Poetry had a huge development within the XVII century. The payroll was very abundant. The first generation was born around 1560 and they started to write in 1580, that’s Góngora, Lope and Argensola’s generation. The second generation was born around 1580 and produced a great prodigy named Quevedo, but this group is mostly known as the students of the previous generation (Villamediana, Soto, Esquilache, Medinilla, Jaúregui, etc.). The third generation includes those who were born around 1600 and symbolizes the decadence.
Góngora, the best figure of culteranism, died in 1627; Lope de Vega died in 1635 and Quevedo in 1645.
The name ‘culteranism’ was coined at the beginning of the XVII century, and it refers to an extremely artificial style that, when it’s put into practice, it translates to a latinization of syntaxes and vocabulary, a continuous use of classical references and the construction of a distinctive poetic diction as far away to regular language as possible. Herrera had a very important role during this development. However, the cultist poets of the XVII century went a lot farther than Herrera did and wrote their pieces using a deliberately difficult style with the purpose of excluding general readers. Gongora prided himself on being obscure even to those who were not beginners, and he confirmed this in a letter to an unknown correspondent in 1613 or 1614, as a response to an attack directed to his piece Soledades: It’s an honor to be accused of being obscure to the ignorant people because this is the distinction between the well versed people and them, speaking in a way they consider as Greek. In fact, this conclusion was also stated by Luis Carrillo de Sotomayor in his Book of Poetic Erudition (1611). The culteran style caused a big controversy back in its time. Lope de Vega attacked Gongora and his followers, at the same time that Gongora was harshly criticizing Vega’s simplicity. The hardest critic was represented by Jauregui: his Poetic Speech has been considered the main statement of conceptism because it proposes the clever concept against the delightful sound and, of course, it represents an analysis where all the excess of the new style is criticized, far away from the simplicity.
Although the most significant figure was Quevedo, Alonso Ledesma was the first conceptist poet in Spain. Quevedo’s poetry has multiple aspects: the moral-patriotic one, in which he can express the baroque disillusion of his passage through life and Spain’s sad conclusion; the satirical and funny aspect, harshly criticizing the city’s dangers, women’s habits, the ambition of power, etc., highlighting his romantic affairs in a Germanic slang voluntarily grotesque; and the loving one, continuing with the petrarchist model with unique tenderness and delicacy. All the pieces written by Quevedo weren’t published until after his death under the title of The Castilian Muses of the Spanish Parnaso split in nine Castilian muses.
Gongora wanted to edit his work when the Count-Dutch encouraged him to do it in 1623, but he died before he was able to see it published. Some of his poems were printed in several collections of ballads, florilegia or dedications. Evidently, he was very popular thanks to the oral transmission of his lyrics and romances. His major poems were profusely copied, and because of that he became a typical case of a well-known poet in spite of the fact that his pieces were scarcely printed. He’s the only Spanish lyrical poet whose manuscripts are financially abused by the bookstores. There are so many manuscripts available that it opens up the possibility of a workshop specialized in copying Mr. Gongora’s texts.
Gongora’s poetic evolution tends to be split into two phases, from simplicity to obscurity (ambiguousness). Gongora’s simplest version is the one with the love compositions, romances, lyrics and carols. His poetry has two main topics: the ephemeral and shifting human matters and nature’s perpetual beauty.