From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 8.1 (1988): 23-38.
Copyright © 1988, The Cervantes Society of America


Propaganda and Poetics on Parnassus: Cervantes's Viaje del Parnaso


WITH REFERENCE TO their dominant aims, art and propaganda in their pure state are clearly distinguishable.1 The artist strives to give expression to his unique view of man, society, life and the universe; the propagandist attempts to persuade others to accept ideas or purposes that he may hold in common with many of like mind. The artist may feel unable to project his vision faithfully except by recourse to techniques that will alienate him from some, if not many, of his potential admirers. (The case of Góngora comes immediately to mind.) The propagandist is concerned above all to capture the goodwill and adherence of those to whom he addresses himself.
     Yet, despite such differences, the paths of the artist and the propagandist may converge, even merge, at times, as when the artist is anxious, for non-artistic reasons, to gain acceptance for beliefs or emotions that are intensely his.2

     1 A paper read at the Annual Meeting of the Asociación Canadiense de Hispanistas in Vancouver, B. C., on June 1, 1983, now presented in slightly revised form.
     2 I note that A. J. Close —“Don Quixote and the ‘Intentional Fallacy,’” British journal o/ Aesthetics, 12 (1972), 21— lists “making propaganda” as one of the “ends which works of art, considered as complete entities, may properly be said to promote.”



     We are here interested in the artist as writer, more particularly in an artist who shone supremely as novelist. One aim of the novelist is to induce in his readers the suspension of disbelief. But this is also the precise aim of the propagandist. It follows therefore that the novelist is unusually well qualified to play the role of propagandist, should he feel called upon to do so. This is particularly true of Cervantes, who was seized of the importance of the “reader's understanding” as a factor to be considered in the creation of his works.3 It is not surprising that he could achieve brilliant success as a propagandist; witness, for example, his prologues, where he brings the reader under the spell of his hypnotic word-mastery for purposes that would not be lost on the practitioners of Madison Avenue.
     Poetics makes statements about how literary works are or should be created, how artistry may be exercised in the field of literature. It is therefore of abiding interest to the artist as writer. Yet since the propagandist at certain levels and in certain circumstances may also be concerned with artistic techniques, he may also conceivably look to poetics for assistance.
     It is unlikely that Cervantes, as practising novelist and occasional propagandist, ever analyzed his two roles in such general and abstract terms. What is certain is that in Viaje del Parnaso he placed poetics in the service of propaganda in a manner both strikingly original and effective.
     Viaje del Parnaso was published in Madrid in 1614. The reasons for its composition may be referred to events that occurred some years earlier.4 In 1608, the Conde de Lemos had been named Viceroy of Naples, and his reputation as patron of men of letters had aroused, in many, hopes that they might be invited to accompany him to Italy. Among those who had harboured such expectations had been Cervantes and Góngora. But the Count's Secretary had died, and had been replaced by the accomplished poet Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola, who had been given full powers to select those who were to accompany the new Viceroy. Lupercio and his brother Bartolomé had then contrived to isolate the Count from those writers who

     3 “Hanse de casar las fábulas mentirosas con el entendimiento de los que las leyeren,” Don Quijote, I, 47 (ed. Riquer, Barcelona: Juventud, 1958), p. 482.
     4 What follows in this paragraph summarizes the account given by Rodríguez Marín in his edition of Viaje del Parnaso (Madrid: Bermejo, 1935), pp. ix-xii.

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might be considered possible rivals for the grandee's favors. Góngora was so distanced, and in a sonnet sarcastically remarked:

Como sobran tan doctos Hespañoles,
A ninguno offreci la Musa mia . . . 5

Cervantes, in Viaje del Parnaso, claims that the two brothers, on their departure for Italy, had made him many promises:

Mucho esperé, si mucho prometieron (III, 187).6

But the promises were never kept.
     The novelist must have been bitterly disappointed. In the first place, he had been denied association with his hoped-for patron. In the second place, he had had to relinquish his dreams of returning to the country and city —Italy and Naples— that still stirred in him nostalgic memories of an easy, exuberant, exciting life. Cervantes —it is not easy to say this, but the evidence is there— was not happy in Spain. “Mal español, pésimo español” Azorín has called him,7 and the facts support his contention: as soon as he had attained his majority he had been off to Italy; in 1575, he had embarked for Spain, but only to secure promotion in the army in Italy; he came home in 1580 —but in 1581 he was off again to Oran; in 1582, back in Madrid, he applied for employment in the New World;8 in 1590, he was still applying;9 even in his sixties he wished to go back to his beloved Italy, a wish that was denied him.
     Added to all this, as crowning mortification, was the knowledge that he had been humiliated in his literary career. Not only had he

