Francisco De Quevedo y Villegas (Spain, 1580-1645) – His style was straightforward, even blunt. The preferred objects of his fury and ridicule were pretentiousness and greed, but he was also, like many Spaniards of his time fiercely anti-Semitic.
It was the great poet Luis de Góngora who was suspected of having Jewish ancestry at a time when this was dangerous in extreme, who became the victim of Quevedo’s sonnet “A una nariz.” (To a Nose).
To a Nose
To a very large nose a man once was patched
An elephant’s trunk, a superlative snout
Elongated and shaped resembling a trout
‘Twist his ears the nose was oddly attached.
It was a sundial ill placed and inactive
It was an alembic, a still at its worst
It was nosier than Ovid’s, noisy at its best
That huge nose was both bailiff and captive.
The iron ram of a man-of-war galley
Of Israel’s twelve tribes more than worthy
Exotic and pyramid-shaped: extraordinary.
It was a nose of nasal infinitude
An over-extended nose, a fierce, proud nose
Defiantly Jewish in its attitude.
Góngora reciprocated with equal virulence, mocking Quevedo’s limp, due to very deformed feet and his victim’s dark eyeglasses.
Spanish Anacreon: you’ve earned an effigy!
But I shall quite rudely dare to remark
That your sweet platitudes do not make the mark
Although those bad feet of yours deserve an elegy
Do you imitate our great Lope once more?
You gallop away still donning your rough spurs
And wearing them over the clogs of poor verse
Rather like a failed ancient Greek hero of yore
Wearing at all times your darkened spectacles
You announce that you wish to translate into Greek
A tongue you never read with or without glasses
For a while your spectacles to my naked eye please lend
So that I can shed light on your limp rhyming
And then all that’s Greek to you you’ll understand
Neither rival had the last word in this nasty tug of war that only ended when Quevedo bought the house that Góngora lived in for the sole purpose of evicting him.
Were there similar rivalries in our time? Yes!
- Tom Wolfe vs. Norman Mailer
- Norman Mailer vs. Gore Vidal
- V.S. Naipaul vs. Paul Theroux
- Mary McCarthy vs. Lillian Hellman
Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS