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INCREASE OF PORTUGUESE POWER, FOLLOWED BY THE RAPID DEVELOPEMENT OF THE NATIONAL POETRY AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
Meanwhile the Portuguese monarchy approached the summit of its power and glory. While Spain, under the dominion of Ferdinand and Isabella, began to form itself internally into a single state, the government and people of Portugal directed their attention to discoveries and conquests in Africa and India. A peculiar union of the heroism of chivalry, and the industry of social life which prevailed in Portugal, under the auspices of her enterprising sovereigns, impressed on the nation a consciousness of power, in which the Portuguese were in no respect inferior to the Castilians. The flag of Portugal waved along the western coast of Africa, where Portuguese factories began to be converted into colonies, extending towards the Cape which Vasco de Gama doubled in the year 1498. In
que os gérou. E nam digo contra meus Irmaos, mas em verdade vos juro, que ainda que ahi viesse meu Padre, eu seria contra elle, por serviço do Mestre meu senhor. E pera vós verdes que he assim, se a voz praz de em esta obra sermos todos companheiros; eu vos juro, et prometo, que eu seja o dianteiro ante a minha bandeira, et o primeiro que comece a pelejar, et assi podeis ver a vontade, que eu tenho contra meus Irmaos neste feito. Mas, naõ embargo da vossa tençao ser todavia qual me dissestes, aquelles, que se quizerem hir pera suas casas, et lugares, vaõse com Deos, ea eis, et esses poucos de boos Portugueses, que comigo vem, lhe entendo poer a praça.
less than fifteen years after this memorable event, Portuguese valour, guided by the renowned leaders Francisco de Almeida and Alfonso de Albuquerque, succeeded in founding a kingdom in India, of which Goa was the capital. At this period, during the glorious reign of Emanuel, who in the series of Portuguese sovereigns is distinguished by the surname of the Great, no Spanish poet had attained so much celebrity as was enjoyed by the Portuguese Bernardim, or (according to the more ancient orthography of that name) Bernaldim Ribeyro. A comprehensive idea of the nature of that romantic spirit, which every Portuguese poet conceived himself bound to exhibit in the fulfilment of his poetic destination, may be gathered from an account of the life and writings of this extraordinary man.
This poet received such a literary education as was in those times required for the study of the law, and a subsequent residence at court. King Emanuel, conferred on him the appointment of moço fidalgo (gentleman of the chamber). Ribeyro found at the court of that sovereign an object capable of fixing his poetic fancy, but not his future happiness; for from that time forward the heart of this sentimental enthusiast appears to have been incessantly agitated by sad emotions. Portuguese writers insinuate that the Infanta Dona Beatrice, the king's daughter, was the lady of whom the unfortunate Ribeyro was enamoured. It is evident from his writings, that he has studiously
thrown a veil over the secret of his heart. We are not informed how he reconciled this passion with his domestic relations, or whether at the period of his marriage he had emancipated himself from those romantic illusions which at other times exercised so powerful a dominion over him. It is related that he frequently retired to the woods where he passed the night alone, singing to the murmuring brooks his songs of passion and despair. But it is also said that he tenderly loved his wife, and after her death showed no inclination to enter, a second time, into the married state. There is no possibility of reconciling these psychological inconsistencies, since it is not known at what period of his life Ribeyro retired from court. Neither is it recorded at what period or at what age he died. But that he cherished romantic fancies in real life, as well as in his poetry, is a fact which is sufficiently confirmed by the accounts which have been preserved of his conduct and by the general character of his writings, *
Among the poetic works of Ribeyro, so far as they are known, his eclogues are particularly distinguished. If not the very oldest, they are certainly among the most ancient compositions of the kind in Portuguese and Spanish literature; and when compared with those of Juan del Enzina, who flourished about the same time in Spain, they may, in every respect, claim the priority. Juan del Enzina ingeniously sported with simple ideas; but Ribeyro sang from his inmost soul. However, even Ribeyro is poor in ideas. His language
Barbosa Machado's article under the head" Bernardim Ribeyro," is too short and unsatisfactory for a name so celebrated.
and composition are very remote from classical correctness, and his prolixity is tedious. But amidst the monotony of Ribeyro's homely verses, there appears a spirit of truth and poetic feeling, which no art or study could have produced. The eclogues, which are unquestionably the production of Ribeyro's pen, are four in number; but a fifth in the same style is attributed to him. They are all composed in Redondilhas, arranged in stanzas of nine or ten lines each, called decimas. Like most compositions in the class to which they belong, these eclogues assume the form of tales; but the lyric garb in which the simple materials are clothed, is the most interesting circumstance of the whole. Ribeyro has described in his eclogues only the scenery of his native country. The Tagus, the Mondego, the sea on the coast of Portugal, and even sometimes the city of Coimbra, and other towns, are exhibited in a poetic point of view. The names usually given to the shepherds are, Fauno, Persio, Franco, Jano, Sylvestre; but among the shepherdesses we find, a Catharina and a Joana introduced. Certain peculiarities and mysterious allusions sufficiently betray the object of the poet, which was to represent the romantic situations and events of the fashionable circles in which he moved at the court of Lisbon, under the poetic disguise of situations and events of pastoral life. In conformity with the notions of the age, this kind of disguise was, from its affinity to allegory, highly valued; and it afforded the poet an opportunity of unfolding the sentiments of his heart, to the mistress whom he dared not name, without the fear of compromising either her or himself. Ribeyro's fancy
revelled in this union of truth and fact with truth of poetic feeling. The characters in all his eclogues are nearly the same under different names, and among them an unhappy lover is always the most conspicuous. The fervent expression of tenderness and despair on the part of the lover, forms the soul of these little pastoral pictures.
Ribeyro's poetic style is in its principal features the old romance style, only here and there somewhat more luxuriant, and occasionally interspersed with antiquated conceits. The unaffected truth of some of the descriptions is heightened by a peculiar kind of rural grace,*
* For example in the following stanzas:
O dia que ally chegou
Com seu gado et com seu fato,
Com tudo se agasalhou
Em huma bicada de hum mato,
E levandoo a pascer,
O outro dia à ribeira
Joana acertou de hi ver,
Que andava pela ribeira
Do Tejo a flores colher.
Vestido branco trazia,
Hum pouco a frontada andava,
Aos olhos de quem na olhava.
Jano colhia cuidado.
Despois que ella tene as flores
Ja colhidas, et escolhidas
As desvariadas cores