     5 Obras poéticas de Luis de Góngora, ed. Foulché-Delbosc (N.Y.: Hispanic Society of America, 1921), II, 6.
     6 Quotations from Viaje del Parnaso are referred to the following edition: Viaje del Parnaso. Poesías completas, I. Ed. de Vicente Gaos (Madrid: Castalia, 1973). (References to “Capítulo” and line will be given in the text.) More recently published is the edition by Miguel Herrero García (Madrid: C.S.I.C., Instituto “Miguel de Cervantes,” 1983 [Clásicos Hispánicos, Serie IV, Vol. V]) with “Estudio preliminar” (including a bibliography of editions), over 600 pages of “Comentario” and a facsimile of the princeps edition containing the sonnet “El autor a su pluma.” This edition was revised and prepared for publication by Alberto Sánchez and José Carlos de Torres.
     7 “Cervantes” in Lecturas españolas (Madrid: Rafael Caro Raggio, 1920), p. 249.
     8 Agustín G. de Amezúa, “Una carta desconocida e inédita de Cervantes,” BRAE, XXXIV (1954), 217-23.
     9 James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Reseña documentada de su vida (Oxford: University Press, 1917), pp. 101-03.


been ignored by the Viceroy's Secretary, he had been ignored in favour of such wretched nonentities as Gabriel de Barrionuevo, Antonio de Laredo and Francisco de Ortigosa.10 (Besides the Argensolas, Mira de Amescua was the only person of literary talent to accompany Lemos.) Given what Américo Castro has called the novelist's “aspiración a ser persona importante y de primera línea,”11 the snub must have wounded him deeply.
     Undoubtedly he must repair his injured reputation in the world of letters —a world in which the figure of the Conde de Lemos would naturally loom large.
     But reputation as what? The new Viceroy was himself a poet (or at least versifier), and the friend and patron particularly of poets. It was as poet above all that Cervantes must impress him —and, in the process, others.
     It was in 1612 that Cristóbal de Mesa, a poet extravagantly praised in Viaje del Parnaso (III, 127-29), published a poem whose title would have attracted Cervantes's attention immediately: “Al Conde de Lemos yendo por Virrey a Nápoles.” In it the author complained to the Viceroy about the behaviour of those who “concealed the light of his bright sun” by denying entry to his palace, predicting that

De algunos españoles hazeys caso
Que en Italia vereys por experiencia
Que a la falda no llegan del Parnaso.12

In this poem we can see the beginnings of the process that was to lead to the creation of Viaje del Parnaso. Mesa had equated Lemos with the sun, that is, Apollo, and had consequently identified Naples, by implication, with Parnassus, home of the Apollinean deity. Here was the cue Cervantes needed, “ce point de départ,” as Paul Hazard puts it, “dont il a besoin, et qui lui suffit pour procéder à ses plus belles créations.”13 He, too, would write a poem to vindicate his achievements as a poet and to expunge the memory of the slur inflicted upon him. Now the tables would be turned. Since he had not been called to Naples, he would, in his poem, be called to Parnassus, by none other than Apollo, the very source of poetical inspiration, his services to poetry thereby being accorded the highest recognition; and since the

     10 Alfonso Pardo Manuel de Villena, El Conde de Lemos (Madrid: Jaime Ratés Martín, 1912), pp. 125-26.
     11 “La ejemplaridad de la novela cervantina,” in Semblanzas y estudios españoles (Princeton: University Press, 1956), p. 301.
     12 Rodríguez Marín, ed. cit., p. xi; Rimas de Cristóbal de Mesa (Madrid: Alonso Martín, 1611), f. 153. Significantly, Viaje del Parnaso was published by Martín's widow. The poet had been praised earlier in the “Canto de Calíope.”
     13 Don Quichotte de Cervantes, Etude et analyse (Paris: Mellottée, n.d.), p. 117.

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bad poets chosen by the Argensolas had been welcomed to the Viceregal palace, the bad poets in the poem would be hurled back from Parnassus in confusion. Thus would honour and justice be restored.
     From predecessors as diverse as Homer, Cesare Caporali and Juan de la Cueva Cervantes derived material for the amplification of his theme.14 But its thrust remained unchanged. His work would allow him to let the world know of his achievements in literature, including poetry; it would give him the opportunity for a fair trial in the court of the world of letters; and he was not so naive as to be unaware that his thinly-veiled self-justification would be warmly approved by others who had suffered at the hands of the Argensolas.
     Nor was this all. The tale of a journey to Parnassus could be made amusing: had he not already provoked hilarity by the description of another journey? Could not bad poetry —or bad poets— yield a vein of humour as rich as any in the novels of chivalry? Was not literary parody his forte, and was not mythological parody very much in fashion? His selection of good and bad poets would enable him to display his critical faculties and his remarkable knowledge of contemporary letters —excellent qualifications for one whose advice on literary matters might still be sought, or so he hoped, by an admiring patron.15 He had already had experience of this kind of thing in the composition of the “Canto de Calíope” in La Galatea; but there he had been at pains to offend no one (as befitted the apprentice writer); now that his reputation was at stake he would show no such delicacy. He

