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and manly eloquence of Alfieri, and the exquisite observation of Goldoni, atone for the want of that fervent imagination which began to be exhausted. But the literature of Spain has, strictly speaking, only one period, that of chivalry. Its sole riches consist in its ancient honour and frankness of character. Its imagination is supported only by its ignorance, and creates prodigies, adventures, and intrigues in abundance, as long as it feels itself unrestrained by the bounds of the possible and the probable. Spanish literature shines forth in all its splendour in the ancient Castilian romances; all the fund of sentiments, ideas, images, and adventures, of which she afterwards availed herself, is to be found in this original treasure. Boscan and Garcilaso, indeed, gave it a new form, but not a new substance and a new life. The same thoughts, the same romantic sentiments are found in these two poets and in their school, with the addition only of a new dress and a form almost Italian. The Spanish drama awoke; and, for the third time, this primitive source of adventures, images, and sentiments, was brought into action in a new shape. Lope de Vega and Calderon introduced on the stage the subjects of the early romances, and transferred to the dramatic dialogue the language of the national songs. Thus, under an apparent variety, the Spaniards have been wearied with monotony.
The prodigality of their images and the brilliancy of their poetry, discover only a real poverty. If their minds had been properly disciplined, and if they had enjoyed freedom of thought, the Spanish writers would ultimately have extricated themselves from this dull routine, and would have run the same career as those of other nations.
This fund of images and adventures of which the Spaniards have so frequently availed themselves, is that to which in our days the name of romance has been particularly attached. We here find the sentiments, the opinions, the virtues, and the prejudices of the middle ages; the picture of that good old time to which all our habits attach us; and since chivalric antiquity has been placed in opposition to heroic antiquity, it is interesting, even in a literary point of view, to see the manner in which it has been treated by a lively and sensitive people, who rejected all new ideas, all foreign assistance, and the results of experience derived from other principles. This observation may, perhaps, teach us that the manners and prejudices of the good old time present, in fact, an abundance of riches to the poet, but that it is necessary to be elevated above them to employ them with advantage; and that, in appropriating these materials from remote ages, it is requisite to treat them in the spirit of our own times. Sophocles and Euripides, when they represent to us with so much sublimity the heroic age,
are themselves raised above it, and employ the philosophy of the age of Socrates to give a just idea of the sentiments of the ages of Edipus and Agamemnon. It is only by an accurate knowledge of the times, and the truth of all its history, that we can expect to give a new interest to the age of chivalry. But the Spaniards of modern days were in no wise superior to the personages who were the subject of their poetry. They were, on the contrary, inferior to them; and they found themselves unqualified to render justice to a theme of which they were not masters.
In another point of view also, the literature of Spain presents to us a singular phenomenon, and an object of study and observation. Whilst its character is essentially chivalric, we find its ornaments and its language borrowed from the Asiatics. Thus, Spain, the most western country of Europe, presents us with the flowery language and vivid imagination of the East. It is not my design to inculcate a preference of the oriental style to the classical, nor to justify those gigantic hyperboles which so often offend our taste, and that profusion of images by which the poet seems desirous to inebriate our senses, investing all his ideas with the charm of sweetest odours, of beautiful colours, and of harmonious language. I would only wish to remark that the qualities which continually surprise us, and sometimes almost disgust us in the poetry of Spain,
LITERATURE OF THE SPANIARDS.
are the genuine characteristics of the poetry of India, Persia, Arabia, and the East; poetry, to which the most ancient nations of the world, and those which have had the greatest influence on civilization, have concurred in yielding their admiration; that the sacred writings present to us in every page instances of that highly figurative language, which we there receive with a kind of veneration, but which is not allowed in the moderns; that hence we may perceive that there are different systems in literature and in poetry; and that, so far from assigning to any one an exclusive preference over the rest, we ought to accustom ourselves to estimate them all with justice, and thus to enjoy their distinct and several beauties. If we regard the literature of Spain as revealing to us, in some degree, the literature of the East, and as familiarizing us with a genius and taste differing so widely from our own, it will possess in our eyes a new interest. We may thus inhale, in a language allied to our own, the perfumes of the East, and the incense of Arabia. We may view as in a faithful mirror, those palaces of Bagdad, and that luxury of the caliphs, which revived the lustre of departed ages; and we may appreciate, through the medium of a people of Europe, that brilliant Asiatic poetry, which was the parent of so many beautiful fictions of the imagination.
State of Portuguese Literature until the Middle of the
THERE now remains to be considered only one other language of those which are denominated the Romance, or such as are compounded of the Latin and Teutonic tongues; and we here approach the Portuguese. We have already observed the rise and progress of the Provençal, the RomanceWallon, the Italian, the Castilian, and, indeed, of all of those mixed tongues peculiar to the South of Europe, from the extreme point of Sicily to the Levant; and we next prepare to trace their progress as far as the western extremity of the same region, in Lusitania. We shall thus have completed a view of the chief part of the European languages; those which may be said, more particularly, to owe their existence to the Roman. In the Sclavonian and Teutonic tongues there yet remain two distinct subjects of consideration. The former of these have never yet been carried to a sufficiently high point of cultiva