Biography of Fray Luis de León (1527-1591)

Fray Luis de León.

Poet and Spanish theologian, born at Belmonte (Cuenca) in 1527, and died in Madrigal de las Altas Torres (Ávila) in 1591.


He was born in a family of noblemen of Jewish origin. Her great-grandmother had been reconciled in a car of faith held in Cuenca. His father, Lope de León, was a lawyer at the Court, and in 1541 was appointed judge in the Chancery of Granada. Fourteen or fifteen years he lived in the House from his father in Madrid and Valladolid. In 1541, he entered the convent of San Agustín in Salamanca, where he professed three years later. It followed the ordinary course of the students of the order, even if there is an interruption, unknown cause, between 1551 and 1552. For this reason he continued his studies at Alcalá, where he enrolled in 1556, and where he stayed for eighteen months. There was a disciple of Cipriano de la Huerga hebraist and school-fellow of Arias Montano. In 1556 he was as a reader in a convent in Soria. In 1558 he graduated from high school in Toledo, and in 1560 he received bachelor's and master's degree in theology at the University of Salamanca. In 1561 he obtained the Chair of scholastic theology in Salamanca, in a hard-fought opposition with the Dominicans. His father in Granada died a year later. In 1561, at the behest of a nun, Isabel de Osorio, translated the song of songs. A year later he had to testify before the Inquisition of Valladolid on a book they had extended to him by Arias Montano. In 1565 he got the Chair of scholastic theology and Sacred Scripture.

Fray Luis was denounced to the Inquisition in 1570 because of a lesson about marriage, even though the complaint had no major consequences. A year later he was denounced by the Friar Medina, Martínez Cantalapiedra and Grajal, suspicion of heresy; the three were arrested in 1572. Fray Luis was imprisoned in Valladolid, accused of criticising the Vulgate, having translated the song of songs and have maintained innovative views on the meaning of the Scriptures. He remained in prison until December 1576, subjected to complete isolation. During this imprisonment, fray Luis was devoted to outlining some of his works in prose and write part of his poems.

Out of prison, after having been considered innocent, he returned to Salamanca, where took possession of the Chair of writing in 1577. In 1579 the Chair of biblical studies obtained in dispute with fray Domingo de Guzmán, son of Garcilaso de la Vega. From here was dedicated to their classes and the publication of his works: in 1580 published In cantica canticorum, version Latin of the song of songs. Until the year 1590 he was required to participate in matters related to the University (lawsuit with the higher school of the Archbishop), with questions of religious orders (defense of the nuns of the Carmel and publication of the works of Santa Teresa), and with their own order (review of the accounts of the Provincial of Castile; drafting of the statutes of the recoletos monks of San Agustín). In 1591 was appointed vicar provincial of the order of San Agustín, who obliged him to move to Madrid. Despite this, he continued a few months in the salmantina Chair. He attended the chapter that the Augustinians held in the convent of Madrigal, where he was elected Vicar General, who did not play as died on 23 August of that same year.


Fray Luis de León was a Renaissance man, and as such its culture encompassed all fields of Science: mathematics, physics, astronomy, music, law, medicine and, above all, theology. His main interest was the teaching, facilitate knowledge of sacred texts, on return to the hebraica veritas; i.e., to recover the authentic text of the Bible, which according to him and other leading hebraists of the time had been, in some cases, poorly translated by St. Jerome. For this reason, with philological expertise you want, as it says in the song of songs, "declare the bark of the letter, so simply, as if in this book there is another more secret which show bare words [...] It will be only declare the sound of them, and that that is the comparison and the crushing force". Its function, then, will be double: the understanding of the meaning of the original text and the expression that should make explicit explanations. Aware of its didactic work, writes some of his comments in Spanish, in a careful and consciously elaborated language: "the well to speak is not common, but business of particular judgment, as well in what is said as in the way you say." And business that which agree, select words that everyone is talking about and watch the sound of them, and still sometimes has the letters, and weighs them, and measured, and composed them so not only say clearly what it is meant to say, but also with harmony and sweetness." Fray Luis here reflects the concept of the Renaissance of elevating the vernacular at the height of the Latin, for what the difference between spoken language and written, as opposed to Juan de Valdés stating in his dialogue of the language: "I write as I speak".

