when a rose is not a rose: espronceda's flower poetics - smjeg


WHEN A ROSE IS NOT A ROSE: ESPRONCEDA'S FLOWER POETICS Because they offer such a wide range of connotations, flowers are a significant IOUI'Ce of imagery in European poetry. In Spanish literature, flower figures frrst appear in the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance and Golden Age, Garcilaso, Quevedo, and Rioja to name a few use flowers, especially roses, to express the of life's brevity. Both rococo gallantry and neoclassic pastoralism lead to an of floral imagery in the eighteenth century. Although strongly influenced by poets of the previous century, the nineteenth-century poet Jose de lspronceda has a particularly characteristic use of flowers, one that will influence writers. Flowers abound in Espronceda 's poetry; they appear, in one fonn or , in over half of the lyric poetry and all the long narrative poems, from his neoclassic pastoral verses to the titanic Romanticism of El diablo mundo. figures fulfill several functions. Most readers notice the association between and flowers in El estudiante de Salamanca and the "Canto a Teresa". Other however, have received less attention. While critics such as Marrast and :ton have commented on the earlier pastoral poetry, they have ignored ;:ea 's continued reliance on these motifs in his mature poems. Another aspect of this poet's work is the comparison, not of women, but of men flowers. As Espronceda's style evolves, he uses this imagery to examine the issues of his own life: women, love, and ambition. Flower figures comprise of the most important elements in Espronceda, reflecting the development of thought on both a personal and a poetic level. These tendencies already emerge at the beginning ofEspronceda's career. His long narrative poem, El Pelayo, includes sections of a composition on the theme written by his teacher, the neoclassic poet Alberto Lista. Yet, when .,UCI chooses to rewrite some of Lista 's verses, the younger man radically them, hinting at his future accomplishments. Lista's original text profneoclassic commonplaces:


De la mansi6n del Aries, deliciosa. la bella Primavera descendfa. y en el regazo de Ia tierra ansiosa, vivificantes fuegos encend!a. Ternplaba el mar; Ia furia procelosa al encendido viento suspendfa; y el alba derramaba en sus albores 1uz regalada, y pl,cidos arnores (qtd. in Marrast 101)


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Espronceda 's verses, however, show a greater vitality. As Marrast has noted, "vease con que habilidad y seguro instinto retoca una estrofa de Lista, escrita de primera mano, doodole color y annonfa" (100): Todo es placer: de su mansion de rosa la primavera candida desciende, y en el regazo de Ia tierra ansiosa el fuego animador de vida enciende; templa del mar Ia furia procelosa, el viento en calma placida suspende, y derrama la aurora en sus albores luz regalada. y regaladas flares. (qtd. in Marrast 101)

But what Marrast fails to observe is that Espronceda's verses take their strength from the use of flowers. Substituting Lista 's final amores for the more allusive flo res, Espronceda expands the flower imagery, giving greater emphasis to the notion of pleasure. Other verses also insinuate the conventional affiliation between flowers and sexuality (Goody 3-4); instead of simply beautiful, Espronceda makes Spring candida-innocent, pure, and even naive. Subtle changes in word order and choice replace the rather indifferent "vivificantes fuegos" with the more potent "el fuego animador de vida enciende". By adding flowers to his description, Espronceda emphasizes life and passion. In this context, the one verse completely unaltered between the two versions ("en el regazo de la tierra ansiosa") takes on a new, sexualized, meaning. Both strophes present the same scene, but Espronceda's differs greatly from Lista's. At this early stage Espronceda already reveals the erotic use of flowers that will dominate his later work. In spite of the importance flower images have in Espronceda 's poetry, his verses offer surprisingly little variety. The genericflor/flores easily outnumbers any individual species. As might be expected, the rose, ever popular in European poetry (Goody 56), appears most frequently. Other flowers surface only sporadically in specific works: the lily in "Serenata" and El diablo mundo, carnations in "El Pescador", white violets in "A Matilde", orange blossoms and flowering acacias in El estudiante de Salamanca. Espronceda 's choices could be dictated by rhyme. Florlflores rhymes with other words ending in -or/-ores, several of which have special significance for Espronceda: colores, amores, dolores. Rosa rhymes with -osa, a common adjectival ending. The adjective florida combines with vida and afligida. These patterns suggest a fonnulaic aspect to Espronceda 's poetry as the poet relies in part on a group of rhyme schemes readily available in the process of composition. But references to flowers often arise in positions other than verse end and as such have no effect on the rhyme. Espronceda must then have other reasons for using flower figures. This article will trace the development of this imagery in Espronceda's poetry. Following Marrast's divisions, the first period, Espronceda's


