Rubén Darío Rubén Darío World Literature Analysis
by Félix Rubén Garc Sarmiento

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Rubén Darío World Literature Analysis

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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Rubén Darío shaped a new style of Spanish literature as part of the literary movement called Modernismo, which lasted from 1885 until 1910. Darío was most influential figure of this movement. Reflecting an alienation from a materialistic society and seeking out new forms and themes, Darío assimilated the style of other writers, particularly the French Romantics, Parnassians, and Symbolists, with his Spanish sensibility. Writing in a self-consciously artistic style, he used language to evoke a musicality, employed images to describe the visual and to present the erotic, developed a system of symbols and myths to reflect his artistic vision, and explored themes new to Spanish literature.

Growing up in an isolated, conventional culture, Darío developed his style by reading the classics and contemporary writers outside the Spanish culture. When he was twenty, the more cosmopolitan Chile nourished his sensibilities and provided an audience eager to be delighted by art. His first poems imitated a more conventional Spanish style. In 1888, French literature became the impetus for his first major work, Blue, a literary breakthrough. The title carried symbolic meaning for Darío, suggesting the imagistic nature of the new style, the color blue corresponding both with art and the universe. Blue brought Darío transatlantic attention after sparking the praise of Spanish writer Juan Valera. Its originality illuminated new directions for Spanish writers.

While Blue presented an artistic revolution, Prosas Profanas, and Other Poems demonstrated Modernismo at its peak. Introducing the work in a prologue, “Palabras luminaries” (illuminating words), Darío summarizes his beliefs and inspirations, asserting the aristocracy of art and the mediocrity of the opinions of the masses, expressing his love for the sensual and aesthetic, and acknowledging his appreciation of French writers. The poems describe love, mythological creatures, courtiers, paganism, Christianity, and art itself. They express special adoration of women, who represent the soul and human longing. “Era un aire suave . . .” (“The Air Was Gentle . . . ”) praises the eternal feminine in the figure of Marquise Eulalia, an embodiment of Venus. In “Verlaine: Responso” (“Verlaine: Response”), dedicated to French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, Verlaine becomes symbolic of the reconciliation of the flesh and the spirit. Alternately embracing the pagan (the flesh) and the Christian (the spirit), Darío strives to yoke together opposites.

His next collection, Songs of Life and Hope, presents the work of his maturity. It explores themes ranging from the societal and political to the personal and artistic. Here the poet examines the inner spirit of great figures, the alchemy of special events, the magic of artistic creation, and the ethereal beauty of sacrifice. Throughout he reflects his sense of the alienation of the artist, as well as his preoccupation with human mortality. He describes those people capable of transforming the joy and grief of life into beauty. He pays homage to the artist, the diplomat, the optimist, and implicitly to Christ, celebrating those who express an optimistic vision and those who create tranquility and peace. He embraces the Spanish culture reflected in both Miguel de Cervantes’s character Don Quixote and in the Catholic faith, and he asserts his religious belief. Using allusion, visual description, and erotic suggestion, he creates symbols to reflect emotional states or desirable personal, even national, approaches to life. Ultimately these symbols aggregate into a personal mythology, affirming the values of faith, hope, and love. In both its thematic import and elegant style, Cantos presents Darío at his most masterful.

Other poetry collections followed. He followed Songs of Life and Hope with El canto errante (1907). In Poema del otoño, y otras poems, the title poem explores the cycle of life and death, affirming life. Facing the inevitable destruction of time,...

(The entire section is 1,630 words.)