Luis de Gongora, painted by Diego Velázquez in...

Luis de Gongora y Argote. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Onward, to España, where the Bullfights in Pretzels and Bullfights got its fame! This week, we’re examining a piece by one Luis de Góngora y Argote, a masterful lyric poet of the Spanish Baroque variety.

One of the most prominent Spanish poets of his time (late 1500s to early 1600s), Luis’s writings are characterized by what we now call today, Gongorism, in honor of the man. The style–also known as Culteranismo–is an ornamental one, utilizing vast vocabulary and a message often swimming in an ocean of metaphors and a complex syntactical order. It even had a counterpart, produced by one of Luis’s contemporaries–Francisco de Quevedo. Francisco’s style, Conceptismo, counteracted Culternaismo with a more witty style despite simple vocabulary, and attempted to put multiple meanings into as few words as possible.

Today’s piece, “Not All Sweet Nightingales,” offers a fine sampling of Luis’s style.

~Chris Galford

“NOT ALL SWEET NIGHTINGALES”

THEY are not all sweet nightingales

That fill with songs the flowery vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the winds in the smiling dells;

Magic bells of gold in the grove,

Forming a chorus for her I love.

Think not the voices in the air

Are from the wingéd Sirens fair,

Playing among the dewy trees

Chanting their morning mysteries;

Oh! if you listen, delighted there,

To their music scattered o’er the dales,

They are not all sweet nightingales

That fill with songs the flowery vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the winds in the smiling dells;

Magic bells of gold in the grove,

Forming a chorus for her I love.

Oh! ’twas a lovely song — of art

To charm — of nature to touch the heart;

Sure ’twas some shepherd’s pipe, which played

By passion fills the forest shade;

No! ’tis music’s diviner part

Which o’er the yielding spirit prevails.

They are not all sweet nightingales

That fill with songs the flowery vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the winds in the smiling dells;

Magic bells of gold in the grove,

Forming a chorus for her I love.

In the eye of love, which all things sees,

The fragrance-breathing jasmine trees–

And the golden flowers — and the sloping hill–

And the ever melancholy rill–

Are full of holiest sympathies,

And tell of love a thousand tales.

They are not all sweet nightingales,

That fill with songs the cheerful vales;

But they are little silver bells,

Touched by the wind in the smiling dells,

Bells of gold in the secret grove,

Making music for her I love.

Till I too shared thy heavenly rest.

~Written by Luis de Argote y Góngora,
Translated by John Bowring