Luis de Góngora y Argote Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Luis de Góngora y Argote was born in Córdova, Spain, on July 11, 1561. He was the son of Francisco de Argote and Leonor de Góngora. His use of his mother’s surname before his father’s, not an unusual practice in Spain, was a result of economic considerations and a desire to carry a more euphonic name (Góngora was extremely fond of proparoxytonic words). It seems that, coming from an aristocratic family, his father originally intended to make his son a lawyer and to place him, through various political connections, in the court of the Habsburg rulers. Consequently, the young Don Luis was sent to study at Salamanca, where he never completed his studies because he spent most of his time writing poems, flirting, and gambling. Góngora nevertheless was able to learn in depth Latin, Greek, and classical literature and mythology. His maternal uncle, who held a hereditary position at the Cathedral of Córdova, convinced the young poet to enter the church. Góngora became a deacon and in 1585 inherited his uncle’s position; he was not ordained as a priest until almost thirty years later.

The young poet was uncomfortable in his role as a churchman. There is a letter extant from the Bishop of Córdova accusing Góngora of not fulfilling his ecclesiastical duties and of preferring bullfights to the chorus. Gónora was also accused of writing profane poetry. He replied sarcastically to these accusations, and a small fine was imposed upon him. Thereafter, Góngora devoted himself to writing poetry, and his name became famous throughout Spain, especially because of his romances, which are included in many of the important collections of the time, such as the Flores of Pedro de Espinoza and the important Romancero general of 1600.

In 1613, with his culteranos, he became the central, if controversial, figure of Spanish poetry. The polemics and debates that his poems aroused, together with their success, moved him to abandon his native Córdova to settle in Madrid in 1617. His hopes of obtaining favors from the government proved futile, and this circumstance, combined with his passion for gambling and a luxurious lifestyle, soon consumed his limited capital. Sad, destitute, and frustrated, he returned to Córdova in 1627, where he died on May 23 of that year.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Luis de Góngora y Argote (GAWNG-kuh-rah ee ahr-KOH-tay) was born in 1561 in Córdoba. His father was a graduate of the University of Salamanca and possessed a sizable library. Luis de Góngora also attended the University of Salamanca, where he studied canon law from 1576 until 1580; eventually he may have taken a degree from the University of Córdoba.{$S[A]Argote, Luis de Góngora y;Góngora y Argote, Luis de}

Góngora became prebendary of the cathedral at Córdoba when his uncle retired from that position. His duties as a clergyman included travels across Spain, and some of these journeys inspired his poetry and brought him into contact with other writers. In 1593 Góngora met the dramatist Lope de Vega Carpio in Salamanca and disliked him, although Lope admired Góngora.

During the two years that Góngora spent at the royal court in Valladolid, beginning in 1602, he met Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas, a younger poet who satirized Góngora. The cause of the literary rivalry between the two men was their debate over the relative merits of Góngora’s culteranismo and Quevedo’s conceptismo. Culteranismo is a deliberately complicated use of language, while conceptismo is an exaggerated complication of ideas.

In 1611 Góngora gave up his prebendaryship at the cathedral of Córdoba and moved into a country house just outside his native city. At this house, the Huerta de Don Marcos, Góngora wrote the Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea and The Solitudes. These two long poems circulated in Madrid in May, 1613, and the battle between culteranismo (or gongorismo) and conceptismo escalated. In 1617 Góngora moved to Madrid, was ordained a priest, and became royal chaplain. With the death of Philip III, however, Góngora’s contacts at court lost influence. Gambling debts compounded his bad fortune, and his health declined. He returned to Córdoba, where he died in May of 1627.

Góngora wrote more than one hundred examples of each of the following poetic genres: romances,...

(The entire section is 866 words.)