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Lope de Vega's evolving rhetoric and poetics: the dedicatory epistle to Arguijo (Rimas, 1602).

"diras que es fingimiento tanto papel escrito, tantas imitaciones, tantas flores vestidas de retoricos colores."

(Egloga a Claudio)

APPARENTLY uninterested in producing a comprehensive treatise like those of the Italians (Tasso, Daniello, Minturno, Castelvetro) or his Spanish contemporaries (Diaz Rengifo, Lopez Pinciano, Cascales, Carvallo, Jimenez Paton), Lope de Vega interspersed ideas about poetry, rhetoric and poetic theory within introductory prologues, prose compositions and poems, while choosing to develop his views on theatre in the rhymed-verse treatise Arte nuevo de hacer comedias. Lope's voice of literary reflection thus is conflated with different postures and modes of expression, characterized by a fascination with self as literary personage that is recreated "a fin de ventilar una meditacion sobre el arte de escribir poesia" as Mary Gaylord Randel observes (Poetica 32).

This study focuses on one of Lope's early reflections on non-dramatic literary theory, the dedicatory epistle to Juan de Arguijo "Para escribir Virgilio de las abejas ..." (Rimas, 1602). Leaving aside its companion "Cuestion del honor debido a la poesia" for a later study, I contend that in this disorganized and defensive "discurso" (Lope's word), he frames the issues of rhetoric and poetics from inventive yet conservatively evolving views of imitation and style which in part formed the basis for his later reaction to Gongora and the nueva poesia. This discussion analyzes inchoate concepts in Lope's "discurso" and relates them to reflections about the plain style, his humanistic and gradually refined conception of imitation, along with the issues of invention, ars and ingenium that are influenced by his varying perceptions of poetics, rhetoric and dialectic. Aside from the annotated editions of Lope's epistle in Pedraza Jimenez (Rimas I: 132-53) and Carreno (Rimas 575-589, 1035-1039) and an essay by Luisa Lopez Grigera (Teorias), no attention has been paid the formative ideas of this "discurso" and their impact upon the development of Lope's rhetoric and poetics. (1)


Lope's reflections on poetics from 1580-1602 are based on his experimentation with form and genre characterized by the popular romances of the 1590's, the epic La Dragontea (1598), the prose pastoral eclogue La Arcadia (1598) with its collection of poetry in virtually all of the verse forms of the period, the hagiographic narrative poem El Isidro composed in the simple "redondillas de cinco versos" (1599), the romance epic poem La hermosura de Angelica in octavas reales (composed from 1588, published in 1602), and the sonnet sequence of the Rimas (1602). (2)

In this early phase, given the temporary suspension of staging comedias in Madrid, Lope embraced the role of lyric and epic poet that he hoped would rival his popularity as dramatist for the vulgo and composer of fashionable ballads. (By this time Lope had composed 219 plays according to his list in the 1604 edition of El peregrino en su patria). Equally as important was the opportunity these poems offered for presenting self as the humanist-inspired "poeta eruditus" or "poeta-philosophus" of classical and medieval heritage, (3) a posture he would readily assume when proffering anecdotes about his own poetry and that of his contemporaries.


Lope's contemporary Jimenez Paton who quoted him extensively in the Eloquencia Espanola en arte (1604, revised 1621) considered Lope's epistle to Arguijo a justified response to his critics: "... sin causa le ha murmurado quien dice que no guarda artificio ni precetos retoricos, porque es en ellos tan universal como he dicho, y como lo da a entender en la satisfacion que dirigio a don Juan Arguijo" (188, italics added). Pedraza Jimenez observes that "Es, sustancialmente, una refutacion de los ataques que se dirigieron a la Arcadia y una apologia anticipada de La hermosura de Angelica y de las Rimas" (Rimas 1:132) and Lopez Grigera echoes this observation (Teorias 184). The fact that Lope's epistle (along with its companion "Cuestion del honor debido a la poesia") was reprinted only in the 1604 Barcelona edition, and then excluded from the eight other editions published during Lope's lifetime4 may be explained by a shift in Lope's need to defend himself against attacks hurled at his plays. The Arte nuevo de hacer comedias, first delivered before the Academia de Madrid, was printed subsequently in the 1609 edition of the Rimas and included in the five following editions without the prose epistles.

Throughout his literary career Lope's reflection upon writing and his observations about poetics and rhetoric were motivated, for the most part, by criticism of his work. He is preoccupied with the murmuraciones of those who "reprehenden, mas no dan la causa ... Que ya se juzga, o por envidia, o por malicia o por ignorancia ... como hay tantos que se atreven a juzgar lo que no entienden?" (El peregrino en su patria 55). His thoughts on poets and poetry in this early period, showcased by the satirical parody in the Epistola a Barrionuevo (Rimas 1604), highlight a defensive prickliness. Yet Lope is not alone in this self-defense. In Trials of Desire: Renaissance Defenses of Poetry Margaret Ferguson observes that for Du Bellay, Tasso and Sidney "the defense as a mode of discourse occupied a problematic border territory between speech and writing" (6); in Lope's case written criticism and the barbs of spreading rumor threaten his fashioned literary persona. Lope's responses bristle with excessive and unruly erudition, often criticized by his contemporaries as false puffery copied from the polyantheas. His need to overwhelm by authority can partly be explained, however, by a common rhetorical practice--the Chria--proof by example recommended in Aphthonius' Progymnasmata. Marc Fumaroli calls attention to a "rhetorique des citations" where "les citations sont a la fois ornement et preuve, beaute et verite confondues" (489-90; 738). While this may justify Lope's obsession, it more significantly contextualizes his delight in amassing authoritative quotations in order to overwhelm and impress as Lia Schwartz corroborates in a related study "La retorica de la cita en las Novelas a Marcia Leonarda de Lope de Vega." There does come a moment, however, when Lope catches himself abusing the practice of rhetorical Chria. Addressing his young son Felix, he writes "Mas, para que os persuade con autores, cuando aun estais en los primeros rudimentos de la lengua Latina?" (Dedication, El verdadero amante [1620], Case 103). Recourse to authority was a strategem Lope often used--almost by rote--instead of analysis and organized exposition of thought.


