Biography of Hernando de Acuña (1518-1580)

Spanish poet, born in Valladolid in 1518, and died in Granada in 1580. For many years, was considered natural in Madrid, until don Narciso Alonso Cortés discovered his origin from Valladolid. Continuer petrarquista line opened by Boscan and Garcilaso, Acuña was able to alternate in his poetry the lyrical depth and heroico-caballeresco ideal that the reigns of Carlos V and Felipe II made an assorted source of topics for the epic.


He was the fifth son of don Pedro de Acuña "The stubborn", second Lord of Villaviudas, and Doña Leonor de Zúñiga, also of noble origin. Absolutely nothing we know of his childhood and studies that followed, although everything points to that he/she received a deep humanistic education. As second son of a noble family, he/she enlisted in the military looking for a way to earn a living. And precisely the first news that we have of their existence placed it in Italy in 1536, along with his brother Pedro, on the orders of the captain general and Governor of Milán don Alfonso de Ávalos, Marquis of Vasto.

Stay in Milan helped him not only for his career military, since, moreover, it used this period to become more familiar with Italian literature; He/She discovered the poetry of Sannazaro and of the Bembo, and perhaps read the Orlando Innamorato, from Matteo Boiardo. The year 1543 formed part of the expedition of the Marquis del Vasto to help nice against the siege of Francisco I of France. During this campaign he/she fell prisoner and spent several months in prison in Narbonne. Around this time he/she began to direct his poems to a such Silvia, woman that not has been identified, using the pastoral name of Silvano; He/She kept other poetic relationship with a Galatea, also not identified, this time under the pseudonym of Damon. Left prison he/she was appointed by the Governor Marquis of Quiraco, square border of Piedmont.

His protector died in 1546 and, consequently, ceased in his position as Governor. He/She participated in the campaign of Germany, culminating in the victory of Mühlberg in April 1547. Won the confidence of the Emperor, who took him to Brussels and commissioned him to put on his verse translation which had determined gentleman, Olivier de la Marche. During the following years he/she accompanied Carlos V in the different avatars of the Empire, and this awarded him with the order of Alcántara holding. In 1553 he/she was tasked with the mission to pacify a revolt of soldiers in a stronghold situated close to Tunisia and of great strategic importance; two years was the poet in this matter. He/She then returned to Brussels to present his report to the emperor.

Continued exercising his profession as a soldier during the first months of the reign of Felipe II, participating in the battle of St. Quentin. He/She then returned to Spain in 1559, perhaps in the retinue of Felipe II. The following year he/she married in Valladolid with Doña Juana de Zúñiga, cousin of the poet. We know nothing of its activities until 1570, year in which, by order of Felipe II, had to go to Perpignan to rejoin the Duke of Francavilla, Viceroy and Captain General of Catalonia. It seems likely that before 1569 set up residence in Granada, although they are not known the reasons that led him to reside in that city. Nicolás Antonio claims that he/she died in the city of Granada in 1580, but we don't have any other testimony that confirm this fact. It seems that the last years of his life were spent applying for aid and rewards to the monarch, mercedes that they were never granted.

Acuña, as Garcilaso and other so many writers of the time, it embodies the ideal of the gentleman who had concocted Castiglione: man of arms and letters. The same Acuña manifests it in one of his Sonnets: "could never take my fiero Mars, / as much as exercise I have dealt, / that in the midst of their anger has not / my time Apollo somewhere". Acuña belongs, along with Garcilaso, Cetina and Hurtado de Mendoza, which has been termed as petrarquista generation.


Its themes, its forms and its images owe much to the classic greco-latinos: Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Horacio, etc. But the principial influence in Acuña and other poets of his generation is that of Petrarca and other Italian poets like Bembo, Sannazaro, Alamanni, Castellani, Tansillo and Trissino. Features of Spanish poets such as Garcilaso and Boscan, Hurtado de Mendoza and Cetina are also crawled. By all these influences, Márquez Villanueva has come to speak of the Mimetic talent of Acuña. But to these classical and Italian influences should be added also the Castilian cancioneril inheritance, can be seen in certain stylistic features and their characteristic conceptismo.

Two are books that meet most of the poems of Acuña: the first is certain Knight, whose first edition was born in Antwerp in 1553 and that achieved great success, since seven editions were published until the end of the 16th century. The other work, already published posthumous, is a collection of his poems which was released under the title of several poems, forming a poetic set aberrant and willing with a total absence of order and concert for Antonio Prieto. It seems that the own Acuña was collecting his poems to edit them in a volume, but death prevented him from completing this project which was completed by his wife. Here are collected 111 compositions attributed to Acuña, in addition to the partial translation of the Orlando innamorato Boiardo.