     14 For details see the following: J. M. Guardia, trans. and ed., Le voyage au Parnasse . . . (Paris: Gay, 1864), pp. CLXXI-CLXXIV; James Y. Gibson, trans. and ed., Journey to Parnassus (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1883), pp. xlvi-lii; José Toribio Medina, ed., Viaje del Parnaso, 2 vols. (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Universitaria, 1925), I, XIII-XXVIII; Francisco Rodríguez Marín, ed., Viaje del Parnaso (Madrid: Bermejo, 1935), pp. lxvii-lxxv; Benedetto Croce, “Il Caporali, il Cervantes a Giulio Cesare Cortese,” in “Due illustrazioni al Viaje del Parnaso del Cervantes” in Saggi sulla letteratura italiana del Seicento (Bari: Laterza, 1911), pp. 125-44; Ferdinando D. Maurino, “Cervantes, Cortese, Caporali and their Journeys to Parnassus,” MLQ, XIX (1958), 43-46; idem, “El Viaje de Cervantes y la Comedia de Dante,” KFLQ, III (1956), 7-12.
     15 His hopes of the Count's favours were apparently to be realised. In his dedication to Lemos in the Novelas ejemplares, dated July 14, 1613, Cervantes calls him “mi verdadero señor y bienhechor mío.”


could combine a “succès d'estime” with a “succès de scandale”; and if any of those attacked complained, he could —amusing thought!— refer them to Apollo!16
     Naturally he was not forgetting the rich dividends of good will that he could earn by his singling out of the good poets. It would be pleasant indeed to bestow praise on those whose talents he admired and whose friendship he esteemed. But also, of course, he would have the opportunity to include, among those lauded, potential candidates for the post of rich and generous patron of one Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra —nobles, that is to say, who were also poets, though not necessarily noble poets: the Conde de Salinas, the Príncipe de Esquilache, the Conde de Saldaña, the Conde de Villamediana and the Marqués de Alcañices. He would have their names inscribed in gold on Apollo's list, and show them as the god's boon companions.17 Surely this would elicit some response?
     And the Viceroy? Him he would show in all his glory, in the great tournament held to celebrate the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, surrounded by a glittering array of Spanish and Italian magnates, all duly extolled, for were they not also possible protectors of the poem's author?18 And would not this exaltation of the great Count be a source of intense gratification to him? Another thought: Cervantes could imagine himself magically transported from Parnassus to Naples,19 a suggestive linking of Apollo's home with the Viceregal city that would be highly complimentary to the Conde. The device would, furthermore, allow the writer to give expression to his deep longing to return to his beloved Parténope; the printed page could convey to the Viceroy this broadest of hints, without let or hindrance interposed by the jealous Argensolas. As coda to all this, he would add a letter addressed by Apollo to Cervantes, expressing the god's willingness to excuse the Spaniard's rudeness in forsaking Parnassus without leavetaking, on the understanding that it was due to his eagerness to see his Maecenas, “el gran Conde de Lemos,” in Naples.20 Would the Viceroy not be charmed by the implication that

     16 “—Así el discreto Apolo to dispuso, / a los dos respondí, y en este hecho / de ignorancia o malicia no me acuso—” (VIII, 451-53).
     17 11, 238-82; V, 313-21.
     18 The Conde de Villamediana, the Duque de la Nocara, the Conde de Lemos, Antonio de Mendoza, Troyano Caracciolo(VIII, 310-60).
     19 In imitation, no doubt, of Prose XII of Sannazaro's Arcadia.
     20 “Pero si se me da por disculpa que le llevó el deseo de ver a su mecenas el gran conde de Lemos en las fiestas famosas de Nápoles, yo la acepto, y le perdono” (Gaos ed., p. 186).

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even Apollo accepted that the Viceroy took precedence over the god of poetry himself?
     The prospects for such a work (a poem, naturally, demonstrating his poetical talents, and in tercets that could recall the account of another, Dantesque, journey) were unquestionably attractive. Yet doubts would linger. The intention of his fiction would be quite transparent. Since he was an aggrieved party, much that he might say in his own favour could be dismissed as biased and therefore suspect; his protestations could be rejected as the product of self-interest. When all was said and done, he, a writer whose poetical talents were in question, proposed to set himself up as an arbiter of poetical taste, as aide-de-camp to embattled Apollo. His problem —and a desperate one— was still how to establish convincingly his credentials for such a role.
     If the logic of the situation forced Cervantes to reason thus —and the evidence suggests that it did— then he was —once again!— anticipating the concerns and conclusions of modern literary theory. In the last decades much attention has been directed to the analysis of satire. One conclusion reached in this investigation, and one most relevant to our subject, is that satire can be effective only when the satirist has fully established his credibility; if he attacks vice, for example, he must be accepted by the reader as a person of excellent character, with what Mack calls “the unimpeachable integrity of the vir bonus”;21 this must be his public persona as satirist, a persona which he must create, if necessary, and maintain throughout his work, concealing his private personality insofar as this conflicts with his projected image. As Kernan puts it, “Every satirist is something of a Jekyll and Hyde; he has both a public and a private personality. The public personality is the one he exposes to the world, the face which he admits to and, indeed, insists on as a true image of his very nature.”22