Although Lope's epistle to Arguijo is basically a rambling set of responses to murmuraciones about his non-dramatic work, a two-part division is discernable through the plethora of authorities and citations: the first introductory section focuses on the writing of the Angelica and the Arcadia within the accepted genres of the period and the use of innovative yet still appropriate style (575-578); the second part deals with the practice of invention and imitation discussing the use of rhetorical ornamentation with the consequent adept articulation of metaphor and use of tropes (578-589).

Lope begins his epistle to Arguijo responding to the catalog of criticisms leveled against him (which we perceive through his responses). Defending poetic license in the Arcadia and "mi Angelica" Lope frames the opening (575) as well as the conclusion (589) with the authority of Tasso, beginning with a citation from the Discorsi dell'arte poetica and ending with an allusion to the Lezione sopra un sonetto di Monsignor della Casa which provides a critical context for his collection of sonnets.

It is Tasso's discussion of elocutio in book four of his 1597 expanded Discorsi del poema eroico that clarifies Lope's concern for setting his critics aright. In a sense Tasso provides a primer of the major concerns of the period regarding diction, style and elocution which were centered around the Rhetoric of Aristotle and the treatises of Hermogenes (On Types of Style) and Demetrius of Phalerum (On Elocution). Lope relies upon these three as background, refering to them at the end of his essay in order to seal his response to his critics and praise Arguijo's knowledge.

In the context of Tasso and the proper use of style, Lope spends the first part of his essay defending his use of rhetoric. He addresses the issue of genre calling the Arcadia a "poema" that is neither heroic nor epic, "Este poema no es heroico ni epico," immediately adding "ni le toca la distincion de Poema y Poesis que pone Plinio. Basta que le venga bien lo que dijo Tulio de Anacreonte, que tota poesis amatoria est" (575). (5)

Lope proceeds with his self-defense concentrating on the use of poetic language. He insists upon the legitimate role of "exornaciones poeticas," and "amplificacion" as "la mas gallarda figura de la Retorica" in countering the petty criticisms against what Daniello advises; comic and satirical authors can use "palabras bajas" as do Terence and Persius (576).

Lope next deals with the objection that the Arcadia is affected and maintains that the use of adjectives (epitetos) and pleonasms to amplify and create majesty are part of the Arcadia's poetic, not historical, prose (e.g. "azules lirios y siempre verdes mirtos" compared with an example from Sannazaro and others from Petrarch, Terence, and Virgil). (6) The Arcadia is "true history" adorned with poetic stories and it is not without merit since it teaches virtue in Book V and how to flee love (576-577).

Lope concludes this first section of his epistle offering a final characterization of both the Arcadia and the Angelica, a point easily overlooked as it is buried in extended digressions in Latin from Juan de Monteregio and Luis Vives. In a passing statement Lope advises: "Y pues en aquel libro [La Arcadia] y en este [La hermosura de Angelica], en aquella y esta pintura es una misma la pluma y los pinceles ..." (578, italics added). The reference to the underlying Horatian commonplace, ut pictura poesis, may appear as lip service to the tools of writing and painting were it not for Lope's conscious, flowing use of enargeia (painterly description) in the Arcadia and Angelica as well as its constantly embellished practice throughout his literary career. (7) The significance of the concept is framed by the dedicatory poems of Lope's friends that preface the Angelica; of the eighteen poems, all but seven identify Lope's writing with the process of painting.

At the basis of his self-defense Lope accepts the divisions of high, mid and low styles established by humanist tradition and classical rhetoric. Nevertheless, during this early period we see him struggling with the rigid application of these precepts. He experiments with the boundaries of the plain style and adopts italianate verse forms and romance epic genres to explore the range of possible styles apparent in his works contemporaneous with or preceding the epistle to Arguijo: La Dragontea, El Isidro, La Arcadia and La hermosura de Angelica.

The prologue of the Isidro (1599) presents the clearest statement of Lope's affinity for the plain style and the simplicity of pure, measured verse: "que sean bien templados, y los versos buenos, castos y medidos. Yo creo que este precepto guardan pocos, y que yo podria ser culpado en esto ..." (Isidro 209). He describes his attachment to the "canto llano" of liturgical hymns (Pange lingua, Ave Maris stella, et al.) and the simplicity of expression in octavas castellanas. As an early expression of the sermo humilis, it is part of a later theme that runs through Lope's reactions to the gongorist contortions of obscure language. (8)


The second section of Lope's epistle to Arguijo continues its organization around responses to his critics focusing principally on the issues of imitation and invention. The Renaissance made a distinction between Aristotelian mimesis--imitation of human action in poetry and drama--and rhetorical emulation and imitation of literary models. In the epistle Lope considers imitatio in the rhetorical sense of adapting and improving previous literary models. (9)

He moves from defending the use of commonplaces ("usar lugares comunes ... porque ha de ser prohibido, pues ya son como adagios y terminos comunes, y el canto llano sobre que se fundan varios concetos?" [578]), to expanding a topic by the rhetorical tropes of analogy and comparison ("Esto de las arenas y estrellas esta recibido, y las habemos de buscar por fuerza ..." citing examples of the poets, Marulo, Catullus, Silio Italico and Ovid taken from Ravisius Textor [579]). He defends the repetition of metaphors ("Tortolas") and allegorized themes ("Troya") justified by the examples of Petrarch with Laura, Ariosto with Ginebro and Alemani with Pianta. Nor, he contends, should imitating poetic form and themes be condemned ("Eglogas de aquellos pastores no son reprehensibles por imitadas ni esta tela de la Angelica por trama del Ariosto" [581]). In an extensive narrative section Lope provides first examples of genres--tragedy, pastoral, comedy, epic, prose history ("Tespis.. la primera tragedia ... Dafne las Bucolicas ... Livio Andronico invento las comedias ... y el Poema Heroico de Homero ... los sacerdotes egipcios ... los primeros inventores del escribir en prosa" [581-83])--listing their originators and praising the ancient and modern authors who have imitated them, emphasizing that without such imitation their masterpieces would not exist.