When a Rose, is not a Rose: Espronceda's Flower Poetics

JPPrenti.ceship, comprises the years 1808-27 1• As almost every critic has noted, t1ese poems lack originality. They belong to the pastoral genre typical of Neoclas:lidsm and differ sharply from the rest of Espronceda 's production in their overall of contentment. But this early poetry displays some individual characterisdcs. Espronceda emphasizes the flowers' fragrance, a trait which will predominate a subsequent floral descriptions and that calls attention to these images since, as Y:odurafn notes, references to olfactory sensations are rare in Espronceda (33). The iWiod, an essential element in poems like El estudiante de Salamanca, also emerges. "AAnfriso en sus dfas", it merely provides a gentle breeze that, along with the revives the languishing flowers. Later on it will have a destructive role. Yet even the pastoral horizon is marked by clouds. In most of these poems, presents flowers in the full bloom of fulfilled love. But in "La tonnenta Ia noche", the reader finds a wilted flower, an image that will come to obsess this Nor does the course of passion flow smoothly. The disdainful shepherdess persuading. On the other hand, the presence of a bee who flits from flower to hints at the male lover's eventual betrayal. "AAnfriso en sus dfas" provides early example of life-long fixations when the poet alludes to the sexual of the pretty jardinera. In both poems the tone remains serene, but these allude to Espronceda 's future tonnents. The poet's life takes its first decisive turn with his exile from Spain for political The works of this period2 develop a somber tone as Espronceda uses flower in a more negative fashion than before. The poem that perhaps most clearly Espronceda 's sense of misfortune is "La entrada del invierno en Londres", the ex-patriot describes his loneliness in a landscape very different from his




The title and some descriptions of the London winter notwithstanding, this concerns Spain more than England, a supposition supported by Brereton's that Espronceda unconsciously imitated Lista's "La entrada del invierno" In a song to pastoralism lost, Espronceda depicts his previous life in Horatian fields of flowers, a simple cabin, and a lyre-playing poet crowned with garof ivy and bulrush. As Marrast has noted, these images belong to Espronceda 's poetry (193-4). They will, however, remain constant in his later work. """"" takes a neoclassic motif the comparison of the happy days of youth a field of flowers and makes it his own. The stay in England does cause some changes in Espronceda 's style. His conwith the cult of Ossian (Marrast 188-93) results in more forests than fields and in the poetry of this period. But many of the specific trees mentioned in The poems in this period which use floral imagery are: "Vida del campo", "Romance ala manana", "La tormenta de noche", "AAnfriso en sus dias" and "Ala noche". •La entrada del inviemo en Londres", "A las quejas de su amor'', "Serenata", "El pescador", "A don Diego de Alvear Ward", "A Anfriso", "A don Jose Garcia de Villalta, f', "A don Jose Garda de ViJJalta, ll", "A Mltilde", "A un ruiseiior'', .. A una mariposa".


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these works cypresses, palms, cedars of Lebanon seem Mediterranean rather than Northern. The palm trees in particular evoke a desert environment of sand and dryness. Again, the plant imagery Espron~eda chooses corresponds to his mental state and not his physical location. This blasted, flowerless, landscape symbolizes Espronceda 's disillusionment. Yet even in his use of trees, Espronceda relies not only on English Romantic influences, but on Spanish eighteenth-century models. In works like "AI Sol'? Espronceda emulates the wind-scattered tree leaves of poems by Melendez and others (Arce 417-9, Casalduero 19-22, 143). In his mature poetry, Espronceda will add his own innovations, combining the aspects of wind, leaves, and trees with flowers. Espronceda does not forget Spanish themes and influences while in exile. Nor does he abandon Spanish politics; Espronceda 's concern for his homeland appears in his first long narrative poem, El Pelayo. Begun while he was Lista 's student back in Spain, Espronceda continued working on this poem while abroad (Marrast 185). Although critics have not determined when the different sections were written, El Pelayo probably continued to interest the exiled poet because of its political content. Octaves V through X recount the story of the Visigothic king Rodrigo and the woman known in Spanish legend as either La Cava or, less frequently, Florinda. Espronceda opts for the second name because of its obvious floral references. In strophe #5, Florinda resembles a flower with her rosy lips and scented breath. Above all, she remains untouched. Her purity is described by terms "candida, and "celestial" that will come to dominate Espronceda 's portrayal of women. The sexualized landscape commented on at the beginning of this article appears in the next strophe. The poem then continues with two octaves taken from Lista which describe a flower opening its breast to the sun's rays. Espronceda no doubt included these delicate verses as a prefiguration of the destruction to come. Flowers also prevail when Rodrigo rapes Florinda: the lascivious king "mancha la hermosa flor de su decoro" (83; v. 80). Relying on a long cultural history of floral metaphors for female sexual organs (Goody 3-6), Espronceda delivers a political message. Rodrigo represents the tyrant the contemporary Fernando VII while Florinda, the flower-woman, is the violated Spain. Political passions, however, often ruin ·art, and most readers find this octave crude and unsuccessful. A more subtle presentation of the same theme appears in "Ala patria", a composition Espronceda clearly wrote while in exile: So la rabia cay6 la virgen pura del despota sombrio, como eclipsa la rosa su hennosura en el sol del estio (143; vv. 17-20).


See also "Canto al cruzado" and "Cuento".


