See studies by D. W. Blesnick (1972) and J. Iffland (1978).
Félix Rubén García Sarmiento also known as Rubén Darío (Metapa, January 18, 1867 – Leon February 6, 1916) was a Nicaraguan poet who initiated and is the epitome of Spanish literary modernism. Dario is in all possibility the poet who has had the greatest and most lasting influence in twentieth century Spanish literature. He has been praised as The prince of Castilian letters.
Manuel Garcia and Rosa Sarmiento were married on April 26, 1866, in Leon, after obtaining the necessary ecclesiastic permissions since they were second degree cousins. However, Manuel's conduct, who engaged in excessive consumption of alcohol and frequented prostitutes, prompted Rosa to abandon her conjugal home and flee to the city of Metapa in Matagalpa where she gave birth to Felix Ruben. The couple made up and Rosa even gave birth to a second child, a daughter named Candida Rosa, who died a few days after being born. The marriage deteriorated again to the point where Rosa left her husband and moved in with her aunt, Bernarda Sarmiento, who lived with her husband, the colonel Felix Ramirez Madregil. The aunt, like Rosa, was living in Leon. After a brief period of time, Rosa Sarmiento established a relationship with another man and moved with him to San Marcos de Colon, in Choluteca, Honduras.
Although, according to his baptism, Ruben's last name was Garcia, his paternal family had been known by the last name of Dario for many generations. Ruben Dario explains it as follows in his autobiography:
According to what some of the elderly folk of that city of my infancy have referred to me, a great great-grandfather of mine had Dario as his last name. In the small town he was known by everyone as Don Dario; his family as the Darios. It was in this manner that the last name began to dissapear to the point where my paternal great-grandmother already signed documents as Rita Dario; this became patronymic and acquired legal validity since my father, who was a merchant, carried out all his business as Manuel Dario...
Ruben Dario's spent his childhood in the city of Leon. He was brought up by his mother's aunt and uncle in law, Felix and Bernarda, who Dario considered, in his infancy, to be his real parents (as a matter of fact, during his first years in school, he signed his assignments as Felix Ruben Ramirez.) He barely spoke to his mother, who lived in Honduras, or with his father, who he referred to as "uncle Manuel."
Although little is known about his first years, it is documented that after the death of Felix Ramirez, in 1871, the family went through rough economic times and they considered sending young Ruben as a tailor's apprentice. According to his biographer Edelmiro Torres, he attended several schools in Leon before going on, during 1879 and 1880, to be educated by Jesuits.
A precocious reader, (according to his own testimony, he learned to read when he was three years old) he soon began to write his first verses: a sonnet written by him in 1879 is conserved, and he published for the first time in a newspaper when he was thirteen years old. The elegy, Una lagrima,which was published in the daily El Termometro, of the city of Rivas on July 26 1880. A little later he also collaborated in El Ensayo, a literary magazine in Leon, and gained a fame of "child poet." In this initial verses, according to Teodosio Fernández, his predominating influences were Spanish poets contemporary to José Zorrilla, Ramón de Campoamor, Gaspar Núñez de Arce and Ventura de la Vega. Further along the way, however, he became very interested in Victor Hugo's work, who would have a determinant influence in his poetic undertakings.
His writings of this time also show the stamp of liberal (classic) thought, hostile to the excessive influence of the catholic church, as documented in his essay El jesuita, written in 1881. Regarding his political attitude, his most noteworthy influence was the Ecuatorian Juan Montalvo, who he deliberately imitated in his first journalistic articles. It was around this time (he was fourteen) that he wanted to publish a first book, Poesia y articulos en prosa, that would not see the light of day until the fiftieth anniversary of his death. He had a gifted memory, creativity, and was frequently invited to recite poetry in social reunions and public functions.
In December of that same year he moved to Managua, capital of the country, at the request of some liberal politicians that had conceived the idea that, given his gift for poetry, he should be educated in Europe at the expense of the public treasury. However, the anti-clerical tone of his verses did not convince the president of congress, the conservative Pedro Joaquin Chamorro y Alfaro, and it was resolved that he would study in the Nicaraguan city of Granada. Ruben, however, opted to stay in Managua where he continued his journalistic endeavour collaborating with the newspapers El Ferrocarril and El Porvenir de Nicaragua. In the capital, he fell in love with an eleven year old girl, Rosario Emelina Murillo, whom he wanted to marry. A little later, at the petition of his friends who wanted to delay his marriage plans, in August of 1882, he embarked in the port of Corinto for El Salvador.