As it was the case with the great writers of his time, it was not too concerned about the edition of his works, and only by obedience to his superiors published in 1580 In cantica canticorum and commentary In Sumite XXVI. In 1583 the perfect married and incomplete version of the names of Christ were published. Also, as we have said, he edited the works of Santa Teresa. The production of fray Luis is divided into two basic groups: poetry and prose. In the first, we can distinguish two groups: original poems and translations. Works in prose are more numerous and are also divided into two groups: written in latin and those that are in Spanish. In the first there is a subsection: the Exegetical and theological and philosophical. The Exegetical include: Epistle II ad Thessalonicenses, unfinished; the song of Moses; the Psalms XXXVI, LVII, XXVIII, LXXVII; the commentary to the Ecclesiastes; all of them in the form of explanations of class, not published until the 19th century. Published in the 16th century are: the commentary on Psalm XXVI, on the affirmation of integrity that makes David; In cantica canticorum explanatio, exegesis of the work of Solomon; In Abdiam Prophetam, comments about the Prophet Obadiah, in which fray Luis create discover the reference to the discovery of America; Of agni utriusque, typici atque immolationis veri legitimate tempore. Philosophical and theological works were: De Verbi incarnatione, De rerum creatione, Commentaria in III partem D. Thomae, pradestinatione, charitate, SPE and that of fide. The Exegetical works in English are: singing songs, exposition of the book of Job, the names of Christ and the perfect married.

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Fray Luis also cultivated the sonnet; five poems have been preserved in the metro preferred by the petrarquistas poets. Vossler considered them as allegorical and think are juvenile works of Tuscan imitation. Luisianos sonnets lend themselves to two interpretations: the erotic and religious; they can be read as dedicated to a woman loving poems or prayers to the Virgin. Thus, in the sonnet I, the two triplets read: "then consoled me and ensures / seeing that I am, illustrious Lady, work / your grace alone, and that you trust: / / because conservaréis your workmanship, / my faults supliréis with your leftover, / and your good will durable mine". Also wrote a poem in redondillas ("here the envy and lie"), poem he wrote out of jail and in which censorship, in the first two verses, the Inquisition by having him locked up, to spend the rest of the poem to address again the topic of the retired life.

Another important part of his poems are translations of classical and sacred texts. These two facets checks his great knowledge both of the Bible - was a great clerk - like the classical literature. This last translated eclogues and the second Georgica of Virgil, odes of Horatio, one of Pindar, part of the Andromache of Euripides and fragments of a tragedy of Seneca. Sacral translations focuses in the Psalms and in the chapter of Proverbs of Solomon, in which he confesses "I tried what I could imitate the simplicity of its fountain and a taste of antiquity which itself have, filled in my opinion of tenderness and Majesty".

Work in prose.

The exposition of the book of Job is the most extensive prose of the author. It was composed over a long period of the life of fray Luis; Father Félix García believes that different parts of the work were written between 1573, when it would have translated and commented to the 20th chapter, until March, 1591, in which he composed the chapter XLII. The book is dedicated to the mother Ana de Jesús, successor of Santa Teresa in front of the Barefoot Carmelites. Fray Luis, in the dedication recognizes the dark of the biblical text and, therefore, the difficulty of translating it and add a comment. The first chapters of the work are abundant in use autobiographical, although your spiritual life and your personality can be felt throughout the work, as if it knew identified with the biography of the Hebrew author; Oreste Macrí thinks that the first thirty-one chapters were written in prison, and considers that this part is "more biographical and tragic [...];" go back to the origins of the Hebrew mystical tradition and delves into her, equating the adventures of his own life with the ancient biblical facts, taken as types and examples of religious and moral drama of humanity." From Chapter XXXIII changes the tone of the work and the comment becomes more resigned and the prose is made easier; Father Félix García attributed this change to the reading of the works of Santa Teresa. Each of the chapters that make up the exhibition is divided into three parts: the first is the corresponding translation; the second, a detailed and thorough explanation of the different aspects of the text, and the third a few triplets, in which the poet goes beyond mere translation to become "rich and dense elaborations, final original poetry". The work was not printed in the life of the author, despite the interest shown by the mother Ana de Jesús, perhaps because of the chosen version of the text of Job. The first edition was edited by father Merino in 1779.

The perfect married, dedicated by fray Luis to Doña María Varela Osorio, was composed to serve to the bride wedding gift and to guide it in their married life. The work was first published in 1583 and immediately met a great success to the extent that the author revised it, introducing new fragments and correcting some things. The work is divided into twenty chapters in which verses 10 to 31 of proverbs, which exhibits the virtues that women must have to achieve the harmony of your environment are discussed. Fray Luis was criticized at the time for a subject that was not considered appropriate for a religious, what is defended in the introduction to the third book the names of Christ: "subtraction say something to those who say it was not my quality or my habit write nursing the married; "that will not tell it, if they first consider what craft of the wise before speaking well look what it says [...] and I in that book I only do is to put the words which God writes, and declare what they say". The work is Exegetical type author to which applied its formulations and explanatory methods, supporting their interpretations with his vast erudition of sacred and classical books. The literature on women's behavior has a long tradition from the fathers of the Church (St. Ambrose, San Agustín), renewed by humanism and the erasmismo.