When 1 Rose. is not 1 Rose: Esprooced1's Flower Poetics

Here Espronceda cleverly combines several strains to create a more intricate and .-lsfying statement. He reiterates his typical identification of woman with a rose by the summer heat. But Espronceda also develops a new association the sun represents both male desire and the despot's might. The poem gains lanbercomplexity through an intentional confusion of boundaries. The description aftbe tyrant combines both light (the sun) and shadows ("el d~spota sombrfo"). On dleulbcrhand, the rose's beauty is "eclipsed", a word nmmally applied to the sun. AI Espronceda 's style evolves, he increasingly exchanges male and female ele' I



1be love poetry of this period shows a similar evolution in the use of floral Imagery. Flowers come to represent not only feminine beauty, but morality. This receives its clearest expression in "A Matilde" where, more than a aaic backdrop or even a metaphor, the violet becomes an example for the woman: que es la viola pudorosa flor heunosa del candor. Tal, Matilde. brilla plD'a tu hermosura celestial (192; vv. 19-22).

poem displays Espronceda 's continued concern with chastity. Drawing on a

practice coupling flowers with virginity (Goody 122), every aspect of this evokes purity: its white color, innocence, and "fragancia virginal" (192; v. Espronceda has given the violet human qualities: the flower has become a woman, an ideal one. Urged to imitate the personified flower, woman becomes in tum object, a literary image akin to the flower. In this poem, Espronceda uses more floral comparisons than in El Pelayo. His view of women, however, reunchanged: she serves as a representation of either male political or sentiideals. 1be perfect Romantic heroine is proffered in the poetry of the next period, that Espronceda 's mature work. With the victimized Elvira of El estudiante de .. w. the identification between woman and flower becomes complete. A that blossoms in the warmth of Felix's seduction, Elvira dies with his disapThe old theme of the brief life of the rose, combined with the destructive the sun seen in "A Ia patria,, fonns one facet of the floral imagery in these But Espronceda draws on other currents as well; he uses more varieties of to describe Elvira than any other female persona in his work. The poet an abundance of plants, emphasizing, as in some earlier poems, their aroma. richness, motivated in part by an imitation of Shakespeare's Ophelia, allows to create a particularly Romantic atmosphere. As only proper for a Elvira's life transpires in one place: a perfumed, Edenic, garden. 1be loss of innocence evokes metaphors of desert dryness:


Jennifer Rae Krato

jEl coraz6n sin amor! jtrlste paramo cubierto con ]a lava del dolor, oscuro, inmenso desierto donde no nace una flor! (98; vv. 273-7).

Returning to a negative use of floral imagery, Espronceda employs the absence of plant-life to illustrate Elvira's misfortune. Some references to her defilement recall earlier verses; like the deflowered maidens of El Pelayo and "Ala patria", Elvira is compared to withered flowers. Others, however, create new analogies. The seduced Elvira plucks petals which the wind then blows away: "Mas 1ay! que se disip6 I tu pureza virginal, I tu encanto el aire llev6" (97; vv. 263-5). The wind dominates various sections of El estudiante de Salamanca. In the second part, the one dedicated to Elvira, Espronceda combines the notion of tree leaves in the wind, a favorite theme of such neoclassic predecessors as Melendez and Lista, with his own favorite image, flowers. Both tree leaves, seen earlier in "AI Sol", and flower petals are swept away by the wind's force in this poem (Casalduero 189-191). Another example of the persistence of these motifs appears with the garlands Elvira makes and destroys. Although possibly a reference to another source, Goethe's Margarite from Faust, they also allude to Espronceda 's pastoral verses, where the contented poet wears crowns of leaves and flowers. In spite of the protestations in El pastor clasiquino, Espronceda does not abandon his eighteenth-century inheritance. Even in his mature work:, he transforms it on his own terms. The use of flower figures reveals once more Espronceda 's constant preoccupation with virginity. Yet Elvira receives kinder treatment than either earlier or later women. Espronceda softens the blow flowers represent Elvira's soul: "Deshojadas y marchitasl 1Pobres flores de tu alma!" (97; vv. 256-7). Her defilement remains spiritual rather than carnal. This special treatment results from the poet's identification with his creation. Like the poet, she lives in a world of illusions. Unlike the poet, she goes insane and can conserve her love until the end: "Amada del Sefior, flor venturosa" (102; v. 355). For almost the only time in his work, Espronceda creates in Elvira a woman incapable of deception. Other affinities between the poet and Elvira are also expressed through flowers. In the poetry written during his exile, Espronceda had also used desert metaphors to express his sense of betrayal. In vv. 833-84 of El estudiante de Salamanca, the poet offers his own bitter reflections on the world. He complains about sleepless nights spent on a "lecho de espinas" (128; v. 871), the only floral image in this poem applied ~ctly to the poet The thorns insinuate an almost religious significance, as in a crown of thorns, and also obviously relate to roses, a flower with its own sacred connotations (Goody 129, 155-6). These verses imply that the poet shares Elvira's suffering. In the earlier part of the poem, Elvira acts as a surrogate for the poet The connection between the two now becomes complete. 80

