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Spanish author and nobleman. Born 1398, died 1458.

As a prominent member of the powerful Mendoza family,1 Santillana became one of the most powerful Castilian nobles, and was deeply involved in the dispute between the Castilian nobility and King Juan II of Castile, successfully opposing the Constable, Álvaro de Luna.

Himself a gifted poet (he wrote the first sonnets in Spanish, with Petrarch as his inspiration), Santillana was also a patron of the arts. His finest lyrical efforts were his ten serranillas, Provençal-style pastoral poems.2 He also wrote a lengthy allegorical poem, Comedieta de Ponza (1436).

In his preamble to his poems Proemio e Carta al Condestable de Portugal, he is considered to have created the first text on literary history and poetics in Spanish.3

Santillana pioneered the collection of popular Spanish proverbs, refranes. His collections of these were later translated into English, in 1579.


1 Santillana was the son of the admiral of Castile, and the nephew of López de Ayala.

2 A serrana is a (peasant) girl from the mountains, hence the name.

3 In the Proemio, Santillana expresses his high regard for the Italian and French poetic styles, and for the classical Latin and Greek works of poetry. He ranks poetry in the vernacular below these, and vulgar poetry and ballads lowest. He also calls for a great patron of the arts to foster an Iberian poetic tradition - apparently not considering himself the man for the job.

A serranilla
by Iñigo López de Mendoza Santillana

From Calatrava as I took my way
At holy Mary's shrine to kneel and pray,
And sleep upon my eyelids heavy lay,
    There where the ground was very rough and wild,
    I lost my path and met a peasant child:
From Finojosa, with the herds around her,
There in the fields I found her.

Upon a meadow green with tender grass,
With other rustic cowherds, lad and lass,
So sweet a thing to see I watched her pass:
    My eyes could scarce believe her what they found her,
    There with the herds around her.

I do not think that roses in the Spring
Are half so lovely in their fashioning:
My heart must needs avow this secret thing,
    That had I known her first as then I found her,
    From Finojosa, with the herds around her
I had not strayed so far her face to see
That it might rob me of my liberty.

I questioned her, to know what she might say:
“Has she of Finojosa passed this way?”
She smiled and answered me: “In vain you sue,
Full well my heart discerns the hope in you:
    But she of whom you speak, and have not found her.
Her heart is free, no thought of love has bound her,
    Here with the herds around her.”

Translated by J.P.P. Rice, 1920.

The original goes:


Moça tan fermosa
non vi en la frontera
com’ una vaquera
de la Finojosa.

Faziendo la vía
del Calatraveno
a Santa Marìa,
vençido del sueño,
por tierra fraguosa
perdí la carrera,
do vi la vaquera
de la Finojosa.

En un verde prado
de rosas e flores,
guardando ganado
con otros pastores,
la vi tan graçiosa
que apenas creyera
que fuesse vaquera
de la Finojosa.

Non creo las rosas
de la primavera
sean tan fermosas
nin de tal manera.
Fablando sin glosa,
si antes supiera
de aquela vaquera
de la Finojosa,

non tanto mirara
su mucha beltad,
porque me dexara
en mo libertad.
Mas dixe:"Donosa
(por saber quién era),
¿donde es la vaquera
de la Finojosa?".

Bien commo riendo,
dixo: "Bien vengades,
que ya bien entiendo
lo que domandades:
non es desseosa
de amar, nin lo espera
aquessa vaquera
de la Finojosa".

You can hear this poem recited or set to music at the Musicalizando site. They also have a number of other serranillas by the Marques de Santillana, as well as other Spanish-language poetry recitals and performances.

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