After answering complaints against casting a verb in active voice, metaphorically speaking of the sun and justifying his attribution of human characteristics to Palas, Lope shifts to his sonnets and spends the remainder of his essay citing and praising the imitation of metaphorical topoi to describe the beloved. Although he admits such topoi may be tiresome to many ("oro, perlas y corales, pareciendoles que seria la estatua de Nabucodonosor" [585]), he cannot refrain from listing the many examples from antique as well as Renaissance poets: Cornelio Galla, Virgil, Fausto Sabeo, Mantuano, Arias Montano, Hieronimo Vidas, Poliziano, Horace, Pontano, Boethius, Statius, Garcilaso. Lope also notes that Arguijo, a poet in his own right, mined Latin poets for "metaforas, alegorias, contraposiciones, aposiciones, similitudes, traslaciones, licencias, apostrophes, superlaciones y otras figuras" (588).

He concludes with an allusion to Tasso, Demetrius Phalerum, Hermogenes and Aristotle as arbiters for the style and concepts that sonnets must use:
   esta tan a la larga tratado de Torcato en la leccion que hizo en la
   Academia de Ferrara sobre un soneto de monsenor de la
   Casa ... sacando de la opinion de Falereo y Hermogenes, que habiendo
   este genero de poema de ser de conceptos, que son imagines de las
   cosas, tanto mejores seran cuanto ellas mejores fueren; y habiendo
   de ser las palabras imitaciones de los concetos, como Aristoteles
   dice, tanto mas sonoras seran cuanto ellos fueren mas sublimes.


Underlying Lope's epistle rests a fundamental issue inherited from the ancients: the relation of precepts (ars) to inherent talent (natura or ingenium), which often found its corollary poeta nascitur non fit. We are reminded as such by both Carvallo: "aquel tan comun dicho: 'los poetas nacen y los oradores se hacen,'" (Cisne de Apolo 352) and Sidney: "A poet no industry can make, if his own genius be not carried/ unto it; and therefore it is an old proverb, orator fit, poeta nascitur" (Apologie for Poetry 109). (10) But more significant for understanding the basis of Lope's self-defense is the role that rhetoric plays in the juxtaposition of art and nature. Humanist scholars from Agricola forward conceived rhetoric as essential to the process of understanding, assimilating, and imitating the texts of antiquity. The triad of humanistic pedagogy ars, natura, exercitatio implicit in the writings of Erasmus, Vives, Sanchez el Brocense and Huarte de San Juan (Merino Jerez 22-85), as well as Lope's adolescent exposure to the pedagogical practices of the evolving Jesuit ratio studiorum (e.g. Nadal's and Ledesma's draft versions influenced by the practices of the Colegium Romanum), imbued him with the preoccupations and exercises of invention and imitation (Hornedo 67 n21). (11) Lope's concern for style and genre is circumscribed by the limitations of classical precepts while his desire for freedom of expression is motivated by the operations of natura, ingenium and furor poeticus. Aurora Egido's study of Erasmus' concept of language and the progression to the conceptist style of Gracian emphasized the import of anti-Ciceronian Atticism in Spain and France "que oponia el ingenium y la variedad al modelo de estilo unico" (De la lengua 142). Kouvel's outline of the effect of anti-Ciceronianism on style in Spain (1580-1639) describes Lope's environment:
   a la redundancia del estilo 'asiatico,' ciceroniano, se contraponia
   el laconismo 'atico.' Fiel a sus origenes en la genus humile de
   Aristoteles, este mira a la expresion breve, condensada, de lo
   substancial del discurso: intenta la maxima expresividad conceptual
   aun a riesgo de cierta artificiosidad u obscuridad. (197)

At the stage of writing the epistle to Arguijo, Lope's complaint about critics who would impose an exclusive view of style (such as the Ciceronians) places him firmly in opposition to their restrictions and in sympathy with the stylistic sentiments of anti-Ciceronians Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano and Erasmus. Although he may not have overtly expressed his allegiance with antiCiceronianism and adopted the critical language of the later Senecan atticists (e.g. Justus Lipsius whom he actually criticizes), (12) Lope nevertheless identified with those who championed variety of expression inspired by ingenium and natura, a position apparent when we discuss below Lope's view that imitation should be based on substantive concepts and ingenio not merely style. In this sense Lope's insistence on poetic license finds its core justification in the running conflict between ingenium and the narrowly conceived precepts of ars -- the rules of genre, style and versification blindly applied by those who slavishly imitate another's style.


Lope's exasperation with his detractors produced a quip in the section of the epistle to Arguijo just discussed that cuts through the high-brow discussions of imitation by Renaissance theorists: "Que si no se hubiera de decir lo dicho, dichoso el que primero escribio en el mundo, pues a un mismo sujeto bien pueden pensar la misma cosa Homero en Grecia, Petrarca en Italia y Garcilaso en Espana" (578). Immediately following this quip, Lope admonishes "ni es bien escribir por terminos tan inauditos" (italics added). While this statement reflects the traditional concern of rhetoric for comprehension by an audience, it more significantly illustrates Lope's disposition for clarity and the plain style that later blossoms in the Papel de la nueva poesia and motivates his jibes against the obscurity of gongoristas.

