Jiménez, Juan Ramón (24 December 1881 - 29 May 1958)
Juan Ramón Jiménez (24 December 1881 - 29 May 1958)
Howard T. Young
This entry was expanded by Young from his Jiménez entry in DLB 134: Twentieth-Century Spanish Poets, Second Series.
SELECTED BOOKS: Almas de violeta (Madrid: Moderna, 1900);
Ninfeas (Madrid: Moderna, 1900);
Rimas (Madrid: Fernando Fé, 1902);
Arias tristes: Arias otoñales, Nocturnos, Recuerdos sentimentales (Madrid: Fernando Fé, 1903);
Jardines lejanos (Madrid: Fernando Fé, 1904);
Elegías puras (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1908);
Elegías intermedias (Madrid, 1909);
Olvidanzas I: Las hojas verdes (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1909); enlarged as Olvidanzas (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1909);
Elegías lamentables (Madrid, 1910);
Baladas de primavera (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1910);
Poemas mágicos y dolientes (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1911);
La soledad sonora (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1911);
Pastorales (Madrid: Renacimiento, 1911);
Melancolía (Madrid: Revista de Archivos, 1912);
Laberinto (Madrid: Renacimiento, 1913);
Platero y yo: Elegía andaluza (Madrid: La Lectura, 1914; enlarged edition, Madrid: Calleja, 1917); translated by William and Mary Roberts as Platero and I: An Andalusian Elegy (Oxford: Dolphin, 1956; New York: Duschnes, 1956);
Estío (Madrid: Calleja, 1916);
Sonetos espirituales (Madrid: Calleja, 1917); translated by Carl W. Cobb as Spiritual Sonnets (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996);
Diario de un poeta recién casado (Madrid: Calleja, 1917); republished as Diario de poeta y mar (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1948; revised and expanded edition, Madrid: Afrodisio Aguado, 1955); translated by Hugh A. Harter as Diary of a Newlywed Poet, bilingual edition (Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 2004);
Poesías escojidas (1899–1917) (New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1917);
Eternidades (Madrid: Angel de Alcoy, 1918);
Piedra y cielo (Madrid: Fortanet, 1919); translated as Sky and Rock (Van Nuys, Cal.: C’est moi meme, 1989);
Antolojía poetica (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1922);
Segunda antolojía poética (1898–1918) (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1922);
Poesía (Madrid: Talleres Poligráficos, 1923);
Belleza (Madrid: Talleres Poligráficos, 1923);
La realidad invisible: Libro inédito (Madrid, 1924); expanded as La realidad invisible (1917–1920, 1924), edited by Antonio Sánchez Romeralo (London: Tamesis, 1983); translated by Antonio T. de Nicolás as Invisible Reality: (1917–1920, 1924) (New York: Paragon House, 1987);
Poesía en prosa y verso (1902–1932) de Juan Ramón Jiménez, edited by Zenobia Camprubí Aymar (Madrid: Signo, 1932);
Sucesión (Madrid: Signo, 1932);
Canción (Madrid: Signo, 1936);
Política poética (Madrid: Ministerio de Instructión Pública y Bellas Artes, Instituto del Libro Español, 1936);
Ciego ante ciegos (Havana: Secretaría de Educatión, Dirección de Cultura, 1938);
Españoles de tres mundos (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1942);
Voces de mi copla (Mexico City: Stylo, 1945);
El zaratán (Mexico City: Antigua Librería Robredo, 1946);
La estación total con las Canciones de la nueva luz (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1946);
Romances de Coral Gables (Mexico City: Stylo, 1948);
Animal de fondo (Buenos Aires: Pleamar, 1949);
Antología para niños y adolescentes, selected by Norah Borges and Guillermo de Torres (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1951 [i.e., 1950]);
Tercera antolojía poética (1898–1953) (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1957);
Moguer (Madrid: Dirección General de Archivos y Bibliotecas, 1958; expanded edition, Moguer: Ediciones de la Fundación Juan Ramón Jiménez, 1996);
Primeros libros de poesía, edited by Francisco Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1959);
Olvidos de Granada, 1924–1928 (Río Piedras: University of Puerto Rico, 1960);
Cuadernos, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Taurus, 1960);
La corriente infinita: Crítica y evocación, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1961);
Por el cristal amarillo, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1961);
El trabajo gustoso: Conferencias, edited by Garfias (Mexico City & Madrid: Aguilar, 1961);
El modernismo: Notas de un curso (1953), edited by Ricardo Gullón and Eugenio Fernández Méndez (Mexico City: Aguilar, 1962);
Primeras prosas, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1962);
La colina de los chopos (Barcelona: Vergara, 1963);
Sevilla, edited by Garfias (Seville: Ixbiliah, 1963);
Poemas revividos del tiempo de Moguer (Barcelona: Chapultepec, 1963);
Dios deseado y deseante, edited by Antonio Sánchez-Barbudo (Madrid: Aguilar, 1964); translated by Nicolás as God Desired and Desiring (New York: Paragon House, 1987);
Libros inéditos de poesía, 2 volumes, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1964, 1967);
Retratos líricos (Madrid: R. Díaz-Casariego, 1965);
Estética y ética estética: Crítica y complemento, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1967);
Fuego y sentimiento (Madrid: Artes Gráficas L. Pérez, 1969);
Juan Ramón y yo; Rios se que van, by Jiménez and Zenobia Camprubí de Jiménez (Madrid: Luis Pérez, 1971);
Con el carbón del sol: Antología de prosa lírica, edited by Garfias (Madrid: EMESA, 1973);
El andarín de su órbita: Selectión de prosa crítica, edited by Garfias (Madrid: EMESA, 1974);
En el otro costado, edited by Aurora de Albornoz (Madrid: Júcar, 1974);
Crítica paralela, edited by Arturo del Villar (Madrid: Nárcea, 1975);
La obra desnuda, edited by Villar (Seville: Aldebarán, 1976);
Leyenda, 1896–1956, edited by Antonio Sánchez Romeralo (Madrid: Cupsa, 1978);
Historias y cuentos, edited by Villar (Barcelona: Bruguera, 1979); translated by Nicolás as Stories of Life and Death (New York: Paragon House, 1986 [i.e., 1985]);
Autobiografía y artes poéticas, edited by Villar (Madrid: Libros de Fausto, 1981);
Canta pájaro lejano: Antología juvenil (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1981);
Espacio, edited by Albornoz (Madrid: National, 1982); translated by Nicolás in Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography (New York: Paragon House, 1988);
Alerta, edited by Francisco J. Blasco Pascual (Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1983);
Autobiografía y autocrítica, edited by Villar (Madrid: Libros de Fausto, 1985);
Guerra en España, 1936–1953, edited by Angel Crespo (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1985);
Hijo de la alegriá (Madrid: El Observatorio, 1986);
Luz de la atención: 1918–1923: Libro inédito (Madrid: El Observatorio, 1986);
Poemas y cartas de amor, by Jiménez and Camprubí de Jiménez, edited by Gullón (Santander: Sur, 1986);
Tiempo (un parrafo) y Espacio (3 estrofas), edited by Villar (Madrid: EDAF, 1986); translated by Nicolás in Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography (New York: Paragon House, 1988);
Cuadernos de Zenobia y Juan Ramón, by Jiménez and Camprubí de Jiménez, 10 volumes, edited by Villar (Madrid: Los Libros de Fausto, 1987–1994);
Metamórfosis, edited by Romeralo (Barcelona: Anthropos, 1990);
Mi Rubén Darío, edited by Romeralo (Moguer: J. R. Jiménez, 1990);
Poemas inéditos (Seville: Cuadernos D. Roldán, 1991);
Lluvia de junio: Seis nuevos poemas inéditos de Laberinto (1910–1911), edited by José Luis Puerto (Salamanca: Amarú, 1992).
Editions and Collections: Libros de poesía, edited by Agustín Caballero (Madrid: Aguilar, 1957)–comprises Sonetos espirituales, Estío, Diario de un poeta recien casado, Eternidades, Piedra y cielo, Belleza, Poesía, La estacíon total, and Animal de fondo;
Páginas escojidas: Prosa, edited by Ricardo Gullón (Madrid: Gredos, 1958);
Páginas escojidas: Verso, edited by Gullón (Madrid: Gredos, 1958);
Y para recordar por qué he venido, edited by Francisco J. Blasco Pascual (Valencia: Pre-Textos, 1990);
Primeros poemas, edited by Jorge Urrutia (Seville: Editorial Point de Lunettes, 2003).
Editions in English: Fifty Spanish Poems, translated by J. B. Trend (Oxford: Dolphin, 1950; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951);
Platero and I, translated by Eloïse Roach (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1957; London: Thomas Nelson, 1958);
Selected Writings, translated by H. R. Hays, edited by Eugenio Florit (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1957);
Three Hundred Poems, 1903–1953, translated by Roach (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962);
Forty Poems, translated by Robert Bly (Madison, Wis.: Sixties, 1967);
Platero and I: An Andalusian Elegy, 1907–1916, translated by Antonio T. de Nicolás (Boulder, Colo. & London: Shambhala, 1978);
Light and Shadows: Selected Poems and Prose, translated by Bly and others, edited by Dennis Maloney (Fredonia, N.Y.: White Pine Press, 1987);
The Complete Perfectionist: A Poetics of Work, edited and translated by Christopher Maurer (New York: Doubleday, 1997).
