From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
16.2 (1996): 29-46.
Copyright © 1996, The Cervantes Society of America
lthough the debate concerning the content and the establishment of the literary canon could seem to interest only our time, Cervantes introduces the verb canonizar into the discussion of literary value in the Viaje del Parnaso (1614). The poem itself serves as the author's attempt to use a common Renaissance topos to proclaim his own literary worth while simultaneously poking fun at the very process of establishing hierarchies of literary value.1 According to the fiction that serves both as the frame and the structure of the series of literary judgments of his own work and that of his contemporaries, Cervantes decides to flee from Madrid in order to seek refuge in Mount Parnassus, the home of Apollo and the muses. Carried forth on the horse of Fame, he arrives at Cartagena, where Mercury meets him with a list of poets from Apollo. Cervantes' task is to counsel Mercury concerning the literary merit of the poets named therein, so that the messenger can organize an army of good poets who will defend Parnassus from the
For a discussion of the Italian models for Cervantes'
work, particularly Caporali's Viaggi di Parnaso and Avvisi del
Parnaso, see Benedetto Croce, Due illustrazioni al «Viaje
del Parnaso» del Cervantes, Homenaje a Menéndez y
Pelayo (Madrid, 1899), 161-179, and Ellen D. Lokos, The Solitary Journey:
Cervantes's Voyage to Parnassus (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), 7-30.
assaulting band of bad poets. In the course of describing the journey from
the gossip-filled corners of la corte to the elevated abode of Poetry,
Cervantes delineates a series of maps relating sites of literary production
in the text to the social structures by which literary value is categorized.
The allegorical figures of good and bad poetry, as well as vainglory, encountered
in Parnassus then serve to underline and undercut the social categorization
of literature as high or low established by the maps of Madrid and the
Mediterranean. In this manner, Cervantes embodies in the fantastic no-place
of Mount Parnassus a counter-utopia illustrating the socio-historical trap
of the author's own existence as an author who has enjoyed only popular success
but has been denied the approval as a serious writer he has sought.
One element of this work open to ironic play is the doubling of Cervantes, the author, with Cervantes, the narrator and protagonist. Elias L. Rivers has noted the autobiographical content of the text, including the attempt on the part of the author to establish, by means of self-deprecating irony and broadly satirical burlesque, a secure public image for himself as an author and critic of poetry.2 Jean Canavaggio expands on this insight by distinguishing between a rhetorical yo, and an existential yo, the second of which reveals itself doubled behind the author-narrator and the narrator-protagonist that give shape to the poem's discourse and action. Canavaggio notes:
. . . por un lado, una contaminación sistemática del espacio textual por el vivir cervantino; por otro lado, una trama mitológica y una estilización burlesca que interponen, entre este vivir y su traducción poética, un filtro, como si el autor quisiera no dejarse engañar por sus propios ensueños, previniéndose contra cualquier desencanto mediante la ironía y el humor.3
Through this doubled identity of author and narrator, Cervantes promulgates and undermines his own authority as a writer worthy of being considered a master. As a result, Cervantes provides us with a poem that reveals canonization to be a historical process by juxtaposing various textual spaces that relate literary worth to social values. These fictional filters, evident in the maps and the figures of the text, extend beyond the burlesquing of idealized literary glory to
Cervantes' Journey to Parnassus, MLN 85 (1970), 245.
3 La dimensión autobiográfica del Viaje del Parnaso, Cervantes 1:1-2 (Fall 1981), 37.
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provide a subtle critique of the cultural structures of value that lead to
the canonization of any given
Cervantes' use of the verb canonizar to describe the elevation of a work and its author to an honored position reflects the contradictions and ambiguities involved in pursuing such a reappraisal. In a manner that corresponds to the fundamental ambivalence of praise as deceitful flattery or just reward, the commentators of this text disagree on the meaning of canonizar within the work. According to Herrero García, it means justificar o dar por bueno algo que no lo es, highlighting the fraud involved in passing off a bad work as good.5 In fact, Herrero García opts for the secondary definition of the verb from the Diccionario de autoridades based on the use of canonizar to refer to the deceitful representation of evil deeds as good. On the other hand, Rodríguez Marín defines canonizar to mean aplaudir alguna cosa, o, mejor dicho, . . . darla por buena, . . . aprobarla, a morally neutral definition that highlights the process of elevating a work.6 Another ironic doubling takes place within the text itself, as the word is associated with the connotations signalled by both definitions. Speaking of the invasion of Parnassus by la canalla de vergüenza poca (IV: v. 453), Apolo accuses them of wanting to canonizar y dar renombre / Inmortal y divino a la ignorancia (IV: vv. 455-456).7 Accordingly, successful canonization depends upon the enterprise of masking bad literature as good, that is to say, deception. Apolo attributes this pursuit of unmerited glory to self-deception: Que tanto puede la afición que un hombre / Tiene a sí mismo, que ignorante siendo, / De buen poeta quiere alcanzar nombre (IV: vv. 457-459). The ignorant writer cannot judge his own poetic ability, a blindness which allows him to fool himself. One would suppose, then, that Apollo, the god of the sun as well as poetry, could illuminate the shadows of ignorance by educating the bad poets. This was, doubtlessly, the intention of the many sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers of
the most cogent recent discussion of the interaction between canonization
and class interests, see John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem
of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
As Guillory notes, current debates on the canon have failed to consider the
effect of the author's social class on the process, 11-13.