     21 Maynard Mack, “The Muse of Satire,” Yale Review, 41 (1951-52), p. 91. This article has been reprinted in Studies in the Literature of the Augustan Age: Essays Collected in Honor of Arthur Ellicot Case (Ann Arbor: Augustan Reprint Society, 1952), (rpt. N.Y.: Gordian Press, 1966), pp. 218-31, and photo-copied in Bernhard Fabian, ed., Satura. Ein Kompendium moderner Studien zur Satire (Hildesheim / N.Y.: Georg Olms, 1975), pp. 95-107.
     22 Alvin Kernan, “A Theory of Satire,” in The Cankered Muse: Satire of the English Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 16. This essay has been reprinted in Perspectives in Poetry, ed. James L. Calderwood and Harold E. Toliver (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 209-23; in Satire: Essays in Criticism, ed. Ronald Paulson (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971); in Critics on Pope: Readings in Literary Criticism, ed. Judith O'Neill (London: Allen and Unwin, 1968), pp. 84-96; and photo-copied in the Fabian volume quoted in note 21, pp. 147-77.


Cervantes, now labouring to produce Part II of his great novel, in which he would, with subtle and complex manipulation, revolutionize the relationship between reality and fiction, was not one now to be satisfied with any transparent trick to re-establish his credibility. Instead he decided on a brilliant exercise of double bluff.
     In the foreground the author-narrator (who is clearly identified by Mercury as Cervantes23) would present his readers with the obvious fiction of his call to Parnassus as evidence of his poetical standing, knowing full well that they would reject this evidence out of hand. But while their attention was taken up by this palpable invention, he would, in the background, be quietly proceeding to the construction of a consistent image of himself as a poet of stature worthy of all respect, an image that would be projected into the unheeding minds of his audience and there unwittingly accepted. Cervantes thus emerges as the first known exponent in literature of the art of subliminal advertising. And it would be an impressive persona indeed that he would be so communicating, for he would be investing himself with all the borrowed authority of those tribunals of literature, the poetics.
     Evidence is accumulating that an important catalyst in Cervantes's later career was Luis Alfonso de Carvallo's treatise, Cisne de Apolo (1602). Weinrich and Riley had earlier established one specific parallel each between this work and, respectively, Don Quixote, II, 36, and “Adjunta al Parnaso,”24 but Díaz Solís has now noted additional parallels between it and “Coloquio de los perros,” Viaje del Parnaso and Don Quixote, Parts I and II (especially Chapters 15 to 19 of Part II).25 It is of course true that the influence of Carvallo's work in some areas merely reinforced that of other treatises that had attracted Cervantes's attention earlier —for example, El Pinciano's Filosofía antigua poética. But there can be no doubt that, as many parallels will demonstrate, it

     23   “desta manera comenzó a hablarme:
—¡Oh Adán de los poetas, oh Cervantes!”

(I, 201-02)

     24 Harald Weinrich, Das Ingenium Don Quijotes (Münster: Aschendorff, 1956), p. 117 (on Cide Hamete's Catholic oath —see note 32 below); E. C. Riley, Cervantes's Theory of the Novel (Oxford: Clarendon press, 1962), pp. 62-63; Teoría de la novela en Cervantes (Madrid: Taurus, 1966), pp. 107-08 (on the limits of plagiarism). Díaz-Solís (see next note) reprints all relevant texts, pp. 53-54.
     25 Ramón Díaz-Solís, Ejercicios de Quijote (Bogotá: Tercer Mundo, 1981), pp. 53-60.

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had a strong, direct impact on the composition of Viaje del Parnaso.26 Cervantes, indeed, makes virtually explicit acknowledgment of his indebtedness to the treatise. This work, according to its author, was designed to explain “la insignia poética” of a white swan on a painted shield, used by Alciato as one of his emblems.27 In Viaje del Parnaso Cervantes tells us that when the good poets group on Parnassus to resist the onslaught of the bad

Era la insinia un cisne hermoso y cano (VII, 40)

—a clear reference to Alciato's emblem and, by context, to Carvallo's work.
     Cisne de Apolo consists of conversations between Carvallo, La Lectura and Zoilo (who, in the name of the vulgo, attacks poetry, and suffers as butt for the other two). The two middle dialogues are concerned with technical questions of Spanish versification and poetical forms, and would in the circumstances have been of only limited interest to Cervantes; but the first and fourth, dealing respectively with the nature and matter of poetry, and with decorum in poetry and poetical inspiration, would have attracted his closest attention.
     He would soon have been cheered by Carvallo's early declaration that throughout history poets had been honoured by princes, kings and emperors (I, 55). This was indeed grist to his mill! That he marked the passage well is demonstrated by the fact that he placed the same dictum, only slightly modified, in the mouth of Don Quixote when conversing with the “Caballero del verde gabán.”28 Even better, Carvallo furnished a compelling reason for patronage: the universal poverty of poets. He explained that, since their minds were filled with higher matters, they scorned to occupy themselves with things as perishable as possessions and earthly dignities (II, 195-96). Cervantes embraced this helpful doctrine with enthusiasm. Twice he paraphrased Carvallo's words, once in prose, when he tells Pancracio (in the “Adjunta”) “como [los poetas] son de ingenio tan altaneros y remontados, antes atienden a las cosas del espíritu que a las del cuerpo,” and once in verse, with reference to the poet in general:

