Hernando de Soto, Hernando, Emblemas moralizadas, symbolism snake key Faun


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Hernando de Soto

(Madrid 1568 — ?)

Hernando de Soto was born during the reign of Philip II, in whose court his father was employed as an auditor (Contador de su Majestad). This position of his father – also named Hernando – and in the royal service for more than sixty years, with the additional responsibilities of king’s yeoman (Continuo de la Casa de Castilla), and provisioner (Veedor), allowed our author a relatively carefree life that placed him in contact with the circles of Court writers. Hernando de Soto inherited at a young age his father’s position as Contador but he had already developed on his own a penchant for letters that would win him a place of honor among the friends of Lope de Vega.

Although he never dedicated himself wholly to writing, Soto nevertheless participated occasionally in this craft by contributing poems to the preliminary materials of several very relevant works (the Isidro de Sevilla y La Arcadia, by Lope himself, or the Divinas Rimas… by Vicente Espinel…), and he maintained contact with authors such as Mateo Alemán, both of whom shared in part the same philosophy, or with Alonso de Barros. But the work for which he has passed into the history of Spanish literature is the small volume, in octavo, with its sixty Emblemas moralizadas, that we edit here.

Emblemas moralizadas (1599)

The book came out in 1599, that is to say, when emblem literature is well-known in Europe, but still somewhat rare in Spain, at least in terms of original production. Only the works of Juan de Borja (published in Prague in 1581 although with a minimal diffusion in Spain until the successful augmented edition of 1680) and that of Juan de Horozco (1589 and 1591) totally fulfill all of the requirements to be considered as Spanish emblem books prior to that of Soto. It is true that there are other books – they can be read on this very CD – that touch on the genre, although in an incomplete manner for one reason or another. One year earlier, for example, the book of another civil servant like Soto had appeared, a book that presents undeniable points of contact with emblematics: the Discursos del amparo de los legítimos pobres by the Spanish Royal Navy Physician (Protomédico de las Galeras de España) Cristóbal Pérez de Herrera (there are earlier editions, beginning in 1595, but incomplete and without woodcut illustrations). This is worth mentioning due to some fundamental similarities with Soto, especially in terms of their moral attitude.

Formally, Soto conforms to the basic scheme of inscriptio, pictura, subscriptio (in verse), accompanied by a gloss or prose commentary that is never very extensive. The didactic tone and desire to reach a wide public, and not just the erudite minority, can be seen in the fact that the Latin motto, outside of the plate and situated just above it, is always accompanied by its translation into Spanish. The picturae are of a very rudimentary quality, and at times can even be characterized as crude, which nevertheless does don detract from their charm. For the subscriptio, Soto opts for a popular stanzaic form: the union of two quatrains (redondillas) (with the exception of the emblem dedicated to the death of the Marquis of Tarifa, which features three) of independent rhyme. The extremely high proportion of acute rhymes adds even more to the popular nature of the collection.

It is in the prose commentaries, of sententious formulation, where Soto introduces his wealth of erudition, although in a synthesized fashion, in marginalia, where he identifies his sources or parallels with his discourse, without overburdening the text of the commentary itself with an excessive accumulation of explicit references, which would be the case with subsequent emblematists, whose tendency to over-annotate became quite tedious.

Both in the verse, with its fable-like tone, and in the prose, Soto manifests some of the moral concerns typical of a man of the Spanish Baroque, with its strong dose of disillusionment, its contemplation of the world as something essentially destructive and deceitful, a world in which one must know how to be cautious, to be on guard, to use silence, to derive profit from harm… a world where traditional values have been definitively replaced (see, for example, the emblem Pulchrum pecunia Faunum / El dinero à lo feo haze hermoso). Federico Revilla has keenly observed throughout this book the “horizon and portrait of a lay intellectual under the Austrias,” since the religious preoccupations are relegated to being sporadic, one of the major points of favorable comparison to Pérez de Herrera noted above.

Hernando de Soto’s book was greatly esteemed by his contemporaries. Judging by the numerous quotes and echoes of Soto found in other authors, it seems apparent that his work was widely disseminated.


