Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

‘Por una gentil floresta’: Invention, Discovery and Desire in a Fifteenth-Century Villancico

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2021), 98, (5), 453–470.

Abstract

We persistently fail to appreciate the very status of cancionero poetry as an innovative art form, as literature worthy of serious analysis, and as an intellectual and humanistic pursuit. The villancico ‘Por una gentil floresta’, attributed to both the Marqués de Santillana and Suero de Ribera, is a case in point, a composition that is very well known but grossly underappreciated as a work of art, a cultural commentary, or for its social significance. It exists in multiple incarnations, in both the manuscript and early printed traditions of the cancioneros, attesting to its ample circulation and popularity. While the object of intense philological enquiry regarding issues of authorship, transmission, and possible influence, the numerous studies dedicated to this villancico do not foreclose further discussion of it to achieve greater appreciation of its artistic and human complexity. Close reading illustrates the abundant literary, thematic and cultural possibilities it offers, and allows us to articulate the wealth, intricacy, human understanding and artistic significance of fifteenth-century Castilian courtly verse; possibilities that reach well beyond philology and textual criticism and prove it a rich source for fruitful interpretation that exemplifies the kind of poetry and hermeneutical potential that can be found in the cancioneros.

La poesía de cancionero es casi siempre el objeto de una investigación exclusivamente filológico-historicista. Raras veces se somete a un análisis de corte literario, humanístico, y estético. El villancico ‘Por una gentil floresta’, atribuido tanto al Marqués de Santillana como a Suero de Ribera, sirve de botón de muestra para comprobar las posibilidades artísticas y humanísticas del verso cortés del siglo XV. Esta es una composición bien conocida pero no muy bien apreciada por sus calidades literarias, su significancia, y su perfil cultural. Existe en encarnaciones tanto manuscritas como impresas, lo cual comprueba su amplia circulación y apreciación. Sin embargo, mientras que haya sido objeto de intenso interés respecto a su autoría, transmisión textual, y posible influencia, entre los numerosos estudios dedicados al poema falta una lectura atenta enfocada en su forma, su temática, y su lógica y sentidos culturales. Una lectura atenta del poema enfocada en sus elementos estéticos y humanos comprueba la riqueza, sentido artístico, y profundidad humanas que se pueden hallar en la poesía de cancionero; valores que cumplimentan, sino es que sobrepasan, el historicismo filológico y la crítica textual.

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GERLI, E. MICHAEL