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Women in the Arts and Letters in Navarre (9). Women in the literary history of Navarre (I). From the Age average to the Golden Age


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Diario de Navarra

Carlos Mata Induráin

group of research of the Golden Age.

Diario de Navarra, in partnership with the Chair of Heritage and Navarrese Art of the University of Navarra, addresses, monthly, with the help of specialists from various universities and institutions, aspects on the relationship of women with the arts and literature in Navarra.

In the literary history of Navarre, the first female name we come across is that of Queen Leodegundia, although she is not a writer, but the recipient of a work. The Poem of Queen Leodegundia ("Versi domna Leodegundia regina"), written at the end of the 10th century and preserved in the miscellaneous Roda Codex, is an epithalamic song (eighty-seven Latin verses distributed in tristichs) composed for the wedding of this princess, daughter of Ordoño I of Asturias, with an infant or king of Navarre. Moving a little further into the medieval centuries, we must refer to the phenomenon of minstrelsy. Although the literary testimonies of this activity are rather scarce, it seems that it was quite widespread in Navarre, and also that it was not only a thing of men, since the existence of female minstrels is documented, as for example a certain Graziosa who recited in the Court of Carlos III the Noble. Beyond these minimal references in the Age average, it will be in the Renaissance and the Baroque (XVI and XVII centuries) when we will find the first names of women writers in Navarre.

Margarita de Navarra

The first important figure is that of Marguerite of Navarre (of Angoulême, of France, of Valois...), known as "the pearl of the Valois". Madame Marguerite (Margot) of Angoulême, daughter of Charles of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy, elder sister of King François I of France, was born in Angoulême in 1492. Great reader, poetess and hunter, she married at the age of seventeen for political reasons with the Duke of Alençon, and in second marriage with Henry of Albret, pretender then to the throne of Navarre. She manifested sympathies for Luther and Calvin and promoted the Huguenot movement, although at the time of her death (which occurred in Odes, Bigorre, 1549) she had returned to the Catholic religion. As a writer (and leaving aside other minor titles, some poetry, etc.), she composed in French language a collection of stories in the style of Boccaccio's Decameron, which is presented under the degree scroll of L'Heptaméron(The Heptameron).

In the "Prologue" we see the meeting, in the baths of Cauterets, three gentlemen, Hircan, Dagoucin and Saffredent, who along with other characters will thread the seventy-two stories that make up the work(L'Heptaméron is divided into eight conference, seven of which include ten stories and the eighth only two; It seems that the Queen of Navarre wanted to write a total of one hundred stories, distributed in ten conference, but she was unable to complete her purpose). They are narratives of rather lighthearted themes and contents, describing the love practices of the early Renaissance, without the author shying away from some lurid subjects. All the stories are characterized by the vividness of the descriptions, the naturalness of the language and the psychological finesse in the portrayal of the characters, whether nobles, peasants, bourgeois, clergymen or artisans.

Sister Eleanor of Mercy

Born in 1552, Leonor de Ayanz y Beamonte was the daughter of Don Carlos de Ayanz, Lord of Guenduláin, and Doña Catalina de Beamonte y Navarra. She entered Carmel under the name of Leonor de la Misericordia and was a disciple of St. Teresa of Jesus and administrative assistant staff of Mother Catalina de Cristo. She wrote with simple and sober prose a Relación de la vida de la venerable Catalina de Cristo ( Barcelona, 1594), an important work for the history of the Teresian reform, of which we have a critical edition prepared by Pedro Rodríguez and Ildefonso Adeva (1995). In his introduction, the curious reader will find abundant information about her lineage, her life, her relationship with St. Teresa and Mother Catherine, the textual tradition of the book, etc. The autograph manuscript that the nun had prepared to give the work to the press is preserved in the convent of San José de las Carmelitas Descalzas in Pamplona. Leonor de la Misericordia also composed some poetic texts (a sonnet, some octaves and some tercets) dedicated "To our Mother Catalina de Cristo", which accompany the Relación as preliminary texts.

Sister Jerónima of the Ascension

Sister Jerónima de la Ascensión -in the century Jerónima de Agramont y Blancas- was a Poor Clare nun born in Tudela in 1605. Daughter of the notary Pedro de Agramont y Tello and Jerónima de Blancas, her family was among the wealthiest in her hometown. She took the habit of Santa Clara, in the convent of Tudela, on August 25, 1633, professing on August 27 of the following year. She held the positions of nurse and sacristan, and became, from 1658, abbess of her community. She died in her convent of Santa Clara de Tudela on October 11, 1660. By order of her confessor she had written, between November 1650 and February 1651, some Spiritual Exercises, work in which she exposes a way of inner perfection almost completely lacking in visions and revelations. The Spiritual Exercises that in the speech of her life, since she had use of reason, made and exercised with the divine favor the venerable mother Sister Jerónima de la Ascensión were published posthumously in Zaragoza, in the printing house of Miguel de Luna, in 1661, and there are included some of her poems (chapter XXIX, "Put some verses that she fervently wrote").