In evolving 16th- and 17th-century poetic expression, Lope's view of imitation draws upon rhetorical principles that he ambivalently embraces and selectively rejects. Throughout this evolution Lope is aware of the linguistic and thematic components for convincing, pleasing and strikingly descriptive language (enargeia), but he also realizes that imitation creates something new while conserving classic strains from Virgil, Petrarch, Garcilaso and Herrera. This is a traditional, Horatian-Aristotelian view. Schooled by the exercitatio mentality of the progymnasmata and the foundational distinction between res and verba, it exploits Quintilian's discussion of imitatio, aemulatio and copia as extended modes of exercitatio (Cave 36). For rhetoricians and theorists, including Lope, the focus shifts from concern for the res of traditional topica to fashioning verba that can impress the reader as new and marvelous. Gunsberg corroborates the changing views of res and verba in a study of Cicero and Quintilian passing to Tasso and the Italian theorists (7-36), which applies to parallel circumstances in Spain. Yet in the face of his changing environment Lope paradoxically accepts and rejects imitative novelty while insisting that the prerogatives of ingenio follow classical traditions. As early as the writing of the Jerusalen Conquistada (published in 1609 before the appearance of Gongora's innovations) he uses the background of the Ciceronian polemic between Poliziano and Cortesi to affirm fundamentally humanistic convictions about imitation, invention and questions of style. Responding to criticism in the prologue, he cites Poliziano's indelible analogy of imitation--that of runner and writer based on Quintilian's Institutiones (X, II, 10-11)--a topos also reiterated by Carvallo (Cisne de Apolo 344). Later this position serves Lope as a platform from which to ridicule the pajaros nuevos who slavishly imitate Gongora:

A la imitacion llaman algunos emulacion: Non enim parva virtus est auctorem optimum optime aemulari, advierta Vuestra Excelencia lo que dice Angelo Policiano en el 8 de sus epistolas: Sed ut bene currere non potest, qui pedem ponere studet in alienis vestigiis, ita nec bene scribere qui tanquam de prescripto non audet eggredi; postremo scias infaelicis esse ingenii, nihil a se promere, semper imitari. ("[Some consider imitation to be emulation:] It is not of little virtue to emulate excellently the best author, [but be aware your excellency what Angelo Poliziano says...] Just as you can't run well if you are only concerned with running in another's footsteps, likewise you can't write well if you don't dare step away from precepts; after all realize that to constantly imitate and never venture out on one's own is characteristic of unhappy genius.") (Jerusalen Conquistada 20) (13)

In the dedication to the play El cuerdo loco (Parte XIV, 1620) Lope refines his view of imitation from repeating the same context of a previous work (e.g. Virgil's Aeneid) to center upon the elevation of language (locutiones), and the felicitous use of stylistic figures (terminos), commonplaces (lugares), ideas (sentencias), ornamentation (ornamento), and the propriety and exquisite beauty of the words selected--rhetorical concepts that although consonant with his earlier concerns in the epistle to Arguijo, are now reformulated for the effect of language and metaphor upon readers and listeners given the popularity of the new poetry:
   que las imitaciones no son el mismo contexto, sino la alteza de las
   locuciones, terminos, y lugares felicemente escritos, las
   sentencias, el ornamento, propiedad, y hermosura esquisita de las
   vozes ... (Case 108)

Yet in juxtaposition to Lope's refinement of traditional imitation and rhetorical ornamentation, his dedicatory comments to the Italian poet Marino prefacing Virtud, pobreza y muger (Parte XX, 1625) boldly dramatize his condemnation of excessive imitative novelty which he famously excoriates as "la barbara aspereza que llaman culta." Lope again appropriates the humanistic support of Poliziano and Cortesio:
   Quid enim (escribio Cortessio a Policiano) voluptatis afferre
   possunt ambiguae uocabulorurn significationes, verba transversa,
   abruptae sententiae, structura salebrosa, audax translatio nec
   felix, ac intercisi de industria numeri?  Que excelentes palabras!
   ("What can be pleasing [wrote Cortesio to Poliziano] about
   ambiguous meanings, transposed words, disconnected ideas, conceited
   structures, daring but not pleasing metaphors, and broken rhythms?
   [What excellent words!]") (Case 256)

As an accomplished writer Lope continued perfecting the rhetorical devices that had preoccupied him in his early experimentation with lyric, epic and narrative genres. By the time of the Filomena (1621), however, he attempts to convince his detractors that he can compose verse in the new style--still maintaining the classical concern for substantive content. The allegorized, erudite sonnet "La calidad elementar resiste," as Damaso Alonso has pointed out, is an answer to his critics (455-66). Three years later he restages the same sonnet in La Circe "para el desengano de los que se apasionan de los terminos nuevos de decir, aunque sean barbaros, y no reparen en el alma de los concetos" (1311, italics added), this time spotlighting his new yet still traditional inventiveness with an extended prose commentary (reminiscent of Herrera in the Anotaciones). First he justifies the focus of this sonnet by recourse to Plato and Quintilian ("pues Platon lo que escribio de las cosas di vinas lo envolvio en fabulas... alguna vez nos habemos de apartar del comun y simple modo de decir, est enim (como Quintiliano difine) figura orationis ornatus" (1312). Second, he draws upon Pico della Mirandola's Heptaplus to explicate the hidden meanings of his allegorical sonnet. In doing so he emphasizes classical-rhetorical and humanist-platonist perspectives founded on the substance and "alma de los concetos" in contrast to the shallow "terminos nuevos de decir."

Among many authorities and examples in the Papel de la nueva poesia, Lope cites Pico della Mirandola along with Hermolao Barbaro (Filomena 312), Poliziano (Filomena 317) and Pietro Crinito (Filomena 318). Although Lope refers to them for different purposes within his text, they iconically represent the debate over exaggerated imitation of Cicero. In the case of Crinito, who was also cited in the epistle to Arguijo, Lope acknowledges a recognized scholar of litterae humaniores, pupil of and successor to Poliziano. All were iconic scholars with whom Lope chose to align himself in his substantive, humanistic view of imitation and espousal of tradition.