PLAY PRODUCTION: Jinetes hacia el mar, translated by Jiménez and Zenobia Camprubí Aymar from John Millington Synge’s Riders to the Sea, Madrid, Teatro Ritz, 1920.
TRANSLATIONS: Romain Rolland, Vida de Beethoven (Madrid: Residencia de Estudiantes, 1915);
John Millington Synge, Jinetes hacia el mar, translated by Jiménez and Zenobia Camprubí Aymar (Madrid: Fortanet, 1920);
Rabindranath Tagore, Obra escojida, translated by Jiménez and Camprubí Aymar (Madrid: Aguilar, 1955).
Juan Ramón Jiménez, known simply as Juan Ramón in the Hispanic world, dominated Spanish poetry for the first three decades of the twentieth century, and at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 he was still a figure of influence and importance. Later, in exile in the United States and Puerto Rico, he expanded his already considerable influence, made the acquaintance of Robert Frost and Ezra Pound, and was greeted with enthusiasm on a trip to Buenos Aires in 1948. The unabashed and imperfectly assimilated modernism of Jiménez’s first books yielded in Rimas (1902, Rhymes) and Arias tristes (1903, Sad Airs) to a delicate, sensitive, and sentimental tone that drew much from Spanish Romanticism. After 1916 he entered a new phase, for which he is well known: stripping anecdote and obvious sentiment from his lines, he made heavy use of symbols in a self-referential poetry surprising for its sheerness and its difficulty. Its major themes are the relation of the poet to poetry; of poetry to the world; and love, memory, and death. This phase gradually gave way just before the civil war and afterward to a period in which moments of epiphany become longer and deeper, and the poet experiences a serene union with nature. His final works apotheosize the creative spirit and carry forward the Romantic, symbolist tradition of the poet as a divine seer. Platero y yo (1914, expanded 1917; translated as Platero and I, 1956) is a series of vignettes of small-town life and rural scenes in and around his birthplace, Moguer. The combination of Platero and Moguer may be, after that of Don Quixote and La Mancha, one of the most universally known in literature. Jiménez’s Andalusian roots were, like William Butler Yeats’s Irishness, a source of inspiration and pride. As the Spaniard’s fame grew, he never ceased to remind his public of his heritage, calling himself “El andaluz universal” (The Universal Andalusian). Jiménez said he wanted to bring Moguer to the world, and so he did via Platero y yo, one of the most often translated books in Spanish literature.
The Jiménez family operated a comfortable business as wine and tobacco merchants, with their own vineyards, ships, warehouses, and a tobacco monopoly granted by the state. Their products became known in Gibraltar, southern Spain, and around Bordeaux at the time of the phylloxera (1883–1893), when a small insect contaminated French grapes; Spanish vineyards escaped, and the Jiménez family flourished. Such commerce enabled the young juan Ramón Jiménez Mantecón, born on 24 December 1881, to enjoy the upbringing of a typical Andalusian señorito (well-to-do young gentleman). His parents were Victor Jiménez and Purificacíon Mantecón y Lopez Parejo. There were six children born to the poet’s father: three from his first marriage, and three from his second. Juan Ramón was the youngest and undoubtedly the most pampered of the lot. He remembered pleasant visits to his father’s ships and warehouses and rides in the country astride his colt, Almirante. But Juan Ramón was also an introspective, solitary boy who spent long hours playing with a kaleidoscope and developing his imagination.
In October 1893, after finishing primary school in Huelva, he and his brother Eustaquio entered the Jesuit Colegio de San Luis Gonzaga in Puerto de Santa María near Jerez de la Frontera. Except for the view from his dormitory window that looked out on the ocean with Cádiz in the distance, Juan Ramón found school gloomy and disturbing. A delicate and docile nature made him the easy butt of his classmates’ pranks. At the onset of puberty his natural sensitivity grew more marked, and his character began to show a strong narcissistic trend, a development abetted by his mother’s love and indulgence.
At the colegio, Jiménez filled the margins and blank pages of his textbooks with drawings. His favorite subject was French, and selections that he read in this school made an indelible impression on his mind, for one finds references to them among the hundreds of notes that he left as an adult poet. He also enjoyed texts on rhetoric, as well as an 1882 edition of Thomas à Kempis’s fourteenth-century work The Imitation of Christ, in which Jiménez underlined passages that confirmed his penchant for reticence and solitude; one such passage is “Show not thy heart to every man.” In 1896 he concluded his studies for the bachillerato (high-school diploma).
Two aspects of Jiménez’s life between the ages of thirteen and sixteen are especially revealing for a deeper understanding of the man and his poetry. The adolescent Juan Ramón had, he admitted, a tyrannical nature; he argued endlessly with his uncles and insisted on having the last word on all matters pertaining to literature and art; he verbally attacked one of his cousins whenever she came to dinner, because of a nervous tic she had. He would go storming to his room after these scenes, refusing to apologize and leaving his mother in tears, a reaction on her part that increased his guilt and consequently his fury. Guns fascinated him, he recalls in Por el cristal amarilh (1961, Through the Yellow Glass), a collection of prose pieces about Moguer, and he hunted everything that was fair game and much that was not, including his turtle and his cousin’s pet eaglet. The adult Jiménez’s fondness for birds, symbols for him of the natural divine music that poetry should emulate, stands in startling contrast to the image of this youth, in critic Donald F. Fogelquist’s phrase, “cannonading the countryside.” Although this aspect of Jiménez’s character might come as a surprise, assiduous readers have long recognized his darker side, the sinister alter ego mentioned in a few of his poems–the individual dressed in black peering at him through his bedroom window. Such instability of character plagued Jiménez throughout his life.
This tyrannous adolescent fell in love with Blanca Hernández-Pinzón, the daughter of Moguer’s judge; she was descended from the Pinzón family who at the request of Queen Isabel had donated two caravels for Christopher Columbus’s expedition and helped recruit some of the crew. Blanca and Juan Ramón met through her brother José, who was courting Juan Ramón’s sister Victoria. Blanca and Juan Ramón exchanged furtive kisses while her mother dozed, but Blanca’s family, fearful of the impetuous Moguer marksman, discouraged the association. Biographer Graciela Palau de Nemes believes that this young love planted in Jiménez’s mind the ideal of the white (blanca), chaste, beautiful, and unattainable woman, one of the guiding symbols for his verse. She was the first of his many sweethearts, real and fanciful. Like Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was in love with love.
Victor Jiménez wanted Juan Ramón to be a lawyer, but the young man believed he had talent as an artist and cherished the thought of becoming a painter. It was finally decided that he would begin the course of studies for prelaw at the University of Seville and at the same time take instruction in studio art. In autumn 1896 he enrolled in the university and began his art apprenticeship in the studio of Salvador Clemente, a genre painter from Cádiz, whose many scenes of vineyards and flamenco dancers sold well to tourists. Under the tutelage of the capricious Clemente, Jiménez drew the obligatory still lifes and landscapes and showed himself an apt pupil in the impressionist style. His paintings reveal a more-than-ordinary talent and a preference for a blend of subdued blues, grays, whites, and greens that coincides exactly with the hues in his poetry. While his chromatic sense was exceptional and became especially notable in his verse, his drawings betray an eye still struggling with perspective. He continued to paint busily until 1900. In the exhibition of his paintings and drawings arranged in Moguer on the occasion of the centennial of his birth, the gentle impressionistic landscapes and the portraits of gypsy girls were the best indication of the plastic skills that yielded to the art of painting with words.
Jiménez once remarked that of the three great loves of his life–painting, poetry, and music–painting beckoned first when he was fifteen and then gave way a year or two later to poetry. (His devotion to music began when he was twenty.) The reasons for his decision not to continue as a painter are unclear. Certainly the bohemian lifestyle of Clemente and his friends did not appeal to the correct young man, who was compulsive about neatness and order. Ruminating on the situation afterward, Jiménez said that if he had had a different master, he might have gone on to become a painter of note.
During his year at the University of Seville, his ambition to be a poet crystallized. He immersed himself in lyrical verse, read through the night, and composed his own lines as he walked along the banks of the Guadalquivir, which glides through Seville out into the Atlantic. In the city that much of Europe viewed as the quintessence of Romanticism, Jiménez spent his money and most of the energy and time he was not devoting to art lessons to reading and declaiming the poetry of Alphonse Lamartine; George Gordon, Lord Byron; and Heinrich Heine. These initial encounters installed in his temperament a need for the insistent expression of personal feelings and confirmed his tendency toward sentimentality and melancholy. He did not, however, neglect the poets of his native language. Poetry by José de Espronceda, the “Spanish Byron,” made an impression, as did, most notably, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, whose Rimas (1860, 1861), published two decades before Jiménez’s birth, resembled works by Heine and Shelley and foreshadowed the suggestive musicality of the French symbolists. (It was no accident that Jiménez’s first important book is also titled Rimas.) At this early stage he also became acquainted with the poetry of Rosalía de Castro, a Galician who, like Bécquer, signaled the way to a more finely tuned expression of self-consciousness than that of Espronceda, and who also, like Emily Dickinson, made of her solitude and subjective eye for nature a topic for poetry.
