Inheriting Antiquity: Giambattista Marino’s “Rime Boscherecce”, Luis de Góngora’s “La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea” and the Baroque Literary Aesthetic

David Sharp
CUNY Graduate Center
Luis de Góngora’s poem La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea is a quintessential example of the Baroque literary aesthetic as practiced in seventeenth century Spain. It is assuredly erudite, continually employing language and tropes in complex and unexpected manners and combinations, and displays Góngora’s masterful ability to innovatively forge a new poetic mode for his epoch. Indeed, Góngora’s La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea is refreshing and different, though its originality does not derive from its subject matter. Like many of the greatest literary masterpieces from the Renaissance onward, the work employs classical mythology and engages with literary works from antiquity. The myth of the Cyclops has such roots, for Polyphemus first appears thousands of years prior to Góngora’s poem as a malevolent antagonist within Homer’s Odyssey. Polyphemus again appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, thus conveying the Hellenic myth into the Latin mythological tradition as well. In the tale of Acis and Galatea, however, Polyphemus is no longer a mere brute, but has instead become a lovelorn shepherd whose “wild urge to kill, his fierceness and his lust for blood [has] ceased” (Ovid 318). The perennially evolving myth itself becomes a literary topos, and by Góngora’s own age it has already been the subject of numerous renditions and articulations.

By the time Góngora’s version of the myth begins to circulate in 1613 throughout Spain (Brenan 224), there have already been abundant antecedents, including not only Homer and Ovid’s sagas, but also Virgil and Theocritus’ versions of the legend. Yet between the classical precursors and Góngora’s saga, the myth also had been recovered and explored in Europe, and the evolutions that it underwent particularly in Italy may well have left indelible imprints on Góngora’s own engagement with the fable. Indeed, while applying the rhetorically-based principles of imitatio and aemulatio from classical poetics, in which clearly acknowledged, exemplary models are reconsidered, adapted, and surpassed (Langbaine), Góngora likely considered both classical as well as more recent renditions of the myth, and incorporated elements from both in order to create his own particular version.

The Neapolitan poet Giambattista Marino’s Rime Boscherecce is one such rendering of the myth of Polyphemus and Galatea that may have informed Góngora’s own portrayal. It is quite probable that Luis de Góngora would have had access to and familiarity with Marino’s works, as Giambattista Marino was extremely influential both in Italy and throughout Europe during the seventeenth century. Born in Naples in 1569 (Mirollo 5), Marino was a significant contributor to the respected Italian literary tradition that emerged during his own era. His contemporaries Torquato Tasso and Battista Guarini created the pastoral drama (Mirollo 5), and during this same era, the author Jacopo Sannazaro wrote his influential pastoral work Arcadia in Naples (Mirollo 5). Additionally Luigi Tansillo, one of the most active Pertrachan poets ever, lived and composed his poems in Naples (Mirollo 5). Amidst these literary innovations, it is quite significant that Marino labored to diverge from them and to mold his own unique literary standards and style, as he was clearly aware of the literary traditions and conventions of his day.

Marino’s own literary style and contribution is most noteworthy. Aiming primarily to entertain himself and to surprise his refined patrons with his writings, Marino purposefully employed many of the literary and scholarly conventions he inherited al rovescio.1 That is to say, Marino consequently appropriated the trend of Petrarchism still popular during his own age, and overturned it by using its features in unexpected and radical ways (Mirollo 19). Marino thus reconsidered and expanded the conventional poetic notions of love, often concentrating on the sensual and corporeal aspects, while extolling examples of women normally not considered worthy of accolade or attention within the Petrarchan tradition.2

By foregoing the traditional poetic rules and expectations, Marino expanded the scope of material fit for presentation within poems and literature in general. InRime Boscherecce, composed in 1602, Marino thus elected to create a literary composition that moved beyond the mere theme of love, but also investigated other motifs, including the pastoral and the piscatorial, while incorporating ancient lore in new ways.3 Marino, however, did not merely seek to break with tradition on a thematic level, but on a linguistic plane as well.4 His poetry greatly expands upon traditional notions of language and its limits; he uses refined Latinisms and conflates archaic language with popular language. As a way to display his own wit or argutezza, he created complex and ingenious metaphors and conceits in rather unprecedented combinations. Furthermore, he capitalized on his ability to astound the reader by using word play, inverted syntax and hyperbole. Indeed, the very elements he used to react against the classical, academic tradition become the basis of his own style within his own sonnets and madrigals, and further inspired the important literary movement of “Marinism” practiced by other Italian poets in the seventeenth century.5

