The Poetry of Jiménez Essay - Critical Essays

JuanRamón Jiménez

Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

One of a group of intellectuals classified as the “Generation of ’98” and concerned about Spain’s political and literary position following the Spanish-American War, was the Andalusian poet, Juan Ramón Jiménez, born in Moguer, near Cadiz, in 1881.

At his father’s urging, he had gone to Seville to study law. While there he became interested in poetry and painting, possible reasons why he failed in his studies and returned to Moguer. There occurred an incident that explains much about his later life. One night his sister awakened him to report his father’s death. Despite a long illness, the sudden passing was such an emotional shock that Jiménez was filled with presentiments of his own sudden death and continued to have periods of melancholy that several times sent him to a sanitorium.

He wrote much poetry. Submitted to publications in Seville and Madrid, they attracted such attention that poets in the capital, especially Francisco Villaespesa and Ruben Dario founder of a movement called Modernish, invited him to join them in Madrid.

Because Modernism in poetry meant pretty verses, a cult of form, and refined but artificial emotions, one can imagine the sort of verse Jiménez had been writing. His friends encouraged publication. Dario titled one volume ALMAS DE VIOLETAS (VIOLET SOULS) and Villaespesa suggested NINFEAS (WATERLILIES) for the second. Both volumes appeared in 1900. Like Ruben Dario, however, Jiménez soon turned his back on many of the ideals of Modernism. Many years later when Gerardo Diego questioned Spain’s outstanding poets about their inspirations, Jiménez listed as his models Luis de Gongora, Ruben Dario, Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, and the ROMANCEROS, sixteenth century collections of ballads.

Declaring that modern Spanish poetry began with Becquer, Jiménez now looked for inspiration to the delicately wrought, simply expressed poetry of his acknowledged master. In fact, he called his third volume RIMAS, the name Becquer gave to his own poems. His poetic purpose, as Jiménez expressed it, was to give permanence to what he saw and felt was beautiful. To transmit that beauty became a sort of religion. He wrote that what he thought poetic was also deeply religious but not limited by the tenets of any creed.

With his next volume, ARIAS TRISTES (SAD AIRS), published in 1903, Jiménez felt he had fully embarked on his career. In fact, later in life he rejected the lyric fire of his early period and directed that nothing published before 1903 be reprinted.

To him, life was a succession of imperishable moments. In 1912 came one of those moments, his...

(The entire section is 1098 words.)