Enrique Cordero de Ciria – in his study “Las Emblemas moralizadas de Hernando de Soto y su primera versión, inédita, en un manuscrito de la Biblioteca Nacional”, Boletín del Museo e Instituto Camón Aznar, LXV (1996), 5-18 – revealed the existence of manuscript 17.477 (“Varias poesías y papeles curiosos”) of the Biblioteca Nacional of Madrid that contains a primitive edition of the Emblemas moralizadas. It consists of a series of poems (also redondillas for the most part) the content of which appears to coincide with Soto’s book almost completely. Cordero de Ciria analyzes the process of selection, elaboration and transformation that was carried out on this primitive material – the tone of which is similar to that of a collection of brief fables that are essentially narrative – in order to give rise to an emblem book, more witty and complex, with its added apparatus of engraving and gloss, and above all a much more dense moral discourse. There can be no doubt, given the analysis by Cordero de Ciria, that Hernando de Soto all ready had in mente an emblem book when he was preparing these manuscript texts.

Emblemas moralizadas por Hernando de Soto, Contador y Veedor de la casa de Castilla de su Magestad. Dirigidas a don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, Duque de Lerma, Marqués de Denia. Con privilegio. En Madrid. Por los herederos de Iuan Iñiguez de Lequerica. 1599.
Emblemas moralizadas. Madrid: Fundación Universitaria Española, 1983. Edición facsímil con Introducción de Carmen Bravo-Villasante.


Studiolum publishes this book on the CD “Corpus of Spanish Emblem Books.”

Here we present Emblem 19 (Levium rerum admirari, indignum est viri / Indigno es del nombre de hombre el que de poco se admira) and Emblem 7 (Pulchrum pecunia Faunum / El dinero a lo feo hace hermoso) from the Madrid 1599 edition, complete with their original marginal notes:

Emblem 19: Leuium rerum admirari, indignum est viri / Indigno es del nombre de hombre el que de poco se admira

Admirose vn pueblo entero
Con espanto nunca oydo,
De ver rebuelto y assido
A vna llaue vn dragon fiero.
De esso (dixo) os admirays
Leontiquidas, mas podreys,
Quando la llaue que veys,
Rebuelta al dragon veays.

VAron, significa hombre de valor y fortaleza, no hombre que se admira de cosas leues, y es para poco. Que por esto dezia vn historiador grauissimo: Leuantaos en algun tiempo, si soys varones, y tomad las armas. 1 Como si dixera: Si soys hombres de animo, y toca a vosotros el pelear: no lo dexeys de hazer. Teme Amiclas la tormenta, y el meterse en el mar con Cesar: pero el valiente Capitan le anima, con que va el en la barquilla, y que la defendera de la furiosa tempestad, que no sabe lo que le fauorece la fortuna. 2 Y aunque es verdad, que el peligro no era para dexarse de temer, con todo esso se echa de ver en aquello la entereza que tendria en las cosas que fuessen de menos riesgo. Varones de Galilea, porque estays mirando al cielo? Este Iesus que desde vosotros sube a el, de la forma que le veys yr, ha de tornar a la tierra, que parece que se admirauan de la Magestad con que Christo subia. 3 Y declara el texto sagrado, que les dixeron esto dos varones vestidos de blanco, que quedaron cerca dellos, por ser muy propio de Dios el yr de aquella manera, y no auer ocasion de marauillarse. 4 Pinta S. Lucas a Ioseph ab Arimathia noble y valeroso, llamale varon justo y bueno: el qual fue a Pilatos y le pidio el cuerpo de nuestro Redemptor. 5 Marauillose el juez de que huuiesse muerto, y no se marauillô el varon santo, de que el le huuiesse condenado a muerte sin culpa. 6 Y para dar a entender san Marcos el pecho de Ioseph, dize: que entrô a pedirle con osadia el cuerpo de Iesus. 7 De lo qual se colige la bondad y varonil pecho de Ioseph ab Arimathia, y la malicia y ruyn animo de Pilatos. Que sea magnanimidad, difinio bien Espeusipo, pues aduierte: que es vn moderado vso de lo que acontece, vna conuersacion Cortesana con los hombres, y vna grandeza con razon: 8 porque los que merecen tener nombre de varoniles y sabios, no han de admirarse de cosas leues: y muchas vezes  de las que no lo son, segun Leontiquidas, de cuya admirable sententia hazen mencion Plutarcho y Erasmo. 9

