Authors: Rubén Darío

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

Nicaraguan poet

January 18, 1867

Metapa, Nicaragua

February 5, 1916

León, Nicaragua


Félix Rubén García Sarmiento, the patriarch of Spanish-American modernistic poetry, was born in a Nicaraguan village and started to write poetry when he was a boy. He published his first verses at the age of fourteen, using the euphonic pseudonym of Rubén Darío, by which he came to be known. {$I[AN]9810001940} {$I[A]Darío, Rubén} {$I[geo]NICARAGUA;Darío, Rubén} {$I[tim]1867;Darío, Rubén}

Rubén Darío.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Darío’s parents were not much concerned with their son; an uncle reared the boy and gave him the opportunity for the limited formal education he received at the Institute of León, Nicaragua. In 1881 Darío traveled to El Salvador, and in 1886 he traveled to Chile. There he discovered the French Parnassian movement, which sought to express formal and descriptive splendor in the poem; his books of this period, Abrojos and Rimas, were, however, still influenced by the neoclassicism and the Romanticism that, unlike in Europe, where one supplanted the other, coexisted in Spanish America.

The influence of the Parnassians and the Symbolists, both of which movements looked for secret “correspondences” in the world, led Darío to change his style. This was first evident in 1888 in the collection of poetry titled Azul, a book notable more for its prose than for its poetry. This small work established Darío’s position in the Spanish-speaking world because of the eulogistic pages written about it by the Spanish critic Juan Valera in his Cartas americanas (1889). Darío thereupon went to Europe—the first of his many trips to that continent—where in Spain he was acclaimed by other writers of his generation. On his return to Central America he was appointed consul of Colombia in Argentina, but before assuming his duties there he traveled once more to Europe. With that trip, Paris became his cultural center, for there he met Parnassian as well as Symbolist writers and, influenced by their work, was reconfirmed in his own poetic creed. Upon his return to America, he became the leader of young Argentinean poets in Buenos Aires and founded the periodical Revista de América, an important journal in the development of Spanish-language literature at the end of the nineteenth century.

Darío traveled extensively and frequently to Spain, France, the United States, Argentina, Guatemala, and elsewhere. He finally returned to León, where he died of the effects of alcoholism.

Three stages are apparent in Darío’s work, each represented by one book: Azul; Prosas Profanas, and Other Poems; and Cantos de vida y esperanza, los cisnes, y otros poemas. The first shows the seminal traits of modernistic French thought and sentiment, the pantheistic attitude toward nature, the chromatism, and the revival of traditional Spanish verse. In the second Darío arrived at the peak of his art. In spite of the title, the book is composed only of poems, works of exultant vigor and aristocratic elegance. This was a period marked by exotic, cosmopolitan, classical reminiscences, as well as by his ardent embrace of all that life could offer; references to flesh, wine, and a merry life erupt often in his verses. The third book is an autumnal one. In it he avoided the flamboyancy and chromatism of earlier work, which are replaced by a melancholy tone, concern for social problems, and a focus on morality, politics, love, religion, death, and the dangers of Spanish South America being engulfed by North America.

Author Works Poetry: Abrojos, 1887 Rimas, 1887 Azul, 1888 Prosas profanas, 1896 (Prosas Profanas, and Other Poems, 1922) Cantos de vida y esperanza, los cisnes, y otros poemas, 1905 Canto a la Argentina, oda a mitre, y otros poemas, 1914 Selected Poems of Rubén Darío, 1965 (Lysander Kemp, translator) Short Fiction: Cuentos completos de Rubén Darío, 1950 (Ernesto Mejía Sánchez, editor) Nonfiction: La caravana pasa, 1903 Tierras solares, 1904 Historias de mis libros, 1914 Miscellaneous: Obras desconocidas de Rubén Darío, 1934 (Raúl Silva Castro, editor) Escritos inéditos de Rubén Darío, 1938 (Erwin K. Mapes, editor) Rubén Darío, Obras completas, 1950-1953 (5 volumes) Bibliography LoDato, Rosemary C. Beyond the Glitter: The Language of Gems in Modernista Writers Rubén Darío, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and José Asunción Silva. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1999. A critical study of Latin American and Spanish modernist writers. Includes bibliographical references and index. Mujica, Barbara. “Uncovering a Literary Treasury.” Americas 44, no. 2 (1992): 53. A profile of the early modernist magazine Revista de América and its publishers, including Rubén Darío. Solares-Larrave, Francisco. “A Harmony of Whims: Towards a Discourse of Identity in Darío’s ‘Palabras Liminasies.’” Hispanic Review 66, no. 4 (Autumn, 1998): 447-465. An examination of Rubén Darío’s ability to manipulate words to evoke a “soul” and to create beauty. Torres-Rioseco, Arturo. The Epic of Latin American Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964. History and criticism of Latin American literature. Includes commentary on Rubén Darío’s poetry and an index. Watland, Charles. Poet Errant. New York: Philosophical Library, 1965. A biography of Darío with bibliographic references.

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