Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/417

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the stock romantic characters of the comedy "of cloak and sword," the primitive Romeo and Juliet. Celestina, witch and go-between, with her train of thieving lackeys, low women and bullies, more than foreshadows the realistic and comic characters of the drama and novel, the rogues (picaros) and buffoons (graciosos) who in later days were to play so prominent a part. The book was translated into many tongues; its influence at home and abroad is incalculable.

Another masterpiece solitary in its kind, and contrasted in its noble earnestness with the artificiality of the other poems of its author and his generation, is the Coplas de Manrique,—verses by Jorge de Manrique on the death of his father (which occurred in 1476, two years before his own). Longfellow has done all that a translator can do for this unsurpassed elegy; but half its beauty is lost with the language in which it is written. Its stately pageant of mourning and final resignation realise Christian chivalry as poets have dreamed of it, and the solemn knell of the majestic verse is worthy of "the noblest daughter of Latin." At the beginning of the sixteenth century the knightly chronicle degenerated into the romance of chivalry. Amadis of Gaul, the first and best of the kind, perhaps originated in a French fabliau. More than one allusion to it is found in Spanish writers, before it was published (1508) by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo as a translation from the Portuguese. The success produced many imitations and "continuations" dealing with exploits of "the innumerable lineage of Amadis." These heroes of the romances of chivalry are impossible beings, living in a shadowy and impossible world. The first of them exhausted the capability of the species; the others surpass it only in absurdity, while the abuse of the supernatural makes their stories tame and uninteresting. A Cervantes was hardly needed to dispel this fantastic dream of a debased chivalry.

The advance from chronicle to history due to the Revival of Learning was not made in Spain till the middle of the sixteenth century. The story of the reign of the Catholic Kings down to 1492 was written by their official chronicler Hernando del Pulgar in the form of annals. Despite some graphic descriptions and florid speeches, it is in general heavy and arid, lacking in the simple dignity of its kind, and inferior to the Claras Varones de Castilla, a gallery of contemporary portraits drawn with skill and energy by the same pen. Andres Bernaldez, curate of Los Palacios, expanded his memoirs into a history of his time. He is at his best, when he forgets the gravity of his subject and is content to gossip about the events of which he was an eyewitness. Nebrija condensed Pulgar's Chronicle; Peter Martyr left a collection of letters on contemporary events, a rich but untrustworthy and puzzling mine of information. These books, like the De Rebus Hispaniae of Marineus Siculus, are Latin exercises upon historical subjects.

Spain has never lacked learned men; but, except perhaps in theology,