From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
8 special issue (1988): 17-28.
Copyright © 1988, The Cervantes Society of America
HE NEED FOR particular care when referring to questions of genre in literature is nowhere more evident than in the works of Cervantes. If genre results from a conscious imitation of earlier literature, then it may be easily confused with convention in the sixteenth century, because the desire to copy or imitate was even then still inevitably bound to literary tradition and was not merely a matter of choice. Cervantes aggravates the problem by repeatedly calling attention to it, since he wrote literature, wrote about it and about writing it all at once. As the prologue to Don Quijote shows, the issue of what one was obliged to include in one's writing due to dictates of style and what one chose to borrow out of admiration for one's predecessors, as well as one's right to do so, was highly problematic in Cervantes' time.1 Imitation was proper commonplace
narrator of the Prólogo laments that his will be unlike
otros libros, aunque sean fabulosos y profanos, tan llenos de sentencias
de Aristóteles, de Platón y de toda la caterva de filósofos,
que admiran a los leyentes y tienen a sus autores por hombres leídos,
eruditos y elocuentes (Don Quijote, ed. Martín de Riquer,
2 vols. [Barcelona: Editorial Juventud, 1974] I, 20). The fact that this
need to include toda la caterva de filósofos is material
for satire indicates that in 1605 the appropriateness of proving one's erudition
through copying others' was waning. Nevertheless, borrowing from
classical and contemporary sources alike was practiced [p.
18] with great zeal by some, like Lope de Vega and Fray Antonio de
Guevara. See Francisco Márquez-Villanueva, Fray Antonio de Guevara
o la ascética novelada in Espiritualidad y literatura en
el siglo XVI (Madrid: Alfaguara, 1968), pp. 15-66.
and plagiarism just beginning to
exist;2 the modern concept of originality
in literature emerged only slowly from the depths of what we consider to
be slavish attention to the classics and the esteem for them which held that
good ideas were worthy of outright
In the case of La Galatea, it is clear that Montemayor's La Diana served as Cervantes' basic model, although he was certainly influenced by earlier imitators of Montemayor as well. Thus, La Galatea is traditionally included in the list of fictional works referred to as pastoral romances or pastoral novels, originally inspired by La Diana (and which, in this study, will be referred to as pastoral books).4 At
practice of not identifying one's sources, regardless of the extent upon
which they were drawn, was still common in the sixteenth century, perhaps
a lingering influence from the communal attitude about literature theoretically
held by the long-time guardians of the written word in the Christian world,
the religious orders. This copying was not limited to small sections of text
or to the pilferage of classical works: Montemayor, for example, translated
entirely from St. John Climacus' Scala coeli for the second half of
his Diálogo spiritual, from Lourenço de Caceres
for his Trabajos de los reyes, and included poems by other poets
in his Cancioneros, without any reference to what he was
3 As books became marketable items that responded to popular demand (versus their being repositories of irrefutable wisdom), the business of copying was less related to philosophical or artistic admiration and became more a matter of attempting to take material advantage of another's success. The Prólogo to the second part of Don Quijote attests to this: Dile [al autor de la primera continuación] que de la amenaza que me hace, que me ha de quitar la ganancia con su libro, no se me da un ardite (II, 538). Cervantes' poverty, which distinguished him from theretofore typical gentlemen writers, leads one to wonder if this testy response to Avellaneda only superficially masks a genuine concern about the market value of his own continuation of Don Quijote, then the second to be published. However, Avellaneda was merely repeating history in trying to make a genre out of Cervantes' creation, as had been done with Amadís de Gaula, Celestina, Lazarillo, La Diana, etc.
4 Critics vary in their preference for pastoral novel or pastoral romance to describe that category of books which can correctly only be called libros de pastores, the words used by those who wrote and read them. Although return to the original terminology properly eliminates the anachronistic conflict between romance and novel implied by our modern words, it poses a problem in English, for reference to shepherds' books [p. 19] includes a blatant sex marker that detracts attention from the innovative role of women in this type of fiction. A prudent alternative seems to be pastoral books, which, aside from being a closer representation of libros de pastores than pastoral romance or novel, avoids implying the existence of the novel before its time and resists transfer of the English category of romance into a language which does not have a corresponding term. The use of books to talk about volumes consisting of libros, as does La Galatea, is an accurate but awkward translation, since libros in this context means chapters but are referred to as Book I, Book II, etc. For the problem of novel, romance, and terminology, see Bruce Wardropper's Don Quixote: Story or History? In Modern Philology 63 (1965), 1-11, and Alban K. Forcione's Cervantes, Aristotle and the Persiles (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970).