Marino’s style was highly influential within the Italian peninsula and upon other seventeenth century Italian writers, and it appears that Marino’s aesthetic experienced a sort of contemporaneous polygenesis throughout other areas of Europe. Clearly, Góngora’s own refined style and diction, deemed culteranismo(Brenan 199), displays many of these same characteristics, as did the preciosité movement in France (Mirollo 106). This is, however, likely evidence of an enthusiastic intellectual exchange and familiarity with the greatest literary figures and texts throughout Europe during the age, particularly between Spain and Italy. Certainly Marino’s native city of Naples was the political and literary capital of southern Italy during an era in which the city was itself under Spanish domination (Mirollo 5). Naples itself was a “bicultural and bilingual city” during the era (Mirollo 7). Thus, it is not unreasonable to suggest that a vigorous exchange of ideas between scholars, philosophers and writers occurred during the time; more cogently, the education system would have reflected this very dialog. This naturally would have greatly influenced the production of literary texts during the age in both places, and suggests reasons for concomitant stylistic trends in different places.

The question still remains as to whether or not Luis de Góngora actually knew Marino’s Rime Boscherecce (Mirollo 19) when he composed La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea almost a decade afterwards. Certainly, it is difficult to provide an unequivocal answer, a simple and convenient affirmative, though there are ample reasons to infer that Góngora would have been versed in Marino’s text. Primarily, the probable cultural and intellectual exchange suggests that published works could circulate freely between various areas of the continent, and particularly between two areas so politically interlaced. There is no doubt that Luis de Góngora was extremely educated and could read Italian (Brenan 222). The question of access to such a work becomes virtually resolved when one considers Góngora’s means, and considering that his own father had once possessed one of the largest libraries in the city of Córdoba (Brenan 222).

The content and form of Marino’s Rime Boscherecce must also be considered when determining whether or not such a work could have influenced Góngora, as a work of little interest or relevance would not have been influential on other artistic production. The very word Boscherecce itself belies the sylvan setting and motif of Marino’s work, and also connects it to a longstanding and important literary genre of the pastoral, one whose reverberations were felt throughout Europe during the Renaissance and afterwards. Indeed, the pastoral tradition and the notion of the Golden Age initiated in antiquity by the Eclogues of Virgil and Ovid’s Metamorphoseswere recuperated as a literary topos in sixteenth century Italy. Yet, as Aurora Egido describes in her work Silva de Andalucía: Estudios sobre poesía barroca, the pastoral motif adopted many different forms and circulated widely, and seems to have arrived to Spain during its own “Golden Age” by way of these Italian intermediaries and forms. Thus the silva, replete with its pastoral themes, its bucolic, love-afflicted personages and the omnipresent turtledoves, as well as its variant metrical forms, owes much to its Italian precursors. Indeed, Egido argues that the genre of the silva practiced in Spain, a form not only recognized but rather paradigmatically reshaped by Góngora through his Soledades, may likely have been an extension and adaptation of the Italian poetic form of the madrigal (Egido 30). Egido’s study lends compelling evidence when attempting to establish a connection between the literary forms of production in both seventeenth century Italy and Spain, and certainly suggests that the Spanish writers apprehended the bucolic tradition after the Italians, and assuredly through them.

Indeed, at the heart of the Rime Boscherecce is this very notion of the Sicilian shepherd living amidst his flocks, a veritable locus amoenus teeming with nature’s bounty, virtually untouched by the troubles of mankind. In this environment, the beauty of the water, the sun, the land and nature are united, and the shepherd’s sensitive nature is demonstrated in his love for music and appreciation of the naiad’s perfect beauty. The environment harkens back to the purported “Golden Age” of mankind, when life was safer, easier –in a word, better – than any subsequent present. Yet, in keeping with the late Renaissance tradition of the genre, the sentient and reflective shepherd does have one affliction: the unrequited love he feels for the nymph Galatea that ultimately renders his otherwise utopian environment as a personal, inescapable hell. It is in this sylvestral setting that Polyphemus, virtually uninvolved in the arduous labors of a shepherd and instead absorbed by his passions, laments his pain and affliction.

