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!

  1. Tom Wolfe vs. Norman Mailer
  2. Norman Mailer vs. Gore Vidal
  3. V.S. Naipaul vs. Paul Theroux
  4. Mary McCarthy vs. Lillian Hellman