In the perfect married, fray Luis returns to discuss the subject of harmony, although in this work, harmony is achieved through the harmony provided by the behavior of married women, which should equate to the natural order. The woman, with good behavior, will achieve the correspondence between the natural and the social order; in this way, the author introduces comments on economic, social and political aspects of the Spanish society of the 16th century. The work poses no negative aspects of the status of women, as the verses of proverbs forced him to focus on the virtues of women married, presented in this exegesis as a model that should be emulated; the unique references to negative traits must understand them as the counterpoint that confirms the positive traits. Fray Luis, from the biblical texts and authors and philosophers prior to the friar, express their own views, which are formulas of balanced social behavior. In the interpretation of biblical texts, fray Luis follows the following scheme: philological and textual interpretation, and the exemplification; both are complementary and both articulates the issue. As shows Alexander Habib Arkin, fray Luis approaches the threefold method proposed by Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra, which facilitates a specific thematic exhibition.

The perfect married is conceived as an epistle addressed to a relative; This explains the work to gather ideas and tips, scholarship and references to daily events. On the other hand, is present to a legal context, as the proverbs were standards, and should be interpreted as rules of natural law. In this case the exegete is the interpreter, the intermediary between the divine and the Christian society which has received those words as rules that must be respected and obeyed; Thus, at one point writes: "I say that in this chapter, God, by the mouth of Solomon, by a few words does two things. One, it instructs and ordered the customs; "the other prophesies secret mysteries". To establish this union between the earthly and the divine, it should be perfectly applied the strict logical and dialectic, to achieve the necessary synthesis and the synthesis must be carried out on the management of the text, and, at the same time, the word has to correspond with the idea. For Mercedes Etreros, what characterizes the composition of this work from the rest of his Exegetical works "is the representation of transpositions that Fray Luis performs with a masterly sense, as if it were a plastic creation". To reinforce the evidentiary text function use the description, simile, example and the appointment. Similes and examples are common in the discourses of teaching type, since the comparison facilitates the understanding of an idea to link it to elements or ideas known and used by the readers; This resource also abounds in Rabbinic exegesis.

Names of Christ has been considered as a masterpiece of prose Louisiana and a synthesis of thought picked up in his other works, such as Macri says it: "names are a perpetual review of original poems; they are brash prose of the beliefs and feelings of a man of the Spanish Renaissance reached the culmination of his tight and maturity." The drafting of the work had begun in 1573-1574 and the process of development, as in other works by the same author, spreads for several years, until it is published, for the first time and structured in two parts, in 1583, and two years later, again divided into three. The intention that fray Luis moved to write this work was the present a biblical and Patristic Anthology that will replace the reading of holy books for those who could not read latin, as this reading could get teachings to be good Christian: "this, that is so good, and that was so useful at that timethe sad condition of our centuries, and the experience of our great misfortune, assure us that us is chance now of much damage." But he also wanted to offer readers an introduction to biblical and patristic, thinking that could serve as compendium of the dogma, morals. But this does not mean that the book was aimed at uneducated readers, but that the reader that the Friar has in mind is the educated reader, because as says Félix García, "like all great works, is most admired that read, for your reading is required an appropriate doctrinal preparation and potting taste". The structure of the work varies and increases with successive editions: 1583 Edition is divided into two books, the first with five names, and the second with four; in the posted in 1585 is added the third book, with other four names, including that of "Pastor" in the first; the final, published posthumously in 1595, adds the name of "Lamb", which should be placed between "Son of God" and "Beloved". However, the bimembre structure that is already given in the first edition is maintained in the other despite the changes. Caves thinks that fray Luis was projecting from the beginning estucturar the work in three books, in the introduction, he claims that it will make talking to Julian, that it does so only in the last book. Each of the three books consists of an exhibition in prose, which is interspersed with verses, always in the mouth of Sabino, and ending with the endecasilabos of a Psalm translation. On the other hand, each name have the same development: Sabino reads certain passages of Scripture containing the name which will speak; After testing the membership of that name to Christ; Finally the theological, mystical consequences that are considered necessary are taken off. The first five names maintain harmony and the sense of measure, but from "Father of the century future", treaties become more extensive. In Book III are very extensive quotes from parents and former doctors, not given in the past and which subtracted credibility to the work Dialogic character.

