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as the subject of one of these tragedies, the discovery and conversion of Peru. He called it La Aurora en Copacavana, from the name of one of the sacred temples of the Incas, where the first cross was planted by the companions of Pizarro. The admirers of Calderon extol this piece as one of his most poetical efforts, and as a drama animated by the purest and most elevated enthusiasm. A series of brilliant objects is indeed presented to the eyes and to the mind. On one side, the devotions of the Indians are celebrated at Copacavana with a pomp and magnificence, which are not so much derived from the music and the decorations, as from the splendour and poetic elevation of the language. On the other side, the first arrival of Don Francisco Pizarro on the shore, and the terror of the Indians, who take the vessel itself for an unknown monster, whose bellowings (the discharges of artillery) they compare to the thunder of the skies, are rendered with equal truth and richness of imagination. To avert the calamities which these strange prodigies announce, the gods of America demand a human victim. They make choice of Guacolda, one of their priestesses, who is an object of love to the Inca, Guascar, and to the hero Jupangui. Idolatry, represented by Calderon as a real being, who continually dazzles the Indians by false miracles, herself solicits this sacrifice. She obtains the consent of the terrified Inca, whilst
Jupangui withdraws his mistress from the priests of the false gods, and places her in safety. The alarm of Guacolda, the devotion of her lover, and the danger of the situation, which gradually increases, give to the scene an agreeable and romantic interest, which, however, leads us almost to forget Pizarro and his companions in
In the second act both the interest and action are entirely changed. We behold Pizarro, with the Spaniards, assaulting the walls of Cusco, the Indians defending them, and the Virgin Mary assisting the assailants, and saving Pizarro, who is precipitated from the summit of a scalingladder, by the fragment of a rock, but rises without experiencing any injury, and returns to the combat. In another scene the Spaniards, already masters of Cusco, are reposing in a palace built of wood; the Indians set fire to it, but the Virgin, invited by Pizarro, comes again to his aid; she appears amidst a choir of angels, and pours on the flames torrents of water and snow. This vision appears also to Jupangui, as he leads the Indians to the attack of the Spaniards. He is moved and converted. He addresses the Virgin in a moment of danger, when the asylum of his mistress, Guacolda, is discovered, and the Virgin, taking him under her protection, conceals them both from their enemies.
This new miracle gives rise to the third action,
which forms the third act, and which is apparently founded on the legend of Copacavana. Peru has wholly submitted to the King of Spain, and is converted; but Jupangui has no other desire or thought than to form an image of the Virgin similar to the apparition which he saw in the clouds. Notwithstanding his ignorance of art, and of the use of the requisite instruments, he labours incessantly, and his rude attempts expose him to the derision of his companions. The latter refuse to allow a statue of so grotesque an appearance to be deposited in a temple. Jupangui is doomed to experience all sort of disappointments and mortifications. An attempt is made by an armed band to destroy his image; but the Virgin at length, touched by his faith and perseverance, despatches two angels to his assistance, who, one of them with chisels, and the other with pencils and colours, retouch the statue, and render it a perfect likeness of its divine original. The festival which solemnizes this miracle terminates the scene.
We have before noticed a dramatic piece by Lope de Vega, called Arauco domado, on the conquest of Chili; which, barbarous as it may be, yet seems to me very much superior to that of Calderon. The greater elegance of versification in the latter, if indeed such be the fact, is not sufficient to atone for the gratuitous violation of all essential rules of art, and of those founded in
nature itself. The author perpetually diverts our attention to new subjects, without ever satisfying us. Not to mention the interest which might have been excited in us for the flourishing empire of the Incas, which is represented to us in the midst of solemnities, and which falls we know not how, Pizarro appears, landing for the first time among the Indians of Peru; we stop to admire the contrast between these two distinct races of men, when the scene is suddenly withdrawn from us. The love of Jupangui and Guacolda excites in us, in its turn, a romantic interest, but it is abandoned long before the close of the piece. The struggle between a conquering and a conquered people might have developed instances of valour and heroism, and produced scenes both noble and affecting; but we have only a glimpse of this contest, which is suddenly terminated by a miracle. A subject altogether new then commences with the conversion of Jupangui, and his attempt to make the miraculous image. Fresh personages enter on the scene; we find ourselves in an unknown world; the newborn zeal of the converted Peruvians is beyond conception; all the feelings previously awakened in us become enfeebled or extinguished, and those which the poet wishes to excite in us in the third act are not properly grounded in the heart. How shall we account for the admiration bestowed by critics of unquestioned cele
brity on a piece like this? Intimately acquainted with the ancient and modern drama, and accustomed to appreciate the perfect productions of the Greeks, how is it possible that they could be blind to the monstrous defects of these ill connected scenes? But, in fact, it is not in the capacity of critics that they have judged the Spanish stage. They have extolled it only because they find in every page that religious zeal which appears to them so chivalric and poetical. The enthusiasm of Jupangui redeems in their eyes all the faults of the Aurora en Copacavana. But rank in literature is not to be regulated by religion; and if this, indeed, were the case, these neophytes would probably find themselves disarmed by that very church, whose tenets they have embraced, when they applaud a fanaticism which at this day she herself disavows.
To return to Calderon, he had, on the unity of subject and of style, ideas differing in an extraordinary degree from our own. He has shewn it in all his pieces; but there is one amongst others which in this respect deserves to be noticed for the eccentricity of its plan. It is intitled, The Origin, Loss, and Restoration of the Virgin of the Sanctuary, and was composed to celebrate the festival, on the stage as well as in
• Origen, perdida, y restauracion de la Virgen del Sagrario, t. vi. p. 99.