In El Salvador, young Dario was introduced to the president of the republic, Rafael Zaldivar, by Joaquin Mendez, a poet who took him under his wing. There, he met the Salvadoran poet Francisco Gavidia, a connoisseur of French poetry. Under the auspices of Gavidia, Dario attempted, for the first time, to adapt the French Alexandrine verse into Castilian metric.
The use of the Alexandrine would become a distinctive trait not only of Dario's work, but also of modernist poetry as a whole. Although he enjoyed much fame and an intense social life in El Salvador, participating in celebrations such as the one hundredth year commemoration of Simon Bolivar, that begun with a recitation of one of his poems, things begun to get worse: he went through economic harships and he contracted smallpox, which is why on October 1883, still convalescent, he returned to his native homeland.
After his return, he briefly resided in Leon and then in Granada, but he finally moved again to Managua where he became an employee of the Biblioteca nacional de Nicaragua (the Nicaraguan national library) and he resumed his romance with Rosario Murillo. In May of 1884 he was condemned for vagrancy and sentenced to eight days of public work, although he managed to evade the fulfillment of the sentence. During that time he continued experimenting with new poetic forms, and he even had a book ready for printing, which was going to be titled Epístolas y poemas. This second book also did not get published, it would have to wait until 1888 when it was finally published as Primeras notas. He tested his luck with Theater, and he released his first play, titled Cada oveja..., which had some success, but no copy of it has been found. Nonetheless, he found life in Managua unsatisfactory, and prompted by the advice of some friends, he opted to embark for Chile on June 5 1886.
Dario disembarked in Valparaiso on June 23 1886. In Chile, thanks to recommendations he had obtained in Managua, he fell under the protection of Eduardo Poirier and the poet Eduardo de la Barra. He co-authored a sentimental novel with Poirier titled Emelina, with the objective of participating in a literary contest, which, in the end, they did not win. It was because of his friendship with Poirier that Dario was able to obtain a job in the newspaper La Época, in Santiago on July 1886.
During his stay in Chile, Dario found himself in a very precarious situation and he had to endure continuous humiliation form the Chilean aristocracy that scorned him for his lack of refinement and for the color of his skin. Nonetheless, he managed to forge a few friendships, like the one with the son of the then president, the poet Pedro Balmaceda Toro. Dario managed to publish his first book of poems, Abrojos, in March 1887 thanks to support from Balmaceda and another friend, Manuel Rodriguez Mendoza, to whom the book is dedicated. Between February and September of 1887, Dario lived in Valparaiso, where he participated in several literary contests. Back in Santiago, he found a job in the periodical El Heraldo, where he collaborated between February and April 1888. In the month of July 1888 Azul..., the key literary work of the modernist revolution that had just begun, was published in Valparaiso thanks to the help from his friends Eduardo Poirier and Eduardo de la Barra.
Azul... a compilation of a series of poems and textual prose that had already been published in the Chilean media between December 1886 and June 1888. The book was not an immediate success, but it was well received by the influential Spanish novelist and literary critic Juan Valera, who published in the Madrid newspaper El Imparcial, in October of 1888, two letters addressed to Ruben Dario, in which, although reproaching him for the excessive French influence in his writings (Valera's used the expression "galicismo mental" or 'mental Gallicism'), he recognized in Dario "[a] un prosista y un poeta de talento" ('a prose writer and poet of talent'.) Dario's fame was firmly consecrated because of these letters from Valera, which were later published in Chile and other countries.
The new obtained fame allowed Dario to obtain the position of newspaper correspondent for La Nación of Buenos Aires, which was at the time the most heavily circulated periodical in Hispanic America. A little after sending his first article to La Nacion, he set off on a trip back to Nicaragua. During a brief stop in Lima he met the writer Ricardo Palma. He arrived at the port in Corinto on March 7 1889. In Leon he was received as a guest of honor. His stay in Nicaragua was brief, and he moved to San Salvador where he was named director of the periodical La Unión which was in favor of creating a unified Central American state. In San Salvador, he was married by law to Rafaela Contreras, daughter of a famous Honduran orator, Álvaro Contreras, on June 21 1890. One day after the wedding there was a coup d'état against president (and general) Menéndez. The coup's was mainly engineered by general Carlos Ezeta, who had been a guest at Dario's wedding.
