La Grandeza Mexicana de Bernardo de Balbuena

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Author: Balbuena, Bernardo de (c1561-1627), Van Horne, John (editor)

Year: 1930

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

Place: Urbana


176 pages with facsimiles, errata laid in. Small quarto (10 1/4" x 7") bound in original wrappers. University of Illinois Studies in Language and Literature, Volume XV, number 3.

Bernardo de Balbuena (c1561-1627) was a Spanish poet. He was the first of a long series of Latin American poets who extolled the special beauties of the New World. Born in Valdepenas, Spain around 1561, Balbuena came to the New World as a young adult and lived in Guadalajara, Jalisco and Mexico City, where he studied theology. In 1606 he returned to Spain and earned the degree of Doctor of Theology, and rose within the Church to become Abbot in Jamaica (1610) and one of the early Bishops of Puerto Rico (1620). Despite his priestly duties, he found time to write long and elegant verses which are excellent examples of the Baroque tendency to heavily load (and sometimes overload) poetry with highly detailed descriptions. Unfortunately, many of his manuscripts and his library were burned by Dutch pirates during a 1625 attack on Puerto Rico. He died two years later. Perhaps his best work is Grandeza mexicana (Mexico's Grandeur, published in 1604), in which he replies in elegant and lyrical verse to a nun who asked him for a description of the young Spanish city of Mexico. Balbuena takes advantage of this opportunity to present a detailed inventory of the complicated, luxurious and beautiful city as he knew it almost 100 years after the arrival of Hernan Cortes. The details he provides include physical geography, the climate, the surroundings, the architecture, the vegetation, the different human types, the animals, all in great detail. The poem is high-sounding, but at the same time simple; it is direct, but also contains complicated metaphors, word plays, majestic adjectives, and a rich catalog of the lexicon. Balbuena's works represent some of the best of the Baroque's love of color, detail, ornamentation and intellectual playfulness. It also stands as a monument to the pride in the New World that many transplanted Spaniards shared with the "criollo" (the Americans descended from Spanish or Portuguese families).


Wrapper edges chipped with some tears, tear along back hinge else a good copy.

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