certaining; and the Spaniards often extend the name of the Court to every thing within the sphere of the capital. Be this, however, as it may, it is among these pieces of a Court Poet that I have found the most attractive Spanish comedies. Such, for instance, is The Devil turned Preacher: El Diablo Predicator, y mayor contrario amigo; the work of a devout servant of St. Francis and the Capuchin monks. He supposes that the devil Luzbel has succeeded by his intrigues in exciting in Lucca an extreme animosity against the Capuchins; every one refuses them alms; they are ready to perish with hunger, and are reduced to the last extremity; and the first magistrate in the city at length orders them to quit it. But at the moment that Luzbel is congratulating himself on his victory, the infant Jesus descends to earth with St. Michael. To punish the devil for his insolence, he compels him to clothe himself in the habit of St. Francis, and then to preach in Lucca in order to counteract the mischief he had done; to ask alms, and to revive the charitable disposition of the inhabitants; and not to quit the city or the habit of the order, until he had built in Lucca another convent for the followers of St. Francis, more richly endowed, and capable of containing more monks than the former. The invention is whimsical, and the more so when we find the subject treated with the most sincere devotion, and the most implicit belief in the mi

racles of the Franciscans; but the execution is not the less pleasing on that account. The solicitude of the devil, who endeavours to terminate as soon as possible so disagreeable a business; the zeal with which he preaches; the hidden expressions by which he disguises his mission, and wishes to pass off his chagrin as a religious mortification; the prodigious success which attends his exertions in opposition to his own interests; the only enjoyment which is left him in his trouble, to torment the slothful monk who accompanies him in asking alms, and to cheat him in his gormandizing: all this is represented with a gaiety and life which render this piece very amusing in the perusal, and which caused it to be received with transport by the audience, when it was a few years ago given on the stage at Madrid, in the form of a regular play. It was not one of the least pleasures of the spectators, to laugh so long at the expense of the devil, as we are taught to believe that the laugh is generally on his side.

Among the rivals of Calderon, one of the most celebrated and the most deserving of notice, was Augustin Moreto, who enjoyed, like him, the favour of Philip IV; was, like him, a zealot as well as a comic poet; and, like him, a priest towards the close of his life; but, when Moreto entered into the ecclesiastical state, he abandoned the theatre. He possessed more vivacity than

Calderon, and his plots give rise to more amusing scenes. He attempted, too, a more precise delineation of character, and endeavoured to bestow on his comedies that interest, the fruits of accurate observation, which is so generally wanting in the Spanish drama. Several of his pieces were introduced on the French stage, at the time when the authors of that country borrowed so much from Spain. That which is most known to the French people, in consequence of being for a long time past acted on Shrove Tuesday, is the Don Japhet of Armenia, of Scarron, almost literally translated from El Marques del Cigarral; but this is not amongst the best pieces of Moreto. There are to be found characters much more happily drawn, with much more interest in the plot, more invention, and a more lively dialogue, in his comedy entitled, No puede ser: It cannot be; where a woman of talent and spirit, who is beloved by a man of jealous disposition, proposes to herself, before marrying him, to convince him that it is impossible to guard a woman effectually, and that the only safe mode is to trust to her own honour. The lesson is severe, for she assists the sister of her lover in an intrigue, although he kept her shut up, and watched her with extreme distrust. She contrives to arrange her interviews with a young man; she aids the sister in escaping from her brother's house, and in marrying without his consent; and when she has

enjoyed the alarm into which he is thrown, and has convinced him that, notwithstanding all his caution and all his threats, he has been grossly duped, she consents to give him her hand. The remainder of the plot is conducted with sufficient probability, and much originality, and gives rise to many entertaining scenes, of which Moliere has availed himself in his Ecole des Maris.

There is a piece in much the same style by Don Fernando de Zarate, called, la Presumida y la Hermosa. We find in it some strong traits of character joined to a very entertaining plot. There were still to be found in Spain some men of taste, who treated with ridicule the affected style introduced by Gongora. Zarate gives to Leonora the most conceited language, which does not differ much from that of Gongora, or even Calderon, and he contrives at the same time to shew its absurdity. His Gracioso exclaims against the outrage which is thus committed upon the poor Castilian tongue.* The two sisters, Leonora

* Leonora is represented with her sister in the presence of a gentleman whom they both love, and she wishes him to decide between them.

[blocks in formation]

and Violante, have in this piece nearly the same characters as Armande and Henriette in the Femmes savantes; but the Spaniards did not at



De la cuna de la aurora

La Delfica luz, es clara
Consecuencia visual

Que el Alva, nevado mapa,
Cadaver de cristal, muera
En monumentos de plata :
Y assi en crepusculos rízos
Donde se angelan las claras
Pavezas del sol, es fuerza
Que el sol brille, y fine el Alva.
Señora, vos sois el astro
Que dà el fulgor à Diana;
Y violante es el candor
Que se deriva del aura.
Y si el candor matutino
Cede la nautica braza
Al zodiaco austral,
Palustre serà la parca,
Avassallando las dos
A las rafagas del Alva.
Viva Christo; somos Indios,
Pues de esta suerte se habla
Entre Christianos? Por vida
De la lengua castellana

Que si mi hermana habla culto

Que me oculte de mi hermana,

Al inculto barbarismo,

O à las lagunas de Parla,

O à la Nefritica idea;

Y si algun critico trata

« VorigeDoorgaan »