Biography of Francisco de Aldana (1537-1578)

Spanish poet, son of parents from Extremadura, born in Italy (probably in Naples) in 1537, and died at the battle of Alcazalquivir (in the province of Tangier, in Morocco) in 1578. His poetic production, heiress in the beginning of the themes and the Italianate forms introduced by Boscan and Garcilaso, exceeds the petrarquismo and Neoplatonism into a naturalistic conception of love, bringing a moderate dose of sensuality that enriches what, in previous poets, was a mere spiritual process.


His father, Antonio Villela de Aldana, was captain of horse and warden of the strengths of Aquila, Gaeta and Manfredonia. He/She had married in Parma with the daughter of Colonel Gonzalo de Aldana, cousin of his mother. In 1540, the family moved to Florence in a definitive way; There the father received the command of the Spanish Cavalry, and in 1546, Castilian Liorna and San Miniato charges. The youth of Francisco de Aldana, was developed in this city without that we know nothing of his intellectual formation (although Elias L. Rivers says that he/she wrote his first works under the influence of Benedetto Varchi scholar).

There he/she soaked of Neoplatonism that prevailed in the Florentine literature of his time. In a memorial written at the end of his life said that his military career had begun in 1553, and his brother Cosimo I remember that had participated in the battle of St Quentin in 1557. In 1563 he/she was appointed Lieutenant of her father, warden of the fortress of San Miniato. Following the orders of Felipe II, he/she left Italy to serve in Flanders under the command of Francisco Álvarez de Toledo, third Duke of Alba, Governor of the Netherlands appointed.

In Flanders served as bartender of the Duke, that complained in the II Epistle addressed to his brother Cosimo. We know that he/she participated in the campaign against the Luis conde de Nassau. In 1571 he/she went to Madrid with a letter from the Duke of Alba addressed to the President of the Council of Castile. In 1572 he/she participated as sergeant major on an expedition of don Juan de Austria against the Turks.

The following year he/she took part in the siege and conquest of the city of Harlem. At the site of Alkmaar was wounded by a mosquetazo and, according to himself, had to spend seven months in bed. In July of 1574 he/she wrote a letter to the Duke of Alba, who had been relieved of his position in Flanders, which expressed its desire to return to Spain, although in August of that year he/she was at the site of Leiden, which rose in October 1574. Requesens commissioned him to negotiations with the soldiers of the thirds to avoid the riots which did so much damage to the Spanish troops. Finally, in March, 1576 he/she returned to Spain with the purpose of getting some reward to his twenty-four years of service.

On his arrival in Spain, it was commissioned temporarily holding the fortress of San Sebastián. The following year, he/she is commanded to travel with the Torres Diego adventurer to North Africa, clandestinely, to recognize the navies and their strengths and learn more of what he/she was serving. Returned to Madrid, traveled to Lisbon to present their reports to the King don Sebastián, and was deeply impressed by the Portuguese monarch. Back in Madrid, he/she was in charge of the custody of the Earl of Bura, son of Guillermo de Orange, he/she accompanied to the fortress of Arévalo; from there, he/she went to San Sebastián.

At the end of June 1578 Felipe II ordered Aldana to serve the King of Portugal. On July 31, Aldana came with five hundred Castilian soldiers to Arcila, but the Portuguese army had already interned in Africa. Considering the disaster coming, he/she expressed his intention to return to Spain, but he/she was convinced to not do it and handed over to the King a letter from the Duke of Alba and decided to go to the meeting of the Portuguese King.

His brother has that don Sebastián appointed him as maestre de campo general. He/She organized the infantry and died in the battle, which took place on 4 August, fighting like a true hero. But in his time he/she was not only remembered as a hero, but that his literary work was very much appreciated by his contemporaries who gave the title of "Divine", reserved only to the great writers. Before his death, Gil Polo dedicated a compliment on your in love with Diana (published in 1564). Also Cervantes the referenced along with Boscan and Garcilaso in La Galatea (1585), and Lope de Vega praised both his military career and his poetry in his Laurel de Apolo (1630).

Poetic work.

As it is the case of most of the Spanish poets of the golden age, Aldana never published his poems. His brother Cosimo was commissioned to give them light in two volumes: the first under the title of part one of the works, printed in Milan, with dedication in 1589; the second, entitled part of the works, in Madrid in 1591. These two collections contain a large amount of errors, as evidenced by the judgment of Quevedo: "if I have time I calm one day quite, I think amend and correct his works our deste poet Spanish, so aggrieved of the Digest, so offended of the scruff of a his brother, who as a courtesy only believeth that says it will believe that it is true".

