Observations on the use of rhetorical figures

(also known as tropes, literary devices, ornati, etc.)

The two most salient features of Góngora's style in the Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea and in his other works are his use of hyperbaton and metaphor.

Hyperbaton is the alteration of the conventional order of words, clauses or phrases to achieve a particular effect. The pervasive use of hyperbaton in this poem is best explained as an attempt to create a "culto", that is, a cultured or elite form of poetic expression, as opposed to a style that is "llano", that is, plain or popular. Those poets who imitated Góngora came to be known as culteranos, cultistas or even gongoristas, in contrast to those who advocated more traditional forms, such as his arch rival, Francisco de Quevedo, whose preference was for concise, sententious and witty poetry, or a conceptista approach. In English poetry, John Donne is the best example of this latter mode of expression, and shows how this style crossed national boundaries, helping us better understand Seventeenth Century intellectual and aesthetic tastes. Quevedo's conceptismo and Góngora's culteranismo are characteristic of the Baroque period, however, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, since examples of each style can be found in the works of the most hardened advocates of each style.

For an example of how the hyperbaton-laden stanzas of this poem can be untangled, by prosifying them, see the Suggestions to Teachers and Students accessible from the homepage of this poem..

In the notes to the various stanzas, no further mention will be made of hyperbaton, owing to the fact that one's ability to appreciate the poem depends on the ability to recognize and understand the use of this rhetorical device.

In contrast with simile, which compares things explicitly (a girl's dress is like a rose), a metaphor boldly states that two distinct things are identical (her eyes are stars). In this poem, almost every stanza contains metaphors, and we shall make an attempt to identify them and reveal what they refer to in more prosaic terms. As an example, in the first stanza, hunting is referred to in the phrase "...fatigar la selva", that is, "tiring the forest." Identifying all the metaphors and explaining them in one's own words, in Spanish, is also a very worthwhile linguistic exercise.