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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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VI. Education in a Poem


chapter six

Education in a Poem

…en cuyos ejemplos tendrán mucho que leer y aprender mis sobrinos (a cuya enseñanza en la más pura latinidad ofrezco también la poesía hispana latina) (Francisco Garavito)

Evidence in the front matter to the poem demonstrates that Valdés intended that young students of Latin (rudibus pueris) would profit from reading his verses. In the introduction Garavito professes that the poem was originally conceived as a didactic tool to teach Latin to young Prince Carlos II. The idea was that the prince could gain exposure to Latin structure and vocabulary and read poetry in Latin without any advanced instruction. Simultaneously, the poem would inform Carlos II on the history and qualities of the overseas empire that he would one day inherit. With time, it must have become evident that Carlos II’s mental deficiencies would prevent this from ever happening. However, the life of the ever-evolving poem (or poems) as a teaching tool would endure.

Ruiz Pérez writes that Hispano-Latin compositions often arose in an educational setting, particularly in the “teatro colegial, en el que, por razones didácticas y pedagógicas, eran frecuentes las obras bilingües y trilingües” (116). He points out that earlier Hispano-Latin works, such as the writings of Ambrosio Morales, at least nominally held an educational purpose. Valdés’ poems were games (“ejercicios”) or intellectual recreation (“juguete de erudición o entretenimiento←30 | 31→ de...

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