     26 Both the general pattern of Cervantes's statements and attitudes and textual details —of form and substance— assure us that it was Carvallo who decided Cervantes to adopt in Viaje del Parnaso the tone, emphasis or stance that he did. Most of the parallels to be adduced, it should be noted, are additional to those advanced by Díaz-Solís. That immediately following in the text is his (p. 57); there are three other coincidences.
     27 Carvallo, I, 26.
     28 Díaz-Solís, p. 56.


     Absorto en sus quimeras, y admirado
de sus mismas acciones, no procura
llegar a rico como a honroso estado (I, 97-99),

adding —and here was the nub of the matter—:

que yo soy un poeta desta hechura. (I, 102).

A few, apparently casual, strokes reinforce this statement: his home is his “humilde choza” (I, 115), his “antigua y lóbrega posada” (VIII, 455); Mercury is taken aback by the state of his dress and luggage, forcing the author to explain: “como pobre, / con este aliño mi jornada sigo” (I, 206-07); he is scandalized at the postage he is expected to pay on Apollo's letter (“Adjunta”); and, in a famous passage, he confesses to Apollo that he has no cloak (availing himself here of a well-worn theme of contemporary literature).29 These recurrent hints of his poverty can clearly be put down to the hope that some generous reader of Viaje del Parnaso will fulfil the wish expressed by Mercury:

¡toda abundancia y todo honor te sobre! (I, 210)

     But patrons, though they may be moved by need, are primarily concerned to recognise merit. The make-believe recognition to be accorded Cervantes by Mercury and Apollo would be no substitute for the real thing; indeed, it would by its very presence force him to search even more zealously for reasons to justify his self-exaltation.
     By a happy circumstance, Carvallo again provided him with a strong lead. The core of Cisne de Apolo was its author's lofty conception of the nature of poetry. His vision of it as comprising “todas las facultades, artes y sciencias” (I, 130) was, of course, nothing new, but he cherished it with fervour and reverence. His enthusiasm communicated itself to Cervantes, who developed in eloquent fashion the conception of poetry as a beautiful damsel attended by the handmaidens of the arts and sciences.30 We encounter this image in Don

     29 The “basic” anecdote tells how a Venetian ambassador, denied a chair at an audience, sits on his cloak, which he forsakes on leaving, saying it is not his custom to carry his chair with him. Versions of the story are found in Timoneda's Sobremesa y alivio de caminantes, Sancta Cruz's Floresta de apothegmas, Lope de Vega's El honrado hermano, Pinedo's Liber facetiarum and Calderón's Judas Macabeo. The tale goes back to Livy. See A. L. Stiefel, “Zu Lope de Vegas ‘El Honrado Hermano,’” ZRPH, XXIX (1905), 333-36; M. A. Buchanan, “Notes on the Spanish Drama . . . ,” MLN, XXII (1907), 215-18; G. T. Northup, “The Cloak Episode in Spanish,” MLN, XXIII (1908), 72. Leite de Vasconcellos —ZRPH, XXX (1905), 332-33)— provides a modern Portuguese variant.
     30 Cervantes did not inherit this image directly from Carvallo, who was throughout concerned to present the poet as “cisne de Apolo.” El Pinciano had, [p. 33] in passing, referred to poetry as “esta dama” and “esta señora,” “que de todos sea vista ornada y atauiada con los vocablos peregrinos, figuras y schemas” (Philosophia antigua poetica, ed. Alfredo Carballo Picazo —Madrid: C.S.I.C., Instituto “Miguel de Cervantes,” 1953— II, 164), but Cervantes's late elaboration of the figure of Poetry as “bella / ninfa” (IV, 45-46) seems to have been inspired by Carvallo's “vella Nimpha tan hermosa / que si loalla quiero, es agrauialla . . .” (I, 38), who transports the author in a dream to “la sublime cumbre del Parnasso” (I, 40). She is “La Lectura,” who can, in this context, be easily taken to represent Poetry itself.

