His early poetry tended predominantly to a glorification of the beautiful, shunning the bard realities of Spanish American life. In bis later poetry, while maintaining the basic esthetic aims of his earlier poetry, his themes are expanded to include Spanish American alarm over North American imperialism. He recalls Marti’s phrase relating to the oneness of Spanish America and proclaims the ancient origin and continuity of Latin American cultural identity in the lines:
|Mas Ja America nuestra que tenia poetas
desde los viejos tiempos de Nezahualcoyotl
……………………. vive. (“A Roosevelt”)
|(But our America that has had poets
since the ancient times of Nezahualcoyotl
……………………. lives on.) ( “To Roosevelt”)
In addition to the elements of French symbolism and Parnassianism, imagery from the Orient, from classical mythology, from the Bible, from indigenous America, from North American literature, and metrical forms from many periods abound in his poetry. He wrote of himself:
|y muy siglo diez y ocho y muy antiguo
y muy moderno; audaz, cosmopolita;
con Hugo fuerte y con Verlaine ambiguo
y una sed de ilusiones infinita.
|(and very eighteenth century and very ancient
and very modern; audacious, cosmopolitan;
with Hugo strong and with Verlaine ambiguous,
and an infinite thirst for illusions.)
With Dario modernism seems more eclectic in its sources than with any Spanish American poet before him because he knew more than they did. But he knew besides how to subordinate whatever poetic tendencies he chose to the coherent structure of his individual poems; and his expression was his own. In turn, not only did he influence other Spanish American poets, but with him for the first time the poetry of the New World was an important influence on the poetry of the Old. The Spanish Nobel prize winner, Juan Ramon Jimenez for instance, owed a great deal to Dario.
Many are the Spanish American poets who, although not as well known as Dano, wrote fine poetry: the Mexicans, Salvador Diaz Miron (1853-1928) and Amado Nervo (1879-1919), the Bolivian, Ricardo Jaimes Freyre (1868-1933), and the Colombian, Guillermo Valencia (1873-1943). Deserving of special recognition because they anticipated techniques that would be emphasized in later Spanish American poetry are the Argentinian, Leopold Lugones (1874-1938), and the Uruguayan, Julio Herrera y Reissig (1875-1910). Their special cultivation of metaphor marked the beginning of a new trend in Spanish American poetry. While their use of metaphor increased, the basic style of the works of these poets can still be described as modernist because of their striving for elegance and their use of imagery and symbolist techniques.