5 Viaje del Parnaso, ed. Miguel Herrero Garcia (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1983), 688.
6 Viaje del Parnaso, ed. Francisco Rodríguez Marín (Madrid: C. Bermejo, 1935), 294.
7 All quotes come from Viaje del Parnaso, ed. Miguel Herrero García.
Parnassus poems who took advantage of the topos to promulgate their
own aesthetic as that of Apollo. But Cervantes' situation is, as always,
Two factors complicate Cervantes' conception of canonization. First, the bad poets, those who deceive themselves, participate in the process of hacerse by attempting to win for themselves fame and glory based on their literary production. They are the children of their works, like Cervantes. As one sees in the author's self-defense in this poem and in the use of the concept in other works such as Don Quijote, self-making is presented as a means to escape the rigid and inflexible structure of honor as a function of lineage, riches and courtly favor which left many Spaniards marginalized from the centers of power.8 Secondly, the very text of the Viaje del Parnaso represents an attempt by the author to canonize himself in addition to the other poets deemed worthy of such a prize by Cervantes. One can, then, render others famous and honored by, in the words of Rodríguez Marín, approving their works. Proving the point negatively, a ship of poets excluded by Cervantes arrives at the foot of Mount Parnassus to accuse the author of malice: ¡Oh tú dijo, traidor, que los poetas / Canonizaste de la larga lista, / Por causas y por vías indirectas! (IV: vv. 490-492). In his praise of others, Cervantes compromises himself within the same process of exclusion and earns, therefore, the label of traitor. ¿Dónde tenías, magancés, la vista / Aguda de tu ingenio, que así ciego / Fuiste tan mentiroso coronista? (IV: vv. 493-495). From the point of view of the rejected poets, Cervantes is the one who suffers from blindness, deceives his readers, and dishonors those poets marginalized by his aesthetic. In fact, Cervantes finds himself accused of the abuse of his own poetic creativity to deceive and harm: Estas quimeras, estas invenciones / Tuyas te han de salir al rostro un día, / Si más no te mesuras y compones (IV: vv. 520-522). Throughout the rest of the work, the accusation torments the protagonist, who continues hiding his own judgment of other poets behind the fiction of Apollo's list. Why can't Cervantes free himself from the process of social and literary exclusion from which he himself, poor, maimed, old, and patronless, suffers? The clues indicating the nature of this trap can be found in the maps of cultural and literary spaces contained in
Antonio Maravall attributes Don Quijote's dedication to the concept of
hacerse as an outgrowth of both the humanist exploration of the individual
and Tridentine insistence upon free will (Utopía y contrautopía
en el Quijote [Santiago de Compostela: Editorial Pico Sacro, 1976],
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the poem, all of which relate social position, be it of nations or classes,
to the use of language to enlighten or deceive.
As the narrative of a trip, the Viaje del Parnaso contains a cultural map of the Mediterranean that reveals the relation between national identity and literary value. One cannot ignore the orientation of the trip toward the Middle East. The movement of the troops of Spanish poets toward Greece mirrors in reverse the ancient topos of translatio studii, the transferral of the cultural heritage of classical antiquity. The victorious army will then return to Spain, transporting to the West the cultural treasures they have saved from the Oriental forces of barbarism. Thus, the voyage of these troops from Madrid to Greece establishes the role of Spain as the protector of the West.9 But the army's trajectory also reflects the historical movement of sixteenth-century Spanish troops toward the Middle East against the Turkish armies, a war in which Cervantes participated as a young man in the battle of Lepanto. Therefore, the poem does not only commemorate the arrival of cultural and political empire in Spain, but also the defense of the West against the feared invasion by the main power of the Middle East. One sees the trace of this historical conflict in the characterization of the two bands of poets battling for control of Parnassus. Cervantes calls the good poets Catholics several times. Mercury announces that he comes in search of . . . la gente / Que sella con la blanca cruz el pecho, / Porque en su fuerza su valor se aumente; (I: vv. 310-312), clearly alluding to the Maltese Order, which in the 16th century waged naval battle against the Turks.10 In contrast, the malos sin against good poetry precisely by introducing Oriental elements into their works. The band [d]e romances moriscos una sarta, / Cual si fuera de balas enramadas, / Llega con furia y con malicia harta (VII: vv. 271-273). But their Orientalism extends beyond mere content to the lack of stylistic clarity: Cada cual [es] como moro ataviado, / Con más letras y cifras que una carta / De príncipe enemigo y recatado (VII: vv. 267-269 [sic]). According to Herrero García, the cipher refers to the symbol of his lady worn by the Moorish knight, and his letter to the slogan that deciphered
a discussion of the translatio studii in relationship to sixteenth-century
Spanish poetics and empire, see Ignacio Navarrete, Orphans of Petrarch:
Poetry and Theory in the Spanish Renaissance (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1994), 15-31.