The edition of his brother is riddled with errors and includes poems that were not written by Francisco de Aldana. Most of his poetry incorporates the typical tematico-formal repertoire of his time: love sonnets, with pastoral setting many of them; mythological poems ("Fábula de Faetonte"); a reworking of a text of Ariosto ("Medoro and Angelica"); religious poems ("song to Christ crucified"); Epistles in verse ("Epistle to Arias Montano"); Patriotic poems ("to the King don Felipe, our Lord"). But many of his works, and not only his first time lost in Florence; Cosimo offers a list of these works: treated on the Blessed Sacrament and the platonic love; a dialogue in prose and verse, entitled Cyprigna, of several gentlemen who lived in solitude in Cyprus; octaves on the Genesis and the Virgin; translation of the Epistles of Ovid; and "a work of love and beauty to the sensual".

His birth in Italy, and the prestige of Italian literature, explain the fact that Aldana, as also Figueroa, wrote poems in Italian; have been preserved two Sonnets written entirely in that language, or with a mixture of Italian and Spanish; an example is the octave beginning "this is Alabaster powder and beautiful hand / per cui spari dal cor the antico gelo", in a verse in Spanish which alternate with the following in Italian.

But most of the poetic production of Aldana is written in Castilian, although following metric forms and topics that had been imposed by the Italian tradition, especially that of the Cinquecento. Within this tradition fits his love poetry, but with a feature that does not appear in the poets prior to his generation: the sensualism.

Aldana doesn't follow neither the petrarquismo nor the Neoplatonism of poets such as Garcilaso and Acuña; He/She no longer considers love as only spiritual phenomenon. Its conception is naturalistic, a naturalism which follows humanists as Equicola, which analyzes with realism loving psychology and explores the roots of sensuality. The poem which best exemplifies this naturalism is that begins "What is the cause, my Damon, that being", which establishes a dialogue between the two lovers Damon and Phyllis, in which stands out the need for the union between the bodies to achieve the authentic feeling of love: "love, my beautiful Phyllis, that inside / our souls gathered"", wants in its forge / bodies attach also".

But this union (the souls and bodies) never satisfy all lovers, so movement is perpetuated in the always unsatisfied desire to recover the androginismo first. This dissatisfaction comes to an end, in which the poet, tired, is considered dead for love, as it appears in the Epistle to Galanio, where it says: "and the tribute paid in those years / that the Archer child are most welcome, / but I can already say: 'happened, I used to, / ebony hair bleaching already". It is then when the removal of the vain things of the world, arises when you want to pass the active lifestyle of the militia to the contemplation of God and his work. In the sonnet which begins "Clear light source, new and beautiful" the poet describes the feelings of his soul, wanting to break free from the prison of the body to be in heaven with the creator. But this contemplative life reflects the old horaciano topic of retired life. The poet wants to live in a place where they are absent "care, / death, desire, pain, fear and anger". Only divine contemplation moves since then his mood, all designs it and directs towards God. But contemplative life does not imply isolation: the love has been replaced by friendship, with horacianos echoes in verses as directed to his friend: "with you you are the best part of me". Aldana rejects the lifestyle of the anchorites, because he/she believes in the indissolubility of the friendships souls.

Francisco de Aldana. Recognition of the vanity of the world.

Aldana also composed sonnets and religious songs, based, most of them in the central doctrine of Christianity: that of the incarnation. We have an example of this in the sonnet "Sacrosanta, immortal fountain sales". But these are not the only religious issues is, since we also retain a sonnet to the Virgin or song dedicated to the solitude of our Lady.

A genre that highlights his poetic vein is the Epistles. They can be divided into two groups: the loving, that has as a model to Ovid, and moral, in that the model it provides Horacio. The first group only have the "Epistle to a lady"; in it the poet reflects an idea already topical: obedience which is the lover to the wishes of his lady, idea already expressed in the first tercet: "Ay hard law of love thus compels me / not having more will than that / ordered me the rigor of my enemy!". The other Epistles, of horaciana influence, all of them are aimed at males: his brother Cosimo or Benito Arias Montano, among others. All, with the exception of the III, are based on sincere friendship that correspondents profess.

Thus, in "Epistle II" the poet writes to his brother Cosimo telling his annoying situation at the Court: "life that ora step here is not another / that trafagar in this Iberian Court". The most well known and important of the Epistles is the directed to the article scholar Benito Arias Montano, which treats of the contemplation of God and requirements; It has been called as "horaciana Epistle to the divine" and "spiritual autobiography". In this epistle, written in 1577 from Madrid, Aldana shows his tiredness of life that leads: "my temporary life anda consigue / inside the hell of the common trafago", and his desire to reach a secluded life that allows you to reflect on himself: "to me the secret of my heart / and talk in my inner man, / do go, do is"If you live, or what has been done.

Retired life, but in the company of the own MONTAÑO, "in reciprocal love together trying to"; contemplative life, observation of nature, maximum work of God. It is, therefore, this Epistle another sample of the desire of Aldana reach the divine union through friendship and contemplation. The tone of humility, always dependent on the grace of God, and the concept of the inner life, of the spirit are essential in the epistle. But it is not just a letter that Aldana presents his ideas forgetting the receiver, but at certain times he/she goes to him, inviting him to join him ("you'll see", "down there", "we will look at") so you satisfy your curiosity of humanist and observe the "twisted snails", "mother of Pearl, the clam and the purpuria / veneria".

