Jorge Manrique’s secular verse, which mostly treats of love, is typical of fourteenth and fifteenth century courtly poetry. Modeled in large measure after Ovid’s Ars amatoria (c. 2 b.c.e.; Art of Love, 1612) and following the great tradition of Spanish adaptations of this work, most notably Juan Ruiz’s Libro de buen amor (c. 1330; The Book of Good Love, 1933), Manrique’s work was published in cancioneroscollections of poetrywith verse by other poets. Most of his poems are located in Hernando del Castillo’s celebrated Cancionero general (1511). No autograph manuscript of Manrique’s work is known to exist. Manrique’s love poetry was not published separately until the latter half of the sixteenth century and not in its entirety. Even in the sixteenth century, critics recognized that Manrique’s greatest contribution to Spanish literary history lay in his Coplas on the Death of His Father. Manrique’s love poetry is typical of late-medieval and early-Renaissance works in its return to classical allusions and its pagan outlook on life, especially in questions of love. It was strongly influenced by the Provençal poets of southern France, whose work had become popular among nobles and in courtly circles in northern Spain during the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Manrique was a man of his day and, as such, embodied the great tradition of the courtierthe man of arms and letters, of war and of liberal arts.
Manrique’s love poetry was published in cancioneros, or collections of poems by various writers. His composition, “De Don Jorge Manrique quexándose del dios del amor, y cómo razona el uno con el otro” (of Jorge Manrique complaining to the god of love, and how the one reasons with the other") is reminiscent of Ruiz’s rendition of the dispute between the Arcipreste and don Amor in the Libro de buen amor. Manrique’s composition shows no particular innovation, in that he follows the late-medieval and Renaissance convention of a return to a classical vision of love that depends on the actions of don Amor (Sir Love). In Manrique’s case, the “debate” shows a curious mixture of the pagan and the Christian, which is also typical of fifteenth century Spanish love poetry. The poetic voice, who seeks love but does not find it, complains to don Amor that he has promised much and given nothing. In each instance, don Amor responds to the accusations leveled against him, urging that the “plaintiff” appeal his case to a “higher God” who can judge them both. The “plaintiff” doubts that God will help him:
That high God without equalwell do I know that he is the mightiestbut, with my erring,I have made Him very upset
Other poems are directed to Fortune (“A la Fortuna”; this may also be understood as fate), a blind force that annihilates the hopes and dreams of lovers and soldiers alike, bringing all to a bitter end.
Coplas on the Death of His Father
Manrique’s father, Rodrigo, died...
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