Beyond the autobiographical reflections on past military glory, the crux of Cervantes' mock epic constitutes a paradoxical exercise in contemporary metapoetics.
It becomes readily apparent that the poetic cartography of the Viaje, rather than constituting a translatio studii in reverse, that is, from West to East, becomes riddled with the poetics of paradoxical folly, whereby the satirical thrust of the mock epic infuses with a liberating sense of irony and parody all that is sacred to the Western poetic canon.
At the pivotal point of his mock epic, Cervantes presents the poetasters' last rebellion against the "poetisimos varones," the Apollonian poets who must defend Parnassus against the approaching squadrons of those who ate impelled by "la soberbia y maldad, el atrevido/intento de una gente malmirada" (VII, 10-11), and who presume to scale the slopes of the sacred mount, which constitutes a low burlesque parody of the classical Gigantomachia.
32) In this burlesque mock epic, not even Mercury is safe from the harmful punch of a flying satire: "Diole a Mercurio en la derecha mano/ una satira antigua licenciosa,/ de estilo agudo, pero no muy sano" (VII, 187-89).
In low burlesque style, Cervantes satirizes his own poetics of empire by portraying the mock epic battle on Parnassus in rhetorical terms that infuse with racial and ethnic overtones the seemingly perennial epic battle between radically opposed aesthetic ideals (the deceptively simple and well-delineated dichotomy between bad and good poets), which may well be compared to the not any less contentious and mortiferous battle between religions (Christianity and Islam) and civilizations (Europe and the Muslim world, embodied by the Ottoman empire).
38) In this mock epic battle between such ambiguously aligned Christian and maurophile versifiers, respectively portrayed as swans and crows, the duality between the poetics of empire and the empire of poetics becomes decidedly fused into one paradoxical hybrid, emblematized by none other than the "raro inventor" (I, 223) and the most rara ave of Spanish poets, Cervantes himself: "[Y]o soy un poeta desta hechura:/ cisne en las canas, y en la voz un ronco/y negro cuervo" (I, 102-04).
While the mock epic battle on Parnassus is saturated with imperialistic rhetoric smacking of blatant chauvinism, it actually figures as a brilliant satire of Spain's glorious and ostentatious ambitions, both in arms and in letters, at the height of its early seventeenth century enterprise to maintain its political and cultural hegemony.
The mock epic necessarily ends with the satirical parody of the Voyage to Parnassus genre, resulting in the presumptuous poetasters' defeat by the unrelenting artillery of literature itself, thus paving the way for the Apollonian "conquista" (VII, 20), the much-desired conquest of the terrain of Poetry.
Even after the victorious battle against the poetasters, Cervantes' mock epic cannot sustain the elysian ambiance for very long, for within a few steps of the ceremonious apotheosis of the "poetismos varones," the locus amoenus is transformed into a satirical locus facetus, and the crowned poets are now honored by having the unparalleled privilege of picking up Pegasus' droppings: "