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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

Series:

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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IV. Dual Language Authority

Extract

chapter four

Dual Language Authority

Poema heroyco hispano-latino assimilates the tradition of dual language works and the genre of epic poetry.24 In Tesoro de la lengua castellana (1611), Miguel de Covarrubias defines the term épico as “Poeta, el que escribe versos heroicos, contando hazañas de varones ilustres, verdaderas o fabulosas.…” Further, the term heroico appears as “Como hecho heroico, vale iustre, grande; díjose de la palabra heros, herois, que cerca de los antiguos sinificaba tanto como hombres que, no embargante fuesen mortales, eran sus hazañas tan grandiosas que parecían tener en sí alguna divinidad.” Valdés pursued this notion of superhuman grandiosity in his descriptions of Lima. Garavito, in discussing reconstruction of the Poema, acknowledged that it did not meet the definition or criteria of an epic per se: “Llamo poema heroico esta poesía porque aunque el número de su metro no lo permitia lo piden lo heroico y sublime de sus asuntos y de las sentencias y voces con que se explican.” The distinction is a serious one in that the tone is heroic and Lima is the protagonist through whom the development of the city, its people, history, and resources are measured in the poem’s episodes and quatrains.25

As a panegyric crafted to exalt the grandeur and distinction of Lima, the Poema is imitative of classical and contemporary writings that Valdés consulted, principally the patria or panegyrics of cities that Flavius Cresconius Corippus penned for...

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