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Quixote's famous speech in the house of Diego de Miranda, and in the page's description in “La gitanilla,” but it achieves special prominence in Viaje del Parnaso. There “la santa y hermosísima doncella” (IV, 143) appears, attended by “ninfas” who turn out to be the liberal arts and the sciences, and who all “le [guardan] santísimo respecto” (IV, 118-23). This is “la divina poesía” (VIII, 53), described with an abundance of epithets that would have delighted Herrera: “grave,” “discreta,” “elegante,” “alta,” “sincera” (IV, 161-62), the incomparable science, universal in its scope (IV, 250-52). In all this Cervantes is merely echoing Carvallo, who considers the gift of poetry divine, “don de Dios,” and invokes the authority of Cicero for calling poets “santos” (II, 201); and if Carvallo insists that “la sancta Poesía” (I, 129) is a worthy vehicle for sacred themes —witness the prophet David (I, 123)31— Cervantes does likewise:

¿Carece el cielo de poetas santos . . . ? (III, 214)
     ¿No se oyen sacros himnos en el cielo?
¿La arpa de David allá no suena . . . ? (III, 217-18)32

     There can be no doubt that Cervantes was sincere in his exaltation of poetry, patterned though it was after Carvallo's. But, “Yo socarrón; yo poetón ya viejo” (VIII, 409), he must have been slyly aware that this openly demonstrated reverence for “true” poetry

     31 “. . . la verdadera sancta y honesta poesia, que . . . trata de cosas diuinas y licitas, que . . . el sancto Espiritu ha querido por boca de los sanctos Padres Patriarchas, y Prophetas, vsar dellas, y ansi aduel diuino cantor suyo y Real Propheta Dauid . . .”
     32 The speaker is Mercury. Just as here this pagan god refers to sacred hymns and David's harp, so elsewhere he utters Christian oaths: “Por Dios” (III, 255) or “voto a Dios” (III, 195), alternating with such an exclamation as “¡Por el solio de Apolo soberano / juro!” (III, 202-03). Cervantes is employing he amusing trick that he also plays in Don Quixote, when he makes the Moor, Cide Hamete, exclaim: “Juro como católico cristiano” (II, 27), taking his cue from Carvallo: “gran indecoro seria si el Moro jurase por Christo” (II, 122). See note 24 above.


(Cervantes: IV, 160; Carvallo: I, 122) would do no harm at all to the image of estimable poet that he sought to project; nor would this ennoblement of the art come amiss to his hoped-for patron, the Conde de Lemos, poet and patron of poets, to whom Cervantes was obliquely offering a most engaging compliment.
     Carvallo's divided views on the issue of the relative importance and influence of art and nature in the making of the poet make his treatment of the subject (II, 184-202) thoroughly confused. It is therefore instructive to see how Cervantes selects from the theorist's exposition two opposing sets of opinions to suit two different purposes. (Verbal similarities assure us once again that Carvallo was his source in the two contexts.) Don Quixote follows one line of argument when he assures Diego de Miranda: “El poeta nace . . . y . . . sin más estudio ni artificio, compone cosas, que hace verdadero al que dijo: est Deus in nobis . . . , etcétera” (II, 16).33 But, in Viaje del Parnaso, Cervantes adopts the divergent view, also advanced in Cisne de Apolo in these words: “la obra que naturalmente se haze sin arte, si acierta a ser buena, es pocas vezes” (II, 187), or in Cicero's quoted phrase: “Ars dux certior quam natura” (II, 189). In his poem Cervantes becomes the champion of study and experience; but he does so indirectly, by branding as bad poets those who will not apply themselves to mastering the science of sciences, those whom he labels “el escuadrón vulgar . . . / de más de veinte mil sietemesinos / poetas, que de serlo están en duda” (I, 226-28) —those born prematurely to art.34 The bad poets are those who are content in their ignorance: “la canalla de vergüenza poca, / La cual, de error armada y de arrogancia, / quiere canonizar y dar renombre / inmortal y divino a la ignorancia” (IV, 453-56); elsewhere he refers to them as “en su ignorancia siempre estables” (V, 153).
     Obviously a man who had proclaimed such a high conception of poetry could not be seen as condoning any light-hearted approach to the practice of it. But there was more, much more, to it than that. When Cervantes wrote Viaje del Parnaso he was in his sixties; he had begun publishing verse in his early twenties, and may have first tried

     33 Carvallo (II, 199) quotes the Ovidian line, and translates it. The parallel is drawn by Díaz-Solís, p. 57.
     34 The epithet “sietemesinos” is a brilliant example of Cervantine ambiguity. Apollo himself was, according to classical mythology, a seven-month baby (see Robert Graves, The Greek Myths—Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955—I, 76), so the word can mean “Apollinean” or “premature.” Another defence prepared by Cervantes against readers who might be angered by his attacks on those he considered bad poets?