It is, however, important to note that within Marino’s Rime Boscherecce, the pastoral tradition is quite altered, even distorted, and thereby acquires unique dimensions. In “Góngora, Quevedo y los clásicos antiguos,” Lía Schwartz asserts “…every historical era forges a particular reconstruction of classical culture according to the data available and according to the available hermeneutic and ideological principles” (Schwartz 12, my translation). Though to a certain degree faithful to Ovid’s Polyphemus, a shepherd who plays music and loves a nymph rather than wantonly destroys life, Marino’s Cyclops is often a product of his own imagination. He is more hideous, more monstrous and concurrently more human and more civilized than his predecessors. He retains his mythological size and profession, but his interiority is greatly changed, and Polyphemus himself underscores this extreme opposition between his appearance and nature. Speaking in cultivated, beautiful and complex language, the Cyclops’ complaint is artistically conveyed through a series of interconnected sonnets, the standard and traditional poetic form reserved for poems of love. Polyphemus displays an unlikely and refined poetic and aesthetic sensibility that expresses his profound appreciation for the beautiful, and an overwhelming desire to love and be loved in return. His eloquence is entirely exaggerated, particularly for a shepherd. Though this is characteristic of many pastoral poems, the overstated eloquence is even more extreme and noteworthy considering that this is not even a human subject; instead, the lovelorn shepherd is a monster, a giant, and brutally unattractive.

This hyperbolic deformity is a wonderful Baroque feature in itself, but the tension between this grotesque and rough exterior with an inherently gentle and kind soul creates an even more appreciable dialectic, a true opposition that demonstrates the Baroque magnification of the creature’s binary nature. Perhaps the most interesting dimension of this duality is that Marino’s Polyphemus is shockingly aware of the extreme incompatibility between his features and his feelings. He perpetually calls both Galatea and the reader’s attention to this as a testament to the injustice of nature; ultimately the intrinsic goodness and decency he wishes to share meets with intolerance, scorn and derision due to a physicality that he cannot alter or avoid. Likewise, the beautiful nymph he loves is too unfeeling and callous to even attempt to examine beneath the superficial veneer of her suitor. Polyphemus’ lament somehow insists that the reader, too, reflects on the true nature of the beautiful, and where it may truly reside.

Marino’s Rime Boscherecce develops the legend of Polyphemus and Galatea by employing those elements of the classical myth that most appealed to him. Naturally, the particulars that Marino includes differ from his sources, as he selected those which were conducive to the aesthetic he himself advocated. Likewise, subsequent conveyors of the myth, like Luis de Góngora himself, would embellish the tale according to a particular taste or aesthetic convention. This assuredly would account for some of the rather significant differences in form, length and scope between Góngora’s La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea and Marino’s. Marino’s Rime Boscherecce presents the myth in five distinct segments: Polyphemus’ desire to meet and court Galatea; his complaint and dissatisfaction with his life; provocation and amorous banter in an attempt to again woo her; affliction and jealousy due to his rejection and the discovery of the intrigue between Acis and Galatea; and the desperation that fuels Polyphemus’ fury and subsequent murder of his competitor Acis when he discovers the couple entwined (Hauser-Jakubowicz 167). The five segments constitute Polyphemus’ song, or canto, and frequently diverge from the Ovidian source which inspired it.

