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Juan de Mena
Spanish poet, born 1411 at Cordova; died 1456 at Torrelaguna. Prominent at the court of Juan II of Castile, Mena was for a while the monarch's secretario de cartas Latinas and then the royal historiographer. In his work as a poet he manifests little originality, and shows to a considerable degree the influence of Italian and classic Latin models, for the impress of the Renaissance is already clear in him. The Dantesque allegory gave form to his poem "La Coronacion", an allegorical vision in which he makes a journey to Parnassus to witness the coronation of his friend, the Marquis of Santillana, as poet and hero. Didactic and allegorizing tendencies are visible in his versified "Siete pecados mortales". Along with a paramount influence of Dante there is noticeable also a considerable influence of the Latin poet Lucan in his poetical masterpiece, the "Laberinto" (also termed Las Trecientas). Here the poet pictures himself as wandering in a forest where he is threatened by wild beasts. A beautiful woman (Providence) appears and offers to guide him and explain the secrets of life. A description of the universe is then given. It consists of three wheels of fate set within a number of circles or spheres. The wheels are those of the past, present, and future. That of the present is in motion, the other two are constantly moving. In these wheels are seen various personages, whom his guide points out to him, expatiating on their characteristics. The machinery is obviously borrowed from the Divine Comedy and especially from the Paradise. Certain passages are genuinely poetical. Of the prose works of Mena there may be mentioned his "Iliada", an arid compendium of the story of Troy, and his pedantic Commentary on his own poem "La Coronacion". His minor lyrics, found in the Cancioneros are of slight importance.
Obras, ed. SANCHEZ (Madrid, 1804); Laberinto, ed. FOULCHE-DELBOSC (Macon, 1904); Revue Hispanique, IX, 75 sqq.; MENENDEZ Y PELAYO, Antologia, V, 165 sqq.
J. D. M. FORD.