When a Rose, is not a Rose: Espronceda 's Flower Poetics

Altlx>ugh excluded from the communion between the poet and Elvira, even submits to this flower rhetoric. In his role as villain, he sarcastically suggests PJvira dies from "alguna calentura" (117; v. 608), an allusion to fever that Mix with the destructive heat of the earlier sun-rapists of El Pelayo and patria". F~lix 'sown destruction also occurs within the context of plant imagAs Mix plays cards with Elvira's brother, a hurricane blows outdoors. Later, follows Elvira's ghost, repeated references to the wind and its strength appear ~xt Fmally, in the haunted mansion, a whirlwind of spirits lifts Felix up: los especttos, su ronda empezaron, cual en clrculos raudos el viento remolinos de polvo violento yhojas secas agita sin fm (151; 1574-7)

:eo 's metrical virtuosity-the scale of decreasing and increasing versess-beightens the sense of a ferocious stonn. When Felix dies, he literally folds himself, curling up and letting the uncontrollable danse macabre sweep . Has F~lix become a leaf, similar to those described in the famous verses: del 4rbol cafdas I juguete del viento son" (97; vv. 268-9)? Once Felix rebis just reward, the winds calm down and Espronceda ends El estudiante de with the gentle breezes of his earlier pastoral poetry. Innocence returns Earth. identification of male figures with flowers hinted at in El estudiante de becomes one of Espronceda's principal themes in these years (1835"El reo de muerte" provides an example of the first step in this process. The bleakness of the prison cell lifts somewhat at the end as the condemned of his wife. Espronceda uses here pastoral images reminiscent of his poetry: woman as gentle flower, fields, April personified as a gallant beau. the prisoner reaches out to touch her, the vision disappears, leaving only scaffold. Espronceda uses the neoclassic models of his own youth to exthe Romantic concept of lost hope. two other poems, woman as inteimediary agent almost completely disapplacing the focus more fmnly on the disillusioned poet. "A una estrella" the star's lost brightness with the poet's lack of faith. Any connection with or love appears almost in passing (250-1; vv. 49-58).1nstead of Elvira or female sunogate--enclosed in an idyllic garden, Espronceda now places a flowery Eden. Loss of innocence is not incarnated in the destroyed body ·er-woman, but by floral metaphors relating directly to the poet's evoluJn the early, easy, days, he walked "por facil senda florida" (251; v. 62). His comes as a wilting: "se agosta ya mi juventud florida" (253; v. 111), white flowers symbolize aspirations for the future. As Kirkpatrick has noted, solipsistic is the male lyrical subject in this poem that the woman existence except as the unstable pretext of desire" (128). But this poem also 81

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evidences Espronceda 's increasing desire not to depend on female intercessors, but instead to turn the power of his imagery directly onto male figures, including that of the poet. Similar developments occur in "A XXX dedicruulole estas poesfas". The woman does not appear until the sonnet's last strophe, while the rest of the poem explores the poet's struggle between fantasy and reality in terms suggestive of Becquer. While this organization follows the requirement that a sonnet provide a revelation in the last quartet, the first two verses, "Marchitas ya las juveniles flores I nublado el sol de 1a esperanza mfa" (264), provide a stronger emphasis on the male's mental state. Espronceda repeats the old images of the flower and the sun. But, instead of a male-female opposition, both apply to the man. An earlier sonnet, "Fresca, lozana, pura y olorosa", actually provides the best expression of this tendency. Espronceda uses the Golden Age tradition of sonnets dedicated to the brief life of the rose to express in one place themes scattered throughout other poems: the concern for purity, the emphasis on olfactory senses, the sun that destroys the bud and the wind that carries its petals away. Yet he goes one step further. The defoliated flower represents only the poet's illusions, "la dulce flor de la esperanza mfa". There are no hints, even in passing, of the beloved woman, leaving the emphasis squarely on the man. Marrast believes Espronceda wrote this composition before his exile, but it seems much more complex than the other youthful works. Casalduero groups it with "A una estrella" and "A Jarifa" (206-11). Espronceda published the poem in 1834, and perhaps he rewrote it at that time. Even so, it is the frrst, and most successful, of all the poems linking the theme of the flower with male characteristics. This composition offers a fusion of all the elements of Espronceda 's flower poetics seen up to this point. It acts as a point of transition between early and mature works, providing a foundation for later compositions like El estudiante de Salamanca, "El reo de muerte", "A una estrella", and "A XXX". Yet Espronceda extends his use of flower images even further, creating an amplified context into which he fits related elements. These developments appear in three works, each displaying very different attitudes towards women. The only major female persona in Espronceda who is not defined by means of flowers emerges in "A Jarifa en una orgfa". In contrast with the virginal maidens of earlier poetry, the prostitute Jarifa cannot give even the initial illusion of purity. While Espronceda continues to evoke happier days in pastoral tenns, the meadows and flowers of youth once more give way to the deserts seen in "A la patria" and EI estudiante de Salamanca and to a new ingredient: thistles. The poet and the prostitute cohabit a devastated landscape, unsuitable for flowers or love. Another example of how Espronceda incorporates new elements is provided by mud. Though this substance has no exclusive association with flowers, it gains significance within the framework of El diablo mundo. In canto IT, the "Canto a Teresa", the poet follows a comparison of Teresa to a flower with a description of a crystalline river whose 82