The convergence between Marino and Góngora’s poems is most evident in this particular component, for it is in the Cyclops’ song that some of the most obvious parallels are visible. In both poems, the canto is considerably longer than that of Ovid’s, though Marino’s canto is nonetheless much longer than Góngora’s. Whereas it constitutes 191 verses of the work, it occupies only a mere 104 in Góngora’s. According to Dámaso Alonso in his Góngora y el “Polifemo,” this same element ultimately accounts for 57 percent of Marino’s poem but only twenty percent of Góngora’s. This variation may perhaps be a function of a different ideological and aesthetic context that each poet wished to emphasize. The narrator’s voice is less prominent than that of the Cyclops protagonist in Marino’s poem; ultimately, this serves to deliver the sensitive, artistic nature of the monster in his purported own words. In Góngora’s, however, the voice of the narrator is frequently more prominent than the protagonist himself, and the actual narrative stance is reminiscent of the silva with its third person narrative of a voyage or dream (Rivers 91-106), a seeming precursor to his Soledades.

Though both works have significantly expanded Polyphemus’ canto beyond its length and scope in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this alone does not suffice to suggest that Góngora may have used Marino’s work as a source of inspiration. Indeed, several literary critics insist that any connection between the two works is merely coincidental, and suggests not imitation, but instead mere contamination based on the classical texts they shared. In his work The Poet of the MarvelousGiambattista Marino, James Mirollo intimates that Marino, if anyone, was “more of the borrower than the lender” (265) when examining his poetry vis à vis Iberian literature. He therefore contends that the connection between the Polyphemus poems is in no degree mimetic:

Nor can it be claimed that Góngora owes anything to his Italian contemporary, for it is generally agreed now that the two poets wrote independently, with only common sources as a link. There is much in Marino that Góngora would have admired, of course, but there is no precedent in the Italian poet for the Spaniard’s cultivated obscurity (265).

Mirollo’s assessment in 1963 may, however, be the product of a particular epistemological grounding that negates intertextual connections, and the relationship between the two works cannot be confirmed or dismantled based on this alone. In his study Sobre Marino y España, Juan Manuel Rozas is also reluctant to categorically dignify such interconnectivity between poetic works. Nonetheless, he does concede that Góngora may have used Marino’s Rime Boscherecce when similarities arise:

In no place does Vilanova tackle in monographic form the relationship between Góngora and Marino. In reality, based on the efforts already exerted through [literary] criticism, we cannot see categorical and flagrant occasions of imitation between one and the other. But, I believe that, given the chronology and the Italian language tradition, it must have been Góngora who learned some things from Marino. What happened is that, Don Luis- a poet quite superior to Marino- works with him just as he works with the great Greco-Latin classics, recreating particular details in his poetic language and pushing them to the limits of the Castilian language (Rozas 19, my translation).

Finally, Vilanova himself, the aforementioned author of Las fuentes y los temas del Polifemo de Góngora, refuses to unequivocally assert that Góngora borrowed from Marino. While he claims that the works are entirely different, he patently acknowledges that Góngora would have been familiar with the work of Marino:

Góngora must have known Marino’s sonnets, as well as Anguillara’s (padded) translation. Could this reading have suggested to him at some time the use of a certain word? Though possible, it is not necessarily so. What is certain is that there is nothing less similar to Góngora’s Fábula de Polifemo than Marino’s sonnets about Polyphemus. Marino (like Lope) loses the ease, which inevitably leads to superficiality and mere chatter (193, my translation).

Though Góngora’s work is esteemed as better, there is clearly little agreement between critics- nor factual evidence- that suggests that Góngora must have imitated Marino when he wrote La Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea. It is less problematic to ascertain that both poets composed their works in a similar fashion, and relied on many of the same sources for inspiration. Thus as contemporaries, both authors apparently adhered to the seventeenth century Baroque doctrine of imitatio andaemulatio. This visibly undergirds both of their projects, and as Dámaso Alonso concludes, the guiding principle during their era, applicable to both, was: “He who does not imitate the ancients cannot be a good poet” (Alonso 223, my translation).

Ultimately, one must not insist upon the direct connection between Marino’s composition and Góngora’s work. Rather, a relationship can be reasonably assumed in light of such critical commentary and analysis. Perhaps the most compelling manner to actually deduce the influence of one work upon the other is to refer to the texts themselves, and place them into conversation with one another. For in this dialogic connection, the similarities and differences can be examined directly, and the astute reader can then infer to what degree Marino’s work served as an intermediary text between Góngora’s and the Greco-Latin classics.

