From Pastor Díaz to Poe: Black Winged Creatures and Gothic Sensibilities

Although critics have frequently relegated Nicomedes Pastor Díaz (1811-1863) to a secondary place among the Spanish Romantics, his work is nonetheless an important part of any discussion of the Gothic mode in 19th-century Spanish fiction. In particular, his poem “La mariposa negra” (1840) illustrates a well-developed Gothic sensibility that would be echoed—indeed, almost curiously imitated—in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “The Raven” five years later. In both poems, the narrator is tormented by a black winged creature (a butterfly and a raven, respectively) that takes on the dark characteristics of a Gothic monster, psychologically toying with its subject and ultimately driving him to the brink of insanity. Both Pastor Díaz and Poe purposefully play with the Romantic idea of resolution and, in doing so, open the narrative to the influence of the Gothic sublime, which ultimately leads to the psychic fragmentation of their subjects. The intriguing similarities of these two poems beg further study; although there is no indication that Poe was aware of Pastor Díaz’s poem, the striking resemblance of the “The Raven” and “La mariposa negra” provides an interesting commentary on the developing Gothic sensibilities on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid-19th century.


  • Spanish Peninsular Studies