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some point, however, the differences between the imitated and the imitating
outweigh their similarities and a progression is thereby made into another
type of art, occurring at the text in which invention overcomes imitation.
Cervantes, author of Don Quijote, is a prime example of a writer who
outsmarted his precursors yet also depended heavily on their accomplishments
and the conventions they respected.5 Don
Quijote, however, is not his only work that resists conventional categories;
attempting to slip La Galatea tidily into criteria for pastoral books
is like trying to squeeze the glass slipper meant for Cinderella onto the
unwieldy foot of her least elegant stepsister.
The structure of La Galatea consists of varied plots that are developed with an unusual amount of physical and emotional activity for Spanish pastoral fiction of Cervantes' time. Perhaps, then, this is not a case of the glass slipper at all; perhaps Cervantes' pastoral book is no more pastoral than Don Quijote is chivalric. What follows is an attempt to reconcile La Galatea to literary history by considering the ways in which Cervantes depended on and superseded the code of the libros de pastores to make La Galatea more than what it should have been.
In Book VI, Elicio describes the Valle de los Cipreses to Timbrio in these terms:
was never one to mask his awareness of theoretical problems. Indeed, the
self-conscious declarations and doubts included in the prologues to all of
his prose works make clear his mindfulness of literary rules and categories.
The prologue to La Galatea, for example, indicates a keen awareness
of what he was supposed to be writing, at the same time that it contains
clever reference to his failure to comply. See my The Poetics of Pastoral:
Prologue to the Galatea, in Cervantes and the Pastoral
(Cleveland: Cleveland State University, 1986), pp. 169-84.
Aquí se ve en cualquiera sazón del año andar la risueña primavera con la hermosa Venus en hábito subcinto y amoroso, y Céfiro que la acompaña, con la madre Flora delante, esparciendo a manos llenas varias y odoríferas flores. Y la industria de sus moradores ha hecho tanto, que la naturaleza, encorporada con el arte, es hecha artífice y connatural del arte, y de entrambas a dos se ha hecho una tercia naturaleza, a la cual no sabré dar nombre.6
This passage serves as a paradigm through which the structure of La Galatea may be interpreted. Cervantes' pastoral book consists of repeated conflict between the archetypal realm of the poetic in which pastoral literature functions, on one hand, and human life as it is experienced, in historical rather than poetic terms, on the other.7 Like the environment described by Elicio, the theoretically perfect pastoral world is adjusted through the author's industria to conform to humanity's own nature and imperfections in La Galatea. Put in
from the text of La Galatea are from the edition of Juan Bautista
Avalle-Arce (2 vols. [Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1961]), in this case II, 170.
I would like to thank Alan Trueblood for calling my attention to Edward W.
Tayler's Nature and Art in Renaissance Literature (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1964), in which the dynamic balance between Nature and
Art is studied as the essence of Renaissance pastoral. In his introduction,
Tayler points out the same interdependence between the two that Elicio recognizes
in his own environment: Pastoral is by definition implicitly concerned
with the discrepancies that may be observed between rural and urban, country
and courtly, simple and complex, natural and artificial (5). Anthony
Cascardi considers the role of nature in relation to the problem of genre
in his Genre Definition and Multiplicity
in Don Quijote (Cervantes 6
7 Poetry and history are here used in the neo-Aristotelian context in which they were understood in Cervantes' day. Wardropper (Don Quixote: Story or History) defines poetry and history in a manner appropriate for this study, as categories of imitation, wherein poetry deals with universality and history with particularity. Poetry was held in higher esteem for its superior philosophical and moral content, for it ultimately presents the world as it should be. History, however, represents the world as it presents itself to human senses. In his constant use of the word history to refer to Don Quijote (which is really not history), Cervantes blurs the distinction between traditional neo-Aristotelian categories, all the while apparently swearing allegiance to the same. Likewise, when he loudly refers to La Galatea as eclogues (I, 5), he means it is a specific type of poetry, the kind based on an idealized vision of the lives of shepherds and shepherdesses. His insistence that La Galatea is poetry is merely an earlier, reversed version of the claim for historicity in Don Quijote, because La Galatea is full of decidedly unpoetic elements.
