Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/600

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LITERATURE]
579
SPAIN

Heroic Poetry,


in the church of Toledo on the feast of Epiphany. Manifestly an imitation of the Latin ludi represented in France during the early years of the 12 th century, the Spanish piece cannot have been composed much before n 50.

The national hero Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (d. 1099), better known in history by the Arabic surname of the Cid, was cele- brated in the vulgar tongue in two poems, neither of which has come down to us in its entirety. The more ancient cantar, usually entitled Poema del Cid, since it was originally edited (1779) by Tomas Antonio Sanchez, relates in its first part the valiant deeds {gesta) of the Cid subsequent to his quarrel with Alphonso VI. ; in the second the capture of Valencia, the reconciliation of the hero with the king and the marriage of his daughters with the infantes of Carrion; and in the third the treason of the infantes, the ven- geance of the Cid, and the second marriage of his daughters with the infantes of Navarre and Aragon. The narrative of the last years of the Cid, which closes the epic, is much curtailed. Whilst in the Poema the Cid appears as the loyal vassal, de- ploring the necessity of separating from his king, the Cid of the second poem, Cronica rimada del Cid, is almost a rebel and at least a refractory vassal who dares treat his sovereign as an equal. The portion of the Cronica which has been preserved deals in the main with the youth of Rodrigo; it contains the primitive version of his quarrel with the Count Gomez de Gormaz and the marriage of the slayer with Ximena, the Count's daughter, and also a series of fabulous episodes, such as the Cid's journey to France to fight with the twelve peers of Charlemagne, &c. The Poema, which survives in a 14th-century manuscript, be- longs to about the middle of the 12th century; the form under which the Cronica text has reached us is at least two centuries later; but, on the other hand, several traditions collected by the author bear an incontestable stamp of antiquity. The versification of both poems is irregular. Normally this epic measure may be- divided into two hemistichs of seven or eight syllables each; but here the lines sometimes fall short of this number and sometimes exceed it; the strophes follow the model of the laisses of the French chansons de geste — that is, they have a single assonance and vary greatly in extent.

A fragment of an epic poem on the infantes de Lara has been reconstituted from the Crdnica general by Ramon Menendez Pidal (1896); if similar poems existed on real personages like Roderick, or mythical heroes like Bernardo del Carpio, they have not survived. Still the frequent allusions in the chronicles to the narratives of the juglares suggest that Castilian heroic poetry was richer than the scarcity of the monuments now extant would lead us to believe. Fernan Gonzalez, first in- dependent count of Castile (10th century), has alone been celebrated in a poem composed (about 1250 or later) in single- rhyme quatrains.

With the heroic poetry which takes its themes from the national history and legends, there grew up in the 13th century a school Poems of of religious and didactic poetry, the most eminent nth Ceo- representative of which is Gonzalo de Berceo (1180?- tury ~ 1246?). This poet, born at Berceo (Logrono),

composed several lives of Spanish saints, and other devotional poems, such as the Miracles and the Praises of the Virgin. Berceo calls his poems prosa, decir, dictado, indicating thereby that he intended them to be read and recited, not sung like the cantares. They are written in single-rhyme quatrains and in verses of twelve to fourteen syllables, according as the ending of each hemistich is masculine or feminine. In the same metre were composed, also in the 13th century, two long poems — one on Alexander the Great, the other on Apollonius of Tyre- after Latin and French sources. The author of the first of these poems contrasts his system of versification, which he calls mester de clerecia, with the mester de joglaria used in heroic poetry, and intended to be sung; and he declares that this single-rhyme quatrain {cur so rimado por la quaderna via) consists of counted syllables. The composer of Apolonio calls this same versification nueva mestria. The single-rhyme quatrain, in- troduced in imitation of the French poetry of the 12th century,


became from the time of Berceo and the Alixandre and Apolonio the regular form in Castilian narrative and didactic poetry, and prevailed down to the close of the 14th century.

To the 13th century are assigned a Life of St Mary the Egyp- tian, translated from the French, perhaps through a Provencal version, and an Adoration of the Three Kings, in verses of eight or nine syllables rhyming in pairs (aa, bb, cc, &c), as well as a fragment of a Debate between Soul and Body, in verses of six or seven syllables, evidently an imitation of one of the medieval Latin poems, entitled Rixa animi et corporis. The oldest lyric in Castilian, La Razdn feita d'amor, belongs to the same period and probably derives from a French source; it bears the name of Lope de Moros, who, however, seems to have been merely the copyist. Mention may here also be made of the cantigas (songs) of Alphonso the Learned in honour of the Virgin, although, being in the Galician dialect, these properly belong to the history of Portuguese literature.

The 14th century saw the birth of the most original medieval Spanish poet. Juan Ruiz, archpriest of Hita (near Guadala- jara), has left us a poem of irregular composition, poetryof in which, while reproducing apologues and dits Uth Ceo- from foreign sources, he frequently trusts to his ' n O r - own inspiration. Ruiz celebrates love and woman; his book is of buen amor, that is, he shows by his own experience and the example of those whom he follows how a man may become a successful lover. By way of precaution, the poet represents himself as one who has survived his illusions, and maintains that carnal love {loco amor) must finally give place to divine love; but this mask of devotion cannot disguise the real char- acter of the work. The Rimado de palacio of Pero Lopez de Ayala, chancellor of Castile at the end of the 14th century, does not refer exclusively to court life; the author satirizes with great severity the vices of all classes of laymen and church- men. Akin to this Rimado de palacio are the proverbios mor- ales of the Jew Sem Tob of Carrion, dedicated to Peter the Cruel (1350 to 1369). The Poema de Alfonso Onceno, by Rodrigo Yafiez, is a far-off echo of the epical poems, the laisses being superseded by octo-syllabic lines with alternate rhymes. The General Dance of Death and a new version of the Debate between Soul and Body, both in eight-line strophes of arte mayor (verses of twelve syllables), and both imitated from French originals, are usually referred to this period; they both belong, however, to the 15th century.

The word " romance " not only signifies in Spain, as in other Romanic countries, the vulgar tongue, but also bears the special meaning of a short epic narrative poem (historic ballad) or, at a later date, a short lyric poem. As regards the form, the " romance " (Spanish el romance, in contrast to French, &c, la romance) is a composition in long verses ■of sixteen syllables ending with one assonance; these verses are often wrongly divided into two short lines, the first of which, naturally, is rhymeless. This being the form of the romance verse, the Crdnica rimada del Cid, and even the Poema (though in this case the influence of the French alexandrines is perceptible), might be considered as a series of romances; and in fact several of the old romances of the Cid, which form each an independent whole and were printed as separate poems in the 16th century, are partly to be found in the Cronica. Other romances, notably those dealing with the heroes of the Carolingian epic, so popular in Spain, or with the legendary figures which Spanish patriotism opposed to the French paladins — as, for example, Bernardo del Carpio, the rival and the conqueror of Roland in Castilian tradition — seem to be detached fragments of the cantares de gesta mentioned by Alphonso X. At the close of the 15th century, and especially during the 16th, the romances, which had previously passed from mouth to mouth, began to be written down, and afterwards to be printed, at first on broadsheets {pliegos sueltos) and subsequently in collections {romancer os); these are either general collections, in which romances of very different date, character and subject are gathered together, or are collections restricted to a single episode or personage (for example, the Romancer