It is again important to emphasize that both Marino and Góngora’s works are grounded in the pastoral tradition, in which the shepherd’s environment provides the idealized backdrop for his reflections on the world and his lover. In Marino’s Rime Boscherecce, the idealized bucolic environment is extended, however, to include the beauty of the maritime landscape. The setting becomes a description of both the beauty and the bounty of an idealized ocean setting. Though Ovid’s myth specifically mentions the sea as the home of the nymph Galatea, it receives far less attention than it does in Marino’s version. Whereas the emphasis in Ovid is merely on the Nereid herself, Marino dedicates verses to the environment, particularly in Sonnet 71:

-O pescatori che ‘n su’ curvi abeti
Ove non rotta dal furor di Scila
Fa specchio al ciel seren l’onda tranquilla
Turbate a’ pesci fidi i lor segreti:Mirate questa mia, che ‘n grembo a Teti
Stassi, e dolce fra l’acque arde e sfavilla,
ch’ha ne’gegli occhi, ond’ognia grazia stilla,
L’arme pengenti e nel bel crin le reti.

Indeed, the vocative form that initiates this sonnet, “O pescatori,” harkens back to the classical Latin syntax and poetic language. Immediately afterwards, Marino continues to introduce and amplify features that are reminiscent of piscatorial eclogues, including those of the Neapolitan Sannazaro. Rather than merely toil in a boat upon turbid, choppy waters, the fishermen sit in “curvi abeti,” the curved boughs of a tree. Rather than toil, they magically converse with the fish, entirely romanticizing the notion of their profession. Moreover Scylla, the mythological protector of the treacherous waters of the Sicilian coast, has left the sea placid and serene for the day, while the entire marine environment is referred to as “Tetis’ lap.”

Moreover, the nymph Galatea’s beauty and allure is described through the standard Petrarchan poetic imagery popular in Marino’s own time. Within her eyes all graces and beauties can be found, more radiant than the stars or lighthouses the fisherman use to navigate their route. Yet these same eyes, along with her hair, are the same arms and nets that “trap” a man, causing him to fall in love with her. Nonetheless, Marino conflates the Petrarchan tradition with his own style. He introduces the anticipated elements along with the exaggerated and geologically inconceivable elements in his description; thus, the sweet Galatea’s beauty literally burns and emits sparks within the water.

Though these elements do not figure prominently in Ovid’s text, they do appear in Góngora’s text as well. Perhaps it is merely an instance of contaminatio, in which another particular source provided these multiple allusions in both texts; still, the context in which Góngora employs them suggests his familiarity with Marino’s use of these same elements. Indeed, the reference to Scylla’s waters is also considered by Góngora in Canto 56 of La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea. Rather than allowing calm passage, Góngora indicates that she has caused a storm which forces a ship to forfeit its bounty:

…delicias de aquel mundo, ya trofeo
de Escila, que, ostentado en nuestra playa,
lastimoso despojo fue dos días
a las que esta montaña engendra arpías.

In Canto 47 of La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea, Góngora also references the aquatic environment as Tetis’ reign:

Deja las ondas, deja el rubio coro
De las hijas de Tetis, y el mar vea,
Cuando niega la luz un carro de oro,
Que en dos la restituye Galatea.

In addition, this canto demonstrates Góngora’s agudeza; like Marino, he recalls and inverts Petrarchan ideas to describe a woman’s beauty in fresh and unprecedented ways. Polyphemus thus describes his desire to see Galatea’s ultra white feet walk upon the beach. Her steps alone can turn seashells into silver. Still, Góngora goes further, for he extends the conceit; Galatea’s contact produces silver, which immediately become even more precious pearls. It is interesting that Góngora conjures a standard image from Petrarchan poetry, the “dewdrops as pearls” trope, for he references it only to negate its usual context. In this respect, Galatea’s touch becomes even greater than nature, and her footsteps are doubly magical. She alone can bypass nature’s greatness, and Góngora has found an occasion to innovate while remaining within the bounds of poetic convention:

Pisa la arena, que en la arena adoro
cuantas el blanco pie conchas plate,
cuyo bello contacto puede hacerlas,
sin concebir rocío, parir perlas.

