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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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IX. Poema heroyco’s Front Matter: Honoring a Departed Author


chapter nine

Poema heroyco’s Front Matter: Honoring a Departed Author

Perhaps mirroring the three crowns in the royal standard of the city of Lima, Francisco Garavito de León y Mesía begins the publication of Poema heroyco with a triple dedication. The first dedication, appropriate given the original intentions of Valdés, is to King Carlos II. Garavito recognizes Valdés as a national treasure of inestimable value, and since the treasure of the realm rightfully belongs to the king, he claims it would be a crime to withold such intellectual riches from their monarch, more serious than robbing all the silver bars of Potosí. As stated earlier, Garavito maintains that Valdés wrote his book to teach Latin to the young king of Spain.54 Second, having given to Caesar (Don Carlos II) what is Caesar’s, Garavito chooses to give to God what is God’s. Thus his second dedication is to Valdés’ spiritual father, the Superior General of the Jesuit Order, Carlos de Noyelle. With this dedication, Garavito reflects on the dual Hispano-Latin nature of the poem, with the secular (hispano) and religious (latino) authorities each receiving their due. The third and final dedication is to family, specifically Garavito’s beloved sister Doña Leonor Garavito, illustrious wife of the President of Quito, Don Lope Antonio Munive. This more personal and more local dedication begins with commentary on the formula that scholastic and philosopher Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606–1682) advocated for dedicating books to princes...

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