Early in 1897 the Programa, a Seville newspaper, accepted one of Jiménez’s poems, and, thus encouraged, he joined a literary group in Seville called the Ateneo and began to send more poems to provincial magazines and newspapers. Soon he enjoyed a good reputation in the city and started work on a book of poetry to be called “Nubes” (Clouds). The demands of poetry and painting left him no time for studies, and, upon failing Spanish history, he withdrew from the university at the end of the spring term to devote himself full-time, with the blessing of an indulgent family, to painting and writing. He collaborated on the reviews Hojas Sueltas and Quincena, the latter under the guidance of Timoteo Orbe, a novelist and playwright. Orbe was a product of krausismo, a form of German idealism introduced into Spain by Julián Sanz del Río that had a decided effect on an intellectual minority with liberal tendencies. At a time when an air of pessimism hung heavy over Europe, this small cadre believed that in the powers of art and the highly selective spirit of the artist lay a way of lifting from humankind the weight imposed by the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin.
In the small library maintained by the Quincena, Jiménez ran across the verses of Rubén Darío, the great poet from Nicaragua. Blending French Romanticism, Parnassianism, and symbolism, Darío had managed to inject new life into Hispanic poetry at the turn of the century. Jiménez long remembered the exhilaration produced by his first contact with Darío’s works.
In 1899 Vida Nueva, a Madrid review, accepted a poem by Jiménez that was inspired by a humanitarian concern for the lower classes. “Las amantes del miserable” (The Beggar’s Lovers) has some compassionate, if overwrought, lines about a beggar on a cold winter night in Madrid; his only friends are the prostitutes Loneliness and Death. Vida Nueva published this piece on 3 December 1899 with a photo of the broodingly handsome young author and sent him, on the basis of his apparent concern with social problems, five pieces by Henrik Ibsen, already translated into Spanish, which Jiménez polished into poetic prose. Thus began a lifelong interest in the art of translation. Vida Nueva published his Ibsen translations on 7 January 1900, and the stage was set for Jiménez to go to Madrid.
A postcard signed by Darío and Francisco Villaes-pesa, a young poet who was an avid reader of Vida Nueva, was Jiménez’s invitation to come to Madrid and assist in the task of revitalizing Spanish poetry. Needing no urging, he arrived in Madrid on Good Friday of 1900, to be swept up into the bohemian life of the modernistas.
Darío, fresh from the triumph in 1896 of his Prosas profanas (Profane Prose), was sent by La Nación of Buenos Aires to report on conditions in Spain after its devastating defeat at the hands of the United States in 1898. He arrived in early 1899 at the age of thirty-two, preceded by the reputation gained from the success of his Azul (1888, Blue) and Prosas profanas, and he found what he thought was an old, tired country, with a middle class indifferent to the disaster of 1898 and most of the writers past their prime. Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, the decadents, and the Parnassians were not unknown in Spain when Darío arrived (Jiménez having read works by Verlaine before meeting Darío), but Dario’s masterful synthesis of these currents, plus traces of the influence of such classic Spanish writers as St. Teresa of Ávila and Luis de Góngora, pointed the way toward a successful renovation of poetic language. Darío’s themes were limited, but his skill was unquestionable, and his lines have an elegance and sensuality about them that stand in vivid contrast to the lyrics of Ramón de Campoamor, Gaspar Núñez de Arce, and Juan Zorrilla, the reigning poets at that time. Thus, Darío, a mestizo from Central America, became the leader of the reform movement in Spanish poetry.
Spanish political stagnation was on a par with that of its poetry. The restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1874 and the suppression of Carlist opposition in 1876 had established a solidly reactionary basis of government, and during the last decades of the nineteenth century the political system seemed to be devised to keep anyone from rocking the boat: liberals and conservatives rotated in power, and debates in the Cortes (parliament) were either vapid or baroque. No one tackled the large social problems.
Nevertheless, while Darío’s assessment of poetry may have been accurate, Spanish literature was far from moribund. Miguel de Unamuno’s trenchant style and erudition, after a flirtation with Marxism, took the lead in the development of a multifaceted body of essays, novels, and philosophical works that, if only for its lack of frivolity and suppression of sensuality, contrasted sharply with the modernistas. Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz), moving away from his early anarchistic sympathies, was, along with Pío Baroja, about to reinvigorate the Spanish novel, and Ramón del Valle-Inclán, who intellectually absorbed the decadent trends from France and England more thoroughly than some of his cohorts, soon introduced to readers his infamous alter ego, the Marqués de Bradomín, an old, ugly, sentimental, and Catholic Don Juan (in the Sonata novels, 1902–1905).
Into this atmosphere the idealistic, somewhat affected, and highly proper Andalusian poet Jiménez appeared in the middle of April 1900. He formed a lasting friendship with Darío, saw Valle-Inclán often, met Azorín and the playwright Jacinto Benavente (who, like Jiménez, went on to win a Nobel Prize), and became good friends with Gregorio Martínez Sierra, a dramatist who was later an influence on him. His companions pointed out that the large amount of material he had tentatively titled “Nubes” could easily be divided into two books, and he set about to follow their advice. The disorderliness, to say nothing of the debauchery, of bohemian life did not suit Jiménez, and six weeks after his arrival in Madrid he was back in Moguer, busy separating and regrouping the poetry of “Nubes.”
Almas de violeta (Violet Souls) and Ninfeas (Water Lilies), printed respectively in violet and green ink, were published in September 1900. Almas de violeta, the title of which was suggested by Darío, includes a passionate prologue by Villaespesa; Valle-Inclán introduced Ninfeas; and Darío wrote from Paris to bless Jiménez and welcome him into the ranks of the guardians of beauty. The older Jiménez took a violent dislike to these early effusive books of his poetry and destroyed every copy he could get his hands on, thus assuring their rarity. The Crítical reception was almost equally negative and violent, but, like most juvenilia, these poems are of interest for the glimpses they provide of a nascent talent, and they are valuable historical records of the tastes, themes, and spasms of early Spanish modernism. Although Jiménez eventually remedied most of the faults, some of the themes were too imbedded in his life ever to disappear.
Villaespesa’s combative prologue to Almas de violeta underscores the schism between the modern, cosmopolitan, generous young writers and their critics, whom he characterizes as eunuchs. He emphasizes that his cohorts are immoral and pagan by nature and that “Art for Art’s Sake” is inscribed on their banner.
But Jiménez was not by nature immoral and certainly not pagan: he drank with moderation and intensely disliked brothels. His inability to live up to decadent standards of conduct may, along with the callowness of his years, account for the sense of contrivance and superficiality that many readers have found in his first two books. He once remarked that the sadness that encrusted his work was attributable in large part to a sense of not belonging, of being apart from the crowd. The encounter with the modernistas, invigorating and beneficial as it was, did little to alleviate this underlying notion of separateness, probably connected with Jiménez’s narcissism, which, in conjunction with other aspects of his character, clouds his poetry with such heavy melancholy.
Almas de violeta shows this sentimental sadness. The loss of a young and tender loved one seems to lie behind such sorrow: “¡Ya murió la virgen que me consolaba!” (The virgin who consoled me is now dead!) is repeatedly announced in various ways throughout both Almas de violeta and Ninfeas. Edgar Allan Poe postulated that the death of a beautiful woman is the quintessential subject for poetry, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whom Jiménez came to admire, exploited the same theme.
One aspect of Jiménez’s abiding neurosis was his abnormal fear of death. In Almas de violeta he sublimates this necrophobia by dwelling on innocent faces in white coffins. At times he leans dangerously toward an unhealthy attraction to a dead little body: “Elegíaca” (Elegiac) focuses on the work of worms as they eat away the small white face and burrow into the heart once inflamed by passion.
One or two poems give glimpses into Jiménez’s sense of himself. In “Negra” (Black) he manages to achieve a certain ironic distance from his gloomy nature: his pains, he writes, are so fatigued at the end of the day from fighting him that they fall asleep exhausted, only to awake next day, refreshed and ready to do battle once again.
A natural and delicate voice occasionally breaks through in the book, as in the rendition of Andalusian popular songs. “Remembranzas” (Remembrances) is a poem so good that Jiménez incorporated it without change in his next book and eventually rewrote it toward the close of his life in a masterful summary of the prolongation of childhood and its memories. This deftly poignant poem describes the way in which the magical dimensions that are open to the senses of childhood disappear with age.
The clumsier aspects of Almas de violeta are continued and exacerbated in the longer Ninfeas. The highly mannered vocabulary (one does not “kiss”; one “osculates”) carries the same themes, with less morbidity perhaps, but certainly not lacking in overwrought passion. There is still the claim, rooted in Romanticism, that the poet will never encounter the pure innocence he so ardently seeks, and there are moments that foreshadow the mature Jiménez voice, such as in “Recuerdos” (Memories), with its suggestion of Verlaine’s style. Obverse to the topic of unrequited love is a scene that is repeated often in Jiménez’s later books: the poet tenderly takes leave of a beautiful girl, presumably in search of the ideal. Ninfeas, in terms of metrics, registers seven attempts by Jiménez to re-create the remarkable rhythm of the Colombian poet José Asunción Silva’s Nodurnos, which had been published in Spain in 1900.