When a Rose, is not a Rose: Espronceda 's Flower Poetics

waters become trapped among the "fetido fango" (231; v. 1699). Shortly . he states: "es la mujer angel cafdo I o mujer nada mas y lodo inmundo" ; vv. 1708-9). Teresa has progressed from flower to fallen woman to mud. ::ea 's use of this image reveals both a Romantic fascination with corruption a desire to debase the female. An even closer connection occurs later on in El mundo. In canto VI, Espronceda compares the innocent Lucfa to a rose trodin the mud: "Y all( cual rosa que pis6 el villano I y de barro manch6 su planta "(367; vv. 5438-39). In this context, the parallels to "A Jarifa" seem more

Mujeres vi de virginallimpieza entre albas nubes de celeste lumbre; yo las toque, y en su pureza trocarse vi, yen lodo y podredumbre (261; vv. 69-72).

more Espronceda repeats his customary affiliation of women with purity and The situation here also bears some similarity to "El reo de muerte", where visions disappear when man reaches out for them. Can the reader fail to of flowers at this point? But Espronceda does more than just repeat old themes. the flower and related images into an increasingly complex network

More evidence of this evolution appears in the "Canto a Teresa". Included as canto of Espronceda 's last long narrative poem, the poet intended this, personal of all his works, as an elegy for his real life lover. But Espronceda 's towards Teresa remain confused. In contrast with the fictional persopoet defends Elvira and shows some compassion even for Jarifa Teresa an~ vilified. This causes a radical change in the flowers and related that describe her. This poem shocks because of the extreme negativity and cruelty of the poet's reflections. Yet it also provokes admiration, as Espronceda even greater variety in his flower poetics. "Canto a Teresa" continues to cultivate previous motifs; Espronceda comTeresa to a butterfly amongst the flowers, a possible reminiscence of his earA mta mariposa,, which depicts a similar scene. The poet describes Teresa's of innocence in tenns recalling Florinda's violation in El Pelayo. In this supprivate, emotion-filled context, Espronceda repeats both a similarvocabuand word order: "agost6la flor de tu pureza" (El diablo mundo 231; v. 1693) la hennosa flor de su decoro" (El Pelayo 83, v. 80). The metaphorical between female purity and flowers has become so automatic that it almost spontaneously. newer developments continue to evolve. As in "A Jarifa", the disillusioned now sees the flowers turning to thistles. In vv. 1716-23, Espronceda combines with water, one of the other main images in the canto. A celestial fountain down to earth, "y en la tierra su limpida corriente I sus margenes con flo res .MA-........


Jennifer Rae Krato

engalana" (232; vv. 1718-19). But the flowers deceive, disguising a poisoned liquid from Hell. Espronceda creates here a poetic landscape encompassing flowers, water, and mud. This networlc of images includes attributes less directly related to flowers, such as water and light. In this regard, the "Canto a Teresa" rivals the sections of El estudiante de Salamanca dedicated to Elvira. In spite of the numerous floral references, Espronceda avoids a clear identification between woman and flowers. The poet describes certain characteristics in floral tenns "la florde tu pureza" (231; v. 1693), "la florde tu hennosura" (234; v. 1758),"las rosas del amor' (233; v. 1736}-, but does not overtly transform Teresa into a flower, as he did with Elvira. While not the pointed absence seen with Jarifa, the poet hints at Teresa's unworthiness through this disuse. One exception to this rule occurs in the section where the poet tries to address his own culpability. After comparing Teresa to a bright star, he switches to flowers: "Que yo como una flor que en la mafi.ana I abre su c~iz al naciente dfa I i ay! al amor abrf tu alma temprana" (236; vv. 1788-90). Espronceda repeats here the theme of the violating sun, briefly identifying himself with its destructive power. But, in contrast with the sun-rapists of El Pelayo or "Ala patria", the poet insists on his guiltlessness: "yo inocente tambien" (236; v. 1792). These ambiguous connotations reflect Espronceda 's own confused emotions. The poem's earlier sun images are positive. Espronceda uses phrases like "al sol de mi esperanza" (223; v. 1514) and others to portray the hopeful days of his youth. He likens Teresa to light throughout the canto. But in several places the sun has a clearly negative role: Espronceda makes several references to the heat and dryness to which Teresa falls victim. Her heart becomes arido (234; v. 1757) and seco (237; v. 1826) from the searing effects of passion. Teresa becomes, perhaps subconsciously, a flower destroyed by the poet's ardor. Other, more remote, images also point to Teresa's hidden similarities with flowers. Espronceda describes Teresa as "ro{da de recuerdos de amargura" (234; v. 1756). The verb roer implies a connection with wonns, an interpretation supported by works of the period. In El diablo mundo, Espronceda adds wonns to his poetic system: "ese gusano que roe I tu coraz6n" (185; vv. 495-6). "gusanos que roeis nuestra semilla" (264; v. 2646). The final quatrain of"A Carolina Coronado4 " makes the connection between insects and flowers even more apparent: Mas jay! perdona, virginal capullo, cierra tu catiz a mi loco amor. Que nacimos de un aura al mismo arrullo, para ser, yo el insecto, tU Ia flor (272; vv. 13-16).

