Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/170

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156
[LITERATURE
PORTUGAL


remain to prove that the early love songs of the whole Peninsula were written in Portuguese, while the primitive prose redaction of Amadis, the prototype of all romances of chivalry, was almost certainly made in Portugal, and a native of the same country produced in the Diana of Montemor (Montemayor) the masterpiece of the pastoral novel. The Lusiads may be called at once the most successful epic cast in the classical mould, and the most national of poems, and the great historical monuments and books of travel of the 16th and 17th centuries are worthy of a nation of explorers who carried the banner of the Quinas to the ends of the earth. On the other hand Portugal gave birth to no considerable dramatist from the time of Gil Vicente, in the 16th century, until that of Garrett in the 19th, and it has failed to develop a national drama.

Its geographical position and history have rendered Portugal very dependent for intellectual stimulus and literary culture on foreign countries, and writers on Portuguese literature are wont to divide their subjects into periods corresponding to the literary currents from abroad which have modified its evolution. To summarize, the first literary activity of Portugal was derived from Provence, and Provencal taste ruled for more than a century; the poets of the 15th century imitated the Castilians, and the r6th saw the triumph of Italian or classical influence. Spain again imposed its literary standards and models in the 17th century, France in the 18th, while the Romantic movement reached Portugal by way of England and France; and those countries, and in less degree Germany, have done much to shape the literature of the 19th century. Yet as regards the Peninsula, the literature's of Portugal and Castile act and react on one another and if the latter gave much, she also received much, for nearly every Portuguese author of renown from 1450 until the 18th century, except Antonio Ferreira, wrote in Spanish, and some, like Iorge de Montemor and Manoel de Mello, produced masterpieces in that language and are numbered as Spanish classics. Again, in no country was the victory of the Italian Renaissance and the classical revival so complete, so enduring.

But notwithstanding all its dependence on classical and foreign authors, Portuguese literature has a distinct individuality which appears in the romanceiro, in the songs named cantares de amiga of the cancioneiros, in the Chronicles of Fernao Lopes, in the Historia tragico-maritima, in the plays of Gil Vicente, in the bucolic verse and prose of the early 16th century, in the Letters of Marianna Alcoforado and, above all, in The Lusiads.

Early Period.—Though no literary documents belonging to the first century of Portuguese history have survived, there is evidence that an indigenous popular poetry both sacred and profane existed, and while Provengal influences moulded the manifestations of poetical talent forPoetry. nearly two hundred years, they did not originate them. The close relations that prevailed between the reigning houses of Portugal, Provence and Aragon, cemented by intermarriages, introduced a knowledge of the gay science, but it reached Portugal by many other ways-by the crusaders who came to help in fighting the Moors, by the foreign prelates who occupied Peninsular sees, by the monastic and military orders who founded establishments in Portugal, by the visits of individual singers to court and baronial houses, but chiefly perhaps by the pilgrims who streamed from every country along the Frankish way to the far-famed shrine of Santiago de Compostela. Alreadyby the end of the 12th century the lyric poetry of the troubadours had found cultivators in Portugal, and a few compositions which have come down to us bear a date slightly anterior to the year rzoo. One of the earliest singers was D. Gil Sanches, an illegitimate son of Sancho I., and we possess a cantar de amiga in Galician-Portuguese, the first literary vehicle of the whole Peninsula, which appears to be the work of Sancho himself, and addressed to his concubine, A. Ribeirinha. The pre-Alphonsine period to which these men belong runs from 1200 to 1245 and produced little of moment, but in 1248 the accession of King Alphonso III., who had lived thirteen years in France, inaugurated a time of active and rich production which 's illustrated in the Cancioneiro da Ajuda, the oldest collection of Peninsular verse. The apogee of palace poetry dates from 1275 to 1280, when young King Diniz displayed his exceptional talents in a circle formed by the best troubadours of his father Alphonso III. and the veterans of his grandfather Alphonso II., whose song-book, Cantigas de S. M aria, contains the choicest religious verse of the age. Diniz, who had been educated by Amyeric of Cahors, proved himself the most fecund poetking of his day, though the pleiad of jidalgos forming his court, and the jograes who flocked there from all parts, were fewer in number, less productive, and lacked the originality, vigour and brilliance of the singers who versified round Alphonso III. The principal names of the Dionysian period (1284–1325) which is illustrated in the Cancioneiro da Vaticano are the king himself and his bastards D. Alphonso Sanches and D. Pedro, count of Barcellos. Of the two last, the former sings of love well and sincerely, while the latter is represented by love songs replete with false sentiment and by some rather gross songs of maldizer, a form which, if it rarely contains much poetical feeling or literary value, throws considerable light on the society of the time. The verses of Diniz, essentially a love poet, are conventional in tone and form, but he can write pretty ballads and pastorals when he allows himself to be natural. The Portuguese troubadours belonged to all social classes, and even included a few priests, and though love was their favourite topic they used every kind of verse, and in satire they hold the palm. In other respects they are inferior to their Provengal masters. Speaking generally, the cancioneiros form monotonous reading owing to their poverty of ideas and conventionality of metrical forms and expression, but here and there men of talent who were poets by profession and better acquainted with Provencal literature endeavoured to lend their work variety by the use of difficult processes like the lexaprem and by introducing new forms like the pastorela and the descort. It is curious to note that no heroic songs are met with in the cancioneiros; they are all with one exception purely lyrical in form and tone. The death of King Diniz proved a severe blow to troubadour verse, and the reign of his successor Alphonso IV. witnessed a profound decadence of court poetry, while there is not a single poem by a Portuguese author in the last half of the I4tl~1 century, and only the names of a few authors have survived, among them the Galicians Vasco Pires de Camoens, an ancestor of Luiz de Camoens, and the typical l over Macias. The rornanceiro, comprising romances of adventures, war and chivalry, together with religious and sea songs, forms a rich collection of ballad poetry which continued in process of elaboration throughout the whole of the middle ages, but unfortunately the oldest specimens have perished and scarcely any of those existing bear a date anterior to the 15th century. Epic poetry in Portugal developed much later than lyric, but the signal victory of the united Christian hosts over the Moors at the battle of the Salado in 1340 gave occasion to an epic by Alphonso Giraldes of which some fragments remain.

The first frankly literary prose documents appear in the 14th century, and consist of chronicles, lives of saints and genealogical treatises. The more important are the Chronica breve do archivo nacional, the Chronicas de S. Cruz de Coimbra, the Chronica da conquista do Algarve and theEarly Prose. Livros dos Linhagens, aristocratic registers, portions of which, like the story of King Arthur, have considerable literary interest. All the above may be found in the Portugaliae monument historic, scriptures, while the Life of St Elizabeth of Portugal is included in the Monarchia lusitana; Romania has printed the following hagiographical texts belonging to the same century—the Vida de Eufrosina, the Vida de M aria Egypcia and the Vida de Sancto Arnaro; the Vida de Santo Eloy has appeared in the Instituto and the Vida dos Santos Barlaao e J osafate has been issued by the Lisbon Academy of Sciences.

Romances of chivalry belonging to the various cycles must have penetrated into Portugal at an early date, and the N abiliario of the Conde D. Pedro contains the genealogy of Arthur and the adventures of Lear and Merlin. There exists a mid-14th-century Historia do Santo Graal, and an unprinted Josep