1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mena, Juan de

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MENA, JUAN DE (1411-1456), Spanish poet, was born at Cordova in 1411. In his twenty-fourth year he matriculated at the university of Salamanca, and studied later at Rome. His scholarship obtained for him the post of Latin secretary at the court of Castille; subsequently he became historiographer to John II. and magistrate at Cordova. According to the Epicedio of Valerio Francisco Romero, Mena died from natural causes in 1456; popular tradition, however, ascribes his death to a fall from his mule. Though nominally the king's chronicler, Mena had no share in the Crónica de Don Juan II.; the statement that he wrote the first act of the Celestina (q.v.) is rejected; but three authentic specimens of his cumbrous prose exist in the commentary to his dull poem entitled La Coronacion or Calamacileos, in the Ilíada en romance (an abridged version of Homer), and in the unpublished Memorias de algunos linajes antiguas é nobles de Castilla. He is conjectured to be the author of the satirical Coplas de la panadera; but, apart from the fact that these verses are ascribed by Argote de Molina to Iñigo Ortiz de Zúñiga, they are instinct with a tart humour of which Mena was destitute. His principal work is his allegorical poem, El Laberinto de Fortuna, dedicated to John II.; in the oldest manuscripts it consists of 297 stanzas, but three more stanzas were added to it later, and hence the alternative, popular title of Las Trezientas. The Laberinto is modelled on Dante, and further contains reminiscences of the Roman de la rose, as well as episodes borrowed from Virgil and Lucan. It is marred by excessive emphasis and pedantic diction, and the arte mayor measure in which it is written is monotonous; but many octaves are of such excellence that the arte mayor metre continued in fashion for nearly a century. The poem, as a whole, is tedious; yet its dignined expression of patriotic spirit has won the admiration of Spaniards from Cervantes' time to our-own.

A critical edition of the Laberinla has been issued by R. Foulché-Delbosc (Macon, 1904).