1 Quint. Cur. de reb. gest. Alex. Mag.
2 Lucan. lib. 5.
3 Actuum c. 1. Viri Galilei, quid statis aspicientes in coelum? Hic Iesus, qui assumptus est á vobis in coelum. &c.
4 Vbi supra. c. eodem.
5 Cap. 23.
6 Marc. c. 15.
7 Idem ibidem. Et introiuit audacter ad Pilatum, & petijt corpus Iesu.
8 Magnanimitas est moderatus contingentium vsus, vrbana cum hominibus conuersatio, & magnificentia cum ratione.
9 Plutarch. in Leontichi. & Erasm. in Apophtegm.

Emblem 7: Pulchrum pecunia Faunum / El dinero à lo feo haze hermoso

Ten essa cortina Amor,
Con rostro seuero y graue,
Pues tu madre Venus sabe
Quien lleuarà su fauor.
Porque esse Fauno belloso
Que tan feo agora ves
Le ofreze oro: y assi es
A sus ojos muy hermoso.

DEspues que passaron las tres edades, 1 y començò la de hierro, no huuo amigo con amigo, ni se dexó de exercitar qualquier fraude, qualquier genero de mal, y daño: siguiose tambien a esto, aquel desenfrenado desseo de señorear, 2 principio, y causa de guerras. De aqui el no estimarse vnos â otros, sino es siendo ricos y poderosos. De aqui a valer tanto el dinero, que le obligó a dezir al otro Poeta, 3 que el mucho oro es el que da la honra y grandeza, y que con el oro se enamora: y es sin duda que no se tiene mas credito de quanto dinero se tiene en el arca. 4 Que reuerenciado, que seruido: y que adorado es el rico? Y que abatido, que deshechado, y que aborrezido es el pobre. El dinero es el que da amigos, y el que no le alcança en qualquier parte le menosprecian y estiman en poco: 5 y es ordinario mientras vno estâ en su felicidad, auer quien le siga, le haga amistad, y le ayude, y en boluiendo el rostro la fortuna, dexarle, y no conocerle. 6 Llama Virgilio a la pobreza fea, 7 y Seneca la llama triste, 8 no sin razon: porque no ay cosa mas triste y fea el dia de oy que ella, y al contrario no la ay mas estimada que el dinero, el qual es hermoso y a todo lo que no lo es haze que lo parezca. 9 Desdichado del que en esta vida fuere pobre, y tres y quatro vezes dichoso el que fuere rico, y vsare dello, como sino lo fuere, que aunque el necessitado y pobre padezca en este valle de miserias y desuenturas, lleuelo con paciencia, y sealo de espiritu, 10 que no le està prometido, en recompensa dello, menos que el Reyno de los cielos. 11 Finalmente la substancia del Emblema (que es el querer dar a entender lo que puede y vale el dinero) viene a encarecerse todo lo possible con la pintura de que Venus admite a vn Fauno, porque trae las manos llenas de oro, siendo ella entre las Diosas muy bella, y el entre los Dioses muy feo. 12

1 Ouid. lib. 1. Metamo. & Hesiod. in ope. & die.
2 Salust. in coniurat. Catili. Libidinem dominandi causam belli habere.
3 Ouid. de arte aman. lib. 2. Plurimus auro venit honos: auro conciliatur amor.
4 Iuuen. Saty.
5 Ouid. lib. 1. fast. Pauper vbique iacet.
6 Idem lib. 1. trist. eleg. 8.
7 lib. 6. Aeneid. Turpis egestas.
8 Traged. Thyest. Act. 2. Illinc egestas tristis.
9 Apul. Cupido formosae pecuniae leniebatur.
10 Quia egestas a Domino, &c. Pro. cap. 3.
11 2. ad Corin. c. 6. Tanquam nihil habentes, & omnia possidentes. Matth. c. 5. & Luc. c. 6.
12 Virg. Eclo. 7. formosae Myrtus veneri. Ouid. lib. 1. Metam. sunt rustica numina Fauni.


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