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neo-Aristotelian terms, this means that Cervantes attempts to acknowledge
history through a poetic text by sometimes presenting reality better than
it really is, and other times reminding us of just how unpoetic it can be.
Thus a tension is produced between the realm of what should be and that of
what is, a tension that is scrupulously maintained throughout the La
Galatea. Whether the poetry / history conflict was sustained to prove
something or was left standing because the book was left unfinished is a
moot point, but the fact remains that the struggle was unresolved by Cervantes.
Here we are with a work to which, as Elicio says, no sabemos dar
The kinetic manner in which the poetic plot of La Galatea is played against historical interpolations is a common foundation for critical approaches to the book and offers a method to categorize what looks like the text's simple polarity.8 Book I opens with Elicio wistfully contemplating his unrequited love for Galatea in true pastoral form, and he is shortly thereafter joined by Erastro the rustic. Their amoebean song is interrupted by the dramatic entrance of Lisandro el pastor homicida. After witnessing nothing less than a murder, Elicio returns (with the reader) to his hut for his nocturnal contemplations, para soltar la rienda a sus amorosas imaginaciones (I, 30). Pastoral poetry, interrupted by violent aggression, is followed by recovery of the idyllic mode; thus the zig-zag of La Galatea begins, and so it continues right to the end.
Professor Avalle-Arce identifies this juxtaposition as un curioso movimento pendular (NPE 243) and continues to say: La intención del autor, puesta al servicio de la concordancia, tratará de crear una nueva ars oppositorum cuya mecánica estará determinada por la concepción de una meta-realidad literaria en la que estos opuestos podrán existir lado a lado, sin cancelación mutua. By evoking a situation and then its opposite, he says, Cervantes forges a new type of literary character, poseedor de una autarquía de existencia imposible dentro de las rígidas relaciones que predicaba la pastoril anterior (NPE 246).
Avalle-Arce's fundamental study of La Galatea, Cervantes,
in La novela pastoril española (2nd ed. [Madrid: Ediciones
Istmo, 1974]), pp. 229-64 (cited henceforth as NPE). James Stamm developed
Avalle-Arce's basic thesis of the text's polarity, pointing out the exaggerated
extremes of the poetic and historical elements. See his excellent
article La Galatea y el concepto de género: un
acercamiento, in Cervantes: su obra y su mundo (Actas del I
Congreso Internacional sobre Cervantes. [Madrid: EDI-6, 1981] pp. 337-43).
This autarchy was made possible by the characters' ability to change and
by depiction of that change as a believable consequence of their personalities
and circumstances. This same innovation was made at the expense of the poetic
intentions of the author.
As the six books of La Galatea proceed, the action swings back and forth between idealistic, pastoral segments directed toward contemplative ends and novelistic, historical segments which provide the physical action that the pastoral segments should not.9 However, this in itself was nothing new; Montemayor made ample use of interpolations to accomplish the same variation, albeit on a smaller scale than Cervantes. The distinguishing mark of La Galatea is a two-fold complication of the pendular movement described by Avalle-Arce. First, in spite of the swing of the plots from one pole to another, the characters do not remain within the sphere of one realm or the other. That is, since they are not controlled by the dictates of any constant philosophical or literary ideology, they cannot be consistently linked with either the ideal or the actual; they display rather the conflict between the two within each individual. Combined with the pendular motion described, this allows the characters to grow through change over the course of time, freeing them from the restrictions of representing anything except what they are: human lovers whose lives are torn between what they wish would happen and what happens.10
What is described within the locus amoenus (also metaphorically referred to as Arcadia), is essentially atemporal, although related to temporal events; nothing is supposed to happen. Therefore, the
it is that makes the pastoral mode work has puzzled critics for years, and
none agree on every detail. In this study, reference to the pastoral
myth or the nature of pastoral in general refers to characteristics
which typify all pastoral literature: shepherds and shepherdesses as
representative anecdotes of the human experience; contemplative versus active
values, meaning description of emotions and of the sentimental consequences
of action, not action itself; focus on the past, usually in an idealized
and melancholic fashion; use of a limited natural setting, also idealized,
which is described with affection and is physically and psychically removed
from urban life. In pastoral books of sixteenth-century Spain, attention
should be called to the multiple rather than single or double plots, none
of which completely dominates the others. For the theoretical questions in
the same context, see my Prologue to Pastoral.
