Don Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas

 

 

Sometimes the antiques legends served as cement for posterior literary works.

 

Before the invention of the paper by the Chinese, there were several forms to transmit the culture. The Egyptian used papyrus; but before that, signs were engraved on stone, bronze, wood, or directly on trees’ bark.

 

Today, we could say that in the foregoing century the book written on paper reached their maximal glory to begin a vertiginous decadence due to computer science; but books will never fall to exist. There will be always books, like it will be always troubadours, minstrels, rhapsodists, or histories-tellers; who would sing, recite or tell stories to us, directly from their memory to our hears.

 

But words fly with the wind and what is written remains; or like my mother used to say: “let the letters speak and shut up grey hairs”

 

Speaking about mothers: the mother of the majority of Spanish love stories has been the one of Laureola and  Leriano. I am referring to “Carcel de Amor” written by Diego de San Pedro in 1465, published in 1492 and translated in many European countries.  This work was called the “Werther” of the fifteen century.

 

One of the literary figures that most have intrigued me since I was a little girl, because all that I heard from him was always witty and burlesque,  is Quevedo.  Due to the references that the hoi polloi gave from him in my childhood, I was considering him a clown (in the good sense of the word). And when in the years eighty I could look into books, I discovered that the funny Quevedo, whose ventures or supposed tricks reeled off among the monotonous knocking down of the olive, or the creaking of the plough, or meanwhile the workers, employed by my parents to support the little farm where we lived during so many years and whose enclave will never disappear, prepared their meat for lunch, under the branches of a tufted olive tree. Those people, innocently, limited themselves to retell the wits they had learned in other farms, without never knowing from where they come and who had invented them. They ignored that who makes them laugh was not less than: Don Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, born in Madrid in 1580.

 

He remained orphan at an early age, studied in Alcala de Henares and in Valladolid; he was a politic and diplomatic man during the reign of Felipe III; then fell in disgrace, surely because of his sincere works in verse, in concordance with what his heart was feeling and what his mind was thinking. Through his sonnets his joy or his disapproval reached the whole court.

 

He had to supported prison and exile several times and was locked up during four years by one of his protectors, the Earl-Duke of Olivares. He worked also for the Duke of Osuna.

 

Francisco de Quevedo was a great writer, sometimes pursued for his satiric language full of bitter humour. He excelled  as  a  philosopher  and  created vigorous human characters as we can see in The life and Adventures of Buscon. He cultivated all kind of literature. At sixty five years old, he started his ultimate voyage in Villanueva de los Infantes, leaving to the world a long list of works in prose and some in verse; not always to the liking of everybody, but showing a great culture and a humoristic style that is at the same time profound, difficult to do better.

 

From these lines, I beg him forgiveness, anywhere he is, for having thought, into my childhood ignorance, that he was a clown.

 

For him, for Don Francisco de Quevedo, are these verses that I am inventing today:

 

Today in the maturity fortunately I see

that viperous and yokel tongues made

from a great genius of the letters

a clown of their olive tricks.

 

The original, in Spanish, was written in Malaga, on March 10th, 2005

 

 

Author: Josefa Gabriela Moreno Gómez

 

Translated into English by Mariette Cirerol

 

 

(There is an illustration of Quevedo in the Spanish version)