1.- Ten years before the end of the 18th century, the enlightened poetry showed two fully developing trends: pre-romantic and neoclassic, which, although around at the same time, developed in that order.
It has been argued whether the first movement was pre-romantic or completely romantic. We shall reserve this name for the following century´s literature. Authors like Jovellanos and Meléndez Valdés occasionally participated in this trend, which is defined by its lugubrious and sombre air, its sentimental or philanthropic themes, its anguish about life, its peculiar syntax: repetitions, exclamations and rhetorical questions, confused expressions and, in general, by its sensationalism.
Neoclassicism emerged as a reaction to this sentimental outburst, which tried to return to the restraint and balance of the classics, which we read in poems by Meléndez Valdés. Perhaps rococo had been an earlier attempt at restoring these ideals.
He was criticised by his contemporaries for his use of exotic words: gallicism and strange adjectives: hondi-tronante, hojoso, resonant...
| 2.- The best representative of pre-romanticism would have to be Nicasio Álvarez Cienfuegos (1764-1809) from Madrid, journalist and follower of Meléndez Valdés - liberal and openly opposed to José Bonaparte´s Spanish government. He died in exile, ill with tuberculosis.
His poetry begins with the usual compositions of the rococo lyric, possibly influenced by Meléndez Valdés. Immediately after this, nostalgia appears as a theme, along with pre-romantic ideas. In the last decade of the century, he dealt with themes about withdrawal to nature, about pacifism, friendship and universal love, in poems like My Solitary Walk in Spring, which deals with the disillusion of love. His poem In Praise of a Carpenter Called Alfonso is considered, perhaps exaggerately, a precedent to Spanish socialism, and his School of the Sepulchre reflects the disappointment and the nihilism that would culminate in the full romanticism of Espronceda.
Nicasio Álvarez Cienfuegos
Portrait of Leandro Fernández de Moratín
by Francisco de Goya
|   3.- The most brilliant of the neoclassic poets was Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760-1828), who was born in Madrid and died in Paris, after colaborating with José Bonaparte´s government. He was a friend of Jovellanos, and to whom he dedicated some of his best poetry.
As a poet, he admired the poeticism of Luzán. He read Horace and thought of Greek-Latin mythology as a sign of classicism. His sonnets are noteworthy, among them, those with a historical theme. He developed satire in the best illustrated tradition and left behind a kind of poetic testamony in his Elegy to the Muses.