10 Avalle-Arce says of the characters in La Galatea: El concepto de amor . . . está tan hondamente enclavado en lo íntimo de la personalidad del pastor que no se puede hablar más de teorías sino de sufriente e ilógica humanidad (NPE, p. 240).
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ability to change necessitates a mode beyond the confines of the pastoral
because the characters' presence in Arcadia is dependent upon the supposition
that pastoral situations, love in particular, may be described and described
again but they may not be acted on. The mode is one of thinking and feeling,
not doing. In order to use the pastoral device and allow his characters
to develop beyond types across the narration, the narrator resorts to
interpolations and other less traditionally pastoral devices.
Lisandro rushes in on the scene of the deleitoso prado, kills Carino, begs pardon of Elicio and Erastro for his bizarre behavior in equally bizarre elevated language, and runs off to the mountain.11 That courtesy-ridden parlance of his prepares us for his next appearance in the narration, for when we hear from him again, he has assimilated the pastoral bearing appropriate to the environment in which he appears. Thus we find him alone in the bushes, lamenting his cruel fortune and recalling his past happiness in the light of his present state; in short, exercising the behavior proper to an exemplary literary shepherd, remembering what he has done. Appropriately, the narrator now refers to him not as el pastor homicida (I, 29; 32), but as el pastor del bosque (I, 35; 36). What Cervantes has allowed us to see is Lisandro as a historical character committing a violent act and Lisandro as a literary shepherd. Unlike most of his pastoral predecessors, he does not appear with his shepherd's disguise in place, he puts it on right before our eyes. This is rather like watching Superman become Clark Kent; we observe both sides of his personality, the one that acts and the one that contemplates activity. Lisandro is not bound to the sphere of action into which he carries the narration with his brutal entrance. Although he was the cause of the initial shift in events from pastoral quietude to violence, immediately thereafter he is also responsible for helping to reestablish the contemplative pastoral mode designed for recollection, as Elicio lends him a sympathetic ear.
Thus the regular pattern of the blocks of plot, which is disconcerting
kills Carino, disappears, then suddenly reappears to explain himself, saying:
Perdonadme, comedidos pastores, si yo no lo he sido en haber hecho
en vuestra presencia lo que habéis visto, porque la justa y mortal
ira que contra ese traidor tenía concebida, no me dio lugar a más
moderados discursos (I:29). Stamm perceptively suggests that Cervantes
is having some fun with pastoral convention in this passage (El concepto
del género, pp. 340).
for its extremes and regularity, is also disarming for the fact that the
characters do not rest comfortably within one block or another,
but jump into the pastoral scene and out, as the text swings between poetry
and history.12 The way in which La
Galatea is structured makes it possible to predict at any given moment
whether what happens next will be poetic / contemplative or historical /
active, because the swing from one to the other is constant. For example,
when Silerio's Byzantine tale is suddenly interrupted, one expects that
interruption to be of a pastoral nature in order to keep all the talk about
duels, Moors, and honor from smothering the affective, more fragile, side
of the text. Thus it is the rejected Mireno who is heard at a distance, lamenting
the impending marriage of his shepherdess to someone else (I,
177).13 Immediately thereafter, Silerio resumes
his narration, which ends with a recounting of his entrance into the poetic
realm of the pastoral, his attempts at resolving his problems through action
having proved unsuccessful.
