Darío, Rubén (1867–1916)

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Darío, Rubén (1867–1916)

Rubén Darío (b. 18 January 1867; d. 6 February 1916), born Félix Rubén García Sarmiento in Nicaragua, was the leading poet writing in Spanish between 1888 and 1916.

Life and Works

Darío was born in Metapa (now Cuidad Darío). After his parents separated, he was reared by his great-aunt Bernarda Sarmiento Ramírez and her husband. He studied with the Jesuits and at the National Institute, reading the classics and publishing poetry from age twelve. By age fourteen he had joined the editorial staff of the local newspaper. In 1883 he traveled to El Salvador, where President Rafael Zaldívar enrolled him in school. Upon his return to Nicaragua (1884), he worked as a journalist and read voraciously at the National Library. In 1886 he moved to Chile. Through his friendship with the president's son, Pedro Balmaseda, he became immersed in French poetry, especially the Parnassians, which is the most salient influence in his Azul, a collection of short stories and verse, published in Valparaíso (1888).

In 1889, Darío returned to Central America and worked feverishly on his poetry and newspaper articles. The following year he married Rafaela Contreras. They moved to Costa Rica in 1891. In 1892 he was named secretary of Nicaragua's delegation to Spain's celebration of the fourth centennial of Columbus's voyage of discovery. Upon his return, he learned of his wife's death and was named Colombia's consul to Buenos Aires. He married Rosario Murillo in 1893, but left alone for Argentina via New York and Paris. In Paris he met Jean Moreas, Théodore de Banville, and Paul Verlaine, and in New York, José Martí. In Argentina, Darío discharged his consular duties, wrote for La Nación and other newspapers, and became the leader of a group of young and brilliant writers. With one of them, the Bolivian Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, he founded the literary journal Revista de América.

In 1896 Darío took over the leadership of the modernismo group. That same year, he published Los raros—a collection of essays on American and European writers—and Prosas profanas—a book influenced by French symbolism, although rooted in the Spanish classics. Prosas, a deliberate break with romanticism, became Darío's most imitated work for its innovative form, musicality, beauty, and exoticism. In 1898, La Nación sent him to Spain to report on the aftereffects of the Spanish-American War. The results of this endeavor were later collected in España contemporánea (1901). While in Madrid he reaffirmed his leadership of modernism and met the younger poets, among them Antonio and Manuel Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez. He also met Francisca Sánchez, the woman who became his lifetime companion and the mother of his son. In 1900 he moved permanently to Paris.

In 1905, Darío published Cantos de vida y esperanza. Its first poem, "Yo soy aquél …," rejected his previous "blue verse and profane songs," while continuing his revolutionary treatment of meter, rhythms, and poetic techniques. Cantos is perhaps Darío's most accomplished book. In it he also introduced a note absent from his earlier poetry: sociopolitical concerns for the future of Latin America and Hispanic culture. The Spanish defeat in 1898 and Theodore Roosevelt's policies in Central America had awakened Latin Americans to the fact that the United States could no longer be regarded as a trusted neighbor. Instead, it appeared as a menace capable of swallowing the southern half of the continent. Cantos manifests this new awareness and the new sense of allegiance to Spain as the mother country.

During the following years Darío maintained his residence in Paris, while visiting Spain and Latin America and publishing a number of important books: El canto errante (1907), El viaje a Nicaragua (1909), and Poema del otoño (1910). In 1911 he joined Mundial magazine in Paris. Its publishers took Darío on an advertising trip to the New World the following year. While in Buenos Aires, he wrote Autobiografía, a work serialized in Caras y caretas. He returned to Paris in 1913. When World War I erupted, Darío was ill and in serious economic straits, but he accepted another lecture tour throughout the Americas. He spoke at Columbia University in New York, where he contracted pneumonia. Taken to Nicaragua, he died in the city of León.


By the time Darío published his first book, Epistolas y poemas (1885), at age eighteen, he was the leading Central American poet. Three years later, with the publication of Azul, he became the leading poet of the Hispanic world. It has even been said that Darío's poetry divides Hispanic literary history into "before" and "after." His renovation of poetic expression was so thorough that he is still a leading force. In his quest for poetry, he broke away from traditional conventions and maintained no allegiance to any one set of aesthetic norms. He learned from the primitives and the standard-bearers of Golden Age poetics—Góngora, San Juan de la Cruz, Saint Teresa d'Ávila, Cervantes, Quevedo—as well as from Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer and the Romantics. To their invaluable lessons he added what he learned from the French Parnassians and Symbolists. He acknowledged his debt and achieved a style unequaled by any other Spanish poet of his day. His range of expression, his inventiveness, and his flawless rendering of music into words are still refreshingly new.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


Charles D. Watland, ed. Poet-Errant: Selected Poems of Rubén Darío, translated by Lysander Kemp, prologue by Octavio Paz (1965, 1988).

Enrique Anderson Imbert, La originalidad de Rubén Darío (1967).

Ángel Rama, Rubén Darío y el modernismo: Circunstancia socio-económica de un arte americano (1970).

George D. Schade and Miguel González-Gerth, eds., Rubén Darío: Centennial Studies (1970).

Raymond Skyrme, Rubén Darío and the Pythagorean Tradition (1975).

Cathy Login Jrade, Rubén Darío and the Romantic Search for Unity: The Modernist Recourse to Esoteric Tradition (1983).

Enrique Anderson Imbert, "Rubén Darío," in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu (1989), vol. 1, pp. 397-412.

Additional Bibliography

Acereda, Alberto, and Rigoberto Guevara. Modernism, Rubén Darío, and the Poetics of Despair. Dallas: University Press of America, 2004.

Martínez Domingo, José María. Rubén Darío, addenda. Palencia: Cálamo, 2000.

Ortega, Julio. Rubén Darío. Barcelona: Ediciones Omega, 2003.

Urbina, Nicasio. Miradas críticas sobre Rubén Darío. Managua: Fundación International Rubén Darío, 2005.

Zanetti, Susana. Rubén Darío en La Nación de Buenos Aires, 1892–1916. Buenos Aires: EUDEBA, 2004.

                                          MarÍa A. Salgado