1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ercilla y Zúniga, Alonso de

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21651901911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Ercilla y Zúniga, Alonso de

ERCILLA Y ZÚNIGA, ALONSO DE (1533–1595), Spanish soldier and poet, was born in Madrid on the 7th of August 1533. In 1548 he was appointed page to the heir-apparent, afterwards Philip II. In this capacity Ercilla visited Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, and was present in 1554 at the marriage of his master to Mary of England. Hearing that an expedition was preparing to subdue the Araucanians of Chile, he joined the adventurers. He distinguished himself in the ensuing campaign; but, having quarrelled with a comrade, he was condemned to death in 1558 by his general, Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza. The sentence was commuted to imprisonment, but Ercilla was speedily released and fought at the battle of Quipeo (14th of December 1558). He returned to Spain in 1562, visited Italy, France, Germany, Bohemia, and in 1570 married Maria de Bazán, a lady distantly connected with the Santa Cruz family; in 1571 he was made knight of the order of Santiago, and in 1578 he was employed by Philip II. on a mission to Saragossa. He complained of living in poverty but left a modest fortune, and was obviously disappointed at not being offered the post of secretary of state. His principal work is La Araucana, a poem based on the events of the wars in which he had been engaged. It consists of three parts, of which the first, composed in Chile and published in 1569, is a versified narrative adhering strictly to historic fact; the second, published in 1578, is encumbered with visions and other romantic machinery; and the third, which appeared in 1589–1590, contains, in addition to the subject proper, a variety of episodes mostly irrelevant. This so-called epic lacks symmetry, and has been over-praised by Cervantes and Voltaire; but it is written in excellent Spanish, and is full of vivid rhetorical passages. An analysis of the poem was given by Hayley in his Essay on Epic Poetry (1782).

A good biography precedes the Morceaux choisis (Paris, 1900) by Jean Ducamin.