«He de cantar afectos suspendidos»
El poder de la música en la poesía del Siglo de Oro
Listening to music is one of the most subjective of experiences and, as such, it has always posed a challenge for poets who wish to describe it. What words does one use to speak about that which is, in essence, beyond words? Paradoxes such as this one offer a space for individual creativity, but they also offer insight into patterns of thought that are recurrent within a specific poetical tradition: motifs, associations, figures of speech that reappear in the work of poets of the same period. In this case I explore three distinct meanings behind the motif of ‘suspension’, a word that appears often in 16th and 17th century Spanish poetry seeking to represent the effects of music on the listener. In the first case, it suggests a vertical voyage, a raising of the spirit in contemplation; in the second case it implies a sudden pause, a halting of a previous discourse; and in the third case it marks the reaction to a music that arouses the senses and achieves seduction. As an object of study, musical motifs in poetry easily slip away from classifications, constantly shift what they imply, end up meaning the opposite of that which they seemed to mean. And yet a careful reading of the poetical language with which music is ciphered reveals much about the relations that music and poetry hold with philosophical, medical, literary and religious ways of thinking that were current at the time.