The number of poems must be completed with some that have been transmitted only in manuscripts or poetry folders. In total, the amount of poems is 118: a poema-dedicatoria, a eulogy, an epigram, two epitaphs, two madrigals, eighty-five sonnets, two rooms, three songs, a satire, three Epistles, an elegy, three eclogues, three mythological poems, four verses and six glosses.

His work can be distributed into three groups: firstly, the translations of chivalrous poems; in second, Italianate, and third, poetry as follows the cancioneril tradition. In the first group there are two works: certain gentleman, Délibéré Le Chevalier of Olivier de la Marche, translation and the translation of some songs of the Orlando innamorato Boiardo, which is collected at the end of several poems. In the first, commissioned by Carlos V, he/she used a traditional, double Limerick as stanza, Strophic such as the most used and known in Spain; Another reason was that of the original French rhyme is so short that it could not pour to higher art forms without confusing the translation part. Acuña is not always followed faithfully the text, but it added some eulogistic verses of Carlos V, and others, namely eighty-six, which brings up to characters of the House of Austria and to the Catholic monarchs. On the other hand, it eliminated several series of stanzas (166-205 and 273-278) of the original text which referred to characters unknown to Spanish readers. He/She even wrote an addition to the novel which was collected in the edition published in Madrid in 1590.

As regards the second, unknown date when Acuña worked on it, and discussed the relationship between the first stanza of this translation and which opens the "first song" La Araucana de Alonso de Ercilla, published in Madrid in 1569. Acuña introduced several changes to the original: the first one was aristocratizar the text to fit their own ideals of heroico-caballerescos; It also replaced the direct style by the indirect and eliminated the digressions that discouraging the story in the original; It lent more attention to the loving feelings of the protagonists, consequence of the conception of his work as a representation of the courtly world. These feelings and descriptions of the female characters are still petrarquistas cannons, to which such clinging was Acuña. The translation has earned praise from the critics, among them the Menéndez Pelayo, for whom the part devoted to finished, "poured with ease, freshness and rich vein, induces to bemoan that does not stop the rest".

The other two poetic groups only differ in the metrical form, as they share themes and motifs. The main theme of the poems of Hernando de Acuña is the loving, as befits a poet so immersed in the petrarquismo as it is the vallisoletan. Even Antonio Prieto thinks about the existence of a song in the manner of Petrarch: "there are indications to perfectly organize a Songbook that progresses poetic and arguably, coming off of a pastoral narrative framework for go deep into a lyrical intimacy, in an introspective position, which lead to the spiritual offering of the poet as exemplum".

Songbook which, however, has the peculiarity that tells two love stories: Silvano/Silvia and Damon/Galatea. Under the pseudonyms of Silvano and Damon the own Acuña, which mentioned is two relationships with two women that we do not know any details. His poetry revolves around these two stories and it can be divided into three major and successive mobile: a first moment of lyrical effusivity reflected by the poet in a pastoral world, as indicated by the poetic names chosen to cover up the real ones; a second time that moves an introspection that results from an abstract conception of love; and one third and last in that sense of failure and dissatisfaction join the poet in a spiritual crisis, that reflects on the earthly vanities and appears the idea of death.

The first of the two love stories is Silvano/Silvia, poems composed in his Italian stage. The love story has to be reconstructed, since in several poems poems do not follow any chronological or thematic order. Sonnet LXVIII Silvano declares his love for Silvia and her appeal that apply to you. In this and other sonnets (XXXI, LXIV, LXVI) is a typical game of poetry cancioneril and petrarquista: the tension between dealing lover from getting the love of his beloved and the rejection of this, which is often describe of "cruel". It is the balance between hope and fear, breaking into the sonnet LXXVII, in which tells the reason for the struggle between "a fierce steer and a strong Bull", whose final tercet shows desire, perceived as useless by own lover, a happy ending. Already on the edge of Silvano occurs terminate the relationship with the expression of pain of the poet and the accusations to the cruelty of Silvia: "who told me, Silvia, you encubrías, / so the rawness of hurting, color / that finally end my sad days!".

Here ends the first stories and starts the second, which develops with the paronyms Damon and Galatea. But prior to this story, we find the "Eclogue and contest between two shepherds in love", in which the poet unfolds in Silvano and Damon. In this eclogue a dialogue between both pastors on whether files or not discover his love of the beloved. The figure of Galatea, new beloved of Acuña-Damon, is as enigmatic as the Silvia, but it has ventured the hypothesis in question of Doña María de Aragón, wife of the Marquis of Vasto. To this conclusion came Crawford, and it seems that the reference to Galatea as Lady, qualifier ever given to Silvia, means that it belonged to a high-class to Acuña, presenting as your server.

