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Rodrigo de Valdés: Poema heroyco hispano-latino panegyrico de la fundación, y grandezas de la muy noble, y leal ciudad de Lima

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Edited By Neal A. Messer and Jerry M. Williams

Poema heroyco hispano-latino (1687), a national chronicle or “epic poem,” commemorates the founding and greatness of Lima, Peru. Its unique rhymed quatrains can be read in either Latin or Spanish with equal meaning, and its insightful marginal notes interpret the city’s cultural history. Rodrigo de Valdés (1609–1682) underscores the decadence of peninsular Spanish letters in contrast to the compositions of New World writers. The poem is a tribute to the superiority, versatility, and interchangeability of Spanish and Latin as instruments of power that led to Spain’s world dominance, and to Lima as the locus of marvels and a quasi biblical garden of delights.

Lima has occupied without exception a privileged space within the colonial situation, as a metaphorical sovereign of new-world experiences and potentialities. Influenced by the spirit of Baroque sensibilities and Creole pride in his patria, Valdés bequeathed to Lima a staged panegyric that served as King Charles II’s introduction to the bounty of his American colony. Valdés, acting as commentator, guides the reader through a journey that spans centuries of Peru’s illustrious history. Working within the classical tradition of laus urbis or the praise of cities, Valdés depicts America as a paradise found with Lima at its center.

In tracing the poem’s relationship to the genre of classical panegyrics, Neal A. Messer and Jerry M. Williams argue its literary merits and elucidate how it enriches the colonial family of Latin American texts. Republished for the first time, this critical edition introduces Valdés to students and scholars of Ibero-American letters.

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I. A Puzzle Missing Pieces

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chapter one

A Puzzle Missing Pieces

…fue uniendo y componiendo toda la obra, aunque perdiendo a veces el hilo de tan dorada elocuencia en este laberinto de tan confusos retazos. (Prólogo al lector)

Poema heroyco, a rhymed chronicle that relates historical events in verse, consists of 572 quatrains or four-line stanzas, with a total of 2,288 octosyllablic verses using an asonant rhyme scheme that can be read in either Latin or Spanish with equal meaning.6 Lavalle observes that part of Valdés’ plan was to confirm in the Poema the intimate relation between Latin and Spanish, and in matters of style the decadence of Spanish letters that Luis de Góngora and his American imitators brought about. At best Valdés imagined a sprawling epic in the tradition of Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga’s La Araucana (1569–1589), Diego de Hojeda’s La Cristiada (1611), or fellow criollo Jesuit Hernando Domínguez Camargo’s San Ignacio de Loyola, fundador de la Compañía de Jesús: Poema heroyco (1666), among others. In its flowery descriptions of Lima, her riches, and the holiness of the city, the Poema is informed by other works that stress the religious and natural superiority of Peru, notably Pedro de Oña’s Arauco Domado (1596), Fray Buenaventura Salinas y Córdova’s Memorial de las historias del Nuevo Mundo Pirú (1630), and Antonio de la Calancha’s Chronica moralizada del Orden de San Agustín en el Perú (1638).7

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