Jiménez had been back in Moguer six weeks when, on 3 July 1900, his father died suddenly. The shock aggravated the morbidity noticeable in his first books and further activated his abnormal fear of death, the symptoms of which he never completely overcame. He believed that he, too, would die suddenly like his father, and, in order to prevent this occurrence, he insisted on always being near a doctor, or knowing where one was immediately available. This compelling need ordered all living arrangements for the rest of his life. Although examinations continually proved the contrary, he was convinced that he had a defective heart. During periods when his neurosis worsened, he required a doctor at his side. The most dreaded aspect of his illness, and the one that made life difficult for his associates, came in the recurring bouts of heavy depression. Long fallow stretches appeared in his creative life; in his last years in the United States he often entered a hospital for treatment of this emotional state. Between these bouts Jiménez could be active, cheerful, assiduously warm, elaborately courteous, full of Andalusian wit, and remarkably fecund. He was truly, as he himself noted, a man whose life was presided over by fierce Manichaean contrasts, such as light and darkness, sanity and madness.
During the year following his father’s death, Jiménez’s symptoms mounted, and his family, via contacts in southern France through their wine business, sent him to the sanatorium of Castel d’Andorte, near Bordeaux, to be placed under the care of Jean Gaston Lalanne, a noted authority on persecution complexes. The poet arrived at the sanatorium in the first part of May 1901. An investigation by biographer Ignacio Prat has shed much light on this period. In between fits of despondency Jiménez was reasonably active, making short trips into the Pyrenees and delighting in the company of Lalanne’s children. In a letter of 18 July 1901 to the poet’s mother, Lalanne described what became the common pattern of Jiménez’s life: he would begin to feel a bit better and give himself up to poetry, his ruling passion; then the intellectual effort would reawaken the neurasthenia, causing a kind of vicious circle. Jiménez had other passions besides poetry. Internal evidence in the poems he wrote at the sanatorium and the studies of Prat indicate that he proved irresistible to the women he encountered in France, including Lalanne’s wife and the children’s governess. By the end of August, Jiménez was gone from France, and soon he settled down in a rest home in Madrid and formed a lasting friendship with the neurologist Luis Simarro.
In later life Jiménez said that it was during his stay at Castel d’Andorte that he first read Baudelaire and made the acquaintance of such French poets as Albert-Victor Samain, Jean Moréas, Jules Laforgue, Stéphane Mallarmé, Henri Frédéric Amiel, and Verlaine. However, Jiménez’s poetry written during that time, under the tentative title “Rimas de sombra” (Shadow Rhymes), published as Rimas, registers no significant traces of these authors. Instead, Rimas reflects the continuing influences of the modernistas he had met at the beginning of 1900, notably that of Villaespesa, plus touches of Darío, and surprising notes from the sonorous Spanish romantic Zorrilla. Bécquer’s is, however, the presiding spirit, from the title to many of the images, as well as some of the metrical combinations. Rimas met with Critical success and is an improvement over Jiménez’s first two books, for he has toned down the excesses of modernism and allowed more latitude to the lyrical voice buried under the earlier sentimentality and melancholy.
Although an epigraph from Augusto Ferrán, Bécquer’s contemporary, stresses that death is possible every day, there is much that is not morbid in Rimas. The scenario of lovers taking leave of each other is deftly handled, and the first of many hauntingly beautiful garden scenes makes an appearance in Jiménez’s poetry. Children’s voices, which echo in much of European poetry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (in that of Verlaine, T. S. Eliot, and Antonio Machado, for example), sound among these early Jiménez gardens, and there is also a vision of a delicate white-robed virgin. Eventually, she is changed into a rose so that the values attached to her may have a wider symbolic radius. One poem records an early instance of Jiménez’s urge to transcend, an urge that dominates his late poetry: by running to the horizon he hopes to lose himself in the stars. In Rimas, as Angel González notes, Jiménez introduces the poet as narrator and subject of much of the poetry for the first time. The discovery of this persona enabled Jiménez to channel his subjectivity into an alter ego that would help him control his emotions and advance toward what would eventually be a major topic: the relation of poetry and the poet to the world.
The Sanatorio del Rosario, located in what was then a semirural part of Madrid, provided Jiménez with two of the happiest years of his life (1902 and 1903). Close to doctors and ministered to by the sisters of the Sanatorio, he felt suitably protected and cared for and was able to give full vent to his creative interests. The individuals who visited him turned his rooms into a kind of literary salon: Valle-Inclán, Benavente, Manuel Reina, Salvador Rueda, Martínez Sierra, Pérez de Ayala, and the Machado brothers. With the exception of Unamuno, the key writers of the time came to the Sanatorio to talk literature. Modernismo, still vilified by older authors and bourgeois critics, had nevertheless taken hold in Spain. In Jiménez’s room these literati hatched the plans for a modernista review to be called Helios. One of the most coherent and successful platforms for Spanish modernism, Helios (April 1903–May 1904) was carefully edited by Jiménez, who contributed translations of Verlaine as well as many unsigned pieces. Notably international in outlook and hospitable not only to French but also to Anglo-American literature, Helios was impressive also for its idealistic and restrained tone. The absence of decadent frissons may be partially attributed to the changing times, but the influence of Jiménez, who had come to see the errors of Almas de violeta and Ninfeas, cannot be denied.
Arias tristes, published in 1903, includes the poetry he wrote at the Sanatorio. It is Jiménez’s first well-balanced and cohesive book, one in which his natural lyric voice, expressed in the traditional ballad meter of eight syllables to the line, receives full range. Critics from José Ortega y Gasset to Darío praised it, and its success established Jiménez as a poet of undeniable talent.
The structure of Arias tristes reveals his deep love of music. Each of the three sections is preceded by the score of a lied by Franz Schubert. This striking conjunction of notes and words suggests the profound relationship between poetry and music that informed Jiménez’s life. (In America, Arturo Toscanini was his great cultural hero.) The sentimental beauty of Schubert’s songs finds its counterpart in the poetry. In a small introduction to the nocturnes of part 2, Jiménez acclaims Heine, Bécquer, Verlaine, and Alfred de Musset as the poets in whom he encounters like sentiments. The emotional inspiration, then, of Arias tristes is essentially a throwback to Romanticism. Between these two camps–Romanticism and modernismo–Jiménez wrote, with varying effect but increasing frustration, until 1913, when he began to sense a new pathway.
Fogelquist aptly describes the many landscapes of Arias tristes with their subdued light, mist-shrouded valleys, quiet rivers, and a lonely star. Jiménez resorts frequently to a device first labeled by the Romantics: the pathetic fallacy. Alongside nature and the poet, one finds the nearly continuous presence of a woman, represented only by the pronoun ella (her), for which the referents are both specific and general. Soon Jiménez expanded the pronoun to include the concepts of beauty, music, and poetry, all nouns of feminine gender in the Spanish language.
Simarro, the neurologist Jiménez had met on the way to Bordeaux, began taking on boarders after the death of his wife in 1903. Jiménez, delighted to have a doctor available on a daily basis, stayed with him. The experience of living with Simarro broadened Jiménez’s intellectual horizons as well. In Simarro’s well-stocked library, Jiménez read the works of William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Shelley, and Nietzsche’s aphorisms particularly impressed him. One of the other boarders was the gifted biologist Nicolás Achúcarro, who was later in charge of the mental hospital in Washington, D.C., where Pound was interned.
Through Simarro, Jiménez came to know the work of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza. An offspring of the idealism of the krausistas, the Institución members believed that the reform of Spain must begin in its educational institutions. Founded in 1876 by Francisco Giner de los Ríos as a lay school at a time when all education was under the aegis of the Catholic church, the Institución deeply affected the life of a liberal intellectual minority. Jiménez accompanied Simarro to its lectures and noted that they always came away with many new ideas. The religiosity of the Institución, unattached to dogma and the church, provided Jiménez with a broad and liberal religious impulse that he, too, pointedly kept free of entanglement with any specific form of Christianity. Jiménez’s friendship with Ortega y Gasset also dates from this period. Through these contacts the sensitive and talented author of Arias tristes gradually broadened his outlook and increased his intellectual concerns.
Jardines lejanos (Faraway Gardens), published in February 1904, is the last part of a trilogy that begins with Rimas and includes Arias tristes. Jardines lejanos continues the practice of introducing each section with a musical score: this time the composers honored are Christoph Willibald Gluck, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Dedicated to the “Divine memory of Enrique Heine,” Jardines lejanos essentially continues the themes of Arias tristes. A more pronounced sensuality, an occasional flash of humor, and persistent memories of Francina–the Lalanne children’s governess, with whom Jiménez had a brief affair–set Jardines lejanos apart from its predecessors. The garden scenes in particular pulsate with underlying sexuality. In one poem, as he peers into a fountain in expectation of seeing a rosebush reflected, the speaker instead is startled by the image of a naked woman (which is likely the first appearance of this key Jiménez icon); he senses a stirring of unsaintly feelings and, in a moment of synesthesia, says “Todo era aroma de senos” (All was the odor of breasts).
