Course: SP1005- Introduction to Spanish and Spanish American Literature. Date: 12/12/12
hoose and analyse any three sonnets which exemplify the contrasting poetic styles and attitudes to the conventions of courtly love poetry. C
I would like to begin this essay by firstly defining the concept of “courtly love” which is
central to the question.
“a highly conventionalized medieval tradition of love between a knight and a married
noblewoman, first developed by the troubadours of southern France and extensively
employed in European literature of the time. The love of the knight for his lady was regarded
as an ennobling passion and the relationship was typically unconsummated.”
In early courtly love poetry, it is evident that the poem was purely a linguistic and academic
exercise which is hard for us as modern readers to relate to. As the centuries progressed, so
did the expression and personal and emotional input into the poetry. The courtly love
poetry therefore went from being a concept difficult to relate to in the 15th century, to an
emotionally charged exercise of expression of genuine love in the 17th Century. This is more
likened to the poetry we are familiar with and that we can easily relate to.
I intend to assess the progression of courtly love poetry through a poem from the 15th, 16th
and 17th centuries.
They are as follows:
15th Century: ‘Esperas diciendo qué cosa es amor’, Jorge Manrique .
16th Century: Sonnet XVII (Pensando que el camino iba dereche...), Garcilaso de la Vega.
17th Century: ‘Mientras por competir con tu cabello’, Luis de Góngora.
In Manrique’s ‘Esparsas diciendo qué cosa es amor” , we see characteristics of early courtly
love poetry along with the different stylistic features of the era in each verse. For example, i
in the first and second verses “Es amor fuerza tan fuerte/ que fuerza toda razon” , we can
see that the poet is experiencing “loss of reason” (lecture notes, wk 1). The use of repetition
as a rhythmic technique adds to the sense of frustration. Manrique, further down in stanza
1 describes the love as “una porfia forzosa”, highlighting love as a debilitating concept.
In stanza 2, verses 11-15, we see the contradictory nature of early courtly love poetry.
Manrique says “Es placer en que hay dolores/ dolor en que alegría”. This is extremely
contradictory but describes the stark subjectivity of love. Manrique interprets love to be
both “ennobling and debilitating” (Lecture notes, wk2). Furthermore, there is a suggestion
within the poem that the love is not to be discussed; that it is purely academic and cerebral
in nature and is not emotively driven. This is expressed in verses 39-40 “hace callar lo que
siente, temiendo pena que diga”,where the poet infers a fear of colloquy and dialogue.
Furthermore, the poet, although perhaps in an almost narcissitic manner positions himself
as the lady’s servant; placing the lady beyond the reader’s emotional reach and allowing her
personally to trigger only his emotions. The love is totally unrequited and starved of
emotion. This is particularly evident in verse 47 where Manrique refers to “el toce para
tocar”. This may also refer to the concept of memento mori as we as readers may “question
the physical existence of the lady” (the Golden Age).
There is a sharp contrast between the poetry of Manrique and that of Garcilaso de la Vega.
We can see a tone of modernisation in Garcilaso’s sonnets and there is a sense of
progression between their work. Garcilaso takes a new sophisticated approach to ‘courtly
love’ poetry. He ‘Italianises’ Spanish poetry, bringing an air of sophistication to the
previously mundane approach of Manrique. Whilst he uses familiar cancionero themes...