10 Herrero García, ed. cit., 44.
allegorically the sign's secret
meaning.11 Thus, the bad poet carries with
him so many slogans and ciphers, so much confusion, that his poetry becomes
illegible and thus useful for deceit, just like the secret messages of an
enemy. The antidote is clarity, exemplified by the master of Italianate style,
Garcilaso de la Vega. A quotation of the first line of his famous sonnet,
«Cuando me paro a contemplar mi estado . . . »
(VII: v. 286) serves here to decide the battle in favor of the
buenos. Clarity is intelligible, balanced, and famous, embracing
the Latin connotations of the word.
But neither is the map of the West that gives form to the battle of Parnassus uniform. Revealing a cross-section of European and Spanish society, the trajectory of the voyage intersects with the description of the bad poets at several points in the text. Two hierarchies emerge, the first that of the relative value of the Western nations and the second that of the relative honor of classes. Although it is possible that the praise of the Spanish poets might be ironic, the discourse of national pride certainly enters into the poem. Mercury informs Cervantes that: De Italia las riberas he barrido, / He visto las de Francia, y no tocado, / Por venir sólo a España dirigido (I: vv. 319-321). The return of the ship laden with poets to Parnassus follows the same trajectory, again not stopping in French ports. Greece continues to serve as the ancient seat of culture, but finds itself in need of the protection Spain had already granted to Italy. In an ironic reversal of the trajectory of translatio studii, Spain pushes Western culture eastward back toward the countries from which it originated through its imperial expansion. The mission to rescue Mount Parnassus is clearly described: Y nuevo imperio y mando en él fundasen (III: v. 75). One cannot ignore, then, the affirmation of Spain as an imperial power latent in this poem. The war cry of the poets is, after all, ¡Cierra, cierra! (III: v. 168), an echo of the medieval cry of the Reconquest, ¡Santiago, y cierra, España! And Cervantes, as a poet and soldier, participates in this imperial glory.
Italy serves two functions: it is the site of the Roman epic tradition, and forms part of the contemporary Hapsburg empire. Various references to mythological figures and places lend the poet's voyage a certain heroic touch. Upon passing through the Gulf of Gaeta, Cervantes remembers Aeneas; upon passing through the strait of Messina, site of the perilous reefs Scylla and Caribdis, Mercury remembers Ulysses; upon seeing Vesuvius, Cervantes alludes to the
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tombs of the epic writers, Virgil and Sannazaro. The comic deflation of the
Greek home of the muses so often noted by critics gains impact as the reader's
expectation of heroic action, raised by the Italian references, proves hollow.
Sixteenth-century Italy is yet another place dominated by the Spaniards,
so that the travellers stop in its ports only to convene the Castillian poets
and nobles residing there. Indeed, Croce has suggested that the Viaje
del Parnaso expresses Cervantes' disappointment upon not being sponsored
by the Argensolas in their Neapolitan court, resulting in their exclusion
from the ship of poets.12 Notable for its
celebration, rather than satire, of the Spanish imperial presence in Naples
is the description of the tourney celebrated on August 22, 1612, by nobles
such as the Conde de Lemos and the Duque de Nocera to commemorate the marriage
of Ana de Austria to Luis XIII, King of
France.13 The narrator Cervantes, transported
to Naples in a dream after the great battle, underlines the transferral of
Western empire and culture to Spain manifested in this celebration of its
royal family: Volví la vista al son: vi los mayores / Aparatos
de fiesta que vio Roma / En sus felices tiempos y mejores (VIII: vv.
295-297). Invention and imagination become the signs of imperial power in
The Spain delineated by Cervantes is perhaps an imperial space closed to its enemies, but nonetheless divided from within. El viaje del Parnaso presents us with a map of the capital city that coordinates its literature with its social structure.14 The narrator Cervantes decides to leave Madrid for Parnassus, participating, then, in the ancient topos of retiring to the countryside from the obsequious bustle of the court. Elias L. Rivers correctly notes that Cervantes' farewell apostrophe to Madrid combines literary and rhetorical commonplaces, including a possible allusion to Garcilaso's Second Eglogue, with quotidian references to sixteenth-century Madrid.15 It is precisely this interweaving of the high and the low that must be unravelled in order to appreciate the profound ironies informing the author's vision of the city as a site of linguistic discourse and
13 Ibid., 189-193 [sic]; Rodríguez Marín, ed. cit., 392.
14 Elias L. Rivers, Genres and Voices in the Viaje del Parnaso, On Cervantes: Essays for L. A. Murillo, ed. James A. Parr (Newark, Delaware: Juan de la CuestaHispanic Monographs, 1991), 209-211 [sic].
