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classical epics of Italy, or even with the Araucana. Lope, moreover, determined to try every species of poetry, composed also an Arcadia, in imitation of Sannazzaro; and likewise eclogues, romances, sacred poems, sonnets, epistles, burlesque poems, among which is a burlesque epic, called la Gatomachia: The Battle of the Cats; two romances in prose, and a collection of novels. The inconceivable fertility of invention of Lope de Vega supported his dramatic fame, notwithstanding the little care and time which he gave to the correction of his pieces; but his other poems, the offspring of hasty efforts, are little more than rude sketches, which few people have the courage to read.
The example of this extraordinary man gave birth to a number of pieces of the same character as his own, as his success gave encouragement to the dramatic poets who sprang up in all parts of Spain, and who composed with the same unbridled imagination, the same carelessness, and the same rapidity, as their master. We shall review them when we notice the works of Calderon, the greatest and the most celebrated of his scholars and rivals. There is one, indeed, who cannot well be separated from Lope. This is Juan Perez de Montalvan, his favourite scholar, his friend, biographer and imitator. This young man, full of talent and fire, whose admiration of Lope had no bounds, took him for his exclu
LITERATURE OF THE SPANIARDS.
sive model, and his dramatic pieces are of the same character as those of his master. Some of his sacred plays I have perused, and amongst others, the Life of St. Anthony of Padua; and these eccentric dramas, which excite little interest, do not merit a longer examination. Juan Perez de Montalvan composed with the same rapidity as his master. In his short life (1603— 1639) he wrote more than one hundred theatrical pieces, and like his master he divided his time between poetry and the business of the Inquisition, of which he was a notary. His works contain almost in every line traces of the religious zeal which led him to become a member of this terrible tribunal.
Lyric Poetry of Spain, at the close of the Sixteenth and commencement of the Seventeenth Century. Gongora and his followers, Quevedo, Villegas, &c.
THE poetry of Spain had, like the nation to which it belonged, a chivalric origin. Their first poets were enamoured warriors, who celebrated by turns their mistresses and their own exploits; and who preserved in their verses that character of sincerity, and almost rude frankness of manners, independence, stormy liberty, and jealous and passionate love, of which their life was composed. Their songs attract us from two causes: the poetical world into which chivalry transports us; and a reality and truth, the intimate connexion of words with the heart, which does not allow us to suspect any imitation of borrowed sentiment, or any affectation. But the Spanish nation experienced a fatal change when it became subjected to the house of Austria; and poetry suffered the same fate, or rather it felt in the succeeding
generation the effects of this alteration.
Charles V. subverted the liberties of the Spaniards, annihilated their rights and privileges, tore them from Spain and engaged them in wars, not for their country, but for his own political interests and for the gratification of their monarch. He destroyed their native dignity of character, and substituted for it a false pride and empty show. Philip, his son, who presumed himself a Spaniard, and who is considered as such, did not possess the character of the nation, but of its monks, such as the severity of their order, and the impetuosity of blood in the South, developed it in the convents. This culpable violence against Nature has given them a character, at the same time imperious and servile, false, self-opiniated, cruel and voluptuous. But these vices of the Spaniards are in no wise to be attributed to Nature: they are the effects of the cruel discipline of the convents, the prostration of the intellect, the subjugation of will, and the concentration of all the passions in one alone which is deified.
Philip II., with a considerably less portion of talents and virtue, bore a greater affinity to Cardinal Ximenes, than to the Spanish nation, which had revolted against this imperious and cruel monk, but which had eventually succumbed to his violence and his artifices. To an unbounded ambition and a shameful perfidy, to a savage disregard of the miseries of war and
famine, and the scourges of all kinds which he brought upon his dominions, Philip II. joined a sanguinary religion, which led him to consider as an expiation of his other crimes, the new crimes of the Inquisition. His subjects, like himself educated by the monks, had already changed their character, and were become worthy instruments of his dark politics, and his superstition. They distinguished themselves in the wars of France, Italy and Germany, as much by their perfidy, as by their ferocious fanaticism. Literature, which always follows, though at a considerable distance, the political changes of nations, received a character much less natural, true and profound: exaggeration assumed the place of sentiment, and fanaticism that of piety. The two reigns of Philip III. and Philip IV. were still more degrading to the Spanish nation. That vast monarchy, exhausted by gigantic efforts, continued her unceasing wars to experience only a constant reverse of fortune. The king, sunk in vices and effeminacy, did not however, in the impenetrable security of his palace, renounce his perfidy and unbridled ambition. The ministers sold the favour of the crown to the highest bidder; the nobility was debased under the yoke of favourites and upstarts; the people were ruined by cruel extortions; a million and a half of Moors had perished by fire and distress, or had been driven into exile by Philip III; Holland, Portugal, Catalonia,