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his hand at writing it much earlier. (He tells Apollo that “Desde mis tiernos años amé el arte / dulce de la agradable poesía” (IV, 31-32), a claim that might appear to be an empty mimicking of Carvallo's dictum that “este exercicio de la poesia es menester començallo muy temprano, y de tierna edad” (II, 227), had not Cervantes already, in the Prologue to La Galatea, alluded to “la inclinación que a la poesía siempre he tenido.”)35 He was in any case fortified by over forty years of study and practice of his craft, and he did not wish his readers to forget that fact. This consideration explains the recurring references to his age throughout the poem: “cisne en las canas” (I, 103); “Oh Adán de los poetas, oh Cervantes!” (I, 202) —this recalls an exchange in Carvallo: “Zoylo: tienes talle de hazer Poeta a nuestro primero padre Adam. Lect.: Y no mentiría en ello, pues es cierto que tuuo esta arte infusa” (I, 156); “mi antigua boca” (II, 1); “yo, poetón ya viejo” (VIII, 409).
     Cervantes's emphasis on his great experience, accumulated during a career stretching from his early years to his white-haired maturity, was his trump card. This above all should gain him respect and recognition. The world had Carvallo's word for it: “el Poeta, quando mas viejo, haze mas perfectas sus obras, por auer tenido ya mucho curso y experiencia, y auerlo exercitado mucho tiempo, y auer trabajado en este arte muchos días” (II, 226). Here surely was the guarantee of his poetical authority and credibility.
     That Cervantes should wish to parade his age and experience is fully understandable. But why also parade his decrepitude? One may pause perplexed when a character addresses Cervantes as “semidifunto” (VIII, 285), or insults him with the words “Que caducáis sin duda alguna creo” (VIII, 442). Yet even in such contexts the author is being perfectly consequential. Carvallo had made play with the theme of the swan song, saying, for example, of the “cisne de Apolo:” “Y en su vejez, y quanto mas cercano a la muerte, canta con mas dulçura” (I, 63-64). This vein also Cervantes decided to exploit, manipulating even the approach of his own death to suit the needs of propaganda. The last words of the fourth “Capítulo” of the poem give clear indication of his train of thought and intention: “espero / cantar con voz tan entonada y viva, / que piensen que soy cisne y que me muero” (IV, 563-65).
     In speaking of his own achievements, Cervantes was under a severe constraint. He was attacking (in passages already quoted) the poetasters as vain, shameless and arrogant, and he had to make

     35 La Galatea, ed. J. B. Avalle-Arce (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1961), p. 6.


certain that he did not lay himself open to the same charge, especially in view of his satirical portrait (in “Capítulo” VI) of “la altiva Vanagloria,” attended by “la Adulación” and “la Mentira.”
     He extricated himself ingeniously from this predicament. He allows Mercury to praise him in the most extravagant terms, that even the most vain, shameless and arrogant poet might hesitate to apply to himself: “¡oh sobrehumano y sobre / espíritu cilenio levantado!” (I, 208-09), or “sé que aquel instinto sobrehumano / que de raro inventor tu pecho encierra / no te le ha dado el padre Apolo en vano” (I, 217-19). (The stress here on his powers of invention will be better appreciated if we realise that Carvallo had termed “la invención” “la primera parte de la Poesía” [I, 65]).
     Mercury's hyperbolic praise serves to throw into relief the modesty with which Cervantes deliberately speaks of himself: “cisne en las canas, y en la voz un ronco / y negro cuervo” (I, 103-04); he refers to his “versos desmayados” (VI, 93) and “la pluma humilde mía” (IV, 34); when denied a seat on Parnassus, his indignation does provoke him to speak up, but even then in judiciously restrained terms that are in marked contrast to Mercury's encomia: his play La Confusa is “nada fea” (IV, 16); he has written plays “con estilo en parte razonable” (IV, 19); as for his powers of invention, “Yo soy aquel que en la invención excede / a muchos” (IV, 2829); among his many ballads, “el de Los celos es aquel que estimo, / entre muchos que los tengo por malditos” (IV, 41-42); and the praise embodied in such references as “la hermosa Galatea” (IV, 14) or “al gran Pirsiles [sic]” (IV, 47) is far less fulsome than that lavished on the writings of others.
     This modest tone is used with devastating effect in an ironic passage that, when quoted in truncated form, can lead to misinterpretation.36 It begins: “Yo, que siempre trabajo y me desvelo / por parecer que tengo de poeta / la gracia que no quiso darme el cielo . . . “ (I, 25-27), and goes on to express Cervantes's wish that he might be transported instantly to the waters of Aganippe (reputed to inspire the poets), “y quedar del licor süave y rico / el pancho lleno, y ser de allí adelante / poeta ilustre, o al menos magnifico” (I, 34-36). He is making fun of the self-satisfied poetasters who count on instant success and fame. Good poets, in any case, don't rhyme “rico”

     36 As, for example, by Cernuda: “El propio Cervantes parece desengañado de tal capacidad escribiendo como escribe . . . : ‘Yo, que siempre trabajo y me desvelo / por parecer que tengo de poeta / la gracia que no quiso darme el cielo.’” (Poesía y literatura, II —Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1964— p. 64). The irony of the passage was noted by José Manuel Blecua (pseud. Claube), Homenaje a Cervantes (Madrid: Insula, n.d. [1948?]), pp. 152-53.