15 As Louis Marin theorizes, The city map is a utopic insofar as it reveals a plurality of places whose incongruity lets us examine the critical spaces of ideology (Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces [Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990], 201).
literary production. At first, Cervantes' departure takes the form of an
elegy of Madrid, painting the city with the same atmosphere of tranquility
and abundance as that of Parnassus: Adiós, Madrid, adiós
tu Prado y fuentes, / Que manan néctar, lluevan ambrosía
(I: vv. 116-117). But his leavetaking of Madrid becomes a descent from the
bucolic Prado to infernal circles that traces various historical sites where
talk, in its most manipulatively deceitful forms, takes place gossip,
slander, news, decadent fiction, and flattery. The following tercet,
Adiós, conversaciones suficientes / A entretener un pecho cuidadoso,
/ Y a dos mil desvalidos pretendientes (I: vv. 118-120), undercuts
the foregoing pastoral image of the Prado by alluding to the conversations
of pretendientes. Conversación, defined by Covarrubias as la
comunicación y plática entre
amigos,16 echoes the image of humanistic,
disinterested interchange between friends and lovers, and alludes to the
Paseo del Prado's prominence in early modern Spain as the place to see and
be seen.17 Nonetheless, the reference to
pretendientes switches the cultural code to the court, site of the
gossiping and plotting of the unscrupulous social climbers, whose favorite
mentidero was the palace's
Listing them in descending order from court to vulgo, according to the class of society that met there, Cervantes then continues to cite the locations in Madrid of various mentideros, or places of gossip. The following tercet, Adiós, sitio agradable y mentiroso, / Do fueron los gigantes abrasados / Con el rayo de Júpiter fogoso (I: vv. 121-123), has been elucidated by Herrero García as referring to the Puerta de Guadalajara, where excessive luminary lights burned down the entryway adorned by four giants.19 Significantly for my analysis, the Puerta de Guadalajara as noted on Texeira's map of 1656 marks the corner in which the Calle Mayor meets Platerías, emporio y centro del comercio y del paseo de las galas cortesanas en el siglo XVII, donde los poderosos ruaban en coche, y los lindos y ociosos, pícaros y busconas, se aglomeraban en aquella suerte de diario certamen de los lujos y las lacerías de la corte. 20 The Puerta de Guadalajara serves, then, as the lintel between court and
Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco, Tesoro de la lengua castellana
o española, ed. Felipe C. R. Maldonado (Madrid: Castalia, 1994),
17 Pedro de Répide, Las calles de Madrid, ed. Federico Romero (Madrid: Afrodisio Aguado, 1971), 509-510.
18 For various literary references to the pretendientes of the court, see Herrero García, ed. cit., 378-379. For a description of the palace's mentidero, see Répide, 455.
19 Herrero García, ed. cit., 382-383.
20 Répide, 396.
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vulgo, where language, agreeably adorned in flattery, works its deceitful
powers to greater or lesser degrees of success.
In the following two tercets the theater of the street and the lies of individuals cede to the theater of the comedia and the lies of tabloids: Adiós, teatros públicos, honrados / Por la ignorancia, que ensalzada veo / En cien mil disparates recitados (I: vv. 124-126). Proof of Cervantes' power to evoke the image of the mentidero is Rodríguez Marín's assertion that the Puerta de Guadalajara tercet refers to the mentidero de los comediantes, although this subsequent tercet would more assuredly point toward the famous corner of the Calle del León.21 Cervantes besmirches once again the honor of the comedia with accusations of its power to promulgate ignorance and folly among the masses, and places the corrales and their mentidero below the court in his mental map of the places of deception, perhaps because of its appeal to both the upper and the lower classes.22 Finally, Cervantes descends to the mentidero de San Felipe, located at the convent near the Casa de Correos on the other end of the Calle Mayor, where popular tabloids publishing rumors, marvels and lies were already sold in the sixteenth century: Adiós, de San Felipe el gran paseo / Donde si baja o sube el Turco galgo / Como en gaceta de Venecia leo (I: vv. 127-129). As indicated in El diablo cojuelo, this mentidero was the gathering place of soldiers awaiting the first news of Spain's latest military undertakings.23 Like the public corrales, however, this mentidero marks the site where disinformation is disseminated for sale that is, to further the financial interests of the new sector of professional publishers and writers. Finally, then, Madrid represents death for Cervantes: Adiós, hambre sotil de algún hidalgo; / Que, por no verme ante tus puertas muerto, / Hoy de mi patria y de mí mismo salgo (I: vv. 131-132). As an author inclined neither toward the flattery of the palace nor the deception of the ignorant masses, Cervantes, honor intact although suffering from hunger, leaves his home to serve his goddess, Poetry. In the cultural map of Madrid provided by Cervantes, there is literally no place for the writer who refuses to prostitute himself to the court or the vulgo.
a discussion of the various mentideros, in particular that of San
Felipe, see Rodríguez Marín, Cervantes y el mentidero
de San Felipe, ed. cit., 443-450. The mentidero de los comediantes
is marked on Texeira's map, and described in Répide, 350.
22 For a discussion of Cervantes' critique of the comedia in the Viaje del Parnaso, see Lokos, 89-90.
23 Viaje del Parnaso, J. T. Medina, ed. (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Universitaria, 1925), 33.
The precise correlation between literary
classification and social classes is revealed in the narrator's vision of
Mount Parnassus, a no-place that ends up reproducing rather than transcending
the literary boundaries of Madrid. As Ellen D. Lokos has pointed out,
utopian fantasy often provides the satirist with an imaginary
world by which to critique reality, and thus Cervantes' trip to Parnassus
only returns him to the bitter battles of
Madrid.24 Just as the author finds no place
to reside in Madrid, he is granted no seat in the utopic home of the muses.