This second love story lacks the historical details that abound in the Silvano and Silvia; Here, Acuña presents a more Platonic relationship. The beloved is presented with divine attributes, which away from the possibility of Damon can be met; Description presenting her haceTirsi it thus: "non-mortal thing their movements, / and of another type than the human voice / echoes the sweet sound of their accents". In another poem, Acuña had described to Doña María de Aragón as "divine" more than human "beauty".

In the love poetry of Acuña, there is a large group of poems that disappears every reference to the beloved; an internalization of the loving process analysis has been on them. The poet seems to talk to itself without any reference outside that there is need to communicate. Larios has described this process very well: "between the XXXVI and the LXXII, poet has come the way that goes from the lamentation by the remoteness of the beloved until the discovery of his inner world in that, become ideal, disappear the physical barrier to their possession". Here is the last of the States traversed by the poet, the moral and religious reflection.

This mood is reflected in a number of poems less than devoted to tell their love stories, but are interesting because they symbolize a process of spiritualization of his poetry, poetic look back to the inner self, detached from the worldly vanities. In this sense be interpreted the sonnet that opens the collection of various poems, which is presented as an example to avoid: "thus, reading or being told / my passions, can then sweep away / follow my footsteps error".

It is equivalent to the introductory sonnet of the Canzoniere petrarquista which presents the same ideas. Another sonnet that also reflects this new ideologico-tematica attitude of Acuña is the sonnet XLVII, which relates the dialogue between Democritus and Heraclitus, two philosophers representing two different conceptions to the existence: optimism and pessimism. Acuña seem to opt for the second of them, defended by the of a Heraclitus already suffering and old that has inspired the idea of the death in the final verse: "and that will take me to the grave".

The sonnet CI, glossing of the sonnet VII of Petrarca, reflects his pessimistic view of society, a vision in which evil triumphs and Vice campa at ease; in what increasingly is considered less "goodness, knowledge, courage / the best, or wiser, or more courageous", concept so often repeated in the moral poetry of the Castilian cancioneriles poets of the 15th century. But the sonnet more profuse and deeply reflected this change in attitude is the CII that appears under the heading "Good Friday to the soul". Here the idea of death appears in an obsessive way, close by the play of rhymes life/death that occurs throughout the composition.

Certainly throughout the entire poem can be seen the influence of Spanish where poetry, especially Ausiàs March tear, so present in the poetry of Garcilaso, for example. The last trio summarizes the idea that aims to instill Acuña to the reader: "straighten the path to a better life, / let the incident that leads to death, / that law is more plain and will life". Three sonnets that Acuña dedicated to Carlos V and his son Felipe II, in which presents an image of Spain as a defender of the word of God and his church can be understood within this same current of spiritualization.

The three are imbued with the concept of universal monarchy which purported to impose Carlos V. The most famous of them is the one dedicated to the Lord our King, that begins "already approaching, Mr, or is already arrival", critique has traditionally considered aimed at Carlos V, but John H. Elliot, Elias L. Rivers and Christopher Maurer believe, with solid arguments, it is dedicated to Felipe II.

Hernando de Acuña. The King our Lord.

This sonnet Acuña demonstrates his hopes that the Spanish monarch, Carlos V and Felipe II, is King of all Christendom: "and announces to the world, for more comfort, / a monarch, an empire and a sword". This thinks that it has to establish a new era of hope for the Christian man: ", who has given Christ his banner, / will give the second most blessed day / in, defeated the sea, venza land".

V. roncero López.

Essential bibliography.

ACUÑA, Hernando de. Several poems. Ed. Luis f. Díaz Larios. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1982).

ALONSO CORTÉS, narcissus. Don Hernando de Acuna. Biographical news. (Valladolid: library Studium, 1913).

CARAVAGGI, Giovanni. "An enthusiastic traduttore: Don Hernando de Acuña". Studi sull' epic ispanica del Rinascimento. 23, Pisa, 1974, pp. 7-50.

CRAWFORD, J. P. W. "Notes on the Poetry of Hernando de Acuña", in The Romanic Review. VII (1916), pp. 314-327.

Gallego Morell, Antonio. "The school of Garcilaso. Studies on the first golden age Spanish poetry". (Madrid: Insula, 1970). Pp. 3-30.

MÁRQUEZ VILLANUEVA, Francisco. "Giovan Giorgio Trissino and the sonnet of Acuña Carlos v", in Studia Hispanica in honorem Rafael Lapesa. II. (Madrid: Gredos, 1972). Pp. 355-372.

PRIETO, Antonio. Spanish poetry of the 16th century. I you walk after my writings. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1984). Pp. 125-134.

ROMERA CASTILLO, José. The poetry of Hernando de Acuña. (Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 1982).