From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 17.2 (1997): 115-21.
Copyright © 1997, The Cervantes Society of America
NOTE

Cervantes's Parodic Rendering of a Traditional Topos: Locus Amoenus


ALFRED RODRIGUEZ AND JOEL F. DYKSTRA

Casalduero, who focused on the passage we will study, saw the beginning of Part I, chapter 15, as nothing more than a pastoral ‘paisaje renacentista,’ a place appropriate to the sought-after shepherdess (Marcela) and an extension, therefore, of the pastoral story and context (Grisóstomo y Marcela) immediately preceding it in the novel:

Al no encontrar a Marcela, don Quijote y Sancho van a dar con el paisaje renacentista, con el mundo que le corresponde: “un prado lleno de fresca yerba, junto del cual corría un arroyo apacible y fresco; tanto, que convidó, y forzó, a pasar allí las horas de la siesta, que rigurosamente comenzaba ya a entrar” (90).

     The Cervantine passage, as cited above by Casalduero, contains a sufficient number of the natural elements with which Curtius originally characterized the locus amoenus —“It is . . . a beautiful, shaded natural site. Its minimum ingredients comprise a tree (or several trees), a meadow, and a spring or brook. Birdsong and flowers may be added. The most elaborate examples also add a breeze.” (195)— to warrant its inclusion in that descriptive tradition. But it is only when Cervantes's full passage is viewed in conjunction with Curtius's own comments regarding the use of the locus amoenus in the romance —“In these three examples from Romance poetry the locus amoenus is embedded in the wild forest of the romance of chivalry.”

115


116 ALFRED RODRIGUEZ & JOEL F. DYKSTRA Cervantes

(202)1— that the Spanish novelist's model for the traditional topos becomes clear:

     Cuenta el sabio Cide Hamete Benengeli que, así como don Quijote se despidió de sus huéspedes y de todos los que se hallaron al entierro del pastor Grisóstomo, él y su escudero se entraron por el mesmo bosque donde vieron que se había entrado la pastora Marcela, y, habiendo andado más de dos horas por él, buscándola por todas partes sin poder hallarla, vinieron a parar a un prado lleno de fresca yerba, junto del cual corría un arroyo apacible y fresco . . . (I, 135). [The emphasis* is ours.]

     In the romance usage indicated by Curtius, the ever-travelling knight comes forth from the forest upon the locus amoenus. The forest is the typical North-European terrain through which romance knights move. It is the explicitly mentioned or implied backdrop from which a beautiful and / or accommodating clearing is reached. Under these circumstances, one element of the classical locus amoenus (with its characteristically forest-less Mediterranean topography) is understandably downplayed: the tree or trees. The typical romance locus amoenus is treeless, since it is the ‘amenable clearing’ that is described. The inclusion of trees would be undifferentiating vis à vis the surrounding forest.
     The following passages, from El libro del Caballero Cifar and Amadís de Gaula, offer the topos both in the romance that preceded the chivalric subgenre's sixteenth-century explosion and in the prototype of that explosion.2 The two examples, although separately, offer the alternate modes of its appearance: a) with an explicit indication of moving from a wooded terrain into a clearing, the case of both Cervantes's passage and that from the Amadís; and b) that of the locus amoenus as an ideal place for resting and eating, the case of both the passage from the Quijote and that from the Cifar.

E llegaron un día a hora de tercia cerca de un monte, e fallaron allí una fuente muy fermosa e clara e un buen prado derredor della. E la buena dueña, habiendo piedad de su marido que venía de

     1 Curtius's three examples include Ariosto's burlesque masterpiece and the epic Poem of the Cid.
     2 We feel that the quality of the two examples cited (El libro del Caballero Cifar being the only extant Spanish example of the chivalric romance prior to Amadís de Gaula, and the latter setting the standard for all that followed in the sixteenth century) are sufficient for our purposes. There is little question regarding Cervantes's first-hand knowledge of the Amadís (Olmedo), although his possible familiarity with the Cifar, as well, has been recently defended (Walker).


17.2 (1997) Cervantes's Parodic Rendering of Locus Amoenus 117

pie, dijole así: “Amigo señor, descendamos a esta fuente e comamos desto que traemos.” “Pláceme,” dijo el Caballero Cifar. E estuvieron cerca de aquella fuente, e comieron e folgaron de su vagar, ca cerca tenían la jornada fasta una rica ciudad que estaba cerca de la mar que le decían Mela (Cifar, 26).

and

. . . e anduvo por el camino hasta que salió de la floresta, y entró en una muy hermosa vega, e muy grande a maravilla, e pagóse mucho de las yerbas verdes que vio a todas partes, como aquel que florecía en la verdura e alteza de los amores . . . (Amadís, 96). [We have somewhat modernized the Spanish of both quotes.]

