Introduction to Spanish Poetry: A Dual-Language Book

Introduction to Spanish Poetry: A Dual-Language Book

by Eugenio Florit (Editor)


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From the 12th-century Cantar de Mío Cid to the 20th-century poetry of García Lorca, Salinas, and Alberti, this book contains 37 poems by Spain's greatest poets. Selected by Professor Eugenio Florit, the poems are presented in the full original Spanish text, with expert literal English translations on the facing pages.
Enjoy the poetic inspiration, imagery, insight, and wisdom of such masters as Lope de Vega, Miguel de Unamuno, Federico García Lorca, Margués de Santillana, Jorge Manrique, Garcilaso de la Vega, Fray Luis de León, San Juan de la Cruz, Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Antonio Machado, Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, and many more.
In addition to the poetic texts, Professor Florit has also provided a wealth of biographical and critical commentary, outlining the significance of the poets and their works in the long tradition of Spanish literature. Portraits of the poets are included where available.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486267128
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/01/1991
Series: Dover Dual Language Spanish Series
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 622,377
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction to Spanish Poetry

A Dual-Language Book

By Eugenio Florit

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1965 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12001-0


Cantar de Mío Cid

This epic poem, or cantar de gesta (gesta, deed), belongs to a type of poetry widely cultivated in Spain and other European countries during the first half of the twelfth century. It was composed by an unknown poet about 1140, some forty years after the Cid's death and after the composition of the Chanson de Roland.

The Spanish poem is distinguished by its historical character, with its author apparently interested in narrating real happenings, however much he may exaggerate to impress his audience. Thus he tells the story of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known as Mio Cid ("Cid" is "lord" in Arabic), a Castilian knight who was banished from Castile after having incurred the disfavor of his sovereign, Alphonse VI. The poem's three parts, or cantares, relate the adventures of the Cid from the moment he leaves the city of Burgos through several years until, having won numerous battles against the Moors and taken the kingdom of Valencia, he is forgiven by his sovereign. Mio Cid died in Valencia in 1099.

Besides its intrinsic poetic interest, the poem is significant as the earliest-known major example of Spanish poetry. Written in groups of a variable number of lines, it includes 3,735 verses and employs assonantal rhyme. Interest exists on three levels: the narrative level, in which the poet relates historical facts; the dramatic level, in which dialogue reveals the psychological traits of the characters (a technique at which the author is quite successful); and the lyrical level, employing a sober, subdued lyricism appropriate for the Castilian landscape but with enough pathos to indicate the sensitivity of its warlike figures.

The poem is of further interest in revealing a different portrait of the Cid than is usually known. Other poems and ballads, or works like Corneille's later play (drawn from a play by the sixteenth-century writer Guillén de Castro), portray the warrior as a young man. The present poem, undiscovered until late in the eighteenth century, shows a more complete and credible figure—that of the mature man, husband and father, a noble and generous warrior, though ferocious enough when battling his enemies.

The human side of the Cid, together with his controlled violence, may be observed in the following excerpt from the first part of the poem, that relating to Don Rodrigo's banishment from Castile. The nine-year-old girl who speaks to him is perhaps the first female character in Spanish literature. The juxtaposition of the small girl against the shapes of warriors, arms, and horses makes for an arresting contrast.

    Cantar de Mío Cid
    Cantar primero (fragmento)

    El Campeador adeliñó a su posada;
    así como llegó a la puerta fallóla bien cerrada,
    por miedo del rey Alfonso, que así lo pararan;
    que si no la quebrantase no se la abriesen por nada.

    Los del mío Cid a altas voces llaman,
    los de dentro no les querían tornar palabra.
    Aguijó mío Cid, a la puerta se llegaba,
    sacó el pie de la estribera, una ferida le daba;
    no se abre la puerta que era bien cerrada.

    Una niña de nueve años a ojo se paraba;
    "Ya Campeador, en buena ceñisteis espada!
    El rey lo ha vedado, anoche de él entró su carta,
    con gran recaudo y fuertemente sellada.
    No vos osaríamos abrir ni acoger por nada;
    si no, perderíamos los haberes y las casas
    y aun además los ojos de las caras.
    Cid, en el nuestro mal vos no ganáis nada;
    mas el Criador os valga con todas sus virtudes santas."

    Esto la niña dijo y tornóse para su casa.
    Ya lo ve el Cid que del rey no había gracia.
    Partióse de la puerta, por Burgos aguijaba,
    llegó a Santa María, luego descabalgaba;
    fincó los hinojos, de corazón rezaba.

    The Cid
    First Part (excerpt)

    The Campeador went straight to his quarters;
    when he came to the gate he found it well locked.
    Out of fear of King Alfonso they had done this;
    unless he break it down they would not open for any reason.