Temporarily, the three books are located in three different periods: the first book takes place the morning of the day of san Pedro; the second begins after the NAP and ends nightfall; the third is the next day, feast of St. Paul. Two different spaces within "The arrow", the estate to which fray Luis withdrew they correspond to these different times. The literary form of the work does not vary in the three books; It is maintained by three Augustinian Friars (Marcelo, Sabino and Julian), who used a "paper" or belonging to Marcelo note in the first two dialogues and dialogue found by Sabino. Much discussed on this "role"; It refers to a nine names of Christ, which some attribute to the beato Alonso de Orozco and others to the own fray Luis, and others consider a mere literary resource.

A problem that has arisen with Renaissance dialogues is the real or fictitious character of the characters involved in the dialogue; so some people think that Marcelo is fray Luis and the other two friends, and others think that the figure of the author who is desdoblaría under three names is hidden in o.Carm (Marcelo), scholastic (Julian) and the poet (Sabino). Certainly, Marcelo is which assumes the role of the teacher, but the real ruler of the dialogue is fray Luis. In the work to follow the main features of the Renaissance dialogues: the dramatic structure, the use of the literary language, approach issues from different perspectives, artistic painting scenes and characters, amenity coming from speakers change, resource mayeutico of questions and answers, the presence of a personaje-maestro, the creep of the discourse between actions and reactions dialectic. But are other features that fray Luis continues awoke model: each partner develops at length his thinking, disappears the mayeutico resource, dialogues are headed by an extensive foreword, conversation directed it one person, behind which tends to hide the author, thus manifesting their own opinions, stage is a garden.

But the literariety of the names of Christ is not in the selection of the dialogue as a genre of work, but that the use which is made of the Castilian prose with the attempt at imitation of Latin prose has to be also designated. Lies here fray Luis in the nationalist stream of the Renaissance considered the vernacular language as language with artistic ability. Here the interest by the purity of texts and the words can be seen in numerous etymological remarks and other many references to phenomena syntactic, morphological, or spelling, among others. Their claim is that of lifting the Spanish to cultured language, with the same prestige as other modern European languages; Thus it has pointed out that he is the first who wrote a prose that relied on "tonal melodies and rhythms". In his prose remains models origens classical writers and the Bible, mostly, and the prose writers in romance languages. The Augustinian monk fits the theory of the three styles of rhetoric (simple, medium, sublime) Latin combining all three; in the names of Christ there is no affectation in style, they are looking for clarity and order: the words are common, there are no violent twists, sentences and sayings appear. On the other hand the figures of words occur in the work: parallelism, antithesis, isocolon, chiasmus, hiperbaton, rhyme, alliteration, etc. With this we can see that writing is not neglected, but that, on the contrary, there is a conscious and hard search for naturalness and simplicity. Luisiano period is wide Cadence, although we also have examples of the use of the brief; so, we have expository passages in which the phrase intertwine creating long sentences, exempt, however, any kind of difficulty. It intended to reach the sensitivity of its readers, so also check out hand to the resources that produce emotional reactions: exclamations, the mixture of exclamation marks and apostrophe, the prosopopeia, hyperbole, the rhetorical question, the expletive, etc. It contributes to the creation of the emotional state using superlative adjectives ("sweetest fruit", "incomparably great, gloriosisimo, perfect"), and affective diminutives.

The names of Christ is a debtor of various traditions and literary genres work; at the end, and after all, the Louisiana here exposed theory is not original: comes from other books that the Augustinian Friar has managed to unite and give literary expression itself. The work to which more must is, without doubt, the Bible, and within it the moral and prophetic books of the old testament, the Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul; in this way fulfills its primary mission: the dissemination of Christian doctrine. Greco-Roman classical literature (Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Virgil, and Horacio,) among others exerted a great influence on this work, for aesthetic reasons, but also for ideological reasons and erudition. The Holy fathers also appear explicitly: San Agustín, san Jerónimo, etc. To them because their doctrinal background and its interpretation of Scripture and Greco-Roman philosophy. Could not miss the influence of Scholasticism and, above all, of the work of Saint Tomás de Aquino; Sáinz Rodríguez says that: "the bottom of his doctrine is Scholasticism, although modified by the environment of Renaissance in the manner of Vitoria, Cano and Suárez". Marcel Bataillon highlighted the footprint of Erasmus in fray Luis: the idea of revealing the mysteries of Christ through their names; the constant recurrence to the Bible; the love of patristics; the search for an inner Christianity, the exaltation of the grace, the proclamation of peace as the Supreme good, etc.


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