8 (1988) Cervantes's Viaje del Parnaso 37

with “magnifico,”37 nor do they expect to be able to fill their bellies.
     Given both writers' lofty conception of poetry, it is not surprising that both insist on the need for a moral basis to the art. Carvallo devotes a whole section to “la honestidad que deue tener el Poeta, significada la blancura del cisne” (II, 222-25), being echoed by Cervantes, who links “lo honesto” with “lo provechoso” and “lo deleitable” as one of the three essential qualities of poetry (IV, 208-09). Both express the commonplace view that poetry should be an instrument for the exaltation of virtue and the censure of vice, but with similarities of phrasing: “el Poeta con sus obras haze que el bueno sea alabado, y el malo vituperado,” asserts Carvallo (II, 230), echoed by Cervantes's “Alábanse los buenos, y se ofenden / los malos con su voz” (IV, 214-15). There are so many poets who do not share this view, says Carvallo, that it is a pity that they are allowed among Christians: “es gran lastima se consientan y permitan entre Christianos” (II, 224). The perspective is exactly that of Cervantes, who portrays Apollo struggling with “Catholic” forces (more of this later) to drive the bad poets from Parnassus.
     The writers' common ethical stance explains their common rejection of “satire,” that is, slander, invective, character-destruction.38 Carvallo deplores such practices, asserting that the aim of satire should be to attack “los vicios y viciosos en general,” as do “los pedricadores” (II, 61), while Cervantes exclaims: “Nunca voló la pluma humilde mía / por la región satírica, bajeza / que a infames premios y desgracias guía” (IV, 34-36). Satires form a part of the arsenal of the bad poets attacking Parnassus, and they are characterized as “infame” (VII, 165), “licenciosa” (VII, 188) or “de estilo . . . no muy sano” (VII, 189). Cervantes reviles Apollo's enemies in general, but attacks individuals only in respect of their writings. Once again he adheres to the Carvallo code.
     The strong ethical component in Cervantes's conception of poetry is consonant with his vision of her as “la divina Poesía” (VIII, 53). And indeed, what lingers on in the mind of the reader, once the poem is ended, is the persistent moral tone that informs it throughout. In Viaje del Parnaso Cervantes gives lessons in human conduct; he

     37 Herrero García, in his edition (pp. 348-50), quotes examples to show that “la acentuación grave” was a licence favoured by poets of the Romancero, and sometimes used by others. The use of “magnifico” elsewhere is not instanced.
     38 “Satyra se llama la compostura, en que se reprehende o vitupera algun vicioso o algun vicio. Pero ya esta recibida por murmuracion apodo, o matraca, y por fisgar por la malicia de los que en nuestros tiempos vsan mal dellas” (II. 62).


upholds modesty, honesty, frankness; praises “La Prudencia, que nace de los años / y tiene por maestra la Experiencia” (VII, 124-25), and attacks hypocrisy, adulation, vainglory, fraud, untruth and “La Envidia, monstruo de naturaleza, / maldita y carcomida, ardiendo en saña” (VIII, 94-95), his words reminding us repeatedly of Carvallo's lines: “Al Poeta en ser blanco el Cisne enseña, / honestidad, virtud, bondad, limpieza” (II, 225).
     Nor is this all. We recall that in Cervantes's later years his piety was intensified, and that in 1613 he took the habit of the Franciscan Tertiaries. This being so, he must have read with special care and attention such sections of Carvallo's treatise as that entitled “Como se entiende ser los Poetas Christianos, consagrados a Phebo” (I, 143-49). Here we find a reference to “nuestro diuino Apolo Christo” (I, 144); poetry, which encompasses all the disciplines, is identified with “la diuina Sabiduria del Padre eterno” (I, 145), and, in the octave concluding the section, Carvallo writes: “Aunque se dize a Phebo dedicado, / ser el Poeta verdaderamente, / deue ser a Christo consagrado, / Sol de justicia, claro y refulgente . . . (I, 148-49). The good poet, dedicated to Apollo, is likewise dedicated to Almighty God.
     Cervantes would have pondered Carvallo's words and have applied them. So, in the poem, the battle between the good and bad poets is presented in terms reminiscent of epic poems describing the clash between Christians and pagans. The defenders of Parnassus are “el bando católico” (VII, 22), “el católico bando” (VII, 98), “el escuadrón católico” (VII, 134) or “el escuadrón cristiano” (VII, 185); their foes are “falsos y malditos” (VII, 139) or “la bárbara, ciega y pobre gente” (VI, 303). The parody is obvious. But, in the light of Carvallo's statements, and knowing as we now do the strength of Cervantes's allegiance to the theorist of Cisne de Apolo, we begin to descry a deeper significance. As with Don Quijote, so with Viaje del Parnaso: as we advance in the narrative, so do new perspectives and horizons open up for us. In the narrowest view, the poem is an attempt by Cervantes to vindicate his name and, conjointly, to find a patron. More broadly, it is the exaltation of the beauty and nobility of poetry. More broadly still, it offers instruction in a code of human behaviour; and, in final, universal perspective, it is seen, not as comic narrative or literary satire, but as an account of the battle between the forces of good and evil, under the dispensation of a providential deity, as an instrument for the dissemination of the highest Christian values. That too was a form of propaganda: de propaganda fide.


Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes