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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


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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V. An Extension of Góngora


chapter five

An Extension of Góngora

De honroso, en dos maneras considero me ha sido honrosa esta poesía: si entendida para los doctos, causarme ha autoridad, siendo lance forzoso venerar que nuestra lengua a costa de mi trabajo haya llegado a la perfección y alteza de la latina, a quien no he quitado los artículos. (Góngora, 57)

Many colonial Spanish American authors immensely admired the style of Luis de Góngora and sought to imitate him in whatever way possible. Maintaining the image of a highly educated and cultured elite was attractive to the colonial criollo psyche battered by charges coming from the Spanish peninsula of intellectual and moral degeneration. Góngora’s style appealed to the Jesuits with their emphasis on learning and the use of Latin as a part of the universal Roman Catholic tradition. Twenty years before Valdés’ Poema heroyco, a fellow Peruvian Jesuit, Juan de Espinosa Medrano (known as “El Lunarejo”), published his Apologético a favor de don Luis de Góngora (1662), eloquently defending Góngora against Portuguese critic Manuel de Faria y Sousa’s censure. Espinosa Medrano’s book, published in Lima, contained approval letters from the city dated 1661, about the time Valdés must have started Poema heroyco. Espinosa Medrano also dedicated his Apologético to don Luis Méndez de Haro, who figures prominently in the early sections of Poema heroyco. The Apologético may have been the spark that stimulated...

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