Concerns that Lope had taken up in his epistle to Arguijo are echoed throughout the Papel de la nueva poesia, particularly when Lope reacts to Gongora's use of language in the pure style:

Escribio en todos estilos con elegancia ,... Tenemos singulares obras suyas en aquel estilo puro, continuadas por la mayor parte de su edad ... (Filomena 311)

But while praising Gongora, Lope subtly criticizes his excessive innovation:

Mas no contento con haber hallado en aquella blandura y suavidad el ultimo grado de la fama, quiso ... enriquecer el arte y aun la lengua con tales exornaciones y figuras, cuales nunca fueron imaginadas ni hasta su tiempo vistas. (Filomena 311)

The balance of invention and tradition from the epistle to Arguijo ("ni es bien escribir por terminos tan inauditos") recurs in Lope's criticism of Gongora's excessive obscurity and ambiguity, which is best exemplified by his citation of Aulus Gellius who condemns words that are nova, incognita and inaudita:

la escuridad y ambiguidad de las palabras debe de darla [la dificultad] a muchos. Verbis uti, dijo Aulo Gelio, nimis obsoletis ... par esse delictum uidetur; pero mas molesta y culpable cosa, verba nova, incognita et inaudita dicere ..." (To use words that are too antiquated [Aulus Gellius said,] ... seems equally to be at fault; [but more offensive and censurable is] to use new words, unknown and unheard of ... [Filomena 312])

Menendez Pidal in his seminal article "Obscuridad, dificultad entre culteranos y conceptistas" perhaps best summarizes Lope's conficting assessment of Gongora and the questions of obscurity, difficulty and purity of style: "Para Lope las doctrinas de Quintiliano o de San Agustin sobre la perspicuidad del discurso no admiten replica, y, sin embargo, el arte de Gongora le deja entrever un problema, irracional, el agrado de lo incomprendido" (221). Given his reticence to openly condemn Gongora in the Papel de la nueva poesia, Lope leaves his more direct and incriminating attacks for the followers of Gongora. They mimic the style not the ingenio of Gongora:

los que imitan a este caballero producen partos monstruosos, que salen de generacion, pues piensan que han de llegar a su ingenio por imitar su estilo. (Filomena 313)


The observations Lope makes about rhetoric in the epistle to Arguijo reveal an acceptance of rhetoric's principal role as primarily concerned with elocution, style and tropes. His view of invention evolved later to take its primary place as a function of dialectic and logic. Lope's approach to imitation and rhetoric in the epistle to Arguijo thus assumes the fundamental sixteenth-century shift that separates rhetoric from dialectic, relegating the former to the restricted functions of elocution--consonant with the shift of focus from res to verba and with Peter Ramus' view of rhetoric as a discipline separate from dialectic. Lope was aware of Ramus' impact referring in La Circe (Epistola VII 1260) to his disciple Omer Talon who published the basic Ramus rhetoric under his own name. (14)

Lope's later writings make this understanding more explicit, particularly the relation of dialectic to rhetoric and poetry. In a congratulatory letter (1626) praising the rhetorical formation of the young licentiate Francisco de las Cuevas on the publication of Experiencias de amor y fortuna, Lope cites Cicero to emphasize dialectic and philosophy as necessary tutors for the skills of rhetoric and invention: "Ciceron, en los Topicos, hizo dos partes la Dialectica: inventar y juzgar; pero en el orden de la naturaleza primero esta la invencion; y fue opinion suya que sin la filosofia es imposible conseguir la elocuencia, ni hay retorico sin filosofia ..." (Epistolario Vol. IV, Num. 479). The point to be stressed here, however, is the implied relationship of rhetoric and poetry to dialectic and the accepted role of the loci comunes in the generative process of invention and imitation of established models. Lope embraces a Scholastic-Aristotelian perspective that he validates in Savonarola and the Florentine humanists who categorized poetry and rhetoric as subservient to the higher disciplines of logic, dialectic and philosophy a view in some aspects not unlike that of Ramus. Lope made the connection more directly when he altered the formula cited in his letter to Cuevas. Instead of the rhetorician needing philosophy to acquire eloquence, it is the poet who needs logic in order to achieve poetic expression freed from slavish, repetitive ornamentation. Poetry takes the front seat ahead of rhetoric on a par with philosophy:

pues ser filosofo y ser poeta son convertibles. Parte de la filosofia racional la llamo Savonarola, y asi viene a ser al poeta precisamente necesario su conocimiento porque como no se puede saber la especie ignorando el genero, ni el silogismo sin saber la logica, ninguno puede ser sin ella verdadero poeta. "Impossibili est (dice [Savonarola] en su compendio) quemquam qui logicam ignorat, vere esse Poetam" (It's impossible [he--Savonarola--says in his compedium] for anyone who ignores philosophy to truly be a poet.") (Lope, "Elogio al licenciado Soto de Rojas," in Desengano de amor en rimas, 101) (15)

Lope's recourse to a treatise by Savonarola on the ordering of the disciplines and the place of poetry as part of rational philosophy (Apologeticus de ratione poeticae artis, 1492), surprises, given the traditional conception of Lope's poetics as Aristotelian-Horatian, yet it significantly demonstrates his late scholastic perspective on the issues of poetics. (16) My contention is that Lope's reading of Savonarola (aside from Savonarola's pietistic, confessive appeal) corresponds with his attraction to the Florentine Platonists and humanists--Ficino, Poliziano, Pico della Mirandola, Pietro Crinito, who according to D. P. Walker (41) were at one time or another enthusiastic piagnoni of Savonarola.