    The men of my Cid called out in loud voices;
    the men inside were loath to reply.
    My Cid spurred forward, he came up to the gate,
    he drew his foot from the stirrup, a blow he gave the gate;
    the gate did not open, for it was well locked.

    A nine-year-old girl appeared before him.
    "O Campeador, in a happy hour you girded on your sword!
    The King has forbidden it, his order came last night,
    borne with great precaution, and firmly sealed.
    We would not dare open to you or shelter you at all,
    or we would lose our possessions and our houses,
    and what is more, the eyes in our faces.
    Cid, from our misfortune you will gain nothing;
    may the Creator preserve you with all His blessed powers."

    Thus spoke the girl and returned to her house.
    Now the Cid sees that he will get no favor from the King.
    He left the gate, spurred on to Burgos,
    arrived at Santa María, then dismounted;
    he dropped to his knees and prayed from his heart.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza


Father of the Marqués de Santillana, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza was a distinguished member of the Castilian nobility during the reign of Henry III. He devoted much of his short life to writing, showing skill and good taste especially in his handling of light poetry. He was particularly fond of the popular vein of poems called serranas, or mountain songs, later admirably mastered by his son.

Of all Mendoza's poems the one most widely remembered is the cossante (stanza) included here. The cossante was a form of folk poetry widely cultivated in Galicia and Portugal during the Middle Ages and also known in Castile, and Mendoza's treatment of it reveals his keen ear and verbal grace.

A special appeal of this short piece resides in the parallel flow of its lines, with several lines repeating a single idea in slightly changed wording. The refrain at the end of each group of lines is characteristic of this type of poetry, and particularly interesting is its sensitive and unusual personification of a tree.

The text of this poem is first given in its original form; the entire poem is then repeated with modern Spanish orthography. It is this latter form that was read for the accompanying recording.


    A aquel árbol que mueve la foxa
    algo se le antoxa.

    Aquel árbol del bel mirar
    face de maniera flores quiere dar:
    algo se le antoxa.

    Aquel árbol del bel veyer
    face de maniera quiere florecer:
    algo se le antoxa.

    Face de maniera flores quiere dar:
    ya se demuestra; salidlas mirar:
    algo se le antoxa.

    Face de maniera quiere florecer:
    ya se demuestra; salidlas a ver:
    algo se le antoxa.

    Ya se demuestra; salidlas mirar.
    Vengan las damas las fructas cortar:
    algo se le antoxa.


    A aquel árbol que mueve la hoja
    algo se le antoja.

    Aquel árbol del bel mirar
    hace de manera flores quiere dar:
    algo se le antoja.

    Aquel árbol del bel veyer
    hace de manera quiere florecer:
    algo se le antoja.

    Hace de manera flores quiere dar:
    ya se demuestra; salidlas mirar:
    algo se le antoja.

    Hace de manera quiere florecer:
    ya se demuestra; salidlas a ver:
    algo se le antoja.

    Ya se demuestra; salidlas mirar.
    Vengan las damas las frutas cortar:
    algo se le antoja.


    That tree whose leaves are trembling
    is yearning for something.

    That tree so lovely to look at
    acts as if it wants to give flowers:
    it is yearning for something.

    That tree so lovely to see
    acts as if it wants to flower:
    it is yearning for something.

    It acts as if it wants to give flowers:
    they are already showing; come out and look:
    it is yearning for something.

    It acts as if it wants to flower:
    they are already showing; come out and see:
    it is yearning for something.

    They are already showing: come out and look.
    Let the ladies come and pick the fruits:
    it is yearning for something.

Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita


Few facts about the life of Juan Ruiz are known. The first of Spanish humorists, he was born in Alcalá de Henares soon after 1280. In 1330, for reasons that are still uncertain, he was imprisoned by order of the Archbishop of Toledo, and it was during this imprisonment that he composed his Libro de buen amor (Book of Good [or Best] Love). If we do not know much about this poet's life, we feel we know him thoroughly after reading his verses. Few authors reveal themselves in their writings more than Juan Ruiz does.

Apparently a man of wide culture, with a passion for life and its pleasures, Juan Ruiz ostensibly wrote his book to guide the human soul through the path of virtue to the love of God. In describing human love, however, he wrote with such gusto that one is inclined to think he preferred the life of earthly pleasures to the more difficult path of virtue.

The Libro de buen amor reflects the literary currents of its times, and corresponds in Spanish literature to the Canterbury Tales in English letters. It is a mixture of serious and comic, satirical and devotional themes written mostly in the four-line stanza called cuaderna via, or "way of four," typical of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Spanish poetry and similar to the Latin Goliardic meter used elsewhere in Europe in the twelfth century. A single autobiographical thread joins the themes of the book: the story, invented or true, of the Archpriest's love affairs.