Cervantes' Parnassus thus serves as a critical utopia, according to Louis
Marin's terms, in its embodiment of the social contradictions informing the
poetic ideologies of Cervantes' time in the figures of Poetry and Vainglory.
As Louis Marin asserts, [r]ather than being confronted with a fixed
system of ideological representation, utopia would offer the mobility of
a figure acting in a dialogical stage built by a complex fable-producing
discourse.25 Cervantes provides just
such a stage in the apparitions of the allegorical figures, whose own
significance is so problematic that their interpretation, provided by various
speakers, is neither self-evident nor logically consistent, but rather given
to ideological contradiction and ambiguity. In order to appreciate the
complexities of the stage on which true Poetry appears, we must return to
the crucial fourth chapter of the Viaje del Parnaso. Denied a seat
and thus relegated to the status of a minor poet, Cervantes launches into
his apology for the merit of his own work in prose and poetry. The proclamation
of the author's worth as a writer rings clearly in the defense of his own
collected works placed in the structural center of the poem, an apology which
would seem quite successful given its frequent repetition by the author's
critics and admirers.
Mentioning his principal works by name and evaluating their respective merits, Cervantes proclaims his own worth before Apollo himself. His plays tuvieron de lo grave y de lo afable (IV: v. 21); Don Quijote was a pasatiempo al pecho melancólico y mohíno (IV: vv. 22-23); his Novelas ejemplares opened un camino por do la lengua castellana puede mostrar con propiedad un desatino (IV: vv. 25-27). His works also reflect his personal virtues, or rather, his lack of vices such as flattering adulation, the use of satire for personal attacks, and the manipulation of fiction to deceive readers. Significantly, these same literary virtues are recommended by Apollo in the
85-86. For a detailed analysis of the Viaje del Parnaso within the
vejamen tradition of the academies, see 101-129.
25 Marin, 195.
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Adjunta al Parnaso, thus revealing how Cervantes often couched literary
precept in satire.26 In reference to his
mental map of the mentideros madrileños, he states that
[n]unca pongo los pies por do camina / La mentira, la fraude y el
engaño, / De la santa virtud total ruina (IV: vv. 60-62). His
principal virtue, however, is that of inventiveness, although it too could
be used for deceit, as the rejected poet studied above accuses. Yo
soy aquel que en la invención excede / A muchos; y al que falta en
esta parte, / Es fuerza que su fama falta quede (IV: vv. 28-30). According
to his own literary self-portrait, Cervantes the author should enjoy fame
due to his abundant creativity, an assessment echoed by Mercury in his use
of the phrase raro inventor to praise and cajole the narrator
(I: vv. 218, 223). Inventiva is, according to Juan de la Cueva, the
literary quality that distinguishes the poet from the historian, and thus
serves as the basis for Cervantes' self-assertion that he is indeed a worthy
Nevertheless, literary value often appears in this work to issue from social rather than aesthetic functions. Apollo responds to the writer's self-assessment with an exhortation to personal virtue: La virtud es un manto con que tapa / Y cubre su indecencia la estrecheza, / Que esenta y libre de la envidia escapa (IV: vv. 91-93). Nonetheless, virtue is here presented as the lack of a social vice, that of envying those who enjoy higher social status through riches, nobility, or fame, if not also talent. Apollo's ambivalence toward the question of an author's social value extends to the consideration of poetic self-promotion. Apollo praises Cervantes for being a self-made man: Tú mismo te has forjado tu ventura, / Y yo te he visto alguna vez con ella (IV: vv. 79-80), but nonetheless denies him a seat. As Ellen D. Lokos has shown, Apollo's statement harkens to the inscription Quisque suae Fortunae Faber of Ripa's allegory of Fortuna, thus deepening the irony of the author's complaint against the fickleness of fortune and literary publics.28 The resentful Cervantes mutters in response: Incliné al gran consejo la cabeza: / Quedéme en pie; que no hay asiento bueno, / Si el favor no le labra o la riqueza (IV: vv. 94-96). The poet's status depends upon either social protection by a noble or the possession of Quevedo's don poderoso, money. In yet another ironic doubling of voice, the author's resentment of the more fortunate finds expression in the mouth of Apollo himself in the Adjunta al monte Parnaso, in which the Greek god
27 Herrero García, 413.
28 Lokos, 160-162.
laments the poverty and lack of social status suffered by poets. In fact,
as Rodríguez Marín has amply documented, the mere exercise
of writing poetry threatened one's honor, given the difficulty of rising
above the base and mediocre multitudes. Moreover, the lack of approbation
from the unappreciative public, including the nobles, added to the lack of
pecuniary reward for one's literary output, regardless of its
Immediately after defending his own literary production, Cervantes sees the figure of true Poetry, adorned in elegance and wisdom, but fails to recognize her. Descubres respondió [Apolo] tu bobería; / Que ha que la tratas infinitos años, / Y no conoces que es la Poesía (IV: vv. 151-153). It is impossible not to note the irony that marks Apollo's comment, since Cervantes has just defended his own literary worth. Insisting that he has only seen Poetry dressed en paños pobres (IV: v. 154), Cervantes quickly defends himself against the god's barb by referring once again to the topos of poetic poverty. Mercury then describes true Poetry by emphasizing her gravity, elegance, and discretion, and hastens to add that siempre con vestidura rozagante / se muestra en cualquier acto que se halla, cuando a su profesión es importante (IV: vv. 163-165 [sic]).30 From this description, of course, it follows that Cervantes may not have had contact with true Poetry, who withholds herself from the masses. Nunca se inclina o sirve a la canalla / Trovadora, maligna y trafalmeja, / Que en los que más ignora menos calla (IV: vv. 166-168). With this tercet Mercury begins to define the bounds of true Poetry, who does not inspire malicious or vacuously arrogant (trafalmeja) verse. Of more curiosity is the exclusion of the trovadores, whose numbers are counted among the canalla and to whom I shall return.
Mercury contrasts true Poetry with another figure, the other Poetry, falsa, ansiosa, torpe y vieja, / Amiga de sonaja y morteruelo, / Que ni tabanco ni taberna deja (IV: vv. 169-171). This figure of false Poetry stands for a specific cultural space, that of the street, the gaming house, and the tavern. In addition, the instruments heard in this space, the timbrel and bladder, are popular rhythm instruments, and are associated with a loud and raucous sound. In the next tercet the god expands the space of false Poetry to include that of
Rodríguez Marín, La poca estimación en que eran
tenidos los poetas, ed. cit., 529-540.
30 For an analysis of the links of Cervantes' description of Poetry to the emblematic tradition, see Lokos, 163-164.
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weddings and baptisms, popular celebrations: No se alza dos, ni aun
un coto del suelo; / Grande amiga de bodas y bautismos, (IV: vv. 172-173).
The fact that bad Poetry has its roots in the pueblo differentiates
it from true Poetry, which enjoys a more elevated stature. Larga de
mano, bad Poetry is generous to all; corta de cerbelo,
it springs from irrationality (IV:
v.174).31 Bad Poetry's speech is similarly
halting and incomprehensible as it flows forth from fits of madness:
Tómanla por momentos parasismos; / No acierta a pronunciar,
y si pronunica, / Absurdos hace y forma solecismos (IV: vv. 174-176
[sic]). Finally, bad Poetry suffers from the intoxication of Bacchus: Baco
donde ella está su gusto anuncia, / Y ella derrama en coplas el poleo,
/ Con fray veredas, y el mastranzo y juncia (IV: vv.
177-179).32 In short, bad Poetry, which reigns
in the neighborhoods and villages of the vulgar masses and speaks in an
irrational, intoxicated, and even deceptive voice, belongs to popular, if
not carnivalesque culture.
It is, of course, difficult to attribute this denunciation of carnivalesque poetry to the author of Don Quijote without appealing to irony.33 In order to understand the fundamental ambivalence of this work regarding the judgments involved in canonization, we must compare the figures of good and bad Poetry with that of Vainglory, who opens up another textual space in which to view the ideological contradictions at play. The menacing figure of Vainglory, a woman whose body, inflated by nothing more than air, rises to the moon, throws the whole world into shadow in a dream related by Cervantes. As he awakes, an unknown voice speaks into his ear the significance of this monster: Esta que hasta los cielos se encarama, / Preñada (sin saber cómo) del viento, / Es hija del Deseo y de la Fama (VI: vv. 175-177). Vainglory is accompanied by Adulation and Lying, the same vices that give shape to Cervantes' map of
the definition of larga de mano, see Diccionario de
autoridades (Madrid: Gredos, 1979), III: 483.
32 This tercet has caused great consternation to editors, particularly since the original edition reads con pa y vereda, a phrase that has resisted all attempts to decipher it. Rodríguez Marín successfully explicates derramar poleo as well as mastranzo and juncia to refer to idiomatic expressions for vainglorious boasting and deception (ed. cit., 278-282).
33 As Manuel Durán has noted, for the study of Don Quijote, el gran mérito de Bakhtine consiste en haber señalado el hilo interno que une las cuentas del collar: la orgía, el desafío, los disfraces, la escatología, la locura (El Quijote a través del prisma de Mikhail Bakhtine: carnaval, disfraces, escatología y locura, Cervantes and the Renaissance, ed. Michael D. McGaha (Easton, Pennsylvania: Juan de la CuestaHispanic Monographs, 1980), 74).
the mentideros of Madrid. The traditional moral of the emblem of Vainglory, as communicated by the stranger to Cervantes, is that glory passes like the wind. But this anonymous voice begins his discourse with a description of the cultural marvels created by the vain desire for fame.
|¿No has oído decir los memorables|
|Arcos, anfiteatros, templos, baños,|
|Termas, pórticos, muros admirables,|
|Que, a pesar y despecho de los años,|
|Aún duran sus reliquias y entereza,|
|Haciendo al tiempo y a la muerte engaños? (VI: vv. 157-162).|
Normally, one would attribute the creation and preservation of such monuments
to the desire to win fame, a positive value which deceives and cheats death
in its eternal propagation of the creator's name. But for this unidentified
speaker, there is no doubt that the daughter of fame, Vainglory, is the source
of these undertakings: Esta fue la ocasión y el instrumento,
/ El todo y parte de que el mundo viese / No siete maravillas, sino ciento
(VI: vv. 178-180). Her children, engendered by the wind, are not only the
seven wonders of the ancient world, but also the many human marvels.
An orthodox Catholic interpretation of this figure would insist upon the vanity of all human undertakings. In fact, one critic believes Cervantes to have used the statue representing mundane glory that appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in the second chapter of Daniel as a model for Vainglory.34 In the first chapter the narrator Cervantes, after walking many leagues, finally finds a mount, [l]os humos de la fama (v. 47). Thus, Fame, like Vainglory, consists of wind, destiny, and desire, and leads from one error to the other.
|Mas, como de un error otro se empieza,|
|Creyendo a mi deseo, di al camino|
|Los pies, porque di al viento la cabeza.|
|En fin, sobre las ancas del Destino,|
|Llevando a la Elección puesta en la silla,|
|Hacer el gran viaje determino (I: vv. 55-60).|
In fact, Cervantes' parody of the allegorical figures of Fame and other ideals, as well as the very image of a literary war through such
Rodríguez Marín, ed. cit., lxxii.
|16.2 (1996)||Maps, Figures, and Canons||43|
humorous touches as the use of books instead of bullets and the bathing of
the poets' genitalia in the fountains of inspiration, is one of the more
salient aspects of the poem. There is even a reference to Pegasus, another
figure of Fame whose hoof opened a literary font on Mount Parnassus, which
links him to Rocinante, Don Quijote's broken-down
nag.35 This doubled strategy of simultaneously
elevating and undercutting important concepts marks the author's own ambivalent
stance toward fame and canonization as revealed in the Viaje del
Parnaso. The artifacts to which Vainglory gives birth are products of
the classical world and the elevated culture of the Renaissance. Therefore,
good Poetry does not escape from being stained by association with vacuousness
and vanity, but rather suffers the same indignity as bad Poetry.
Nonetheless, Cervantes' text does not allow us to accept such a simple resolution of the contradictions presented by the various allegorical figures given that Apollo's war cry continues to promote the defense of good Poetry and the value of fame. Indeed, Francisco Márquez Villanueva notes that the narrator's vision of the figure of true Poetry constitutes the only positive experience of the journey, whereas Dominick Finello argues that the Adjunta al Parnaso represents an attempt by Cervantes to reconcile the ideal properties of good Poetry with the imperfect qualities of the flesh-and-blood poets.36 When Cervantes awakes from his sleep, he hears the god's invocation that the poets enter into battle against los malos: Haced famosa y memorable prueba / De vuestro gran valor en este hecho / Que a su castigo y vuestra gloria os lleva (VI: vv. 277-279 [sic]). The battle this poem relates is, after all, an attempt to grant fame to Cervantes and the poets fighting at his side, and therefore not so different in intent from Don Quijote's own goal to immortalize himself through the valor of his deeds. In spite of all the irony, the poem does contain an impassioned defense of Cervantes' various works as worthy of fame. Canonization, although it might be achieved through deception, should result from the triumph of an author's fame based on the merit of his work. This is the utopic element of the poets' struggle to win Mount Parnassus they prove (hacer prueba) their worth, which will then be published abroad through fame. Thus,
a discussion of the emblematic link of Pegasus to fame, see Lokos, 165.
36 Francisco Marquéz Villanueva, El retorno del Parnaso, Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 38:2 (1990), 722; Dominick Finello, Cervantes y su concepto de la fama del poeta, La Torre 1:3-4, 399-409.
Cervantes' Viaje del Parnaso puts forth, on the ideal level, the exact
correlation between fame and
Nonetheless, just as Cervantes clearly sees the impotence of Don Quijote's outdated ideals, which leads Maravall to refer to Don Quijote as counterutopic, so does he glimpse the ambiguities of canonization as a process taking place not on Mount Parnassus, but in Madrid. Vicente Gaos rightly observes that the Viaje del Parnaso, like Don Quijote, is not merely a satire, but rather un pequeño Quijote en verso encaminado a hacer patente que el hombre suele juzgarse por encima de sus propios méritos, de qué modo le arrastra su quimérico concepto de sí mismo, hasta qué punto sus aspiraciones, deseos y sueños sobrepasan la posibilidad real que tiene de satisfacerlos.38 Cervantes himself hints at the tension inherent in the process of proclaiming one's own worth by including and excluding writers around him when the poet rejected at the end of the fourth chapter cries accusingly: Que, si este agravio no me turba el tino, / Siete trovistas desde aquí diviso / A quien suelen llamar de torbellino (IV: vv. 514-516). Trovadores, as indicated by the use of the antiquated term, speak for and from the spaces of the pueblo, transformed in the city into the mentideros, whereas trovistas de repente produce verse off the cuff, in a manner which would preclude the careful artifice and studious content of true Poetry.39 This voice of the rejected author clearly affirms that Cervantes' band of good poets may not be so exclusive after all. In fact, the resentment of exclusion expressed by the fictional voice of the rejected poet echoes the voice of the author Cervantes, who may be seen to double and refract his own existential self even further than noted by Canavaggio in the haunting accusations of those he omits from Apollo's select band. After all, he himself complained of exclusion upon taking leave of Madrid.