The worm appears consistently as a destructive element in Espronceda 's final poems. The opposition insect-flower in "A Carolina Coronado" casts the poet him4.

Susan Kirkpatrick has made some excellent comments on this poem (209-210).


When a Rose, is not a Rose: Espronceda 's Flower Poetics

in jest-in the negative role of potential victimizer. In the "Canto a , the wonn represents the idea of bitterness, and not the poet. Just who or destroys Teresa remains unclear to Espronceda. the poet has no doubts as to Teresa's suffering, which he also expresses flowers. The poet imagines Teresa attempting to uproot her own heart piece (232; vv. 1726-7). When Teresa dies, she is literally ripped from the ground: af'ha te arranc6 del suelo" (233; v. 1754). The poem presents various levels of oscillating between male guilt and a fierce recrimination of the female one. Espronceda does not perhaps cannot openly use floral figures to Teresa. At a more subliminal level, however, she becomes a blasted, and devoured flower. This poem's force-the impact it has on readfrom the violence of these images, creating a work that, as Kirkpatrick ~tvea. "borders on the sadistic and suggests a wish to punish" (131). two instances of flower imagery arise that might suggest the poet's sense between Teresa and himself. At the end of the canto he speaks of his mutilated heart being tom from his chest (238; vv. 1842-3). The use of the "!ar both here and with Teresa suggests the notion of the heart as a flower ripped apart, a scene similar to Elvira's madness in El estudiante de Salamanca. the poet envisions an agonizing Teresa on a "lecho de espinas" (237; v. In El estudiante de Salamanca, the poet had endured a bed of thorns. Althorns confonn with a fairly standard concept of pain, this repetition conto the affinity between Teresa and the poet in the last part of the poem. "For part, Teresa's subjectivity, like Jarifa's, reflects the poet's own conscious(Kirkpatrick 131). Society has rejected them both. She suffers and dies. He and lives. 1be "Canto a Teresa" ultimately offers a complex use of flower poetics. By the rest of the El diablo mundo, perhaps because Espronceda never finit, remains rather simplistic in its use of floral images. Once more, Espronceda on his favorite themes: woman as (destroyed) flower, flowers representing illusions and ambitions, and disillusionment symbolized by thorns. The wind, appears frequently canto I, combines with flowers and petals in canto V, as 's passion for adventure destroys Salada and her gentle, flower-like, love. uncomplicated in their scope, flowers are fairly abundant in El diablo Every stage of Adan 's story has some connection with floral imagery, and, parts of the text, the reader finds whole sections scattered with flowers. El diablo mundo does, however, present some evolution in the use of flowers. :ea regularly compares beloved women with flowers. He exchanges these with Adm; Salada likens her lover to a flower (332; v. 4503). This imagery a reversal of roles. Adan is tender and innocent. Salada lives in a world of and knifes a man. But, Adan "grows up" and starts to long for more. As he increasingly cruel towards Salada, the characters assume conventional In canto V, she :finallybecomes a flower while Adan is the more tradition85

Jennifer Rae K.rato

ally male wind. Flowers also define the women Admt subsequently encounters; the condesa de Alcira with her decaying garden, withered garlands, and jewels shaped like flowers-and Lucfa, the downtrodden rose. As so often before in Espronceda 's poetry, flowers figures, through female intennediaries, represent masculine illusions and ambitions. Yet, though partial, the identification of Adm with flowers displays another current, seen earlier with "A xxxu and "Fresca, lozana, pura y olorosa", offering a direct identification between flowers and what they represent, and man. This new development in Espronceda 's flower poetics remains, however, unfulfilled. But Espronceda does draw on an old myth, one closely related to plantlife, to recount man's existential journey. Mentioned only once in El estudiante de Salamanca (95; v. 211), the Garden of Eden appears repeatedly in El diablo mundo. In canto II, the "Canto a Teresa", the poet laments the loss of the innocent love known in the Garden. Adm 's story in cantos m and IV imitates the Creation myth. Adm walks through the streets of Madrid as naked as the original Adam. His imprisonment functions as another expulsion: "que este segundo Adm no vern el dfa I nacer en los pensiles del Eden, I sino en la carcell6brega y sombrfa (277; vv. 3071-3). True to Romantic tenets, love promises a return to paradise; Salada's poor room is "convertido en Eden de ricas flores I al soplo genninal de los amores" (303; vv. 3915-6). But Eden does not stand alone. These references appear in the same context as, or close to, other images coming from neoclassical poetry. The tendency to convey lost youth in pastoral tenns, seen throughout Espronceda's work, becomes even more marked in this poem. In canto m, Espronceda describes Adm 's first day through images of springtime, fields, flowers, and butterflies. Madrid, with all its people and confusion, appears to Ad rut as a field of flowers swaying in the breeze (271; vv. 2861-9). Cantb IV begins with a stylized description of the dawn, and an April sunrise and dew on the flowers illustrates Adm and Salada's love. The canto ends with the poet's injunction that the two should: "gozad, que os brinda la primera aurora I con el jardfn de sus primeras flo res I coged de amor las rosas y azucenas" (308; vv. 4065-7). Espronceda can combine biblical and pastoral traditions in El diablo mundo_because they both share the flower imagery so essential to his work. But the pastoralism of El diablo mundo has a sarcastic edge. At the end of El estudiante de Salamanca, Espronceda depicts a pastoral landscape to show that Felix's penance has restored hannony to the earth. In El diablo mundo, no such order exists. Canto II, "A Teresa" begins with pastoral scenery as the poet describes his happier days. It ends, however, in desolation: Brilla radiante el sol, la primavera los campos pinta en la estaci6n florida: truequese en risa mi dolor profundo ... Que haya un cadaver mas, jqu~ importa al m\Dldo! (239; vv. 1848-51).