The fragment we include, the satiric "Of the Qualities of Small Women," is characteristic of Juan Ruiz's style and humor—a dry, ironical humor at times full of color and vivaciousness.

    Libro de buen amor
    De las propiedades que las dueñas chicas han (fragmento)

    Chica es la calandria y chico el ruiseñor,
    pero más dulce cantan que otra ave mayor;
    la mujer que es chica, por eso es mejor;
    con doñeo es más dulce que azúcar ni flor.

    De la mujer pequeña no hay comparación,
    terrenal paraíso es, y consolación,
    solaz y alegría, placer y bendición,
    mejor es en la prueba que en la salutación.

    Siempre quise mujer chica más que grande ni mayor,
    no es desaguisado del gran mal ser huidor;
    del mal tomar lo menos, dícelo el Sabidor,
    por ende, de las mujeres la mejor es la menor.

    Book of Good Love
    Of the Qualities of Small Women (excerpt)

    A small bird is the skylark and so is the nightingale,
    yet they sing more sweetly than any larger bird;
    the woman who is small is therefore the better;
    when treated with affection she is sweeter than sugar or a flower.

    There is nothing to be compared with a small woman,
    she is an earthly paradise, and a consolation,
    a solace and a joy, a pleasure and a blessing,
    she is better in the testing than in the first meeting.

    I always preferred a small woman to a big one,
    for it is not unwise to run away from a great evil;
    of evils choose the lesser, saith the Philosopher,
    therefore, with women, the smallest is the best.

Marqués de Santillana


Iñigo López de Mendoza (better known as the Marqués de Santillana) was a member of one of the most influential and aristocratic families in Castile. A man of wealth, he was accomplished, cultured, brave; but while we have forgotten his deeds as a knight or a warrior against John II, we remember him for several poems unequalled in Spanish literary history.

Santillana was one of the first Castilian poets to become interested in the Italian Renaissance, and he wrote a series of forty-two sonnets "made in the Italian fashion," some of them mere imitations of those of Petrarch. He wrote many other kinds of poetry—philosophical, allegorical, love poetry and courtly poetry—but perhaps best known are his ten serranillas, or mountain songs, written with grace and a dash of mischievousness. Like the French pastourelles, they tell of brief encounters between gentlemen and maidens tending cows, and of the successful—or unsuccessful—love affairs that follow.

In fifteenth-century Spain, Santillana was outstanding for his devotion to poetry and the arts. He collected what was said to have been the best library in his country, and had a wide knowledge of other European languages and literatures. He was a gentleman and a writer, and accomplished in both fields.


Excerpted from Introduction to Spanish Poetry by Eugenio Florit. Copyright © 1965 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Cantar de Mío Cid. Cantar primero (excerpt)
Diego Hurtado de Mendoza
"Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita"
Libro de buen amor. De las propiedades que las dueñas chicas han (excerpt)
Marqués de Santillana
Jorge Manrique
Dos Canciones
"No tardes, Muerte, que muero"
"Con dolorido cuidado"
Dos romances
El conde Arnaldos
Garcilaso de la Vega
"Soneto V: "Escrito está en mi alma vuestro gesto"
"Soneto X: "¡Oh dulces prendas, por mi mal halladas"
Gutierre de Cetina
Fray Luis de León
Oda a Francisco Salinas
San Juan de la Cruz
Noche oscura del alma
Luis de Góngora y Argote
Lope de Vega
Varios efectos del amor
"Soneto XVIII: "¿Qué tengo yo, que mi amistad procuras?"
Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas
A una nariz
Soneto a Lisi
José de Espronceda
A una estrella (excerpt)
Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
"Rima I: "Yo sé un himno gigante y extraño"
"Rima X: "Los invisibles átomos del aire"
"Rima LXVI: "¿De dónde vengo?. . . El más horrible y áspero"
Rosalía Castro
Las campanas
Miguel de Unamuno
Antonio Machado
Yo voy soñando caminos
Juan Ramón Jiménez
Primavera amarilla
León Felipe
Como tú
Pedro Salinas
Jorge Guillén
Los nombres
Federico García Lorca
"Romance de la luna, luna"
Dámaso Alonso
Los contadores de estrellas
Emilio Prados
Página fiel: Nostalgia
Vicente Aleixandre
El visitante
Rafael Alberti
El ángel bueno
Luis Cernuda
Donde habite el olvido
Miguel Hernández
El tren de los heridos
Picture Sources and Credits

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