In fact, folios 150v-157v contain eleven poems. They are verses that, as Fray Miguel Gutiérrez, provincial of the Franciscans, affirms, she wrote fervently "without having studied the poetic art" (fol. 150v). Four of the compositions are dedicated to sing the topic of the mystical union of the beloved and the Beloved, the soul and God, at the same time that they are expression of some of the favors received by the Carmelite nun. Four others correspond to the Christmas cycle, two others are dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament (they are related to those of the first group) and the last one to St. Peter. It is necessary to say, with regard to the themes, that these poems present scarce originality (it is not easy to achieve it, touching as they do such trite subjects). Beyond the usual metaphors of the wound, the flame and the fire of divine love, I will mention the predilection for the metaphor of divine barter (applied a couple of times to the soul and another to St. Peter). As far as the meter is concerned, the only strophic form used is the romance (and some of the poems present a refrain or, more frequently, are finished off with a seguidilla). It is worth noting the good rhythm and musicality of these verses, always within their simplicity. Finally, a certain rhetorical elaboration can be appreciated (in addition to metaphors, we find anaphorae, polysyndeton, periphrasis, etc.). In short, the themes and style of these compositions are not particularly original, but neither are they lacking in interest and emotion.

Sister Ana de San Joaquín

The Carmelite nun Sister Ana de San Joaquín (Villafranca, Navarra, 1668-Tarazona, Zaragoza, 1731) was the daughter of Don Juan Jiménez de Maquirriain y Rada and Doña Antonia Martínez de Sarasa. After receiving a careful Education, she took the habit on April 16, 1697, in the convent of Santa Ana del Carmen in Tarazona. There she performed "with B perfection" the offices of turner, sacristan and nurse, and became subprioress, but was never prioress of the community. Her biographer (and nephew), Friar Buenaventura de Arevalo, refers to her exemplary life and her mystical outbursts, of which Silverio de Santa Maria offers a compendious summary: Thus, he reminds us in his work of Mother Anne's humility, her continuous attention with God, her exercise of the three vows (poverty, chastity and obedience), her continuous acts of faith, hope and charity, her disciplined character and her observance of the laws, her taste for silence, her love for the Passion of Christ and the Blessed Sacrament, her devotion to Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, to Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, her conformity to the divine will, etc. It is also Father Arevalo who tells us about his fondness for poetry, leaving transcribed some of his poetic compositions (and also some fragments of his letters).

The poetic production of Sister Ana de San Joaquín is made up of a total of seven poems, which have been preserved by her nephew Fray Buenaventura de Arévalo in his Vida ejemplar y doctrinal de la venerable madre Ana de San Joaquín ( in Pamplona, in the office of Josef Joaquín Martínez, 1736). This poetry moves between the ascetic and the mystical. In several of these compositions ("Muda elocuencia de amor...", "Yo soy la serranita..." and "Del divino amor herida...") Sister Ana de San Joaquín uses resources and images typical of mystical poetry to try to explain the ineffable love between the soul and the divinity, between the Bride and God (the wound, the wound, the wound, the amorous flight, etc.). She also sings her love for Jesus, her devotion to his name and to his Passion and Death (In desert my soul and all sensitive consolation banished..." and "Oh, Jesus, sweet report!..."). And we can also appreciate a certain variety of registers, since in some of the poems (concretely in "Para gloria de Jesús..." and "En habiendo aposentado...") a mocking and chancero tone can be noticed. From the metrical point of view, the verses of minor art in traditional strophic forms (romance, romance endecha, décimas) predominate, as expected. Certainly, Sister Ana de San Joaquín is not a professional poetess (her nephew says that her meters "lack the rigor of art"), but her production is worth remembering.

Doña María de Peralta

Very few -not to say nonexistent- are the biographical data that we have about this "poetess" from Corella in the XVII century (in reality, it is rather an author of some circumstantial verses, and we do not know if she composed more...). Her name is quotation as María Peralta, María de Peralta or María de Peralta y Corella, and sometimes she was addressed as "doña", as she belonged to the noble Peralta family, which was widely represented in Corella. A poetic gloss of hers was included in the volume Retrato de las fiestas que a la beatificación de la bienaventurada virgen y madre Teresa de Jesús... hizo... la imperial ciudad de Zaragoza (Zaragoza, por Juan de Lanaja y Cuartanet, 1615). His text opted for the award summoned in the poetic "Quinto competition", whose instructions asked for a gloss of this roundabout: "Not being Mother of God, / I do not find a saint to whom it fits / to be called Virgin and Mother, / Teresa, better than you".

Finally, we will leave for a future submission the examination of Navarre's women writers from the 18th century to the present day.