On October 18 1614 Cervantes was granted the privilege of printing and selling Journey to Parnassus (Viaje del Parnaso). The work, which was published in Madrid of that same year, is a narrative piece written in verse that tells the story of the writer’s journey to Mount Parnassus. In this mythological place where literary geniuses gather and immortality is granted, the best Spanish poets are brought together by Cervantes to fight in an allegorical battle against the bad poets.
The Journey begins in Madrid, where Cervantes begins to bring together, with the help of the god Mercury, a group of good poets. This small army takes to sea, travelling from Cartagena to Genoa, Rome and Naples (Cervantes knew Italy well since he had lived there for several years). After numerous adventures and misadventures they manage to arrive at the slopes of Mount Parnassus, where they are met by Apollo, the god of poetry. The battle between the good and bad poets is carried out using very original ammunition: both sides use books and poems as weapons in order to try and defeat their opponent. As is to be expected, good poetry wins.
The work is faithfully indebted to Viaggio di Parnaso, by the Italian writer Cesare Caporali, which was published in 1582. From the very first verse of Journey to Parnassus Cervantes pays tribute to him:
This that you see here, […] is the face of the author of La Galatea and of Don Quixote of la Mancha, and he who wrote Journey to Parnassus, in imitation of Cesare Caporali Perugino…
However, along with Caporali’s text, Cervantes intersperses many classical literary and autobiographical references, such as his participation in the battle of Lepanto and his trip to Italy, among others.