Dario decided to leave El Salvador despite job offers from the new president. He moved to Guatemala at the end of June, while his bride remained in El Salvador. Guatemalan president Manuel Lisandro Barillas was making preparations for a war against El Salvador. Dario published, in the Guatemalan newspaper El Imparcial, an article titled Historia Negra in which he denounced Ezeta's betrayal of Menéndez.
In December of 1890 he was commended with directing a newly created newspaper, El Correo de la Tarde. That same year the second edition of his successful book Azul..., substantially expanded, and using Valera's letters, which catapulted him to literary fame, as prologue (it is now customary that these letters appear in every edition of this book), was published in Guatemala. In January of 1891 his wife reunited with him in Guatemala and they were married by the church on February 11 in the cathedral of Guatemala. In June, the periodical that Dario was directing, El Correo de la Tarde, ceased to receive government subsidies, which forced it to close. Dario chose to move to Costa Rica and installed himself in the countries capital, San Jose, on August. While in Costa Rica, where he was barely able to support his family haunted by debt despite becoming employed, his first son was born, Rubén Darío Contreras, on November 12 1891.
In 1892, leaving his family in Costa Rica, he went to Guatemala, and then to Nicaragua, in search for better economic prospects. Unexpectedly, the Nicaraguan government named him a member of the Nicaraguan delegation to Madrid where events were going to take place to commemorate the fourth centennial of the discovery of America , which to Dario meant achieving his life-long dream of visiting Europe.
During the trip to Spain he made a stop in La Habana, where he met Julián del Casal and other artists, such as Aniceto Valdivia and Raoul Cay. On August 14 1892 he disembarked in Santander, where he continued his journey to Spain via train. Amongst those he interacted with frequently are poets Gaspar Núñez de Arce, José Zorrilla and Salvador Rueda; novelists Juan Valera and Emelia Pardo Bazán; erudite Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo; and several distinguished politicians such as Emilio Castelar and Antonio Cánovas del Castillo. In November, he returned to Nicaragua, where he received a telegram from San Salvador notifying him of his wife's illness, who died on January 23 1893.
At the onset of 1893, Ruben remained in Managua, where he renewed his affairs with Rosario Murillo, whose family forced Dario to marry Murillo. In April he traveled to Panama, where he received the news that his friend, the Colombian president Miguel Antonio Caro, had given him a position as honorific consul in Buenos Aires. He left Rosario in Panama and undertook his journey to the Argentinian capital. Before going to Argentina, he stopped briefly in New York, where he met the illustrious Cuban poet José Martí, towards whom he had a sense of affinity; and he realized his dream of visiting Paris where he was introduced to the bohemian ways by the Guatemalan Enrique Gómez Carrillo and the Spaniard Alejandro Sawa. In the French capital city he met Jean Moréas and he had a disappointing encounter with a man he admired much, Paul Verlaine (possibly, the French poet who most influenced his literary work.) Finally, on August 13 1893, he arrived at Buenos Aires, a city that marked him deeply.
Dario was well received by the intellectual media of Buenos Aires. He collaborated with several newspapers: in addition to La Nación, to which he was already a correspondent, he published articles in La Prensa, La Tribuna and El Tiempo, to name a few. His position as the Colombian consul was merely honorific, since, as Dario has stated in his autobiography: "no había casi colombianos en Buenos Aires y no existían transacciones ni cambios comerciales entre Colombia y la República Argentina. In the Argentinian capital he led a libertine life-style, always at the margin of his economic possibilities, and his abuse of alcohol led to the need of medical care in several occasions. Amongst the personalities he dealt with are the illustrious politician Bartolomé Mitre, Mexican poet Federico Gamboa, Bolivian poet Ricardo Jaimes Freyre and the Argentinian poets Rafael Obligado and Leopoldo Lugones.
His mother, Rosa Sarmiento, died on May 3 1895. Although the poet barely knew his mother, her death considerably affected him. In October of the same year there was another mishap, the Colombian government abolished its consulate in Buenos Aires depriving Dario of an important source of income. As a remedy, he obtained a job as Carlos Carlés' secretary, who was the general director of the institution handling mail and telegrams in Argentina.
