Gaos, Vicente 1919–1980

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Gaos, Vicente 1919–1980

(Vicente Gaos González-Pola)

PERSONAL: Born March 21, 1919, in Valencia, Spain; died of a heart attack, October 17, 1980, in Valencia, Spain. Education: University of Madrid, licentiate (classics), c. 1941; University of Mexico, Ph.D., 1949. Politics: Republican.

CAREER: Smith College, Northampton, MA, visiting professor of Spanish, 1948–50; University of Southern California, Los Angeles, instructor, 1950; Fordham University, New York, NY, instructor, 1952; University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain, taught in the study-abroad program sponsored by San Francisco College for Women; taught high school and college-level English in Segovia and Valencia, Spain, beginning 1955.

AWARDS, HONORS: Adonais poetry prize, 1943, for poem "Arcángel de mi noche"; Agora prize, 1963 (only year awarded), for Mitos para tiempo de incrédulos; Antonio González de Lama prize, and Spain's national poetry prize, both awarded posthumously, both for Última Thule.


Arcángel de mi noche: sonetos apasionados, 1939–1943, Hispánica (Madrid, Spain), 1944.

Sobre la tierra, Revista de Occidente (Madrid, Spain), 1945.

Luz desde el sueño, Santarén (Valladolid, Spain), 1947.

La poética de Campoamor, Gredos (Madrid, Spain), 1955, revised and enlarged edition, 1969.

Poesía y técnica poética, Ateneo (Madrid, Spain), 1955.

Profecía del recuerdo, Cantalapiedra (Torrelavega, Spain), 1956.

Temas y problemas de literatura española, Guadarrama (Madrid, Spain), 1959.

Poesías completas (1937–1957), Giner (Madrid, Spain), 1959.

Mitos para tiempo de incrédulos, Agora (Madrid, Spain), 1963.

Concierto en mí y en vosotros, Universidad de Puerto Rico (Rio Piedras, PR), 1965.

Claves de la literatura española, Guadarrama (Madrid, Spain), 1971.

Un montón de sombre, Fomento de Cultura Ediciones (Valencia, Spain), 1972.

Poesías completas II (1958–1973), Provincia (Leóon, Spain), 1974.

Cervantes: novelista, dramaturgo, poeta, Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 1979.

Última Thule, Provincia (León, Spain), 1980.

Obra poética completa, two volumes, Institución Alfonso el Magnánimo (Valencia, Spain), 1982.

Translation of the Sonnets of Vicente Gaos, translation by Carl W. Cobb, E. Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1997.

Contributor to anthologies, including Poesía religiosa: antologia (1939–1969), edited by Leopoldo de Luis, 1969. Also contributor to literary magazines.


Itinerario poético de Dámaso Alonson, two volumes, Escelicer (Madrid, Spain), 1956.

Ramon de Campoamor, Poesía, Ebro (Zaragoza, Spain), 1962.

(Also author of introduction and notes) Antología del grupo poético de 1927, Anaya (Salamanca, Spain), 1965, revised edition edited by Carlos Sahagún, Cátedra (Madrid, Spain), 1975.

Juan Ramón Jiménez, Antología poética, Anaya (Salamanca, Spain), 1965.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quijote de la Mancha, Giner (Madrid, Spain), 1967, published with illustrations by Lorenzo Goñi, RIALP (Madrid, Spain), 1980.

(Also author of introduction and notes) Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Viaje del Parnaso, Castalia (Madrid, Spain), 1973.

(And author of introduction and notes) Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Poesías completas, Castalia (Madrid, Spain), 1974.

(Also author of introduction and notes) Pedro de Alarcón, El sombrero de tres picos, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1975.

(And author of introduction) Diez siglos de poesía castellana, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1975.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, three volumes, Gredos (Madrid, Spain), 1987.


Charles Péguy: Poesías, Adonais (Madrid, Spain), 1943.

Arthur Rimbaud, Poesías. Selección, Adonais (Madrid, Spain), 1946.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais, Adonais (Madrid, Spain), 1947.

T.S. Eliot, Cuatro cuartetos, RIALP (Madrid, Spain), 1951.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais y otros poemas breves, Espasa-Calpe (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1954.

Especulaciones: ensayos sobre humanismo y filosofía del arte, UNAM (Mexico City, Mexico), 1979.

Traduccines poéticas completas, two volumes, Institución Alfonso el Magnánimo (Valencia, Spain), 1986.

(With Donald Mills) Los toros: Bullfighting, Índice (Madrid, Spain), 1987.

SIDELIGHTS: A Spanish poet who lived through the Spanish Civil War and whose verses often express mixed feelings of anguish and joy for life, as well as a questioning of God, Vicente Gaos was also a noted literary critic, translator, and editor of works by such notables as his fellow countryman Miguel de Cervantes. Writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, essayist Patricia Mason pointed out several themes that run through Gaos's poems: "The search for transcendence, his strained relationship with God, human anguish and solitude, the passing of time, the appreciation of beauty, and the juxtaposition of opposites: life/love and death; God and the void; faith and despair; and light and darkness."

Born to a middle-class family whose members included scholars, poets, politicians, and philosophers, Gaos was a Republican, supporting the Spanish monarchy and opposed to the fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Though many of his family fled Spain when civil war broke out in 1936, Gaos remained behind in his home until the Republican cause was lost and Franco came to power in 1939. He moved from Madrid to Valencia in 1940, where he formed a close friendship with literary critic Dámaso Alonso. It was Alonso who introduced Gaos to the public by arranging a public reading for the poet. Gaos read his sonnets, which were later published in his first collection, Arcángel de mi noche: sonetos apasionados, 1939–1943. Most of these verses are love poems, but some also involve the poet's troubled dialogues with God; the title poem of the book earned Gaos the Adonais prize in 1943.

Arcángel de mi noche was soon followed by two more collections: Sobre la tierra and Luz desde el sueño. The former has been regarded by critics as an expression of the poet's deep anguish, an attitude of despair and pessimism that is the result of the author questioning God's presence in the world. In the latter, Goas continues this questioning, and though the theme of death is prevalent, he also expresses a hope that love can provide moments of happiness.

From 1948 to 1955, Gaos lived abroad, visiting France and Mexico, where he earned a doctoral degree, and teaching at various universities in the United States. During this time, he published no poetry collections, although he did contribute to several American literary magazines. Not long after his return to Spain, Gaos began to publish again, marking a new phase in his career. An interviewer for the publication Insula noted at the time that Gaos was a changed person; he was "balder, sharper, more intellectual than ever, but also more human and ironic … more fatalistic." Avoiding the literary life of Madrid, the poet took up a career as an English teacher at various high schools and universities while he wrote poetry.

Profecía del recuerdo was published a year after Gaos's return to Spain. Here, the passionate mood of his earlier poems is replaced by a more contemplative tone, and there is not as much emphasis on the theme of love. The poems are composed in free verse, utilizing elements of colloquial language and the natural rhythm of speech. This was a distinct change from the rigid sonnet forms Gaos had originally favored, which he republished in the collection Poesías completas (1937–1957). Gaos's later poems continue to offer a blend of despair and hope. Many of these verses are collected in one of his last books, Poesías completas II (1958–1973). As one reviewer, Emilio Miró, commented in an Insula article translated by Mason, the poems here are "mixed with the experience of life and the passion for life, with the futility of hope and with the impossibility of renouncing it." After Gaos's death, the collection Última Thule was published and won both Spain's national poetry prize and the Antonio González de Lama prize.

In the introduction to his poems for the anthology Poesía religiosa: antologia (1939–1969), Gaos described his works: "I consider myself to be a religious poet and a good part of my poetry is religious…. For poetry to be religious, it does not have to talk about God. No matter what it talks about, it is talking about God, without mentioning him, or, sometimes, mentioning him to deny him."



de Luis, Leopoldo, editor, Poesía religiosa: antologia (1939–1969), [Spain,] 1969.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 134: Twentieth-Century Spanish Poets, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Insula, March 15, 1955, interview with Gaos; November, 1974, Emilio Miró, review of Poesías completas II (1958–1973).