When a Rose, is not a Rose: Espronceda's Flower Poetics

ironic contrast between the verdant spring fields and Teresa's dead body acthe poet's loss of hope. A similar pattern of pastoral scenes and ironic governs Ad&l 's story in cantos Til and IV. Ad&l goes out to discover a world, but the flower-people he imagined throw him in jail. As the poet the world seems a fine place, as long as one does not look too closely, "sin jam4s en pormenores I ni detenerse a examinar despacio I que espinas las lozanas flores" (249; vv. 2161-3). During these two cantos, the poet conintenupts the narration with his sardonic commentary. By the end of canto reader realizes that these pastoral depictions of love are lies; the poet knows, tbe reader knows, that this romance will end badly. Espronceda 's flowers of bave become flowers of evil. In works prior to El diablo mundo, flowers represent passion and other illuand loss is declared through an absence of flowers. But now flowers thembecome false: Sueiios son los deleites, los amores Ia juventud, la gloria y la heunosura; sueiios las dichas son, sueftos las flores, Ia esperanza, el dolor, la desventura; (212; vv. 1308-11)

of inanimate concepts contains only one living element: flowers. But flowers are anything but "real", acting instead as representations. In most of 's poetry they signify positive values: love, beauty, and youthful illuIn El diablo mundo, however, they take on negative meanings such as pain This development paradoxically enhances their poetic value, perasarcastic use in keeping with the poet's increasingly corrosive view of the """\,&"' also turns his ironic gaze in upon himself and his work. El diablo

encompasses a double vision: the poet's mockery undercuts the earnestness "Canto a Teresa" and Ad&l's wanderings. Floral descriptions, always extenEspronceda 's poetry, now reach an exaggerated level. Entire sections are strewn with references to flowers and related imagery. For example, flowfive times in seven strophes in canto I (212-3; vv. 1290-336) and six in seven strophes in canto m (247-50; vv. 2106-88). In this last case, further emphasizes his point by including related ideas such as April, thorns, etc. He purposefully calls attention to flower figures, spoofing his favorite imagery and themes. The pastoral landscapes in El diablo mundo intensified versions ofEspronceda's earliest work; he has progressed from use of the pastoral to the lament for pastoralism lost of later poetry and to a travesty of the pastoral in his last long poem. other instances, Espronceda devalues the flower's lofty symbolism, intendestroying Romantic ideals. When Salada brings the naked Ad&l some she includes "un pafiuelo de estampadas flores" (285; v. 3329), a usage 87

Jennifer Rae Krato

that brings flowers down to earth; instead of metaphors for an everlasting love, they serve as the design on a neckerchief. When the poet dreams of immortality, he longs to see his bust in a cafe or barbershop. Or perhaps a perfume bottle wiD provide a suitable monument to his fame, his stomach filled for all eternity with rosewater (vv. 1484-8). These reflections appear at the end of canto I. Next follows the emotional examination of the "Canto a Teresa". In Canto m the poet recuperates his ironic voice: elias la senda de 4speros abrojos de la vida suavizan y coloran. IY a las mujeres los llorosos ojos y los cabellos canos no enamoranl (240-1; vv. 1896-99)

The first two verses reiterate the old identification of women with flowers, asserting once more that only they can make life bearable. The last verses, however, mock this Romantic idea of love. The poet focuses instead on the vanity of both male and female partners, equating passion with superficial gallantry. Not only do these verses contradict each other, but they alter the larger framework of El diablo mundo itself, enclosing its most personal, heartfelt section, the "Canto a Teresa", between a sarcastic assessment of Espronceda 's merit as a poet and a sardonic denial of both love and his worth as a love~. The poet separates himself from his previous sentiments, effecting the "distance...signaled by irony, (Hutcheon 32) that characterizes parody. El diablo mundo is a self-parody. Conscious of the role of flower figures in his poetics, Espronceda proves their importance by choosing to distort his werk through a manipulation of precisely these images. The parodic aspect of Espronceda's work has inspired similar efforts in other writers. In his Sonata de otono, Valle-lnclm uses the same wilted flowers as Espronceda to create an atmosphere of love and death reminiscent of El estudiante de Salamanca. Another parody appears in Tirano Banderas, where, as Zamora Vicente has noted, the drunken exchange between Nacho Veguillas and a prostitute in Book 2, chapter 5 contains clear references to the "Canto a Teresa, and "A Jarifa en una orgfa" (98; note 6). Nacho proclaims the prostitute "esta azucena, cafda en el barro vii de tu comercio, (98), and calls her "Jarifa" (99). By making specific references to Espronceda 's flower poetics, Valle comments ironically on the view of women and love that Romantic writers bequeathed to Hispanic poetry (98; note 6). A female response to Espronceda appears with Rosalfa de Castro, a poet whose work encompasses the transition from Romanticism to Modernism. En las orillas del Sar #12 offers a new perspective on motifs inherited from Espronceda, responding to the "Canto a Teresa" through the combination of two of Espronceda 's frequent


