Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora: A Bilingual Edition

Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora: A Bilingual Edition

Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora: A Bilingual Edition

Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora: A Bilingual Edition


Known as the "Spanish Homer," Luis de Góngora y Argote (1561–1627) is widely considered to be Spain's greatest poet. He was both praised and vilified during his lifetime, but his reputation waned in the years after his death; in the 1920s, he was championed by the Modernists, including Federico García Lorca, and influential critics of Spanish literature, including Dámaso Alonso. Famous for intricate metaphors in baroque style and syntax, Góngora has even been immortalized as a literary term: a "gongorism" connotes an involved Latinate style. Yet despite his influence and reputation, Góngora is not well known to English-speaking readers. Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora aims to change that.

Making the poet available to contemporary readers of poetry without denying him his historical context, Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora represents Góngora as master of many genres and a writer whose life and poetry are closely intertwined. His verse speaks of the hardships of love, current events, friendship, the trials of life at court, and the beauties of his beloved Córdoba. His ballads and lyrics embrace a great variety of subjects: stories from the border warfare between Moors and Christians, tales of romance, the treacheries of ambition, and above all, a self-mocking autobiography and his own, often irreverent, versions of famous literary themes.

John Dent-Young's free translations capture Góngora's intensely musical voice and transmit the individuality and self-assuredness of the poet. The first significant edition of this seminal and challenging poet in a decade, Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora will find an eager audience among students of poetry and scholars studying the history and literature of Spain.


This selection is a limited introduction to the varied poetry of Luis de Góngora, described as “the Spanish Homer” in the title of the first published edition of his work and still considered by many to be Spain’s greatest poet. Contemporary with Shakespeare, he was both famous and controversial in his lifetime and still is today. His name produced a literary term for an involved and Latinate style, Gongorism, yet he was first known for ballads and songs written in the popular tradition that runs through Spanish poetry from its earliest beginnings. His later style was attacked and parodied by contemporaries like Lope de Vega and Quevedo, but it was also widely defended and imitated, influencing, for example, Calderón and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Mexico’s first Spanish-language poet. Like Cervantes, who was a little older but published his work during the same period, Góngora ended his life famous but impoverished. Unlike Cervantes, his fame later underwent a partial eclipse before he was taken up again in the twentieth century by the modernists, including García Lorca, and by one of the great critics of the time, Dámaso Alonso. His influence can also be seen in the work of modern Latin American poets and novelists.

After a good deal of rereading and trying at the same time to bypass traditional controversies, I have been struck by two aspects of Góngora. First is the extent to which he lives his poetry and his poetry defines him. Although, for example, he wrote a good many sonnets in the Renaissance manner describing beautiful and unrequiting women or praising noblemen and bishops, he also wrote a good many others dealing with quite ordinary matters: among the subjects are gifts from friends; journeys; a gentleman who couldn’t tell a ballad from a sonnet; the poet’s insulting reception by a lady in Cuenca; a satire on a gentleman dressing for some festivities; viewing . . .

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