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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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VII. A Tribute to the City of Kings

Extract

chapter seven

A Tribute to the City of Kings

Worthy of course the city whose worthy song you sing. (Epigram, Poema heroyco)

According to Vélez and Guibovich Pérez, Valdés’ Poema heroyco is an example of chorography, a detailed elegy of a geographic place. The hero of the poem is the city of Lima itself, as deduced from the original title Fundación y Grandezas…de la ciudad de Lima, a new-world metropolitan hero inseparable from its heroic founder. Notwithstanding several tangents, the majority of the poem focuses on Lima. Moreover, the introductory poetry in both Latin and Spanish attests to why contemporaries of Valdés spoke of his poem as exceptional. Predominantly the celebratory poems sing of Valdés’ love of Lima and the greatness of the city. One poet portrays Valdés as the man “who described elegantly the claims and dignity of the city.” A second poet says of Lima “Fue tu cuna, fue tu madre” and describes Valdés as “de tu Patria en el amor,/ muriendo abrasado el pecho.” Yet another dedicates his introductory poem not to the author, but to the city: “The Royal City, Lima, of South America.” The editor and authors of introductory poems saw Valdés (and his poem) as a treasure of Lima, a tribute to the city’s glory, one that should be displayed and not hidden.

With respect to Lima, Poema heroyco talks of public projects (bridges, churches,...

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