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.
X. Paragraph Synopses
The summative commentary that follows outlines the overall design of the poem and provides general descriptions of the content of each Paragraph division. These verses of Valdés that survive, many of which may be part of completely different poetic undertakings, represent a fraction of Poema heroyco as originally conceptualized.
Echoing the immortal first words of Virgil’s Aeneid, “Arma virumque cano,” Paragraph 1 states the plot of Poema heroyco and introduces its “hero,” the metropolis of Lima. It is important to note that these lines do not describe the Poema presently extant, but rather represent the dream of an epic poem that Valdés envisioned and started, but never completed. Valdés intended this creation (noble y discreta) to be an undertaking of epic proportions. In the same manner in which Valdés personifies Lima, he humanizes the cast of characters in the poem, presenting them not as abstracts but rather concrete individuals who had a lasting impact on the life of the city.
Paragraph 1, although fragmentary, offers a glimpse of Valdés’ style and intentions. It contains three main ideas. Stanzas 1–7 center on the city of Lima itself; stanzas 8–11 stress the central method of the epic, the poetic blending of Spanish←51 | 52→ and Latin into a single poetic entity that speakers of either language can understand clearly; and, stanzas 11–18 use figures from Classical mythology to...
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