Fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
The two men most responsible for introducing Spain to a new spirit ofHumanism via Greek, Latin, and Italian literary traditions were Juan Boscán (c. 1490-1542) and Garcilaso de la Vega (1501-1536).
Whereas 1492 marked the political birth of modern Spain, the year 1543 may be said to have marked Spain’s cultural rebirth into the Humanistic tradition that had been eclipsed until its rediscovery a century earlier by the great fifteenth century Italian poets. With the publication of Las obras de Boscán y algunas de Garcilasso de la Vega repartidas en quatro libros (1543; the works of Boscán and some of Garcilaso de la Vega), a wholly new poetic vision was introduced into Spanish literature. To appreciate the magnitude of change that Boscán and Garcilaso brought to sixteenth century Spanish poetry, both in its form and in its content, one must recall the tradition from which their revolutionary poetics were born.
Not until the fifteenth century did the Spanish literary lyric first appear as an independent written work of art. Prior to that time, Castilian verse was dominated, for the most part, by the fourteenth century romance (ballad) and the thirteenth century villancico. While traveling troubadours sang of the joys and woes associated with courtly love, clerics were creating their own tradition, focused on more spiritual themes, such as the many miracles of the Blessed Virgin. In 1445, the first important collection of Castilian verse was published, the Cancionero de Baena (songbook of Baena). Here were recorded numerous canciones de amor (love songs) which echoed the earlier ballads in both theme and form.
Two exceptions to these traditions were the marquis of Santillana and Juan de Mena. They transcended the traditional compositions that were recorded in the Cancionero general (1511; general songbook), a collection of fifteenth century verse filled with villancicos and ballads that reflected the love songs of the earlier troubadour tradition. Santillana is credited with the first sonnets written in a language other than Italian, while Mena’s allegorical and philosophical poems are sprinkled with frequent classical allusions and a Latinized vocabulary.
The poetic revolution that was to characterize sixteenth century Spain, however, did not truly begin until 1526, when the Spanish poet Boscán...
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