Lope refers again to Savonarola's essay in his response to Diego de Colmenares (17) (Epistola septima, A un senor destos reinos, La Circe): "dividio la Poetica el doctisimo Savonarola en objeto, uso y modo" emphasizing poetry as part of rational philosophy and the role of reason in poetics:

Esta disciplina, que en fin es arte, pues se perficiona de sus preceptos, es parte de la filosofia racional, por donde le conviene a su objeto ser parte del Ente de razon. Es, pues, el objeto del Arte Poetica, como el entimema de la Retorica. El oficio del poeta es ensenar de cuales y con cuales cosas se constituya el ejemplo y con que modos y similitudes a diversos generos, estado y negocios debemos usar deste silogismo, porque todas las demas partes de la filosofia racional hacen esto mismo cerca de su propio objeto ... (La Circe 1258)

As the use of the enthymeme is the object of the rhetorician, the use of reason and the syllogism is the object of the poet. Given the poetic milieu of conceptismo, it is significant that Lope insists on the "oficio" of the poet paralleling that of rational philosophy in the selection and use of exempla and the choice and appropriateness of similitudes for the different genres and occasions where a syllogism should be used.


Lope's conception of poetry as part of rational science has relevance to his earlier discussion on imitation in the epistle to Arguijo; it rests on the formulation of invention as the necessary tool of logic. Subject matter is developed by using the loci of argumentation (a concept that was implicit, but undeveloped, in Lope's epistle when he spoke of comparison and analogy "esto de las arenas y estrellas"). The rational methodology of philosophy and logic guide the poet superseding Lope's earlier undelineated view of imitation and ingenium in the epistle as a straight-forward, simple process using "lugares communes" as the "canto llano sobre que se fundan varios concetos ..." (587). Poetry as a part of logic can thus rest alongside Lope's citations of Platonic sources, the classical works of Cicero, Quintilian, Demetrius Phalerum, the rhetorical works of Apthonius, the Jesuit rhetorician Cipriano Suarez, the Italian Renaissance treatises on poetics, the humanist Florentine scholars Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano, Cortesio, Hermolao Barbaro, as well as the counsel of Augustine. The list of authorities could be multiplied as Lope was wont to do.

Lope's ideas on rhetoric and poetics at the stage of writing the epistle to Arguijo in 1602 are not the same as those of thirty years later, but neither are they radically different, embryonic as they were of later reflections and reactions to changing poetic and socio-political realities. To contend otherwise would be to condemn his thought to static indifference and lackluster development; not the Lope that generations of study have revealed as a complex, passionate albeit contradictory icon of socially conservative post-tridentine Spain. It is my view that in our attempts to understand Lope, we synthesize and categorize too readily; the unhesitating efforts to "romanticize" or "asceticize" him distorts this complexity. By the same token, we need not label him exclusively as an Aristotelian nor simply as a follower of earlier humanistic ideals. My observations about his traditional affiliations are meant to place pieces of his poetics and rhetoric in relief and outline a path of development. I see Lope as an energetic, independent writer, an intellectually wide-ranging reader engaged in the literary polemics of his contemporaries--not merely an offended genius who searched for tidbits of classical and authoritarian exempla from encyclopedias and polyantheas to impress or silence his critics, although that was certainly an operative motive at times.

Rather than principally Aristotelian-Horatian in his poetics, Lope shows himself to be eclectic and pragmatic given the multiple authorities he cites not only in the epistle to Arguijo but throughout his reflections on classical, religious and contemporary issues of literary expression and poetics. His setting reflections in the Egloga a Claudio close a poetic career and in a sense seal his poetic aspirations:
   Quien tiene muchos sabios de su parte,
   que por ingenio igual le conocieron,
   aquel favorecieron naturaleza y arte;
   ese respeto sigo, imito, envidio,
   Virgilio, Borja, Garcilaso, Ovidio.
      (Egloga a Claudio)


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(1) The editions of the Rimas by Pedraza Jimenez and Carreno are indispensable for understanding Lope's epistle. Luisa Lopez Grigera discusses the first dedicatory epistle at greater length than the second (Teorias). My citations follow Carreno; translations for citations in Latin are my own. Over the years a growing number of excellent studies have laid the groundwork for a broader understanding of Lope's nondramatic poetics. See for example the essays by Carreno (Canon critico), Mary Gaylord Randel (Proper Language; Poetica de la poetica) and Xavier Tubau (Poesia y filosofia; Retorica y poetica). The texts or sections within texts where Lope comments on questions of poetics are numerous; I list principal ones with original dates of publication, place and publisher to provide a context for the dedicatory epistle to Juan de Arguijo in the Rimas selected for this study.

1598 Arcadia Libros III & V (Madrid: Luis Sanchez) [La Dragontea Prologo de don Francisco de Borja (Valencia: Pedro Patricio Mey)]

1599 Isidro Prologo (Madrid: Luis Sanchez)

1602 La hermosura de Angelica con otras diversas rimas (Madrid: Pedro Madrigal) A don Juan de Arguijo, "Para escribir Virgilio de las abejas ..." A don Juan de Arguijo, "Cuestion del honor debido a la poesia"

1604 Rimas de Lope de Vega Carpio (Sevilla: Clemente Hidalgo) "Apolo" satire against "poetas critiquillos" "Al contador Gaspar de Barrionuevo" El peregrino en su patria Libro IV (Sevilla: Clemente Hidalgo)

1605 "Al nacimiento del Principe" delivered at the Justa poetica de Toledo published in Relacion de las fiestas (Madrid) and later in La Vega del Parnaso (Madrid, 1637) Also titled: "Al dichoso parto de la reina nuestra senora"

1609 Jerusalen Conquistada Prologo (Madrid: Juan de la Cueva) Rimas de Lope de Vega Carpio ahora nuevamente anadidas con el Arte nuevo de hacer comedias (Madrid: Alonso Martin)

