A la ligereza y pérdida del tiempo
On how time flees and is lost
Translation Dia Tsung
Luis de Carrillo y Sotomayor, who wrote this sonnet, has been associated with the style referred to as Culteranismo, which in turn is classed as a development of the style called Góngorismo, after Luis de Góngora, one of the foremost poets of the Siglo de Oro, the golden age of Spanish literature.
Comparing de Carrillo y Sotmayor to Góngora seems to me inept and unfair, since Góngora’s style is overly-embellished, wordy, windy and bloated. It is replete with worthless classical conceits, and quiet bereft of real emotion and real meaning. De Carrillo’s is decidedly not.
I have not, by any means, read all of Luis de Carrillo y Sotomayor’s work, but the poems I have read do not reveal any of the vanity and prolixity so typical of Góngora, so I am left figuratively scratching my head, and wondering why I am unable to see what common characteristics (besides language) are to be found in the work of these two men.
The genuine sense of distress, and regret and frustration in this poem, which sounds and feels as if it had been written by a much older man and not one in his twenties, seems difficult to fathom. Francisco Quevedo y Villegas gives the year of Carrillo’s birth as 1582, which means de Carrillo was only about 28 years old when died, and a young man by any account.Though I could find no mention of any physical infirmity in any of the biographical material about him I came across on line, I wondered if de Carrillo might have had a premonition of his early death. Why else would he feel so acutely the sense of being imposed upon and cheated by time?
Did this man feel he had arrived at the end of his life without having achieved his goals and ambitions? Or was there some other cause for great unhappiness?
There is insufficient information in the historical record to answer these questions, and precious little personal information. So it seems, we must satisfy ourselves by trying to understand the state of mind in which this poem was composed and written.
These seem to me to be the words of a man who is unable to see himself in time’s reflection. There is a sense of something more than loss, which to me resembles rejection and erasure. He is absented – he cannot move out of time – yet time speeds away without him. He seems to be in a state of shock, as he realises that there is no temporal fixity. He on the other hand has been fixed by time, in such a wise, that the distance between him and that fast receding figure of Time grows ever longer.
Time is forever, and he is made of the mortal stuff which soon returns to dust. There is a real sense of mortality, and of desperation, and of a painful realisation, which seems likely to have been based on an event, about which we have not been given any hints.
Nor is there any hint of him reaching reflexively for the religious consolations normally resorted to in such moments of exigency. One gets the feeling that he knows it would do him no good to reflect on the fact that he is made in God’s image, if that image is only too susceptible to decay. It would seem that when Time disappeared into the unfathomable distance, de Carrillo found himself staring into the void.
Time is a thing that clocks measure, but we ourselves are clocks – we are the measure of time, even though our parts, unlike the works of clocks, wear out much sooner. We are the battleground of flux and fixity, and even as we try to hold our place in space and time, they recede and leave us behind. Flux always wins. The question which seems to be asked in this poem, though it is not made explicit, is, “if matter does not matter, what is left that does matter?”
And if the answer is “nothing”, then what is there left to do but despair?