descent into decadence—are what comprise Quevedo’s construction of Spanish identity and will prove that being Spanish for the poet is, at best, a varying and often unstable proposition. The Sonnets Several sonnets chosen for this study, as implied above, may often appear to be simple laudatory sonnets on the leaders and general grandeur of the nation; however, their value in examining Quevedo’s paradigms of identity is significant.An early sonnet, “Escondida debajo de tu armada” (Obra poética I: 422-423), was composed in 1603 and later compiled in Pedro Espinosa’s Flores de poetas ilustres de España (1605), and contains an exhortation to military victory for Philip III, who had then recently become king only several years prior, in 1598.3 It should be noted that...