The second important characteristic of the poetry / history pendulum is the notable balance maintained throughout La Galatea between characters who serve a contemplative function, and therefore fit with relative ease into the pastoral locus, and those who infringe on the idyllic scene, bringing everyday problems with them. In pastoral literature, the first plane of the narration, the one on which the characters speak and move, is reserved for recollection and limited activity. By imposing action on that first narrative plane, Cervantes' so-called shepherds and shepherdesses destroy the pastoral ideal, which allows for remembrance of past events but not witnessing them, and which also assumes things can be better than they are but stops at that assumption. The characters who pull action onto the contemplative scene bring the locus amoenus alive by confronting poetic and philosophical ideologies with their own experience,
Urrutia parcels sections of narration in Cervantes' works into blocks of
plot, which he then divides into two types, basic and modifying. See La
técnica de la narración en Cervantes, in Cervantes:
su obra y su mundo (Actas del I Congreso Internacional sobre Cervantes
[Madrid: EDI-6, 1981], pp. 93-101).
13 Of course, beyond the variation of poetic and historical sections of the text, there may be further relationships between narrations and materials used to interrupt them. Here, for example, Mireno's situation previews what will happen to Silerio, since Timbrio, not he, will marry Nísida, as Daranio weds Silveria, not Mireno.
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thereby suggesting that in the context of human life, the one does not
really occur without recourse to the other.
Cervantes maintains a tenacious grip on poetic idealism at the same time as he confronts that idealism with a reality decidedly less than ideal. There must have been something about the conflict between the two he felt was essential, because in La Galatea, the characters line up like two teams in a competition that the author was determined to have come out a tie. The diachronic alternation between poetry and history is complemented by synchronic switches designed to keep the teams even, even as there are players changing sides. Thus, when Lauso falls out of love, Lenio falls in, and they replace each other in their respective halves of the fictional whole, maintaining the tension between lovers and non-lovers.14 Teolinda's story gets progressively sadder as Timbrio's moves toward a happy resolution. As Galatea decides to step off her conventional literary pedestal, give up her role as Diana, and reach out to Elicio for help, Gelasia is introduced to take her place as the perfect, inaccessible literary shepherdess. Across the span of all six books, it is apparent that as Galatea and Elicio are increasingly motivated away from their static existence as perfect shepherds and move into the problematic realm of actuality, Silerio, Timbrio, Nísida, and Blanca are allowed to witness the resolution of their real problems, which permits them to rise out of the realm of the particular into that of poetic harmony. In essence, as the pendulum swings between the poles of poetry and history, it seems to pick up a character for transport every time it leaves one on a given side.
There are, then, three characteristics to consider regarding the structure of La Galatea. First is the pendular movement which dictates that to every poetic act there will correspond a historic one.15 Second, characters are not bound to either poetic or historical
Avalle-Arce rightly observes that one type of character or event seems to
provoke the appearance of its opposite (NPE, p. 243). Also, as either
character or situation changes, its opposite does likewise.
15 The balance between poetic segments and historical ones functions on various levels of the narration, even within certain single elements of the text. For example, the Canto de Calíope is in itself a traditional part of a pastoral book, typically being a long laudatory poem. Calíope, however, sings not of dead heroes or beautiful women but of live poets, whose profession relates less to the content or supposed purpose of the narration than to the act of writing it.
roles; they are not tied to one end of the pendulum's swing or the other.
Rather they are free to develop from poetic characters into characters of
a more active nature, or vice versa, or not to change at all. Third, a balance
is maintained among those characters who drift from one realm into the other,
so that at any given moment in the text neither poetry nor history is abandoned
or assimilated one by the other. To continue with the metaphor of the pendulum,
it seems that it swings within a circle which is itself always rotating in
Within the first plane of the narration there is also a new and highly significant relationship between physical action and the lack of it. The interpolations telling of past events, the debate between Lenio and Damón in Book IV, the Canto de Calíope, and the games at the Arroyo de las Palmas take place while the characters are seated, but virtually everything else happens while they are standing or walking from one place to another, including the lesson on love that Elicio delivers to Erastro in Book III. This is most unlike Montemayor's shepherds, who go along a single route accumulating one another like a snowball rolling down a hill; they are all headed in the same direction and they follow a route together with frequent physical and intellectual pauses, singing and talking along the way. Their whole experience is essentially passive, and their willingness to physically halt their activities as they sympathize with each other is proportionate to the importance placed on what they say and feel. The shepherds in La Galatea, however, are not directed unanimously as a group toward any collective end; they rather move endlessly and at random around the confines of the pastoral environment, as if testing its limits. This conflict between movement and stillness is symbolic of the two poles between which the entire text moves: history, the pole of things happening, and poetry, the recollection and evaluation of what happens. The author's decision to portray this alternation of stillness and movement perhaps represents his anxiety to incorporate his characters' feelings into their actions, yet he cannot seem to integrate the two extremes of thinking and doing, and never settles them into a comfortable middle ground.
