Treb HW Winegar and Dr. Christopher Lund, Comparative Literature
The study of bilingual quotations, made possible by this grant, has led me into a number of fascinating, related sidetracks which have been very little studied, especially since the waning of the French school of literature compareè. I have taken the time to study some of these sidetracks since they are relevant to the phenomenon I proposed to study. Others I have been able only to marvel at and reserve for future study.
In studying Spanish quotations in Portuguese poems the whole issue of Portuguese bilingualism surfaced. This led me on a foray through the first Portuguese grammars and treatises defending the Portuguese language. The result was a tentative 20 page paper on the subject and an improved understanding of Hispano-Portuguese linguistic and literary relations from the 15th through the 17th centuries. It is always exciting, if somewhat exasperating, when the research of one topic opens up a whole new range of other unstudied topics.
I was greatly aided in the study of the bilingual quotation by Spanish critics like Fernando de Herrera and Juan de la Cueva who attacked its use in their own day. They provided fodder for the critical cannon of the erudite Manuel de Faria e Sousa. In his commentary on Luis de Camões lyrical works, Faria e Sousa uses one of Camões sonnets in which the last line is a verse from the Spanish poet, Juan Boscàn, as an opportune moment to refute Herrera’s criticism of Garcilasso de la Vega, who used as the last line of one of his sonnets, one of Petrarch’s verses. Luckily for this project, Faria e Sousa does not meet Herrera’s criticism with theoretical arguments, but with authoritative ones. He calls Herrera impertinent and lists two pages of similar quotations used by poets throughout history beginning with the Greeks and Romans and including Petrarch, Dante and a whole host of authoritative Spanish and Portuguese poets.
This list was a giant finding. Though I could find nothing in Faria’s or anyone else’s criticism that addressed why these quotations were employed, I at least had a list of them that I could track down and try to determine for myself why they were used. I had several hypotheses in mind before beginning my search, some of which were confirmed and some refuted. I decided that my method would be to find the poems containing the quotations and the ones from which the quotations were drawn and do close readings of both. I thought that perhaps I could then discover a pattern that would indicate the poetical function of such quotations. This was the longest portion of my research and the most unfruitful. I can understand why Faria e Sousa and nearly all the critics after him avoided the question, contenting themselves with noting quotations and their sources without explaining their usage and remarking only that it is justified by precedent. There seem to be as many different uses of the bilingual quotation as there were poets who employed it. However, I did find some clues that indicate that it was not to be used frivolously by just any poet in any place.
Though the answers I have sought are far from being resolved and the research far from being done, I will enumerate some of the major uses of the bilingual quotation that I encountered during this project. I began this project looking for Spanish quotations in Portuguese poems, but actually found many more Italian quotations in both Spanish and Portuguese poems, and more specifically, quotations from Petrarch. I guess I should have expected that. Petrarch is nearly always the dominant force in the Renaissance. However, there is some distinction in the way quotations were used which carry over into the quotations from other languages. I will list three here.
1) Direct Petrarchan imitation. The Portuguese poet, António Feffeira, provides a good example in his sonnet, Em duas partes deixei já partida. The sonnet is an imitation of Petrarch’s sonnet 139. It addresses the same theme in an original way, but signs off with a direct acknowledgment of debt to its ancestor. Feffeira ends his sonnet with the same final line as Petrarch’s sonnet. It almost seems to say, “This sonnet is a variation on a theme by Petrarch which can be found in his sonnet 139.”
2) Petrarchan variation. Garcilaso de la Vega’s criticized sonnet, Con ansia estrema de mirar que tiene, demonstrates this type of quotation. The poet develops and combines several different Petrarchan themes into the compact space of a sonnet. These themes are selected from Petrarch’s larger canzoni, rewoven into a new theme and tied together by a final line from Petrarch’s canzoni 23. The line is minutely altered (“non essermi” becomes “non esservi”) and that which was previously unrelated to the other themes becomes the means of uniting the others. It is interesting that Garcilaso’s contemporaries did not criticize him for using Petrarchan themes, but only for using an actual Petrarchan line in his poem. The implications of this should perhaps be explored in relation to the rest of Renaissance imitation theory.
3) Economy. Camões provides many examples of this type of quotation. He would take a well-known, aphoristic-like line from Petrarch and use it in the middle or at the end of one of his poems in order to compact a lot of meaning into a small space. For example, in a famous episode from the epic poem, Os Lusíadas, an ill-fortuned adventurer, trying to gain his way with a nymph he is pursuing, recounts to her all of his bad luck and failure to ever get what he wants. He quotes Petrarch to the nymph: “tra la spiga et la man qual muro è messo?” (between the grain and my hand what wall is set?) This is an aphoristic way of saying “Why can I never get what I want?”
There are numerous others from Faria e Sousa’s list which I cannot include here or which I have yet to find, but this grant has enabled the prosperous beginnings into the exploration of important poetic questions.
- Faria e Sousa, Manuel de. (1972). Rimas Várias de Luís de Camões. Vol. 1-2. facsimile ed. of 1685. Imprensa NacionalCasa da Moneda: Lisboa 100-102.
- Ferreira, António, Poemas Lusitanos.(1939) Livraria Sá da Costa Editora: Lisboa 86.
- Vega, Garcilaso de la. (1995). Obra Poétíca y Texto en Prosa. ed. Bienvenido Morros. Crítica-Barcelona: 41.
- Petrarch. Petrarch’s Lyric Poems: The Rime sparse and Other Lyrics. trans. and ed. Robert M. Durling. Harvard UP: Cambridge (1976) 135.