     The immediate literary effect of the locus amoenus passage with which Cervantes begins chapter XV (and not incidentally, perhaps, the ‘tercera parte’ of Part I) appears to be —as opposed to Casalduero's suggested continuation of the preceding pastoral ambience— to signal a movement away from the latter and a return to the chivalric world, the novel's fundamental imaginary backdrop. The topos, as presented by Cervantes, is directly related, as we have seen, to the world of the chivalric subgenre that was the novelist's primary model.3
     Casalduero (90), given his interpretation, sees the ensuing encounter between Rocinante and the grazing mares, property of some “arrieros,” as a deliberate parodic burlesque of the pastoral (égloga). Although we agree that it is intended as burlesque and demeaning parody, it is so, we feel, with respect to the romance version of the locus amoenus,4 and may even allow —if we have luckily chanced upon

     3 If all the preceding pastoral recreation —the Grisóstomo-Marcela story— is considered to have taken place in a manner of ‘pastoral locus amoenus’ (Socha), Cervantes's immediately succeeding ‘romance locus amoenus’ constitutes an example of baroque perspectivism, a consciously differentiated (Allen, 55-56) employment of the selfsame topos. More recently, Martínez-Bonati (48) has noted the same contrasting procedure: “We have seen the gradually marked transition with which the story of Marcela and Grisóstomo is introduced. At the episode's end, on the other hand, we have a grotesque contrast to return us to the comic realistic world. Here the adventure of the Yanguesans (in which Rocinante makes advances to their mares, and ends up as throttled as his master) immediately follows the story of the Platonic adoration of ideal beauty incarnated in a woman. The fact that the chapter on the Yanguesans (I, 15) begins with faint eclogue-type echoes in the form of the locus amoenus accentuates the humor of this transition.”
     4 For the religiously motivated medieval use of the locus amoenus, which appears totally inappropriate in studying Cervantes's Quijote use, see Deyermond, 65, 167.


118 ALFRED RODRIGUEZ & JOEL F. DYKSTRA Cervantes

Cervantes's immediate model in the Amadís— an unusual penetration into the novelist's creative process.
     This is so because a distinctive romance variation on the classical locus amoenus —besides, as already noted, its fixation as a clearing in a forest context— is its presentation as an ideal scenario for erotic love. Perhaps Schlobin (30), citing Eliade, offers a feasible explanation for the erotic romance development of the traditional topos:

Mircea Eliade, in The Sacred and the Profane, is more topical when he “finds nudism and movements for sexual freedom indicative of the ‘nostalgia for Eden,’ the desire to rest in the paradisal state before the Fall, when sin did not yet exist and there was no conflict between the pleasure of the flesh and conscience”.

     But whatever the psychological / literary incentive for the romance phenomenon indicated,5 its central presence in Amadís de Gaula can hardly be questioned:

E desviando de la carrera se fueron al valle donde hallaron un pequeño arroyo de agua y yerba verde muy fresca; allí descendió Amadís a su señora e dijo: “Señora, la siesta entra muy caliente; aquí dormiréis hasta que venga la fría . . .” Oriana se acostó en el manto de la doncella en tanto que Amadís se desarmaba, que bien menester lo había; y como desarmado fue, la doncella se entró a dormir en unas matas espesas, y Amadís tornó a su señora, e cuando así la vio tan hermosa y en su poder, habiéndole ella otorgado su voluntad, fue tan turbado de placer e de empacho, que sólo mirar no la osaba; así que, se puede bien decir que en aquella verde yerba, encima de aquel manto, más por la gracia e comedimiento de Oriana que por la desenvoltura ni osadía de Amadís, fue fecha dueña la más hermosa doncella del mundo (179). [The emphasis* is ours.]

This highpoint of the love plot of the Amadís de Gaula, placed in its romance locus amoenus setting, is undoubtedly one of the work's most memorable passages.
     Cervantes, as we have suggested, consciously decided to employ a typical romance locus amoenus as an outward literary sign that the narrative was leaving the pastoral realm immediately preceding and re-entering its primary chivalric mode. In searching his mind for a specific model from his readings in chivalric literature, he very possibly recalled, not at all surprisingly, that which serves as setting

     5 The passage to follow from the Amadís would hold up well under Eliade's cited explanation, for although sexual in its depiction, it is, as can readily be seen, very qualified by the narrator to underscore a note of paradisal innocence.


17.2 (1997) Cervantes's Parodic Rendering of Locus Amoenus 119

for the very epicenter, as it were, of the most significant work in the subgenre, the very passage quoted above.6
     Now then, the prevailing creative mood in the Quijote is invariably parodic. It is not difficult to understand, therefore, that Cervantes's re-creation of a romance locus amoenus, that which contains the most significant love scene in the Amadís, would entail a parody of the same. The novelist, the cited Amadís model in mind, would have proceeded, thus, to the burlesque parody —via Rocinante's encounter with the mares— of the central love encounter of Oriana and Amadís.
     Cervantes's parodic inversion of his model is both extreme and all-encompassing. If the indicated locus amoenus sets the stage, in the Amadís, for one of literature's most delicately human descriptions of carnal love (purposely devoid of all that the sexual act may convey of animal, physical, urgency), Cervantes, in the selfsame setting, literally animalizes it via Rocinante. If the male's initiating activity in the sexual encounter is —not unexaggeratedly— reversed in the Amadís,7 Cervantes, of course, has Rocinante intruding upon and bothering the mares with his urgent need. If Oriana not only consents but, we are forced to imagine, must actively encourage the passively adoring hero, the mares approached by Rocinante —albeit, with good biological sense in the animal kingdom— drive him violently away.
     There is a parodic logic, thus, to Cervantes's literal animalization of his chivalric model's absolute de-animalization of sex in the Oriana-Amadís encounter. It is possible, as well, that the specific manner of Cervantes's comically parodic rendition (the “arrieros” beating Rocinante and then Don Quijote and Sancho) may itself have originated in the Amadís. A scant few pages beyond the central passage quoted from the Amadís, in the following chapter, which shifts to the doings of Galaor, the latter

anduvo tanto, que salió a lo raso, y entonces vio suso por un valle un fuego pequeño, e yendo allá, falló que posaban hi arrieros, e

     6 Although by no means proof positive, Cervantes's parallel stress on the ‘fresca’ state of the abundant grass and his parallel highlighting of the ‘siesta,’ as indicated in the lower half of our emphasized* text from the Amadís, would strengthen our hypothesis that Cervantes was thinking of this passage from the Amadís.
     7 Conforming to the chivalric hero's total submission to his love object, Amadís is almost depicted —if not quite, of course— as the passive blushing (‘empacho,’ ‘que sólo mirar no la osaba’) bride.


120 ALFRED RODRIGUEZ & JOEL F. DYKSTRA Cervantes

cuando así armado lo vieron, con miedo tomaron lanzas e hachas, e fueron contra él . . . (181)

There is no beating, of course, but the fact that the two passages are just lines away from each other in the Amadís text, and, above all, that they are both quite memorable, might explain something of Cervantes's creative process in this instance.
     The memorable quality of the Oriana-Amadís locus amoenus love scene need hardly be explained; but that of Galaor's encounter with the “arrieros” might well require explanation. The forest paths and by-roads of chivalry-land are filled with wandering knights and, above all, very peripatetic “doncellas.” Quite in keeping with the never-neverland ambience sought by the romance, signs of commercial activity are practically non-existent. The very few reminders of that activity encountered in the knight's wilderness (that of “arrieros” being practically the only one) strike a discordant note that always makes them somewhat memorable.
     Cervantes's creative process as he initiated the ‘tercera parte’ of the Quijote of 1605 may well, then, have been the following: a) wishing to signal a break with the pastoral world in which he had earlier immersed his hero and his reader, and a return to the chivalric ambience that is the primary imaginative backdrop of his work, Cervantes opts for introducing a topos (locus amoenus) in its oft-repeated forest / clearing romance rendition; b) in recalling a specific example from his readings in the romance subgenre, he not surprisingly remembers the most memorable locus amoenus in the Amadís, his primary chivalric model; c) as occurs whenever he serves himself of a specific example from a romance of chivalry, Cervantes's parodic creative mood initiated the procedure of its burlesque demeaning; d) the latter would require a comically animalized (Rocinante) contrast to the exaggeratedly de-animalized sexual scene from the locus amoenus remembered; e) the main comical specifics of the latter (mares, “arrieros,” beatings) may well have been suggested to Cervantes by Galaor's immediately succeeding encounter with some “arrieros”.

THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO


     * “Emphasis” and “emphasized” have been substituted for “underscoring” and “underscored” since in both the printed and electronic versions of this piece, italics are employed rather than underlining. Ed. note.



WORKS CONSULTED

Allen, J. J. “Style and Genre in Don Quijote: The Pastoral,” Cervantes 6 (1986): 51-56.

Anonymous. Libro del Caballero Cifar. Ed. M. A. Olsen. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1984.

Casalduero, J. Sentido y forma del Quijote. Madrid: Ediciones Insula, 1949.

Curtius, E. R. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. W. R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.

Deyermond, A. D. The Middle Ages. London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1971.

Martínez-Bonati, F. Don Quijote and the Poetics of the Novel. Trans. D. Fox. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992.

Montalvo, G. O. de. Amadís de Gaula. Buenos Aires: Editorial C.O.P., 1942.

Olmedo, F. G. El Amadís y el Quijote. Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1947.

Schlobin, R. C. “The Locus Amoenus and the Fantasy Quest,” Kansas Quarterly 16 (1984): 29-33.

Socha, D. E. “The Marcela-Grisóstomo Episode: A Comparative View of Cervantes's Treatment of the ‘Locus Amoenus’,” Romance Languages Annual 2 (1990): 555-59.

Walker, R. M. “Did Cervantes Know The Caballero Cifar?. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 49 (1972): 120-27.



Fred Jehle jehle@ipfw.edu Publications of the CSA HCervantes
URL: http://www.h-net.org/~cervantes/csa/articf97/rodrigu2.htm