If the characters of the Diana annoy the modern reader for their endless talking and naïve passivity, those of La Galatea are no less irksome for their psychotic extremes of emoting and doing. From the vantage point of the modern reader, we want these people to be real. It is worth considering that they are actually on the verge of
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being real in La Galatea, and that it was precisely because
Cervantes experimented in pastoral that he was sensitized to the importance
of individual feelings, compared to the sweeping dictates of society, time,
or fortune, in literary representation of the human experience. Although
it does seem that he was aware of the limits of pastoral narration as defined
by his precursors, it also appears that he could not abide by them. The
characters depicted by Cervantes in La Galatea are not traditional
literary shepherds; they, like Cervantes himself, are drawn toward the pastoral
mode, if never faithful to it. What is being born on the banks of the Tagus
in 1585 is the modern fictional character (that entity we so hope to find
in old books), the one whose life's story is that of the poetic ideal within,
coping with historical reality without.
In writing La Galatea, then, Cervantes relied upon his precursors to overcome them, in much the same fashion as he did with Don Quijote. The text, bulging at the seams as it does, has outgrown the glass slipper to make use of a structure more true to life. The fact that Cervantes repeatedly mentioned his desire to finish La Galatea is perhaps more significant than the likelihood that he never did. By not returning to Arcadia, Cervantes did not turn his back on those pastoral values. Instead, he integrated them into the world beyond the locus through the nature of his characters. What could be more significant than the conviction that the pastoral ethos, which exalts the striving human spirit and represents the assumption that things could be better than they are, does not exist in an isolated idyllic spot but resides within the human spirit itself?
By writing La Galatea, Cervantes discovered that representation of the life experience is not true without adequate consideration of the world we live in (emotions, philosophies, desires, illusions all the stuff of pastoral), as well as the world we live with, the one we can touch with our senses. His repeated mention of La Galatea and the pastoral episodes that appear in his later works imply recognition that while the values exalted by pastoral are indeed basic to the human condition, representing those values in an artificial environment is not. With Cervantes, Arcadia has become a means to an end, not an end in itself. By forcing pastoral spirituality out of Arcadia, he constructs a literature that is more true to the whole life experience than either Arcadia itself or the physical world unruffled by the fulfilled and frustrated strivings of the human spirit.
There is probably not a single central character in Cervantes'
works who does not carry the mark of Arcadia within his or her personality. They are a new breed of literary beings, possessing a spiritual side to their personalities as individual as their life experiences; they act on their desires in history rather than limit themselves to expressing those desires in a poetic context. La Galatea marks the gestation period of the fictional characters later born of Cervantes' genius. We read the text with our modern and rather unimaginative prejudice which assumes that literature is a carbon copy of life. Cervantes' pastoral romance forces us to witness the birth of that prejudice and, like most births, it is a painful process. Although it is true that La Galatea consists of a tension que no se resuelve y no tiene dirección,16 we might reconsider the criticism. After all, born of that tension are Cervantes' other works, and those of countless others, in which the extremes of La Galatea are tempered, but never resolved. For there is no resolution between the conflict of the spirit and the world, in life or in literature that faithfully represents it. La Galatea portrays the conflict. What follows, the compromise.
16 Dora Issacharoff, Imágenes manieristas en La Galatea de Cervantes, in Cervantes: su obra y su mundo (Actas del I Congreso Internacional sobre Cervantes [Madrid: EDI-6, 1981], p. 330). Critics typically point to this lack of resolution as the major fault of La Galatea: see Ruth El Saffar's essay La Galatea: The Integrity of the Unintegrated Text, also in Cervantes: su obra y su mundo, pp. 345-53. Undoubtedly the most appropriate critic to cite is the one who described La Galatea saying: Tiene algo de buena invención; propone algo, y no concluye nada (Don Quijote I, 75).
||Prepared with the help of Myrna Douglas||
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