Ruben Dario

“Ruben Dario: (pen name of Felix Ruben Garcia Sarmiento, 1867-1916) Nicaraguan poet and essayist, famed as the high priest of modernismo. One of his favorite sayings was ‘Art is not a set of rules but a harmony of whims.’ Because he wrote verse as a child, he became known in Central America as ‘the boy poet.’ In 1886 he went to Chile, where he published his first major work, Azul (1888), a collection of verse and prose sketches that bore the imprint of the French Parnassians and revealed the fondness for lush, exotic imagery that was to characterize his work. In 1890 he returned to Central America and the first of his two unhappy marriages. After a short visit to Spain in 1892, he moved to Buenos Aires. The appearance of Prosas Profanas (1896; tr 1922), in which the influence of the French symbolists is fused with that of the Parnassians, marked the highpoint of the modernist movement. In 1898 Dario went again to Spain, now as a correspondent for La nacion, a Buenos Aires newspaper. He was acclaimed by intellectuals of Spain’s Generacion del 98, who, like Dario, were profoundly affected by the outcome of the Spanish-American War. Cantos de vida y esperanza, generally regarded as his best work, appeared in 1905. It shows the technical excellence and lyric beauty of his earlier poetry, but there is a greater freedom and a new feeling for the native themes, which he had previously rejected. Dario’s concern for ‘our America’ is also evident in ‘A Roosevelt,’ a poetic diatribe against the U.S., motivated by the seizure of Panama in 1903, and in Canto a la Argentina (1910). Dario’s later work reveals a growing disillusionment and despair, Although he was named Nicaraguan minister to Spain in 1908, his last years were marred by financial difficulties and poor health, due in part to his heavy drinking. In 1915, after an unsuccessful lecture tour of the U.S., he was stricken with pneumonia in New York and died soon after his return to Nicaragua. Dario’s influence on Spanish poetry can be measured by the statement of Pedro Henriquez Urena that ‘of any poem written in Spanish, it can be told with certainty whether it was written before him or after him.’ The Selected Poems of Ruben Dario appeared in English translation in 1965.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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