One of the most compelling poems begins with a question: “¿Soy yo quien anda esta noche / por mi cuarto, o el mendigo / que rondaba mi jardín / al caer la tarde?” (Is it I who wanders / about my room tonight, or is it the beggar / who patrolled my garden / at dusk?). Jiménez has allowed his apprehension of a dual personality within himself to enter into his poetry, and from this point on it appears intermittently in his work, always raising important questions about identity.
Giner de los Ríos was an avid nature lover, and he persuaded Jiménez to accompany him on excursions to the Guadarrama Mountains, which border Madrid to the north. These hikes accounted for the poetry of Pastorales (written in 1904 but not published until 1911). After writing these pleasant and gentle songs of nature, Jiménez temporarily retired the ballad meter he had introduced in Rimas and began to experiment with longer lines and different stanza forms that clothe a troubled and monotonous content.
In view of the illness of Simarro and the absence of several close friends (among them Martínez Sierra, who had gone to Brussels, and Achúcarro, who was studying in Germany), Jiménez in the fall of 1905 decided to return to Moguer. There he stayed until 29 December 1912, when he left to go back for good to Madrid. Thus, for nearly seven years the poet lived with his family in the semiseclusion of their Andalusian village. He renewed his idyll with Hernández-Pinzón and became infatuated with María Almonte, the wife of the local doctor. Jiménez’s struggle with his morbid obsession drained a good deal of his psychic energy. Adding to his woes, the family’s financial plight–economic problems that in 1911 resulted in bankruptcy–began to be apparent. On the whole, however, little is known about his life during this period, which he later referred to as a time of “soledad literaria” (literary solitude).
Seven years of provincial exile in Moguer, interrupted by an occasional trip, turned out to be, except for bouts of depression, incredibly productive. Jiménez wrote enough to fill several collections of poetry and one book of prose that were published beginning in 1908, and sufficient material remained to fill seven posthumous volumes.
Aside from the obvious technical virtuosity of this poetry, its main interest lies in offering an example of how a hypersensitive and repressed poet handled the fin de siècle decadent themes in a provincial environment. Recurring topics are anecdotal love scenes (real or imaginary), disguised in flower symbolism; pervasive and at times seemingly self-indulgent sadness bordering on despair and ennui; sensitivity to nature and music; and predominant gardens. Good individual poems tend to be blanketed by the surrounding repetition. The persona of the poet, introduced in Rimas, fades into the background. Eroticism in itself was insufficient to meet the needs of Jiménez’s psyche. Earning for the ideal woman (also the dream of Shelley, Espronceda, and Bécquer) nourished his spiritual life and proved once more how firmly rooted he was in this aspect of the Romantic tradition.
Olvidanzas I: Las hojas verdes (Forgettings I: Green Leaves), written in 1906 and published in 1909, and Baladas deprimavera (Spring Ballads), composed in 1907 and published in 1910, represent a transition from Pastorales into the more lugubrious work that follows. Memories of the sanatorium at Castel d’Andorte and readings of French poetry (by Verlaine, Samain, and Laforgue) crowd the sorrowful pages of Olvidanzas I. In contrast, Baladas de primavera celebrates nature in a lighter tone: the perfection of the day finds expression in a phrase, apt for the Andalusian sky and resonant of works by Victor Hugo and Mallarmé: “Dios está azul” (God is blue). Three volumes of Elegías (Elegies, written in 1908 and 1909 and published respectively in 1908, 1909, and 1910) crowd out any sense of buoyancy and introduce low spirits and mournfulness: “Días sin emoción, sin novia y sin correo / desesperanza en tiempo de fríos y de niebla” (Days without feelings, women or mail / desperation in cold foggy weather).
Another sheaf of poems, written in 1908, was printed three years later under the title La soledad sonora (Sonorous Silence), a phrase from San Juan de la Cruz. Descriptions of abandoned palaces and old towns relieve the usual panorama of dulcet gardens and amorous longings. Jiménez, nearing thirty years of age, dedicated this book to Luisa Grimm de Muriedas, an American woman he had met in 1905. Estranged from her Spanish husband, Grimm, a native of Philadelphia, left Spain to live in England, Switzerland, and France, but she kept in touch with Jiménez. In their lengthy correspondence, which began in 1907, Grimm set herself up as his guide to the pleasures of English verse, urging him to read Yeats and Francis Thompson and constantly quoting her beloved Byron. Echoes of these writers can be found throughout Jiménez’s subsequent writings. The rapport between the poet and Grimm strengthened his growing conviction about the high value of Anglo-American poetry. Grimm also embodied for him the ideal woman, beautiful and cultivated.
In the often lusterless Moguer period of Jiménez’s writing, Platero y yo, his most universally acclaimed book, stands out. Nothing he wrote before or after gained such a wide readership. Read with pleasure by both school-children and adults, these descriptions of life in a small Andalusian town, as seen through the sensitive eyes of the poet/narrator and his inseparable companion, the woolly white donkey Platero, have reached, after Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1605, 1615), perhaps the widest audience of any work in Spanish literature.
Jiménez began to write Platero y yo in 1906, shortly after he returned to Moguer, and in tone and style it resembles Baladas de primavera, of which it was originally intended to be a part. He took the manuscript when he went back to Madrid. The first edition of Platero y yo was published in 1914, followed by a considerably enlarged final edition in 1917. Assigned reading for schoolchildren in many countries, Platero y yo has been associated with children’s literature but does not exclusively belong to that category any more than does Mark Twain’s Tom, Sawyer (1876). In a prologue that has too often been omitted from the hundreds of editions of Platero y yo, Jiménez took pains to point out that he had never written directly for children because he believed, with certain obvious exceptions, that adults and children could read with profit the same books.
The 138 vignettes of Platero y yo, written in poetic prose, register a Franciscan love of animals and nature; an idealism not far removed from the Institución Libre de Enseñanza and its founder, Giner de los Ríos; and an almost biblical acceptance of solitude and separateness as a means of achieving the good life. The poet/narrator, wearing a long Nazarene beard and a wide-brimmed black hat, is taunted by the village ragamuffins as he rides off into the countryside astride his little burro to contemplate the spectacle of a sunset, while the rest of the townsfolk, redolent with cigars and brandy, head for a bullfight. In a benevolent monologue the poet/narrator comments gently and sometimes sadly on the passing scene. The use of the burro as an alter ego, perhaps suggested by certain poems by Francis Jammes, provided Jiménez with the foil that he needed to keep free of the philosophical labyrinths of his Elegías.
Platero y yo presents a gallery of village portraits, ranging from dirty, unkempt gypsy children to the kindly village doctor, and shows a decided sympathy for the downtrodden and unfortunate. The book consists of equal doses of Blakean innocence and experience and of happiness and grief, emotions paired, says Jiménez, like Platero’s ears. Against the backdrop of cobalt blue skies, bougainvillea, bees, butterflies, and bird songs, there are rabid dogs, cockfights, fear, superstition, idiocy, and poverty. The ingredients of life in a poor Mediterranean village in the second decade of the twentieth century combine with a delicate and balanced poetic tone to account for the accomplishment of Platero y yo.
In 1911 the Banco de España impounded the vineyards and other goods of the financially struggling Jiménez family. Jiménez took this situation as a warning that he might need to earn money, and since there were more economic opportunities in Madrid than in Moguer, he took the step he had long been considering: a return to the Spanish capital. By the end of 1912, the people of Moguer saw him as an occasional visitor, but he had finally loosened the ties with his native village. He struck up a friendship with the avant-garde writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna and entered into the literary and intellectual life of the capital.
Given his innate liberalism and his contact with Simarro and the Institución in 1903, Jiménez found himself quickly attracted to an offshoot of the Institución–the Residencia de Estudiantes, a dormitory set up in 1910 along the lines of a university college at Oxford or Cambridge. By 1912 it had been enlarged by three new buildings and was well on its way to becoming an important intellectual center in Spain and, to a certain extent, a cultural haven in Europe during World War I. All the great Spanish writers of the 1920s and 1930s (such as Jiménez, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, and Machado) were associated with it in some way; Federico García Lorca, Luis Buñuel, and Salvador Dalí lived there as students; and its doors were open to such distinguished foreigners as John Maynard Keynes, Albert Einstein, and Paul Valéry.