The contemplative life does not forget their patriotic concerns, in which holes of this spirituality that informs other poems are also. We have the most clear example of this in the directed sonnet "to King don Felipe, our Lord". It describes the divine mission of the Spanish monarch, mission which had already been assigned him before his birth; It is the Messianic monarchy. The poem presents to the King as the monarch who since Biblical times was announced, who will lead the man to unite behind the word of God; It is the same message that Hernando de Acuña broadcasts in his famous sonnet: the Spanish sovereign, chosen by God, to be the pastor who is going to govern his flock: "and goes after your banner / people, the world, time and fortune". The same message is that appears in octaves to King don Felipe our Lord, in which two allegorical female figures communicated to the monarch that believe should be the military policy of the Spanish Empire, focused mostly on the defense of the true faith; all of this with lots of Bible references: "you the Pharaohs, the Golias, / the Nembrotes beat only plays".

The "Fable of Faetonte" consists of 1214 verses and is an adaptation into Spanish "Favola di Fetonte" of the Italian poet Luigi Alamanni, who, in turn, had adapted it from Ovid's version. The original text Aldana delivers a realistic description and scientific analysis. The rest of the narrative poems of Aldana used as stanza octaves real. We can highlight the gloss that makes the sonnet XXIV of Garcilaso, "Passing the sea Leandro the game", which was printed in sheets loose from 1536, poem that allowed him to express the dissatisfaction of the desire for love.

Another narrative poem in octave real is the one dedicated to the "birth of the Virgin", that has as a model "De partu Virginis" of Sannazaro; with this poem Aldana tries to create a cultured religious epic in the combination of virgilianismo and biblical subject, with abundant references to classical mythology: there are allusions to Febo or Venus, among other characters of the pagan pantheon. Also religious themes are the "octaves on the last judgment", giving a surreal impression; for Rivers in them, Aldana presents a first part that glorifies the divine through his creation of beauty and harmony, until the fifth octave that begin to describe the disaster that causes the final moment: "the great old mother see, / nature, be all troubled, /... / sterile already, decrepit and tired"; the end of the poem describes perfectly through the asyndeton chaos that produces the Final judgement and trumpets announcing it: "what's estantiguas see, mists and horrors, / covers, ghosts and grimaces, / fainting, surprises, and fears, / cold death, stimuli and outrages, / pains, cramps, cravings and tremors!".

Within these octaves we also find others in which we have no narrative elements, they are didactic poems or morales. Such is the case of the "octaves above the good of the secluded life", poem that Aldana is what Horacio had already set: ill-gained wealth, the search for the naked truth, the aurea mediocritas, the power of the word to give fame to the poet ("the superb trophies that is full, / by eternity do I think getting")(', / the muses are, and which have failed / darkening the waters of forgetfulness "), etc.

Finally, also cultivated Aldana style cancioneril, although to a lesser extent than the previous generation poets and some of his, as it is the case of Fernando de Herrera. Perhaps his Italian training had to do with this fact, since it didn't have the same access to the themes and cancioneriles meters than his contemporaries, educated in Spain. This tradition took the metrical form and humor, elements that appear in the "dialogue between head and foot", which has been linked to the tradition of the cancioneril debate, though Lara Garrido thought that "appears to be more to the dialogue and humorous variant of the bernesco capriccio in whose matter... the poet occupies the foreground".

We have two other examples in two poems which have come to us in fragmentary State. These two poems have as a common theme loving, although one of them, which begins "without as many philosophies", tries to distinguish between two different types of love: one "which entertains the server / in fatuous hypocrisy", although there are "other more human, / more tender and more slack". We are, then, before the sensuality that preaches in his serious love poems, but in this case the subject is treated in a casual, so it resorts to the metro and cancioneril style. Another poem, which begins "so sweetly only proffered", moves, with conceptistas resources taken from the poetry of the fifteenth century, between wanting to lover and not wanting the beloved's.


ALDANA, Francisco de. Complete Castilian poetry. Ed. José Lara Garrido. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1985).

HERNANDO SQUARE, J. Francisco de Aldana loving cycle. (Madrid: 1981).

LARA GARRIDO, José. The poetry of contemplation (rereading the letter to Arias Montano of Francisco de Aldana). (Madrid, 1985).

PRIETO, Antonio. Spanish poetry of the 16th century. I you walk after my writings. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1984). Pp. 233-283.

RIVERS, Elias L. Francisco de Aldana, the divine master. (Badajoz: 1955).

RODRÍGUEZ MOÑINO, Antonio. The captain Francisco de Aldana, poet of the 16th century (1537-1578). (Valladolid: 1943).

RUIZ SILVA, Carlos. Studies on Francisco de Aldana. (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, 1981).