In 1896, in Buenos Aires, he published two of his most crucial books: Los raros, a collection of articles about the writers that, for one reason or another, interested him the most; and, above all, Prosas profanas y otros poemas, the book that established the most definite consecration of Spanish literary modernism. As Ruben explains in his autobiography, after some time the poems in this book would achieve great popularity in the Spanish speaking world. It is important to note, however, that at the beginning the book was not received as well as was expected.
Dario's petitions to the Nicaraguan government for a diplomatic position went unattended; however, the poet discovered an opportunity to travel to Europe when he learned that La Nación needed a Correspondent in Spain to inform about the situation in the European country after Spain's disaster of 1898. It is from the United States military intervention in Cuba that Ruben Dario coined, two years before José Enrique Rodó, the metaphorical opposition between Ariel (a personification of Latin America) and Calibán (a monster which metaphorically represents the United States of America.) On December 3 of 1898, Dario embarks once again towards Europe. He arrived at Barcelona on December 22 of 1898.
Dario arrived in Spain under the commitment, which he impeccably fulfilled, of sending four chronics per month to La Nación about the prevalent mood in the Spanish nation after the defeat it suffered to the United States of America, and the loss of its colonial possessions; Cuba, Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and Guam. These chronics would end up being compiled in a book that was published in 1901, titled España Contemporánea. Crónicas y retratos literarios. In the writings, Ruben expresses his profound sympathy towards Spain, and his confidence in Spain's revival, despite the state of despair he observed.
In Spain, Dario awoke the admiration of a group of young poets who defended Modernism (a literary movement that was not absolutely accepted by the most consecrated writers, specially those belonging to the Real Academia Española.) Amongst these young modernists there were a few writers that would later have important roles in Spanish literature such as Juan Ramón Jiménez, Ramón María del Valle-Inclán and Jacinto Benavente, and some that were prevalent in their time, like Francisco Villaespesa, Mariano Miguel de Val, director of the magazine Ateneo, and Emilio Carrere.
In 1899, Ruben Dario, who was still legally married to Rosario Murillo, met Francisca Sánchez del Pozo in the Casa de Campo of Madrid. Francisca was an illiterate peasant from Navalsauz in the province of Ávila, she would become his companion through the last years of his life.
In the month of April in 1900, Dario visited Paris for a second time, under commissioned by La Nación to cover the Exposition Universelle that took place that year in the French capital city. His chronics about this topic would later be compiled in the book Peregrinaciones.
During the first years of the twentieth century, Dario lived in Paris, and reached some stability, not exempt of misfortunes. In 1901 he published, in Paris, the second edition of Prosas profanas. That same year Francisca had a daughter by the poet and after giving birth traveled to Paris to reunite with him, leaving the girl to the care of her grandparents. The girl died of smallpox during this period, without her father ever meeting her.
In 1902 while in Paris Dario met a young Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, who was a self-declared admirer of Dario's work. In March of 1903 he was appointed as consul to Nicaragua, which allowed him to improve his economic condition. His second child by Francisca was born on the next month, who would also die at a very short age. During those years, Dario traveled through Europe, visiting, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and Italy.
In 1905 he went to Spain as a member of a committee named by the Nicaraguan government whose task was to resolve a territorial dispute with Honduras. That year he published, in Madrid, the third of his most important poetry books, Cantos de vida y esperanza, los cisnes y otros poemas, edited by Juan Ramón Jiménez. Some of his most memorable poems came to light in 1905, like "Salutación del optimista" and "A Roosevelt", in which he extols Hispanic traits in front of what was perceived as the threat of United States imperialism. The second poem, directed at then president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, is almost prophetic in terms of the type of politics that the United States would pursue in Latin America:
In 1906 he participated as secretary of the Nicaraguan delegation to the Third Pan-American Conference held in Rio de Janeiro. He used this as a motif to write his poem "Salutación del águila", which offers a view of the United States very different to that offered in prior poems:
This poem was criticized by several writers who did not understand Ruben's sudden change of opinion with respect to the United States' influence in Latin America. In Rio de Janeiro, the poet was involved in an obscure romance with an aristocrat, believed to be the daughter of the Russian ambassador in Brazil. It seems that he then conceived the idea of divorcing Rosario Murillo, with whom he had been separated for years. On his way back to Europe, he made a brief stop in Buenos Aires. In Paris, he reunited with Francisca Sánchez, and together they spent the winter of 1907 in Mallorca, island in which he later frequented the company of Gabriel Alomar, who would later become a futurist poet, and that of painter Santiago Rusiñol. He begun writing a novel, La Isla de Oro, which he never finished, although some of its chapters were published in La Nación.