Jiménez attended a lecture at the Residencia in the summer of 1913. In the audience was a pert, blonde woman, twenty-six years old, named Zenobia Camprubí Aymar. She spoke Spanish with a slight accent because, although born in Barcelona, she had been educated in the United States. She had a strong interest in children’s literature, knew Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare (1807), and was translating into Spanish Rabindranath Tagore’s vignettes about children in The Crescent Moon (1913). Camprubí Aymar was descended on her mother’s side from Benjamín Aymar, a highly successful New York merchant; her father was a Catalan engineer who met and married Isabel Aymar in Puerto Rico. Jiménez fell in love at once with Camprubí Aymar, and a long and volatile courtship ensued. They were married in New York City on 2 March 1916. It would be difficult to exaggerate her impact on his life. Vivacious, optimistic, and outgoing, her temperament was a perfect foil for his moody, withdrawn, and doleful nature. Bilingual in Spanish and English, she was a cultivated woman (like Grimm) who further acquainted him with the world of Anglo-American poetry, which after 1916 replaced French verse as the chief influence on his work. His deep and abiding love for Camprubí Aymar played a large part in reordering his poetry, leading him partially out of his narcissistic snare and allowing him the rare privilege of encountering in his private life a situation in which for considerable periods the ideal and reality were contiguous.
Much of what Jiménez had written in Moguer held little appeal for Camprubí Aymar (she particularly disliked Laberinto [Labyrinth], published the year they met), but she was sensitive to his stature as a poet. Her own interest in writing was fully developed, and by 1912 she had contributed articles to Vogue, St. Nicholas, and the Craftsman. Jiménez exploited their common love of literature and used it as a bond to hold them together during their difficult courtship. He helped Camprubí Aymar prepare her translation of Tagore’s The Crescent Moon in the summer of 1914. It was published as La luna nueva (1915), and its immediate success led them to continue their collaboration; eventually they translated and published twenty books by the prolific Tagore, all of which sold well in Spain and Latin America. During their courtship, they began a translation of Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and some poems by Shelley. After their marriage they translated John Millington Synge’s 1903 play Riders to the Sea as Jinetes hacia el mar (1920) and saw it produced in Madrid the same year it was published in Spanish. Scenes from this translation influenced Lorca’s Bodas de sangre (performed, 1933; published, 1936; translated as Blood Wedding, 1939).
Translation continually played an essential role in the Jiménezes’ life together. They had begun work on a selection of Yeats’s poetry as well as his plays The Countess Cathleen (1892) and The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894), but, when an argument over royalties could not be resolved, Yeats refused publication permission. With the help of Camprubí Aymar, Jiménez prepared and published translations of works by Dickinson, Frost, William Blake, Thompson, and Eliot.
The years 1913 to 1916 marked a time of transition. The sentimental and mournful voice began to give way to brief hermetic poems; compression, in the manner of Dickinson, whom he read for the first time in 1916, supplanted ambulatory alexandrines. At the same time, under the influence of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which he had undertaken to translate with his wife, he tackled a classical meter. Glimpses of the new manner and tone first appear in Estío (1916, Summer) and Sonetos espirituales (translated as Spiritual Sonnets, 1996), which he began writing in 1914 and published in 1917. His use of the Italian sonnet form produced a successful book. From background readings of Shakespeare and Garcilaso de la Vega, he derived a series of love sonnets loosely modeled on the Renaissance tradition and directed to Camprubí Aymar. Other themes take on importance as well, for in this book he begins to demonstrate that identification of his mind with nature can provide an escape from the labyrinth of the self. Perhaps the most significant event in the Sonetos espirituales is the rediscovery of the poet persona. Sonnet 40, “A mi alma” (To My Soul), foreshadows one of the great themes of Jiménez’s mature period: the relationship between the creative intelligence and its ambience (the poet and the world). By 1914 he was beginning to see that poetic intelligence could place an indelible signature on reality, that through his sensitivity he could re-create the world, and that uppermost among his responsibilities was the need to be alert and prepared for this task.
Even more significant in these months of transition is Estío, written in the summer of 1915 and published at the end of the following year. Shelley’s “Mutability,” which the Jiménezes were translating into Spanish, is the epigraph for Estío. Camprubí Aymar’s changing moods, her indecision about their future together, and her whims and caprices could be summed up by the title of Shelley’s poem. How to describe the mingling in the encounter of love is a challenge Jiménez meets with a delicate touch: the lovers are portrayed as blending together unwittingly as do the sea and the sky. Sentient variations find more meaningful metaphors than in his past poetry: “Yo no sé cómo saltar / desde la orilla de hoy” (I know not how to leap / from the edge of today).
When Camprubí Aymar stipulated that their marriage take place in New York City, she unwittingly supplied the context for one of the most unusual books in modern Spanish poetry. Diario de un poeta recién casado (1917, translated as Diary of a Newlywed Poet, 2004) is a record in poetry of Jiménez’s feelings and thoughts about his journey from Cádiz to New York and his stay in the United States. He describes his first encounter with the sea and goes on to register experiences of bewilderment, frustration, and amazement in the milieu of New York City, as well as a reaction to American poetry. Diario de un poeta recién casado had considerable influence on the poetry written in Spain during the next decade.
In terms of form, Diario de un poeta recién casado introduces what Jiménez christened “Poesía desnuda” (naked poetry) or “verso desnudo” (naked verse). After writing Sonetos espirituales he began to experiment with free verse in Estío, and for Diario de un poeta recién casado he perfected a short stanza, usually of no greater length than a dozen lines, in which rhyme is excluded and the measure of the lines themselves varies, according to no set pattern, from three to eleven syllables. Internal rhyme, delicate diction, and a conscious but restrained use of repetition provide the musical substance for “verso desnudo.” The form pleased Jiménez and suited the temperament of his new style. (It was used to varying degrees in the early poetry of, among others, Pedro Salinas and Lorca.) The sections of Diario de un poeta recién casado dealing with New York City and Boston and with American poetry societies are written in prose poetry. Using phrases from advertisements and brochures, snatches of newspaper headlines, translations of Dickinson, quotations from Thompson and Amy Lowell, and the sensitivity of observation typical of Platero y yo, Jiménez created a noteworthy experiment along the lines of a collage.
In its subject matter Diario de un poeta recién casado is self-referential, but the anecdotal quality diminishes; emotions, instead of being baldly stated, begin to be implied; and the symbolic value of words comes to be realized. Emotions are set out in pellucid verse, and the continuity of experience is fragmented into intensely idealized moments. Fourteen poems directly concerning his love for Camprubí Aymar are less effective than the ones that speak of wonderment in the face of the ocean. When the book was republished in 1948, Jiménez retitled it Diario de poeta y mar (Diary of Poet and Sea). It is a dramatic encounter between the creative mind and a vast, imposing presence that seems as if it should have a consciousness worthy of its size but is also a slate-gray nada (nothingness). In a key metaphor Jiménez compares the movement of the waves and their relation to each other to his own thoughts: an eternal series of meetings and partings, of knowing and not knowing. He thus laid the groundwork for the fusion of subject and object that he carried out in the coming years. In this attractively varied book he presents several Saussurian musings on the linguistic experience inherent in being plunged forcibly into a foreign-language environment. Struck by the arbitrary relationship between the signifier and the signified, he wondered, for example, at the gap of feeling, and perhaps meaning, between the English word sky and the Spanish word cielo, which can also mean “heavens” or “canopy.”
With a new direction for his poetry firmly in mind and a steamer trunk full of volumes of Anglo-American verse to be read and translated, Jiménez returned to Spain in July 1916 to begin the most significant period of his life. Several books and chapbooks of his new poetry, seventeen of his translations of works by Tagore, an influential anthology of his lengthy canon, and several journalistic collaborations made these years the most important and fruitful ones of his life. His dominance of the poetic scene in Spain was unchallenged. In Indice, a review he edited in 1921, he gave space to young poets such as Lorca, Salinas, Gerardo Diego, Jorge Guillén, and Dámaso Alonso. This so-called Generation of 1927 took its first steps with Jiménez’s encouragement and support. As the group developed its own tone and voice, Jiménez, displaying the temperament of the adolescent who refused to be gainsaid in discussions of arts and letters, became offended with the natural reactions between generations, and his relationships with the new poets–to whom he had been, at the outset, the soul of generosity and who, in turn, learned a great deal from his diction, his high standards, and his unwavering devotion to the art of poetry–grew acrimonious.
The style hinted at in Estío attained full development in Diario de un poeta recién casado. “Naked poetry” offers short lines, free verse, suppression of anecdote, and recurring nouns charged with multiple meanings (rose, tree, woman). Four books exemplify the kind of poetry he sought to produce: Eternidades (1918, Eternities), Piedray cielo (1919, Stone and Sky; translated as Sky and Rock, 1989), Poesía (1923, Poetry), and Belleza (1923, Beauty). These volumes represent the height of his achievement in Spanish poetry and put him in the ranks of Valéry, Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Eliot, all of whom wrote poetry about poetry–so-called metapoetry, a topic that fascinated Jiménez. Eternidades opens with a statement that his ultimate word is not yet made, and, in a poem that follows, he pleads with intelligence itself to give him the exact word, knowing that inspiration must be controlled by intellect and also that the exact name for him is multileveled, involving intelligence, himself, and the world. Recognition that words operate with a plurality of meaning and that language possesses magic qualities that lead to a special way of knowing makes this poem the first clear statement of symbolist doctrine in the Spanish language.
