1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Campoamor y Campoosorio, Ramon de

CAMPOAMOR Y CAMPOOSORIO, RAMON DE (1817–1901), Spanish poet, was born at Navia (Asturias) on the 24th of September 1817. Abandoning his first intention of entering the Jesuit order, he studied medicine at Madrid, found an opening in politics as a supporter of the Moderate party, and, after occupying several subordinate posts, became governor of Castellón de la Plana, of Alicante and of Valencia. His conservative tendencies grew more pronounced with time, and his Polémicas con la Democracia (1862) may be taken as the definitive expression of his political opinions. His first appearance as a poet dated from 1840, when he published his Ternezas y flores, a collection of idyllic verses, remarkable for their technical excellence. His Ayes del Alma (1842) and his Fábulas morales y políticas (1842) sustained his reputation, but showed no perceptible increase of power or skill. An epic poem in sixteen cantos, Colón (1853), is no more successful than modern epics usually are. Campoamor’s theatrical pieces, such as El Palacio de la Verdad (1871), Dies Irae (1873), El Honor (1874) and Glorias Humanas (1885), are interesting experiments; but they are totally lacking in dramatic spirit. He always showed a keen interest in metaphysical and philosophic questions, and defined his position in La Filosofía de las leyes (1846), El Personalismo (1855), Lo Absoluto (1865) and El Ideísmo (1883). These studies are chiefly valuable as embodying fragments of self-revelation, and as having led to the composition of those doloras, humoradas and pequeños poemas, which the poet’s admirers consider as a new poetic species. The first collection of Doloras was printed in 1846, and from that date onwards new specimens were added to each succeeding edition. It is difficult to define a dolora. One critic has described it as a didactic, symbolic stanza which combines the lightness and grace of the epigram, the melancholy of the endecha, the concise narrative of the ballad, and the philosophic intention of the apologue. The poet himself declared that a dolora is a dramatic humorada, and that a pequeño poema is a dolora on a larger scale. These definitions are unsatisfactory. The humoristic, philosophic epigram is an ancient poetic form to which Campoamor has given a new name; his invention goes no further. It cannot be denied that in the Doloras Campoamor’s special gifts of irony, grace and pathos find their best expression. Taking a commonplace theme, he presents in four, eight or twelve lines a perfect miniature of condensed emotion. By his choice of a vehicle he has avoided the fatal facility and copiousness which have led many Spanish poets to destruction. It pleased him to affect a vein of melancholy, and this affectation has been reproduced by his followers. Hence he gives the impression of insincerity, of trifling with grave subjects and of using mysticism as a mask for frivolity. The genuine Campoamor is a poet of the sunniest humour who, under the pretence of teaching morality by satire, is really seeking to utter the gay scepticism of a genial, epicurean nature. His influence has not been altogether for good. His formula is too easily mastered, and to his example is due a plague of doloras and humoradas by poetasters who have caricatured their model. Campoamor, as he himself said, did not practise art for art’s sake; he used art as the medium of ideas, and in ideas his imitators are poor. He died at Madrid on the 12th of February 1901. Of late years a deep silence had fallen upon him, and we are in a position to judge him with the impartiality of another generation. The overwhelming bulk of his work will perish; we may even say that it is already dead. His pretensions, or the pretensions put forward in his name, that he discovered a new poetic genre will be rejected later, as they are rejected now by all competent judges. The title of a philosophic poet will be denied to him. But he will certainly survive, at least in extract, as a distinguished humorist, an expert in epigrammatic and sententious aphorism, an artist of extremely finished execution. (J. F.-K.)