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Garcilasso de la Vega

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Spanish lyric poet; b. at Toledo, 6 Feb., 1503; d. at Nice, 14 Oct., 1536. A noble and a soldier, he spent much time in Italy during the campaigns of Charles V, whose entire confidence he enjoyed. For a brief space (1531-2), he lost the imperial favour in consequence of his connivance at the marriage of his nephew with a royal ward contrary to the emperor's wishes, and was imprisoned on an island in the Danube. When liberated, he entered the service of the Spanish viceroy at Naples, shared in the expedition which, in 1535, Charles directed against Tunis, and in the following year met his death while leading an attack upon a castle in Southern France at the command of his master. In the history of Spanish literature Garcilasso occupies a prominent place because of the part which he played, along with Boscan, in naturalizing the Italian verse-forms in Spanish. To him is due no little credit for the skill with which he transplanted, even excelling his older comrade Boscan, the Italian sonnet with its hendecasyllable, the canzone, the terza rima, and other forms. The bulk of his poetry as preserved is not great. In the first edition, which was printed by Boscan's widow at the end of the volume containing the first edition of her husband's compositions, it embraces, besides some early villancicos in the older and native Spanish manner, three eglogas, two elegias, an epistola in blank verse, five canciones, which are rather complicated in their structure, and thirty-seven or thirty-eight sonnets. Although he passed his life in the camp, he hardly reflects at all in his poetry the martial spirit that actuated him; the pastoral note with its gentle melancholy is most persistent in his strains. As he was well acquainted with the Italian poets of the Renaissance, he does not fail to echo here and there some of their best passages, and reminiscences of Tansillo, Sannazzaro, and Bernardo Tasso are easily found in his work. Of the ancients, Horace had much to do with the development of his graceful poetic manner.

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