His tranquility was interrupted by the arrival of his wife, Rosario Murillo, in Paris. She did not accept granting a divorce unless she was guaranteed an economic compensation, which the poet judged to be disproportionate. In March of 1907, when he was leaving for Paris, Dario, whose alcoholism was very advanced, fell gravely ill. Upon recuperating, he returned to Paris, but he was unable to reach an agreement with his wife, so he decided to return to Nicaragua to present his case in court.
After two brief stops in New York and Panama, Dario arrived at Nicaragua where he was given a honoring welcome. Regardless of the tributes offered to him, he was unsuccessful in obtaining a divorce. In addition, he was not paid what was owed to him due to his position as consul, which made him unable to return to Paris. After a few months he managed to be named resident minister in Madrid for the Nicaraguan government of José Santos Zelaya. He had economic problems since his limited budget barely allow him to meet all of his delegation's expenses, and he went through much economic difficulty during his period as Nicaraguan ambassador. He managed to get by, partly due to his salary from La Nación and partly due to his friend and director of the magazine Ateneo, Mariano Miguel de Val, who, while the economic situation was at its toughest, offered himself as secretary to the Nicaraguan delegation at no charge and offered his house, number 27 in Serrano street, to serve as the diplomatic quarters of the Nicaraguan delegation. When Zelaya was overthrown, Dario was forced to renounce to his diplomatic post, which he did on February 25 of 1909. He remained loyal to Zelaya, whom he had heavily praised in his book Viaje a Nicaragua e Intermezzo tropical and with whom he had collaborated in the writing of Estados Unidos y la revolución de Nicaragua, in which the United States and the Guatemalan dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera were accused of planning the toppling of the Zelaya government.
During his time as ambassador, there was a rift between Dario and his former friend Alejandro Sawa, whose requests for economic assistance went unheard by Dario. The correspondence between them gives room to interpret that Sawa was the real author of several of the articles that Dario had published in La Nación.
After resigning from his diplomatic post, Dario moved to Paris where he devoted himself to preparing new books, such as Canto a la Argentina, a task assigned to him by La Nación. By that time, his alcoholism caused him frequent health problems and psychological crisis, which were characterized by moments of great mystic exaltation and with an obsessive fixation on the idea of death.
In 1910, Dario traveled to Mexico as a member of a Nicaraguan delegation to commemorate a century of Mexican independence. However, the Nicaraguan government changed while Dario was abroad, and Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz refused to receive the writer, an attitude that was probably influenced by United States diplomacy. Dario, however, was well received by the people of Mexico, who supported Dario and not the government. In his autobiography, Dario relates those protests with the Mexican revolution which was about to occur:
For the first time in thirty three years of absolute control, the house of the old Caesarean emperor had been stoned. One could say that that was the first thunder of the revolution that brought the dethronement.
In light of the slight by the Mexican government, Dario left for La Habana, where, under the effects of alcohol, he attempted to commit suicide, perhaps triggered by the way he had been scorned. In November of 1910 he returned to Paris, where he continued being a correspondent for La Nación and where he took a position for the Mexican Ministry of Public Instruction (Ministerio de Instrucción Pública) which may have been given to him as a compensation for the public humiliation inflicted upon him.
In 1912 he accepted an offer from the Uruguayan businessmen Rubén and Alfredo Guido to direct the magazines Mundial and Elegancias. To promote said publications, he went on tour in Latin America visiting, among other cities, Río de Janeiro, São Paulo, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. It was also around this time when the poet redacted his autobiography, which was published in the magazine Caras y caretas under the title of La vida de Rubén Darío escrita por él mismo; and the work Historia de mis libros which is very important when learning about his literary evolution.