For more on this aspect of EJ diablo mwtdo, see Poll


When a Rose, is not a Rose: Espronceda 's Flower Poetics

: the thistle and the bed of thorns. By amplifying this opposition, the text on Espronceda 's themes, providing a starker statement of contrasts: I against misery versus fortune, and even perhaps male against female, though nothing that this is a female voice. In fact, a male voice speaks in several poems, least one of which, #40, provides another reminiscence of Espronceda: "antes te abras de otro sol al rayo, I veate secar, fresco capullo" (115; vv. 47-8). This reveals Rosalfa de Castro's divided loyalties: while she identifies with and abandoned women, as a fellow poet she comprehends Espronceda 's creativity. This same confusion had arisen earlier in Espronceda 's versess-suffers on a bed of thorns, but so does the poet. In the case of Rosalia de .v.however, the poet allies herself with the downtrodden one, a characteristic of En las orillas del Sar. Rosalfa de Castro appreciates both the richness of """"" 's flower poetics and the flexibility that allows these images to accomher own voice. 1be flower forms an essential element of Espronceda 's work. Rowers in parexpress innermost feelings; as Yndurai.n has noted, plural nouns appear inin Espronceda, with the result that "cuando aparecen es en momentos ser de gran intensidad dramAtica o de elevado lirismo" (40). Departing the somewhat artificial imagery of a received tradition, Espronceda molds flower figures into a pliant vehicle that allows him to explore lost youth, and love. Yet, in spite of the importance placed on this imagery, his work asense of the natural world. Like most Spanish Romantics6 , Espronceda tends citybound...not even in imagination does the poet wander through the There is no intrinsic reason why Espronceda should not have chosen other source of imagery. Rowers prevail because of his early exposure to poetry and because they incarnate the period's favorite themes: they are and die young, their fragile allure transformed to scenes of honor and Espronceda journeys far from his neoclassic background, but never enabandons it; the playful, but inherently problematic, sexuality of eighteenthpoetry breeds the tormented disillusionment of Romanticism. From studays to his mature works to the final stage of self-parody, Espronceda enters adialogue with both neoclassic predecessors and, ultimately, his own work. In he develops a rhetoric of flowers that, while remaining very personal, to others. Jennifer Rae Krato Universidad de Alabama

Par lhe view from France, see Philip Knight's Flower Poetics in Nineteefllh-Cenlwy France. I have fol-

Jowed Knight's lead in my choice of terminology. Readers may also be interested in the many points of tinbltrity between Espronceda's flower poetics and those of contemporaneous French poets. I would sug-

pll. however, that these correspondences arise more from affinities than from actual influences.


Jermifer Rae Krato

BffiLIOGRAPHY Arce, Joaquin. Lapoesfa del siglo ilustrado. Madrid: Alhambra, 1981. Brereton, Geoffrey. Quelques precisions sur les sources d Espronceda. Paris: Jouve, 1933. Casalduero, Joaquin. Espronceda. Madrid: Gredos, 1961. Castro, Rosalia de. En las orillas del Sar. Ed. Marina Mayoral. Madrid: Castalia, 1986. Espronceda, Jose. El estudiante de Salamanca. El diablo mundo. Ed. Robert Marrast. Madrid: Castalia, 1982. _ _ _. Poesfas lfricas y fragmentos epicos. Ed. Robert Marrast. Madrid: Castalia, 1970. Goody, Jack. The Culture of Flowers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody. New York: Methuen, 1985. Kirkpatrick, Susan. Las Romfmticas: Women Writers and Subjectivity in Spain, 18351850. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. Knight, Philip. Flower Poetics in Nineteenth-Century France. Oxford: Oarendon Press, 1986. Marrast, Robert. Jose de Espronceday su tiempo. Barcelona: Editorial Crltica, 1989. Polt, John H.R. "Espronceda's 'Canto a Teresa' in its Context". Studies in Eighteenth-Century Spanish Literature in Honor of John Clarkson Dowling. Ed. Douglas and Jane Barnette. Newark, Delaware: Juan de Ia Cuesta, 1985. Valle-Inclan, Ram6n del. Tirano Banderas. Ed. Alonso Zamora Vicente. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1978. Yndurain, Domingo. Ana/isis formal de Ia poesfa de Espronceda. Madrid: Taurus, 1971.



when a rose is not a rose: espronceda's flower poetics - smjeg

WHEN A ROSE IS NOT A ROSE: ESPRONCEDA'S FLOWER POETICS Because they offer such a wide range of connotations, flowers are a significant IOUI'Ce of imag...

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