Figure and Ground: Concrete Mysticism in Gãngora’s Fábula de Poufemo y Galatea
T he provocative epithet which Pedro Salinas applies to Góngora, “místico de la realidad material,” is a paradoxical characterization as perplexing as it is seductive. 1 It seduces by presenting an imaginative challenge to critics who have seemed uneasy with the poet’s lusting after the glittering surfaces of the natural world—his celebration of things refusing transcendence, graceful in themselves and even glorying in radiant, material self-sufficiency. 2 It perplexes because we are accustomed to viewing the mystical enterprise as a flight from the “outer” to the “inner,” from phenomena to noumenon, with an accompanying devaluation in favor of the latter, which is designated “reality.” It seems an extraordinary achievement, to have stood the mystic project on its head, transposing the absolute from a transcendent being to natural and even lascivious phenomena—to a radiant multiplicity which dazzles without impairing or removing sight. The “cristalina fuente” holds stubbornly to its substance—substance which is always in the service of appearance, pattern, ornament, design.