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"En Una Fortaleza Preso Queda": A Landscape of Political Allegory.

Romance Notes, 2007, Spring, 47, 3

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THE various images of nature in the sonnet "En una fortaleza preso queda" (1606 or 1607) attributed to Luis de Gongora (1) produce a colorful picture which attracts the reader's attention and enhances his understanding of the poet's work. Figuring most prominently in the text are the "corneja," "plumas," "prado," "alameda," "gatos," "montana," "vaca," and "madera" which catch the eye of the reader who admires them and ponders their role in the verbal landscape. Many Spanish Golden-Age bards have employed similar images of nature in their verse, but few, if any besides Gongora, have used them to create a political allegory about current events. In "En una fortaleza preso queda," however, the poet does just that. (2) The sonnet, which has the epitaph "A la prision que de ciertos ministros hicieron los alcaldes Vaca y Madera en la fortaleza de la Alameda" (Obras poeticas 3: 11-12), is about the incarceration of Alonso Ramirez de Prado, a corrupt official who was the Secretary to Pedro Franqueza, the Count of Villalonga. An important member of the inner circle of the Duke of Lerma (Feros 140), Ramirez de Prado was also Spain's Minister of Finance (Feros 298). This official's advice, like that of others who considered themselves friends and collaborators of Lerma (the king's favorite) and supporters of Philip III's interests, became central to the king's and duke's efforts to stop the waning power and influence of Spain's monarchy (Feros 134). Unfortunately, as a member of both the Council of Finance and the Council of Castile, Ramirez de Prado was in a strategic position to juggle accounts, accept bribes, and steal from the royal treasury (Dennis 158-59). At Spain's expense, he took advantage of his post to accumulate one of the largest fortunes in his country during his ministry (Ciplijauskaite, Sonetos completos 323). Nevertheless, Lerma protected Ramirez de Prado and the Count of Villalonga until early in 1606, defending them against accusations that they had defrauded the treasury (Feros 169). Confident of Lerma's unwavering support, the two men dared to send to the king on February 13, 1606 a report in which they "claimed that they had laid the foundation for the fiscal recovery of the monarchy and had brought the public deficit under control" (Feros 169). The same erroneous claim was reiterated in a similar correspondence to Lerma who doubted the veracity of his clients' assertions and who, in a long response, "suggested that the two had misinformed the king by presenting a rosy picture of a bleak situation" (Feros 170). When Lerma's close allies and relatives began to criticize Ramirez de Prado and Franqueza, charging them with political corruption and failure to resolve the problems of the royal treasury, Lerma's attitude towards his ministers started to change (Feros 172). In an attempt to protect himself from being discredited by the attacks on his clients as well as in an effort to preserve his fiscal plans and, perhaps, his position as the king's favorite, Lerma decided to stop depending on Ramirez de Prado and Franqueza (Feros 173). In addition, Fernando Carrillo, one of Lerma's confidants, secretly looked into the actions of Ramirez de Prado and Franqueza in 1606; (3) the results of Carrillo's investigation led to Ramirez de Prado's detention in that same year, and seven days later, Carrillo was instructed to report on Franqueza's crimes (Feros 173). Carrillo described the officials as corrupt men who, in spite of their talents and experience, were unable to control their craving for riches (Feros 174). At some time between the latter part of December 1606 and the end of January 1607, each was arrested (Lacarta 74), and eventually both died in prison--Ramirez de Prado in 1608 and Franqueza in 1614 (Lacarta 76).

"En Una Fortaleza Preso Queda": A Landscape of Political Allegory.
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 March 2007
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
  • Print Length: 10 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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