Barrios, Daniel Levi (Miguel) de

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BARRIOS, DANIEL LEVI (Miguel) DE

BARRIOS, DANIEL LEVI (Miguel) DE (1635–1701), Spanish poet and playwright. Barrios was born in Montilla, of a Portuguese Marrano family, and was one of the most eminent exiles who contributed to Spanish literature. Following the execution in 1655 of a relative, Marco (Isaac) de Almeyda *Bernal, Barrios' family left Spain, his parents settling in Algiers and he in Italy. After a sojourn at Nice and Leghorn (where he reverted to Judaism), he sailed with his first wife, Debora Váez, to Tobago, where she soon died. Barrios then moved to the Netherlands and in 1662 married Abigail de Pina in Amsterdam. At about the same time he took a commission as a captain in the Spanish Netherlands, and for the next 12 years lived outwardly as a Christian in Brussels, while simultaneously maintaining a connection with the Jewish community in Amsterdam. In 1674, Barrios renounced his military commission and thereafter lived openly as a professing Jew in Amsterdam. A follower of Shabbetai Ẓevi, Barrios had mystical delusions and often fasted for long periods. This so alarmed his wife that she hurried to R. Jacob *Sasportas on the first day of Passover, 1675, and pleaded for his assistance. Sasportas found Barrios prepared for the Messiah's advent before the New Year and convinced that the Christians, headed by the Dutch monarch, would convert to Judaism. As he dryly records in his Ẓiẓat Novel Ẓevi (1737), Sasportas found it necessary to remind the deluded poet of his immediate family obligations and of the perilous state of his health.

Barrios' work can be divided into two periods, before and after 1674. In Brussels, he emphasized classical and pagan allusions and in Amsterdam stressed his Jewishness, while retaining a great admiration for the Spanish poet Luis de Góngora. His first work, Flor de Apolo (Brussels, 1665), is a collection of poetry on varied themes; in the same volume he published three plays, Pedir favor al contrario, El canto junto al encanto and El Español de Orán, which were typical of the contemporary Spanish theater. An allegorical drama, Contra la verdad no hay fuerza (Amsterdam, undated, but before 1672), glorified the memory of three martyrs who died in an auto-da-fé in Cordoba in June while Coro de las Musas (Brussels and Amsterdam, 1672) contains poetic eulogies of the Spanish provinces and of famous people and cities, preceded by a panegyric on Charles ii of England.

Barrios was one of the outstanding men of letters of 17th century Spain, who, together with other New Christians, contributed a great deal to the Spain's Golden Age. Like most Jews who left the Iberian Peninsula, as Jews in 1492 or as New Christians in subsequent years, Barrios retained the Spanish tongue as his language for every need and occasion. Whereas the Sephardi refugees developed Judezmo or Ladino, written in Hebrew script, the New Christians who returned to Judaism continued to use the Spanish and Portuguese languages as they were accustomed to in the Peninsula. Even though they returned to Judaism, many like Barrios continued to live in a culturally Spanish and Portuguese milieu, in Amsterdam or in Venice. Besides the cultural and linguistic legacy from the Peninsula, writers like Barrios brought with them into the Sephardi Diaspora certain concepts that can best described as Marranism. This consisted mainly of relying on the Old Testament part of the Bible as well as the apocryphal books, preserving certain very elementary dietary regulations, and celebrating in some way some Jewish festivals. Quite a number of Christian practices were adopted as a matter of course. To gain Jewish knowledge from books was difficult in Spain, but not impossible, thanks to the Spanish Hebraists. Poets of New Christian origin had different experiences once they returned to Judaism. Barrios had enough Jewish knowledge while a Crypto-Jew, but he found it rather difficult to adjust. He finally adopted messianic tendencies which might have been Christian-inspired. This affected the style and mood of his poetry.

The works of Barrios' Amsterdam period constitute five major collections. Sol de la vida (Antwerp, 1679) contains the Libre albedrío, a defense of the doctrine of free will. His Triumpho del govierno popular y de la antigüedad holandesa (Amsterdam, 1683), of which at least seven versions exist, includes sections on the history of the Amsterdam Sephardi community and its organizations. Some copies contain two religious poems: La mayor perfección de Ley santisima and Triumpho canta la inmortalidad del Pueblo de Israel. The undated treatise, Relación de los poetas y escritores españoles de la Nación judaica amstelodama (republished by M. Kayserling in rej, 18 (1889), 276–89), is a rich, though sometimes highly romanticized, source of information on Sephardi literary figures. Alegrías o pinturas lucientes de himeneo (Amsterdam, 1686), a collection of wedding poems and panegyrics, commemorates some eminent Sephardi families. The most notable compositions in Estrella de Jacob sobre Flores de Lis (Amsterdam, 1686) are "La Memoria renueva el dolor," on the death of the poet's wife, and two religious compositions, "Providencia de Dios sobre Israel" and "Diás penitenciales." Metros nobles (Amsterdam, 1675?) contains the religious poems also found in the (presumably earlier) Triumpho del govierno popular. Outstanding among Barrios' many other writings is his Imperio de Dios en la harmonía del mundo (Brussels, 1673?), the first part of a grandiose work intended as a poetic version of the Pentateuch. Barrios' literary output is uneven in quality, since he wrote to gain patronage to provide for himself and his family. As the poet laureate of Amsterdam Jewry he was a facile versifier, but some of his religious poems, thanks to their sincerity of feeling and elegance of expression, deserve wider recognition. Their general themes are the permanence and excellence of the Jewish faith, belief in free will, the author's repentance for the sin of posing as a Christian, and the harmony of Creation. Barrios glorified Sephardi culture (and its prime center, the Jewish community of Amsterdam), and perpetuated the memory of notable victims of the Inquisition. There is some evidence that Rembrandt's painting, "The Jewish Bride" (c. 1665) was a portrait of Barrios and his second wife.

bibliography:

W.C. Pieterse, Daniel Levi de Barrios als geschiedschrijver… (1968); K.R. Scholberg, Poesía religiosa Miguel de Barrios (1962); idem, in: jqr, 53 (1962/63), 120–59; J. Amador de los Ríos, Estudios históricos (1848), 608–19; Kayserling, Bibl, 16–26; J.A.C. Zwarts, Significance of Rembrandt's "The Jewish Bride" (1929); H.V. Besso, Dramatic Literature of the Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam (1947), 73–84; J. Sasportas, Ẓiẓat Novel Ẓevi, ed. by J. Tishby (1954), 363ff.; Scholem, Shabbetai Ẓevi, 2 (1957), 446f. add. bibliography: E.M. Wilson, "Miguel de Barrios and Spanish Religious Poetry," in: Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 40 (1963), 176–80; T. Oelman, Marrano Poets of the Seventeenth Century: An Anthology of the Poetry of Joao Pinto Delgado, Antonio Enriquez Gomez, and Miguel de Barrios (1982); J.L. Sanchez Fernandez, "Miguel de Barrios, un epíono olvidado," in: "M. Peléez del Rosal (ed.), Conferencias del I curso de Verano de la Universidad de Cóndoba sobre "El Barroco en Andalucía," vol. 1 (1984), 103–13

[Kenneth R. Scholberg /

Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]