1619 to 1625 Dedicatorias in Partes XIII-XX

1620 Justa poetica y alabanza justa (en las fiestas de la beatificacion de San Isidro) (Madrid: Viuda de Alonso Martin)

1621 La Filomena con otras diversas rimas, prosas y versos (Madrid: Alonso Martin) "Respuesta al papel de la nueva poesia" (Papel que escribio un senor destos reinos a Lope de Vega Carpio en razon de la nueva poesia. Respuesta de Lope de Vega Carpio) "Epistola a don Juan de Pina"

1623 "Elogio al licenciado Soto de Rojas" Prologo in Desengano de amor, en rimas de Pedro Soto de Rojas (Madrid: Viuda de Alonso Martin)

1624 La Circe (Madrid: Viuda de Alonso Martin) "Epistola VII a un senor de estos reinos" (Response to Diego de Colmenares) "Epistola IX a don Francisco Aguilar"

1632 La Dorotea (Madrid: Imprenta del Reino) Prologo "Al Teatro" and especially Acto IV, Escena Segunda

(2) Lope's attempt to distinguish himself in the different genres from pastoral to epic was a well-known practice to poets of the Renaissance. Frederick de Armas (Cervantes, Rafael 1) makes this observation of the careers of Petrarch (Bucolicum Carmen, Africa), Spencer (Shepheardes Calender, Faire Queene) and Cervantes (Galatea, Persiles y Sigismunda). In the Rimas one can discern Lope's early experimentation with form and poetic structure in the sonnet as I have discussed in "Lope's Epigrammatic Poetic for the Sonnet."

(3) For the concept of the poet as philosopher see Curtius (203-213), Greenfield (17-40), and Hardison (5-6). Juan Jose Sendin Vinagre's study of Lope's annotations and appendices to his works illustrates Lope's role as erudite poet.

(4) Pedraza Jimenez whose observations I have followed provides a detailed analysis of these editions (Rimas 94-118; Primeras ediciones 235-45).

(5) The term poema was commonly used to refer to prose works as well as poetry in the Renaissance. Diccionario de Autoridades: "Poema ... En su riguroso sentido significa qualquier obra, en verso u prosa." Regarding Pliny's distinction between poema and poesis, Lope most likely mis-read his reference source--possibly Ambrosio Calepino's Dictionarium Linguae Latinae (Basilea, 1551). The entry under "Poema, atis, & Poesis" cites Pliny and Cicero in immediate sequence, so that Lope could have misunderstood that the citation of book and chapter number following Pliny's name referred to a discussion of "Poema y Poesis." But Pliny makes no such distinction. Calepino's entry reads "Poema, atis, & Poesis, ... Plinius lib. 7. capite 10. De poematum origine magna questio est. Cicero 4. Tusculan. Anacreontis tota poesis amatoria est." ("Poem & Poesis, Pliny in Bk 7, Chap. 10. On the origin of poetry the question is substantial. Cicero Tusculan Disputations 4: All of Anacreon's making of poetry is amorous.") An explanation of the terms poema and poesis by Jacobus Pontanus in his Poeticarum institutionum libri tres, 1594 (Caput VII, Quid distent poema et poesis 1920), summarizes Renaissance usage and understanding. Pontanus (echoing the distinctions of Scaliger [Poetices, Lib. I, cap. II, 5D: Poesis & Poema quid differant]) explains that poesis refers to the making of poetry and poema to the poem itself. He draws the analogy between "factum, fictio, factor" and "poema, poesis, poeta" (factum/ poema--the object made; fictio/poesis--the art of making it; factor/poeta--the maker). Johann Gesner's Novus linguae et eruditionis romanae thesaurus (1749) defines poesis as: "ratio scribendi Carmen, atque ars adeo Poetae, tum ipsum opus Poetae" ("the art of writing the poem, and also as such the art of the poet, finally the work itself of the poet"). In the prologue to the Jerusalen Conquistada Lope discusses the distinctions of historia, poema and poesis, admitting "... por no ser prolijo en lugares, que seran comunes a los que saben, solo dire que esta tan confundida esta propiedad de poema y poesis." He persists, however, adding the observations of Tasso, Mantuano, Agricola, Aristotle and many others to the continuum of lugares communes to which Pontanus, Scaliger and Gesner can also be added. See also the notes of Carreno (575, n5ff) and Pedraza Jimenez (132, n9).

(6) Lope considered prose to be as poetic as verse. "Prosas y versos" was the title he gave to each book of the Arcadia. See Trueblood's related discussion of the prologue to the Dorotea where Lope justifies his use of prose instead of verse (205206) and Morby's extensive note on the question (La Dorotea 50 n10). Lopez Grigera discusses Lope's observations about the use of "amplificacion," "epitetos" and "prosa poetica" different from "prosa historial" relating them principally to Aristotle's directives in the Rhetoric (Teorias 186-88).

(7) Jimenez Paton offers an example about vividly representing reality from Lope's Angelica. Before doing so he clarifies rhetorical terminology: "La hipotiposis tiene muchos nombres: enargia, evidencia, ilustracion, sufiguracion, demostracion, descripcion, eficcion, deformacion. Que diriamos un poner las cosas delante los ojos ..." (203). The allusions to pintura, pluma and pinceles are explicated by Carreno in extensive notes (Rimas 1035, n293.24; 980 n131; 1013 n244.319-320) where among the observations he points to related use by Herrera in the Anotaciones de Garcilaso de la Vega alluding to the Greek term hipotiposis = enargeia. Lopez Grigera discusses the role of evidencia (enargeia) in Lope's epistle (Teorias 187) and points out its significance in the rhetorical tradition in Spain (Retorica en Espana 133-139). Aurora Egido studies with insight Lope's broad and extensive allusions to the act of writing along with the commonplaces of poetry and painting (Escritura y poesia). For a broader discussion of the topic see the works of Frederick de Armas (Pintura y poesia; Writing for the Eyes) and Emilie Bergmann (Art Inscribed; Painting's Observer).

