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The ‘Carpe Diem’ Sonnets of Garcilaso de la Vega and Gãngora

ByR. P. Calcraft

Mientras por competir con tu cabello 1 is one of Góngora’s best-known works, an indispensable anthology piece, and the subject of regular comparison with the equally famous sonnet by Garcilaso de la Vega, En tanto que de rosa y azucena. General references to the similarity of theme and treatment are to be found in all the standard histories of literature, and more detailed studies of the two works and of their Italian and classical origins have also become common. 2 Few critics, on the other hand, have taken the same interest in Ilustre y hermosísima María, 3 written at about the same time and superficially an even more patent imitation of Garcilaso, since it begins with a line from the latter’s Égloga III. García de Salcedo Coronel, in his commentary on Góngora’s poetry, gives a lead here which few have followed, by dealing first with Ilustre y hermosísima María and only then with Mientras por competir con tu cabello, implying, correctly in my view, that the greater similarity to Garcilaso lies in the first-mentioned sonnet. 4 For all its fame, and the appreciation accorded it, however, Mientras por competir con tu cabello has inspired distinctly varied comments from its critics, and even in Alfredo Carballo Picazo’s exhaustive study it may be observed that several important aspects of the piece are ignored. 5