The marine environment, beautified by Galatea’s presence, is a product of Góngora’s skillful poetic diction and imagery. The sun is similarly described both by Marino and Góngora in elaborate, poetic detail. In Marino’s Sonnet 69, the sun is the “golden chariot,” or l’aurato carro:

E pur con un sol occhio il tutto mira
il biondo dio che ‘l quarto ciel governa
e con l’aurato carro il mondo aggira.

This same phrase is used by Góngora in Canto 47:

cuando niega la luz un carro de oro,
que en dos la restituye Galatea.

Vilanova indicates that this appellation of the sun as the Carro de oro or dorado carro arises from the European Renaissance tradition, and proceeds from Petrarch’sCanzoniere, “Quando’l Sol bagna in mar l’aurato carro…” (Vilanova 486). Nonetheless, Vilanova also indicates that it is a feature of Marino’s Rime Boscherecce and appears in more than one instance. The presence of this phrase throughout the Polifemeide may suggest that Marino’s text served as an intermediary between Petrarch and Góngora.

Whether referred to poetically as the “golden chariot” or more simply as il sole and el sol, the sun itself is a rather significant element in both poets’ texts. The sun becomes a metaphor for Polyphemus’ prominent and singular eye, and according to Vilanova is assuredly an innovation that can be accredited to Marino. He notes: “the great Neapolitan poet is the first of the seventeenth century poets who, while dealing with the motif of Polyphemus in one of the sonnets in the Rime Boscherecce (Venice, 1602), makes the Cyclops see the Sun in his forehead while regarding himself in the water” (Vilanova 596, my translation). In Sonnet 68, Marino thus references the “living sun that adorns” Polyphemus’ forehead:

In grembo al chiaro Alfeo vidi pur ora
l’imagin mia nel verde ombroso chiostro,
et a se stesso ha il suo splendor dimostro
il vivo sol che la mia fronte adorna.

In Canto 53 of La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea, the image is repeated:

Miréme, y lucir vi un sol en mi frente,
cuando en el cielo un ojo se veía:
neutral el agua dudaba a cuál fe preste,
o al cielo humano, o al cíclope celeste.

This astute comparison between the Cyclops’ eye and the sun may have originated with Marino. Certainly, in both poems, Polyphemus transforms this component of his physicality into an asset rather than a shortcoming. Nonetheless, one may argue that Góngora has appropriated it both more ingeniously and more artfully; Polyphemus has converted his most monstrous feature into a characteristic that vaults him into the realm of the celestial, and renders the sun a rival no greater than himself.

Both poems appear to share motifs, but the similarities also appear on a linguistic level. In Rime Boscherecce, Marino often employs words that are etymologically closer to Latin than an average Italian speaker would have known. These “Latinisms,” a literary device preceded by such influential writers as Tasso and Ariosto, ultimately become a hallmark of Baroque literature. As an example, Marino uses phrases such as meco6 for “with me,” an inverted syntax that heralds back to the Latin me cum. While such Latinisms abound in Góngora’s text as well, it is interesting to note that an extremely uncommon word in both Spanish and Italian,adusto from the Latin adustus, appears in both works. This word, likely borrowed by Marino from Torquato Tasso,7 first appears in Sonnet 66, to describe the beach where the Cyclops pursues the fugitive Galatea:

Dolente in atto in cotal suon languia
l’aspro Ciclope; e lungo il lido adusto
la fuggitiva Galatea seguia.

It is subsequently recalled by Góngora in Canto 8, an extremely unusual word to describe the “swarthy” beard of Polyphemus:

un torrente es su barba impetüoso,
que (adusto hijo de este Pirineo)
su pecho inunda, o tarde, o mal o en vano
surcada aun de los dedos de su mano.