(8) Lope saw in Castilian verse a similarity with the plain style which draws upon religious as well as classic origins. See Eric Auerbach's study "Sermo humilis" (25-66), Peter Auksi in "The Plain Style in Classical Rhetoric" (33-66) and Antonio Sanchez Jimenez in "La vega llana. El poeta del pueblo" (80-132). My interest in Lope's reactions to the nueva poesia is focused from the perspective of his early views on imitation and invention and the imprint they leave on the formulation of his later ideas about the innovations of the new poetry; hence, the absence in my discussion of the broader polemics and stylistic arguments surrounding the nueva poesia which has been studied from different perspectives by Andree Collard, Lucien Thomas, Orozco Diaz and more recently by Roses Lozano (Poetica de la oscuridad).

(9) These concepts of imitation are studied in depth by Thomas Greene (Light in Troy) and Angel Garcia Galiano (Imitacion poetica).

(10) See William Ringler's study of the aphorism poeta nascitur non fit. Joaquin Roses Lozano studies the origin and tradition of ars, ingenium and inspiration at the time of Gongora (Sobre el ingenio).

(11) As a student of "minores" and possibly "mayores" Lope would have been exposed to the grammatical and rhetorical exercises for which the Jesuits were famous, among which were those of the praelectio and imitation of classical authors and texts. After introductory exposition, parsing and translation of the Latin text, the student was drilled in composition exercises that practiced imitatio and copia verborum. (Lope's lost translation of Claudian's De raptu proserpinae is a vestige of this humanistic ped agogy.) Ledesma summarized the methods of the Jesuit Colegium Romanum (De ratione et ordine studiorum collegii romani 519-627) which most likely influenced classroom practices of the Madrid colegio that Lope attended. One of Ledesma's examples is illustrative of the humanistic tradition of imitation: "Take a speech of Cicero ... study its component parts, its structure and argument. Then on a similar theme compose an oration in close imitation of his exordium, narration, confirmation, figures, tropes, etc. At another time write an oration on the same subject, but develop it by different arguments, figures, tropes and external structure, yet striving to equal Cicero, even though this is not attained. Finally, take up a cause against Cicero, but nonetheless in imitation of his style and structure" (Farrell 177).

(12) Lope writes: "Lipso escribio aquel nuevo latin, de que dicen los que le saben que se han reido Ciceron y Quintiliano en el otro mundo" in Respuesta de Lope de Vega Carpio al Papel que escribio un senor destos Reinos ..., en razon de la nueva Poesia (La Filomena 314; subsequently cited as Papel de la nueva poesia). For Ciceronianism in Spain see also Asensio (Ciceronianos), Lopez Grigera (Introduction 4-6) and the bibliography cited therein.

(13) Martin L. McLaughlin situates Poliziano's critique in the context of emulation and imitation and presents Poliziano as advocating the eclecticism practiced throughout the Quattrocento rather than simply mimicking Ciceronic syntax and vocabulary (187-227). The entire exchange of letters where Poliziano criticizes Cortesi for slavishly imitating Cicero can be read in Eugenio Garin's edition of the Epistolae (902-11). Carvallo's allusion reads, "No puede al fin el que imita ir muy adelante, si no tiene arte para salir algunas veces del ejemplo que ha tomado, ansi como no puede mucho correr el que sigue a otro sin poner los pies sino en sus pisadas" (Cisne de Apolo 344).

(14) Although the Inquisition suppressed the works of Peter Ramus in Spain, his influence in Spain has been studied only schematically, and not at all with regard to Lope's conception of rhetoric and poetics. Lopez-Grigera identified some of Ramus' followers, principally Sanchez de las Brozas, Pedro Juan Nunez, Furio Ceriol, Garcia Matamoros, and Luis de Verga (Introduction 1-18). Asensio (Ciceronianos contra Erasmistas) and Seniff (Ong, Ramism) discuss Ramist influence in the circle of Fray Luis de Leon and Pedro de Navarra respectively. See Merino Jerez (17-35) for a discussion of Ramus' role in the ars, natura, exercitatio triad. Lia Schwartz notes Ramist influence on Sanchez de las Brozas and Jimenez Paton's use of dialectic's loci communes for invention (Catalogos de amores 297-98). After Walter J. Ong's fundamental study Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue (1958), Peter Sharratt published an informative update of work on Ramus from 1970 to 1986 (Recent work 7-58).

(15) The classification of poetry among the sciences as evidenced by Savonarola's statement preoccupied scholastic medieval philosophers who were influenced by Hermanus Alemanus' translation of Averroes' text of Aristotle's Poetics. The same mindset can be found in Robortello, Maggi and Lombardi, and Varchi as Bernard Weinberg points out in his introductory chapter "The Classification of Poetics Among the Sciences" (History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance I, 1-37). The concept of poet as philosopher with extensive knowledge of the sciences enjoyed wide currency in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with frequent references to Strabo, Geography I, 2, Macrobius' comments in the Saturnalia on Virgil's comprehensive knowledge, and Cicero, De Oratore, I, 34, 158 (Hardison 3-6). Concetta Greenfield outlines the humanist tradition of poetics with its basis in rhetoric and neoplatonism in contrast to the Scholastic-Aristotelian tradition which subjugated poetry to philosophy and theology (17-41). Lope straddles these two traditions drawing upon them when convenient to his argument at hand.

(16) Otis Green remarked "It is somewhat startling to note that the Desengano de amor en rimas is prefaced by a eulogy of the author by Lope de Vega, in which the great dramatist quotes Savonarola (d. at the stake, 1498) to the effect that poetry is a part of rational philosophy" (495, n44).

(17) Emilie Bergmann (Nueva poesia) and Xavier Tubau (Retorica y poetica) have insightfully studied the Colmenares letters and Lope's responses.
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Author:Brown, Gary J.
Date:May 1, 2009
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