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Rubén Darío |
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The life of Rubén Darío (1867-1916), the greatest poet of Spanish America and one of the supreme technicians in the language, reads as a tragicomedy. He was born Félix Rubén García Sarmiento in the Nicaraguan town of Metapa in 1867. now renamed in his honour. His parents separated when he was two, and as a child prodigy, Darío was brought up by an aunt in León, where hestarted contributing to local newspapers. In 1881 he moved to Managua, fell in love with the unfaithful Rosario Murillo, was spirited away to El Salvador (1882), returned to Nicaragua (1883) and then went to Chile (1886), where he published the first edition of Azul (1888). He returned to Nicaragua and El Salvador, married Rafaela Contreras in 1890, and took to drink (and a forced marriage withRosario) when Rafaela died in 1893. Thereafter, the pattern of his life was established: short-lived government positions in various Latin American administrations, a tangled love life, continual travel (many European countries and Morocco), incessant contributions to newspapers, many of which he founded, and increasing incapacity through drink. Miraculously, the gift largely survived. Prosas profanes yotras poemas appeared in 1896, Cantos de vida y esperanza in 1905, Poema del otono y otros poemas in 1910, and Canto a la Argentina y otros poemas in 1914. On a visit to Spain in 1899, Darío began a relationship with Francisca Sánchez, a simple country girl who bore him several children. But Rosario snatched him back, and Darío died of cirrhosis of the liver in his boyhood town of León, where heis buried in the cathedral. |
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| Darío's poetry |
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Darío was the leading exponent of modernismo, a fusion of the French Parnassian and Symbolist movements, which has no English equivalent. Modernismo began in Cuba (José Martí), Mexico (Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera) and Argentina (Olegario Andrade & Rafael Obligado)as a development from Romanticism. Originallyinfluenced by the Parnassians and Góngora, the movement aimed at verse of intricate and brilliant imagery, taking the visual arts as a model. Later, with Darío, the movement absorbed the musical evocation of the Symbolists, along with its preciosity, eroticism and exotic reference. Musicality of language and prosodic virtuosity are preeminent in Darío, whose poems in no less than 37 metres and 136stanza patterns did much to reinvigorate Spanish poetry. The vocabulary was equally diverse, and included borrowings from antiquity onwards and his own coinages. The usual symbols of a para-religious approach to poetry (taken from dreams, occultism and depth psychiatry) appear, but Darío had his own: centaur (human & bestial traits), forest (gradation from gross to ethereal) and the swan (purityand eroticism). Arcane concerns today, but a reminder of the many dimensions of poetry. |
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| Modernismo |
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Though older generations in Latin America have his poems by heart, Darío is hardly a potent influence on the current literary scene and is not as well known to English readers as Neruda or the pre-Revolution poets of Spain (which is why sofew links here are to English texts.) The usual political dimension of Latin American literature is missing. As an individual, Darío was as nationalistic as anyone, but he wrote a poesie pure that transcends national and social questions, often mundane realities altogether. His autobiographies (1912, 1913) are incomplete, and the few poems that seem autobiographical (Canción de otono en primavera,etc.) are only loosely modelled on personal experience. Darío's is a poetry made rather than expressed, one carefully constructed from the individual properties of words (literal meanings, rhythm, colour, everyday connotations, literary antecedents), and therefore somewhat artificial or declamatory by today's standards. Modernismo faded gradually from the Spanish American scene, in the works of...
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