Maravall describes this humanistic concept of fame, . . . honra es
fama y es honrado el que goza de una fama buena. La tensión y franca
oposición . . . que entre honra y fama puede darse, es decir, entre
el interno valor propio y la ajena valorización, se resuelve en
armonía definitiva para los españoles del XVI, sobre la base
de una visión cristiana y providencial de la historia, según
la cual, en plazo mayor o menor, el mérito será reconocido,
cualesquiera que sean las dificultades con que tenga que luchar
38 Viaje del Parnaso y Adjunta al Parnaso, ed. Vicente Gaos, Introducción, (Madrid: Clásicos Castalia, 1973), 32.
39 See Covarrubias's definition of trovar, 939. According to the description of true Poetry in the Viaje del Parnassus, Moran con ella en una misma estancia / La divina y moral Filosofía, / El estilo más puro y la elegancia (IV: vv. 190-192).
|16.2 (1996)||Maps, Figures, and Canons||45|
Wandering between and interweaving the various
ideological discourses and maps of the literary and social contexts that
inform his attempt to canonize himself, Cervantes reveals them in the maps
and figures of his journey to Mount Parnassus. Steven Hutchinson has written
of Cervantes' novels that the soul's continual motion propelled by
desire is a condition, perhaps the condition, of being in the world;
perfect repose has no place
here.40 This movement of desire
figures the social context into the landscape and into the process
of movement: hence the indirect routes, the difficulties, obstructions,
deviations, favorable and contrary forces, and so
on.41 In the Viaje del Parnaso,
Cervantes, then, narrates his own journey, propelled by the desire for fame.
Yet the spaces traced by his route are utopic (without place) he
finds no place in Madrid and no seat in Mount Parnassus. The good
literature of his time follows the canon of classical antiquity, relocated
from Greece and Italy to Spain via the translatio studii et imperii.
Although some of his works find inspiration in the classical canon (particularly
Persiles), his most famous work is Don Quijote, a parody of
a fantastic genre, a satire of the delusions of an hidalgo, a portrait
of various characters from the lower classes, and a popular success. His
literary place within the literary map he provides us of Madrid would then
seem to be among the masses in the mentideros. Excluded from the court
and wishing to eschew the manipulative and unlettered use of fiction in these
same mentideros, Cervantes presents himself as a displaced figure
in the Viaje del Parnaso, who will earn his fame by his literary merit,
rather than through adulation or lying. Yet Fame itself is a vacuous figure,
related to the vice of vainglory as well as the social, rather than personal,
merits of courtly favor and wealth. Cervantes himself realizes the paradoxical
nature of his self-portrait as a famed, honorable author when he characterizes
himself as a cisne en las canas, y en la voz un ronco / Y negro
cuervo (I: vv. 103-104). In the great battle of Mount Parnassus, the
swan is the sign of the good poets and the crow that of the bad poets.
The very word canon in its Greek origin refers to the schematic model or map, if one will of the perfect human figure, based on
Cervantine Journeys (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992),
41 Ibid., 67.
the harmony and equilibrium of the parts to the whole.42 Of course, this figure is young, masculine, strong, and noble. Cervantes does not conform to this canon as a man or a poet. Unlike the ambiguous presentation of canonization created by Cervantes in the Viaje del Parnaso, the critics, artists, and editors who did succeed in canonizing the author a century after his death did not glimpse the gap between Cervantes' work and person and the neoclassical aesthetic they used to elevate him. The first de luxe edition of Don Quijote, published in London in 1738 in Spanish, contains an allegorical frontispiece designed by John Vanderbank and engraved by John Vandergucht based on the Viaje del Parnaso.43 Cervantes appears semi-nude in the foreground as the strong, young, and perfect in short, classical figure of Hercules. Atop Mount Parnassus the author Cervantes, dressed as a gentleman, fights against the marvellous monsters of chivalric romance. Don Quijote appears purified of its burlesque and carnivalesque content as a satirical classic, as the figure of Cervantes transformed into Hercules defeats the degenerate literature of the street and the tavern. The dominant map of canonization, that of the trip to ancient Greece, excels in the historical process of the elevation of Cervantes as an author of classics.
|UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY|
an historical analysis of the use of the word canon, see Jan Gorak,
The Making of the Modern Canon: Genesis and Crisis of a Literary Idea
(London: Athlone, 1991).
43 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Vida y hechos del Ingenioso Caballero Don Quixote de la Mancha (London: J. Tonson, 1738), frontispiece.
||Prepared with the help of Sue Dirrim||
|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|