Thus, cultivated language appears as a notable aspect in both works, and even includes particular instances of the same Latinisms. In addition to refined, and often stilted, language, both authors frequently employ hyperbaton, by inverting syntax and word order, and favor chiastic sentence constructions as well.8

This innovative and wrought language is a quintessential feature of the Baroque literary aesthetic, as are the exaggerated descriptions present within both poems. Thus in the aforementioned Canto 8 of Góngora’s poem, Polyphemus’ beard is described as “impetuous” rather than unruly, a trait normally ascribed to human beings. It is a novel and interesting use of the adjective, but even further serves to personify and aggrandize his physical stature. Moreover, it is not merely long, but rather is a “torrent,” for it cascades furiously down his body. Clearly, this description allows Góngora to flaunt his penchant for hyperbole and extravagance, and encapsulates the propensity for excess during the Baroque age. This is evident throughout Góngora’s poem, as well as Marino’s, and particularly so in the descriptions of Polyphemus’ person. Though neither poet is the first to have conceived of the Cyclops as colossal,9 both repeatedly amplify aspects of his enormous stature and strength. Consequently, Marino’s Polyphemus is “un pastor di statura emulo al monte”10 and Góngora’s Polyphemus “un monte era de miembros eminente.”11 Furthermore, both focus upon the disturbing quality of his voice and volume, simply “horrendous” in Góngora’s Canto 59, yet star-piercingly awful in Marino’s Sonnet 65: “feri le stele d’un doglioso strido.” Their poems pay homage not merely to his gigantic body, but also to his uncanny voice and superhuman actions, and in the process show similar aesthetic principles underlie their poetic vision.

Ultimately, a close reading or explication of Luis de Góngora’s and Giambattista Marino’s Polyphemus poems elucidates frequent connections and convergences. There are ample and compelling instances that might suggest Góngora knew Marino’s work quite well; certainly, he may have considered it along with countless contemporary and classical sources when composing his own poem. Still, the similarities in both works may simply be the effect of the Baroque literary principles of contaminatioimitatio and aemulatio that inform their writings, and intimate that poetic production was perhaps a function of an overriding aesthetic principle rather than the effect of individual taste or attempts at “originality.” Assuredly, Góngora and Marino’s works often differ in the particulars, though it appears that their manner of composing them was largely the same; an attempt to disclose the differences in the two texts may prove even more fruitful or relevant than seeking commonalities. Nonetheless, the countless similarities that surface when placing one text in a dialectical relationship with the other points to a robust exchange and expansion of knowledge, texts, contexts and ideas throughout Europe during the era. Indeed, both Marino and Góngora’s poems are paradigmatic examples of the Baroque literary style.

1Encyclopédie de la Littérature, p. 1004.




5Encyclopédie de la Littérature, p. 1003.

6See Marino, Sonnet 70, line 7.

7See “De Mauro Paravia; il dizionario della lingua italiana” available at: Here, definitions are provided for the word adusto indicating that it can mean extremely dry, dark and baked by the sun, and provides two phrases showing its usage, both taken from works by Tasso: adusta arena, l’aria adusta (Tasso).

8As examples, note Góngora’s Canto 24, lines 189-192 “…y, de ambas luces bellas/dulce Occidente viendo al sueño blando/su boca dio, y sus ojos cuanto pudo, al sonoro cristal, al cristal mudo” [my italics], and Marino’s Sonnet 88, lines 12-14 “Pianse la bella ninfa, e’ nvan si dolse,/ e gli occhi appo l’amato sembiante,/che già sciolto era in acqua, in acqua sciolse.” [my italics]

9In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Polyphemus rakes his beard and trims it with a scythe, alluding to his larger than normal size.

10Rime Boscherecce, Sonnet 69.

11La fábula de Polifemo y Galatea, Canto 7.
Works cited

Alonso, Dámaso. Góngora y el “Polifemo.” 3 vols. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1967.

Brenan, Gerald. The Literature of the Spanish People from Roman Times to the Present Day. New York: Meridian Books, 1957.

Egido, Aurora. Silva de Andalucía: Estudios sobre poesía barroca. Málaga: Servicio de Publicaciones, Diputación Provincial, D.L., 1990.

Encyclopédie de la Littérature, original title Enciclopedia Garzanti della letteratura. Paris: Librairie Générale Française, 2003.

Góngora, Luis de. Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea. Editor Alexander A. Parker. Madrid: Cátedra, 1983.

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