Pursuing his favorite symbol, he writes in Eternidades a celebrated statement of his poetics, which can also be read as a capsule history of his verse. Poetry, he says, first appeared to him in the form of an innocent and pure woman, and he loved her with the simplicity and naturalness of a child, until she began to dress ostentatiously and to hide her purity. Gradually, however, the pompous gowns slipped off, and the lovely lady appeared in her original tunic, which in the last stanza she removes to stand before him as the passion of his life. Both Yeats and Tagore wrote about the necessity of stripping adornment from their songs, and for Yeats there was great value in figuratively walking naked. Jiménez’s poem is a sketch of various stages in his poetry: the early Romanticism, the modernist paraphernalia, the erotic labyrinths of Moguer, and finally the “Poesía desnuda” of 1916. Naked poetry implies sheerness, lucidity, and pellucidness. However, its generic vocabulary as used by Jiménez–rose, stone, woman, and so on–ranges through various levels of meaning that, coupled with its self-referential base, makes “Poesía desnuda” not as simple or as accessible as it seems at first glance. The dedication of many of his books to “La inmensa minoría” (the immense minority), with its echoes of Ortega y Gasset and Eliot, implies that his hermetic verse, like much modernist writing, demands a special effort in order to be appreciated.
A heightened awareness of his methods and goals caused Jiménez to begin speaking of “la Obra” (the Work). The capital O adds dignity and force to the word as he muses about the nature of what he is writing; it also implies a Platonic ideal of which the work on the written page may be, at times, only a dim reflection. He longs for his Obra to be like the sky on a starry night: a sense of the presence of truth free of history (as in Piedra y cielo). He wonders about the relationship of his Obra to the future, to readers, and to himself.
A nascent need in Rimas and Pastorales to identify affectively with nature has attained full force and foreshadows the unusual mysticism of his final writings. His four books of 1918, 1919, and 1923 include many epiphanies. Elements of nature meld together under his gaze–does the light sustain the leaf, or the leaf the light? (Poesía)– and eventually the contemplator fuses with the object: it is not sweet russet branches swaying in the afternoon wind, it is his soul (Belleza). He feels himself to be the trunk of a universal tree, enmeshed with birds and stars, and should a woodsman swing his axe, the firmament will come crashing down (Eternidades). Each day the poetic consciousness (soul) carries out the role first discovered in the sonnet “A mi alma” of Sonetos espirituales: it will remake the world.
One of Jiménez’s greatest triumphs in this period is to broach the ultimate theme of death and, in spite of his pathological morbidity, present it in humanistic and noble terms. In an existentialist insight he saw that life cannot be meaningfully lived without the persistent awareness of death. The cord, he says in Poesía, that links one’s life to life in general should, when need be, bind one to death. Death depends on life, Jiménez avers in one of his most moving poems; therefore, one should have no fear, for death is blind without life (Poesía).
Also during this period, perhaps influenced by George Bernard Shaw, Jiménez decided to simplify Spanish spelling and make it more phonetic. Accordingly, with the publication of Eternidades, he introduced some orthographic variations from standard Spanish. These are slight–including the substitution of j for ge and gi, and s for x before certain consonants–and represent, at best, a quixotic endeavor, for Spanish orthography was already highly phonetic. In any event, the concern and care he brought to all aspects of his books became legendary. His insistence on the use of Elzevir type, set on quality paper with wide margins, produced volumes that in appearance contrast sharply with many of the shoddy publishing efforts in Spain at that time.
After Belleza and La realidad invisible (1924; translated as Invisible Reality: (1917–1920, 1924) (1987), many years passed before Jiménez published another book of original verse. He participated heavily in newspapers and journals; undertook the task of editing his “complete” works, a project that involved an enormous amount of revision, for he, like Yeats, developed an antagonism toward his juvenilia; and continued sporadically his translations of works by Anglo-American poets such as Blake, Frost, and Eliot.
Political events soon forced a radical change in his life. His lecture Política poética (Poetic Politics), prepared in May 1936 for the annual Spanish book fair, struck what seemed to many an impossibly idealistic note in view of the turbulence of the Spanish scene. Ascribing to poetry, as did Shelley, a moral force and an inclination toward social justice, Jiménez proposed that poets should become legislators. The admonition must have fallen on unbelieving ears, yet sometime later in the United States, when he met Henry A. Wallace, he saw that a creative and sensitive person could also be a politician.
Jiménez and his wife had often talked of returning to America. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War gave them the motive to do so, and on 26 August 1936, carrying the title of honorary cultural attaché of the Spanish Republican government, Jiménez sailed with his wife from Cherbourg to New York. It was the last they saw of Europe. In New York and Washington, D.C., he tried with limited success to drum up support for the Republican cause. He visited the editorial offices of the New Republic and talked with Malcolm Cowley. Jiménez toured Puerto Rico and Cuba amid the adulation of poets young and old, and he returned to settle down in Coral Gables, Florida, where the climate and lowlands reminded him of his beloved Moguer. In his new environment, his reticence and aloofness became less marked, and, for a time, he was a more outgoing figure who could be occasionally persuaded to give special lectures. At the University of Miami, where he and his wife taught, he presented two lectures in 1940 that are keys to understanding his ideas about poetry and society. “Poesía y literatura” (Poetry and Literature) begins with the distinction made by Verlaine between the two and goes on to develop it in more explicitly Platonic terms: the poet is a medium possessed by a god, and what he writes is original; literature is merely a translation of these divine seizures. “Aristocracia y democracia” (Aristocracy and Democracy), influenced by Giner de los Ríos and the idealism of the Institución, says that true aristocracy resides in a cultivated and naturally sincere individual and that there are many examples among the Spanish common people. Política poética underwent a title change to become “El trabajo gustoso” (Pleasant Work) and was presented in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Miami. These and other lectures were collected for publication in 1961 under the title El trabajo gustoso.
Ten days after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Jiménez wrote to Richard Pattee in the State Department to offer whatever services a fifty-nine-year old poet could provide to the country that had treated him with such hospitality. The response was slow, but in July 1943 the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs requested him to prepare ninety fifteen-minute programs to be broadcast to Latin America. The lectures were to treat two topics: modernism in Spain and Latin America, and contemporary poetry in the United States. Jiménez prepared more than a dozen of these lectures and had notes for several others, but in October he withdrew from the project for reasons partially involved with the question of censorship. The lectures already written were subsequently published in Colombia, Argentina, and Puerto Rico. Jiménez continued to be an important antifascist Hispanic voice for the State Department, and on 21 June 1944 he was invited to Savannah, Georgia, to participate in the launching of the liberty ship Rubén Darío.
Restlessness marked the lives of Jiménez and his wife during the 1940s in the United States as they sought work teaching and writing and battled his sieges of depression. After teaching at Duke University in 1942, they moved to Washington, D.C. In 1944 they began their association with the University of Maryland, where today the Juan Ramón Jiménez Hall of Languages commemorates that relationship. In 1946 he was hospitalized for eight months in Takoma Park, Maryland. Two years later he accepted an invitation to give a series of lectures in Buenos Aires. The press trumpeted his arrival; crowds pressed to see the author of Platero y yo; and in Montevideo the senate went into special session to hear him speak.
After Platero y yo, Jiménez’s greatest prose work is Españoles de tres mundos (1942, Spaniards of Three Worlds), a series of lyrical caricatures written between 1914 and 1940. The Spaniards of three worlds (Europe, America, and the “other world”) range from close friends, to well-known acquaintances, to dead authors whose works had special meaning for Jiménez. The caricatures balance skillfully the mordant and the lyrical. Nowhere in his lengthy work are the baroque exuberance and the nervous tension that exist as the obverse of his controlled pure style better displayed than in these portraits.
Many of the poems in La estación total con las Canciones de la nueva luz (1946, The Total Season with the Songs of New Light), which includes material composed between 1932 and 1936, describe transcendent experiences. Evidently, the moments of epiphany limned in Eternidades and Belleza have expanded and deepened. Nature closes in and envelops the speaker with a feeling of unity so that his spirit identifies with a sublime sense of the landscape. Woman, poetry, love, music, and roses–all these symbols are drawn into the center of a divine circle. Harbingers of this transcendence are often birds, and two poems, “Criatura afortunada” (Fortunate Creature) and “Mirlo fiel” (Faithful Blackbird), are moving evocations of the pantheistic effect of bird song; these poems are comparable with the best of Blake and William Wordsworth. The poems that open and close La estación total con las Canciones de la nueva luz show the importance of the perceiver: the poet’s senses provide infinite resources. That glory arises from within is Jiménez’s Blakean message, tinged with the idealism of the institucionalistas.
As the title announces, Romances de Coral Gables (1948, Ballads of Coral Gables) signals a return to the eight-syllable line of the traditional Spanish ballad, and these lyrics, composed in the Miami suburb that reminded Jiménez of Andalusia, recall the delicate musical voice in his early poetry and his “Poesía desnuda.” Once again, the sea represents a sense of infinity. Childhood is evoked as the common state from which people never truly exit–“el niño soy yo de viejo” (the boy I am as an old man).