After ending his journey due to the end of his contract with the Guido brothers, he returned to Paris and in 1913, invited by Joan Sureda, he traveled to Mallorca and he found quarters at the Carthusian monastery of Valldemosa, where many decades into the past figures such as Chopin and George Sand had resided. It was in this island where Ruben begun writing the novel El oro de Mallorca, which was a fictionalization of his autobiography. The deterioration of his mental health became accentuated, however, due to his alcoholism. In December he headed back to Barcelona, where he lodged at General Zelaya's house. Zelaya had taken Dario under his wing when he was president of Nicaragua. In January of 1914 he returned to Paris, where he entered a lengthy legal battle with the Guido brothers, who still owed him a large sum of money for the work he had done for them. In May he moved to Barcelona, where he published his last important work of poetry, Canto a la Argentina y otros poemas, which includes the laudatory poem he had written to Argentina, which had been made to order for La Nación. His health had deteriorated much: he suffered frequent hallucinations, and he was pathologically obsessed with the idea of death.
With the outbreak of the First world war, he departed for the United States -- apparently with the idea of advocating neutrality and pacifism on the part of the American nations. Francisca and their two surviving sons were left behind, falling into a state of misery shortly after their abandonment by the poet. In January of 1915, he read at Columbia University in New York, his poem titled "Pax". He went to Guatemala where he was protected by his former enemy, the dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera. At the end of the year he finally reached his native Nicaragua. He arrived at Leon, the city of his infancy, on January 7 of 1916, and he died less than a month later, on February 6. The funeral rites lasted several days. He was buried in the Cathedral of the city of Leon on February 13 of the same year, at the base of the statue of Saint Paul near the chancel under a lion made of marble by the Granadinian sculptor Jorge Navas Cordonero. This lion is similar to the lion of Lucerne, Switzerland.
French poetry was a determinant influence in Dario's formation as a poet. In the first place, the romantics, particularly Victor Hugo. Later on, and in a decisive fashion, Dario was influenced by the parnassians: Théophile Gautier, Catulle Mendès, and José María de Heredia. The final defining element of Darianian esthetic is his admiration towards the symbolists, most importantly, Paul Verlaine. Recapitulating his own poetic trajectory in the initial poem of Cantos de vida y esperanza (1905) Dario himself synthesized his main influences when he affirms that he was "strong with Hugo and ambiguous with Verlaine" ("con Hugo fuerte y con Verlaine ambiguo".)
In the section "Palabras Liminares" of Prosas Profanas (1896) Dario had already written a paragraph that reveals the importance of French culture in the development of his literary work:
The old Spaniard with a white beard points towards a series of illustrious portraits: "This one -he says- is the great Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, one-handed genius; this one is Lope de Vega, this one is Garcilaso, this one Quintana." I ask him for the noble man Gracián, for Teresa of Ávila, for the brave Góngora and the strongest of all, Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas. Then I say: "Shakespeare! Dante! Hugo...! (and in my head: Verlaine...!)"
Then, when saying goodbye: "-Old man, it is important to say: my wife is from my land; my mistress is from Paris.
Los raros is an illustrative volume regarding Dario's literary tastes, which he published on the same year as Prosas profanas, and dedicated to briefly glossing some of the writers and intellectuals towards whom he felt profound admiration. Amongst those in the book we find Edgar Allan Poe, Villiers de l'Isle Adam, Léon Bloy, Paul Verlaine, Lautréamont, Eugenio de Castro and José Martí (the latter being the only one mentioned who wrote their literary work in Spanish.) The predominance of French culture is more than evident. Dario wrote: Modernism is nothing more than Spanish verse and prose passed through the fine sieve of the good French verse and the good French prose.
This is not to imply, however, that Spanish literature was of no importance to his work. Setting aside his initial stage, before Azul..., in which his poetry owes a great deal to the great names of XIX century Spanish poetry, such as Núñez de Arce and Campoamor, Dario was a great admirer of Bécquer. Spanish themes are well represented in his work, already in Prosas profanas and, specially, after his second trip to Spain, in 1899. Conscious of contemporaneous Spanish decadence in politics and the arts (a preoccupation he shared with the so called Generation of '98), he frequently was inspired by characters and elements of the past. This is what happens, for example, in his "Letanía de nuestro señor Don Quijote", a poem included in Cantos de vida y esperanza (1905), in which he exalts Don Quijote's idealism.
Before Azul... Dario wrote three book and a great number of loose poems which make up what is known as his "literary prehistory" ("prehistoria literaria".) The books are Epístolas y poemas (written in 1885, but published until 1888, under the title Primeras notas), Rimas (1887) and Abrojos (1887). In the first of these works his readings of Spanish classics is patent, as is the stamp of Victor Hugo. The metric is classic and the tone is predominantly romantic. The epistles, of neoclassic influence, are directed to writers such as Ricardo Contreras, Juan Montalvo, Emilio Ferrari and Victor Hugo.
