Góngora Y Argote, Luis de 1561–1627 Spanish Poet

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Góngora y Argote,
Luis de
Spanish poet

Luis de Góngora y Argote, one of Spain's greatest poets, was born in Córdoba, in southern Spain, to a noble but poor family. Although he studied classical* culture at the University of Salamanca, he never graduated. To support himself, Góngora joined the clergy. His position took him to Madrid, where he suffered financially. He returned to Córdoba in 1626 and died there in poverty in 1627.

Góngora saw poetry as an intellectual activity. Most of his works are complex, challenging the strict definitions of literary genres* and styles. He wrote in a variety of forms. His sonnets* blend typical Renaissance ideas and themes with a distinctly personal style. He renewed the ballad, an oral poetic form, with sophisticated wordplay and wit. Other works, such as his Solitudes, do not fit neatly into any genre.

Like other Renaissance writers, Góngora drew inspiration from classical literature. In his last major poem, the ballad The Fable of Pyramus and Thisbe (1618), he parodies the writings of the ancient Roman poet Ovid. Góngora considered this to be his finest work.

Critics have come to see Góngora's style as completely unique. The name they gave it, gongorismo, came to mean poetry that is refined and intelligent. However, it also suggested—in an unflattering way—that the work defied conventional standards. Today, the term gongoristic refers to poetry that is knotty and difficult to understand.

(See alsoSpanish Language and Literature. )

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome

* genre

literary form

* sonnet

poem of 14 lines with a fixed pattern of meter and rhyme