Contact with the sea inevitably freed Jiménez’s spirit. The voyage on the steamship Río Juramento that preceded his welcome to Buenos Aires in 1948 was no exception. Twenty-nine poems in free verse were published in 1949 as Animal de fondo (Animal of Depth). Despite the vocabulary common to the classical Spanish mystics (fire, flame, torch, love), Jiménez’s poetry does not accord in a doctrinaire manner with this tradition. The initial poem points out that the god to be celebrated is not a redeemer, brother, son, or father–in other words, not the Christian God–and the poet insists also that, unlike the mystics, he has nothing to purge. Animal de fondo extols the discovery of a “dios deseado y deseante” (a desired and desiring god). This dynamic god, identified explicitly as “conciencia” (consciousness), is desired by the poet as an expanded creative existence that at the same time is desirous of the poet, a relationship best described metaphorically as that of air and flame: mutual need in rapidly shifting contours. All former symbols were seen by Jiménez as mere surrogates for this final divinity.
Pound, whom the Jiménezes had been visiting at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in the first half of 1948, wrote in a note to Jiménez that Animal de fondo was a fine book, much needed in the “post-Hegelian squalor.” The collection is the culmination of the Romantic-symbolist tradition of the poet as a divine seer who through the use of words can unlock universal secrets, and, like Blake, Animal de fondo praises the divinity that resides within the human being.
Spurred on by the opinion of Octavio Paz, late-twentieth-century critics and poets have acclaimed Jiménez’s long prose poem Espacio (Space, translated in Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography, 1988), first published in the periodical Poesía Española in April 1954 and as a book in 1982. For a writer who had maintained since 1918 that good poetry is inevitably brief and that inspiration must always be subject to the control of intelligence, Espario seems revolutionary, for its length is inordinate and its content the result of a pell-mell association of ideas that, in places, bears a resemblance to automatic writing.
In Espacio, Jiménez ruminates on all his usual themes and employs all the tried-and-true symbols to recap his career. The large, flat, lowland space of the Florida Everglades is no more infinite than the space in his mind, and the homesick poet allows images of the past to blend into the present. The sound of a barking dog is the same in Madrid, New York City, or Miami. Again the creative mind becomes the locus for meaning; identification and memory, out of the past, take shape only in the present. External space is internalized and expressed in the flow of time. The lines relentlessly move onward, impelled by the technique of association: the poet is not only the present but also a torrent of flight, an eternal succession of impressions and memories.
If there is a link between the first two fragments of Espacio, it is the theme of love, which is the single constant. The third fragment, concluded in Puerto Rico in 1954, well after Animal de fondo, opens with a series of recondite personal allusions, goes on to equate destiny with life and death, recounts how the poet demolished a crab on the beach, and concludes with a humanistic cry asking how a soul can leave a body that has loved it. Repeating the opening line of the first fragment, he proclaims once more the insight of Animal de fondo: “Los dioses no tuvieron mas sustancia de la que tengo yo” (The gods had no more substance than I).
The Jiménezes moved to Puerto Rico in 1951 and remained there until their deaths. Its benign climate, associations with Camprubí Aymar’s past, and above all the return to a Spanish-speaking environment influenced the poet in the last few active years of his life. He donated his papers and books to the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, taught a course on modernism there in 1953, and continued to write and publish poetry along the lines of Animal de fondo. The latter he intended to incorporate into a larger book to be called Dios deseado y deseante (published posthumously in 1964; translated as God Desired and Dying, 1987). But he was about to lose his loyal and devoted helpmate: Camprubí Aymar, who had undergone an operation for cancer in 1951, worsened after a period of remission. On 28 October 1956, just three days after the Swedish Academy voted to award Jiménez the Nobel Prize in Literature, she died. Jaime Benítez, the president of the University of Puerto Rico, attended the Nobel award ceremonies on behalf of Jiménez and read a short acceptance speech in which the poet expressed his debt to his wife. With her death, he became increasingly withdrawn and more or less ceased to write, so the Nobel Prize had no effect on his career. The prize was, however, celebrated by the Latin American community, which felt that the award also represented the achievements of Antonio Machado and Federico García Lorca and encouraged the reception of such writers as Gabriel García Márquez and Pablo Neruda. In his last years, Jiménez occasionally visited the room at the university that housed his papers, stared at his wife’s photos, and awaited his own death. It came finally on 29 May 1958.
The Literary Collaboration and the Personal Correspondence of Rubén Darío and Juan Ramón Jiménez, edited by Donald F. Fogelquist (Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1956);
Monumento de amor: Cartas de Zenobia Camprubí y Juan Ramón Jiménez, edited by Ricardo Gullón (San Juan, P.R.: Ediciones de la Torre, 1959);
Cartas, primera selección, edited by Francisco Garfias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1962);
Selección de cartas (Barcelona: Picazo, 1973);
Cartas literarias, edited by Garfias (Barcelona: Bruguera, 1977);
Cartas de Juan Ramón Jiménez al poeta malagueño José Sánchez Rodríguez: Relaciones literarias entre dos jóvenes poetas, edited by Antonio Sánchez Trigueros (Granada: Don Quijote, 1984);
Cartas: Antología, edited by Garfias (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1992).
Ricardo Gullón, Conversaciones con Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Taurus, 1958).
Antonio Campoamor González, Bibliografía general de Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Taurus, 1982; revised and expanded edition, Moguer: Fundación Juan Ramón Jiménez, 1999).
Francisco Garfias, Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Taurus, 1958);
Ricardo Gullón, El último Juan Ramón (Madrid: Alfaguara, 1968);
Graciela Palau de Nemes, Vida y obra de Juan Ramón Jiménez: La Poesía desnuda, 2 volumes (Madrid: Gredos, 1975);
Antonio González Campoamor, Vida y Poesía de Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Sedmay, 1976);
Palau de Nemes, Inicios de Zenobia y Juan Ramón Jiménez en América (Madrid: Fundación Universitaria Española, 1982);
Ignacio Prat, El muchacho despatriado: Juan Ramón Jiménez en Francia (1901) (Madrid: Taurus, 1986);
Juan Guerrero Ruiz, Juan Ramón de viva voz, 2 volumes (Valencia: Pre-Textos, 1998–1999);
Enrique González Duro, Biografia interior de Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Ediciones Libertarias, 2002);
Rafael Alarcón Sierra, Juan Ramón Jiménez: Pasión perfecta (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 2003).
Aurora de Albornoz, ed., Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Taurus, 1980);
Zenobia Camprubí de Jiménez, Diario, 2 volumes, edited by Graciela Palau de Nemes (Madrid: Alianza / Río Piedras: Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1991, 1995);
Camprubí de Jiménez, Vivir con Juan Ramón, edited by Arturo del Villar (Madrid: Los Libros de Fausto, 1986);
Richard A. Cardwell, Juan R. Jiménez: The Modernist Apprenticeship, 1895–1900 (Berlin: Colloquium, 1977);
Melvyn Coke-Enguídanos, Word and Work in the Poetry of Juan Ramón Jiménez (London: Tamesis, 1982);
Leo R. Cole, The Religious Instinct in the Poetry of Juan Ramón Jiménez (Oxford: Dolphin, 1967);
Angel Crespo, Juan Ramón Jiménez y la pintura (Río Piedras: University of Puerto Rico, 1974);
Estudios sobre Juan Ramón Jiménez (Mayagüez: University of Puerto Rico, 1981);
Donald F. Fogelquist, Juan Ramón Jiménez (Boston: Twayne, 1976);
María Teresa Font, “Espacio”: Autobiografía lírica de Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Insula, 1972);
Bernardo Gicovate, La Poesía de Juan Ramón Jiménez: Obra en marcha (Barcelona: Ariel, 1973);
Angel González, Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid:Júcar, 1974);
Ricardo Gullón, Estudios sobre Juan Ramón Jiménez (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1960);
William Kluback, Encounters with Juan Ramón Jiménez (New York: Peter Lang, 1995);
Paul R. Olson, Circle of Paradox: Time and Essence in the Poetry of Juan Ramón Jiménez (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967);
Michael P. Predmore, La obra en prosa de Juan Ramón Jiménez (Madrid: Gredos, 1966);
Predmore, La Poesía hermética de Juan Ramón Jiménez: El “Diario” como centro de su mundo poético (Madrid: Gredos, 1973);
Antonio Sánchez-Barbudo, La segunda época de Juan Ramón Jiménez (1916–1953) (Madrid: Gredos, 1962);
Ceferino Santos-Escudero, Símbolos y dios en el último Juan Ramón Jiménez: El influjo oriental en “Dios deseado y deseante” (Madrid: Gredos, 1975);
Carlos del Saz-Orozco, Dios en Juan Ramón (Madrid: Razón & Fe, 1966);
John C. Wilcox, Self and Image in Juan Ramón Jiménez (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987);
Howard T Young, “La fina y dulce Luisa,” Unidad [Moguer] (February 2000): 25–36;
Young, Juan Ramón Jiménez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967);
Young, The Line in the Margin: Juan Ramón Jiménez and His Readings in Blake, Shelley, and Yeats (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980).
Juan Ramón Jiménez’s manuscripts, letters, memorabilia, and personal library are held in three separate collections: the Archivo Histórico Nacional of Madrid; the Casa Municipal de Cultura “Zenobia y Juan Ramón Jiménez” in Moguer; and the “Sala Zenobia y Juan Ramón Jiménez” in the Biblioteca General, Río Piedras, University of Puerto Rico.