In Abrojos, published in Chile, the most acknowledged influence is that from the Spaniard Ramón de Campoamor. Rimas, also published in Chile and on the same year, was written for a contest to imitates the Bécquer's Rimas, hence, it is not strange that the intimate tone adopted in this book is very similar to the one present in the writings of the Sevillian poet. It consists of only fourteen poems, of amorous tone, whose expressive means are characteristically bécquerian.
Azul... (1888), considered the inaugural book of Hispanic-American modernism, has as many tales in prose as poems that caught the critic's attention through their metric variety. It presents us some of the preoccupations characteristic of Dario, such as his expression of dissatisfaction towards the bourgeoisie (see, for example, the tale " El rey burgués") A new edition of the text was published in 1890, this one was augmented with several new texts, amongst which were sonnets in Alexandrine verses.
Modernism's stage of plenitude and of the Darianian poetry is marked by the book Prosas profanas y otros poemas, a collection of poems in which the presence of the erotic is more important, and which contains some esoteric themes (such as in the poem "Coloquio de los centauros"). In this book, we can also find Dario's own entire exotic imagery: The France of the XVIII century, medieval Spain and Italy, Greek mythology, etc.
In 1905, Dario published Cantos de vida y esperanza, which announces a more intimate and reflexive trend in his works, without renouncing to the themes that have become linked to the identity of Modernism. At th same time, civic poetry appears in his work, with poems like " A Roosevelt", a trend that would be accentuated in El canto errante (1907) and in Canto a la Argentina y otros poemas (1914). The intimate slant in his work is accentuated, instead, in Poema del otoño y otros poemas (1910), in which he shows an amazing formal plainness in his work.
Not all of Dario's poems were published in books during his life. Many of them, appearing only in publications in periodicals, were compiled after his death.
Rubén Darío produced many exquisite literary works that greatly contributed to revive the literarily moribund Spanish language, thus he became known as the Father of Modernismo . Other great literary writers call him "Príncipe de las Letras Castellanas" (The Prince of Spanish Literature).
Rubén Darío participated in, or was the leader of, many literary movements in Nicaragua, Chile, Spain and Argentina. The Modernismo movement was a recapitulation of three movements in Europe: Romanticism (romanticismo), Symbolism (simbolismo) and Parnassianism (parnasianismo). These ideas express passion, visual art, and harmonies and rhythms with music.
Darío was the genius of this movement. His style was exotic and very vibrant. In his poem Canción de Otoño en Primavera ("The Song of Fall in Spring") there is much evidence of passion and strong emotions. Soon many literary writers would start using his style in a cautious and elegant form to make music with poetry.
His fundamental collection, Azul... ("Blue..."), was published in 1888 and established his reputation as one of the most important Spanish-language exponents of Modernismo. Many critics consider his death in 1916 to mark the symbolic end of Modernismo.
He has been cited as inspiration for later Latin American and Caribbean writers such as Álvaro Mutis, Reinaldo Reinas, Lezama Lima, Luisa Valenzuela, Clarice Lispector, and Giannina Braschi.
Darío marks an important shift in the relationship between literary Europe and America. Before him, American literary trends had largely followed European ones; however, Darío was clearly the international vanguard of the Modernist Movement.
Roberto González Echevarría considers him the beginning of the modern era in Spanish language poetry: "In Spanish, there is poetry before and after Rubén Darío. ... the first major poet in the language since the seventeenth century ... He ushered Spanish-language poetry into the modern era by incorporating the aesthetic ideals and modern anxieties of Parnassiens and Symbolism, as Garcilaso had infused Castilian verse with Italianate forms and spirit in the sixteenth century, transforming it forever. Darío and Garcilaso led the two most profound poetic revolutions in Spanish, yet neither is known abroad, except by Hispanists. They have not traveled well, particularly in English-speaking countries, where they are all but unknown.
In honor of Darío's 100th birthday in 1967, the government of Nicaragua struck a 50 cordoba gold medal and issued a set of postage stamps. The set consists of eight airmail stamps (20 centavos depicted) and two souvenir sheets.