Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/607

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586
[LITERATURE
SPAIN

Drama.


century were Alberto Lista (1775-1848), whose critical doctrine may be described as a compromise between the ideas of French classicism and those of the romantic school, and Agustin Duran, who made it his special task to restore to honour the old literature of Castile, particularly its romances, which he had studied with ardour, and of which he published highly esteemed collections.

If the struggle between classicists and romanticists continued even after 1830, and continued to divide the literary world into two opposing camps, the new generation — that which occupied the scene from 1840 till about 1868 — had other pre- occupations. The triumph of the new ideas was assured; what was now being aimed at was the creation of a new literature which should be truly national and no longer a mere echo of that beyond the Pyrenees. To the question whether modern Spain has succeeded in calling into existence such a literature, we may well hesitate to give an affirmative answer. It is true that in every species of composition, the gravest as well as the lightest, it can show works of genuine talent; but many of them are strikingly deficient in originality; all of them either bear unmistakable traces of imitation of foieign models, or show (more or less happily) the imprint of the older literature of the 17th century, to which the historical criticism of Duran and the labours of various other scholars had given a flavour of novelty. Foreign influence is most clearly marked in the work of Ventura de la Vega (1807-1865), whose relationship to the younger Moratin, and therefore to Moliere, is unmistakable in El Hombre de mundo (1845), a piece written after a long apprenticeship spent in translating French plays. Among those who endeavoured to revive the dramatic system established by Lope de Vega were Aureliano Fernandez- Guerra y Orbe (1816-1804) and Francisco Sanchez de Castro (d. 1878) ; the former in Alonso Cano, and the latter in Hermenegildo, produced examples of ingenious reconstruction, which testified to their scholarship but failed to interest the public permanently. A fusion of early and later methods is discernible in the plays of Adelardo Lopez de Ayala and Tamayo y Baus. Campoamor wrote dramas which, though curious as expressions of a subtle intelligence cast in the form of dialogue, do not lend themselves to presentation, and were probably not intended for the stage. Nunez de Arce in El Haz de lena produced an impressive drama, as well as several plays written in collaboration with Antonio de Hurtado, before he found his true vocation as a lyric poet. The successor of Tamayo y Baus in popular esteem must be sought in Jose Echegaray, whose earlier plays — such as La Esposa del vengador and En el puno de la espada — are in the romantic style; in his later works he attempts the solution of social problems or the symbolic drama. Such pieces as El Gran Galesto, El Hijo de Don Juan and El Loco dios indicate a careful study of the younger Dumas and Ibsen. Duing the last few years his popularity has shown signs of waning, and the copious dramatist has translated from the Catalan at least one play by Angel Guimera. (b. 1847). To Echegaray's school belong Eugenio Selles (b. 1844), author of El Nudo gordiano, El Cielo 6 el suelo and La Mujer de Loth, and Leopoldo Cano y Masas (b. 1844), whose best productions are La Mariposa, Gloria and La Pasion- aria, an admirable example of concise and pointed dialogue. Mention must also be made of Jose Feliu y Codina (1843-1897), a Catalan who wrote two vigorous plays entitled La Dolores and Moria del Carmen; Joaquin Dicenta (b. i860), whose Juan Jose showed daring talent; and especially Jacinto Benavente (b. 1866), a dramatist whose mordant vigour and knowledge of stage-effect is manifest in La Comida de las fieras and Rosas de otofio. In a lighter vein much success has attended the efforts of Miguel Echegaray (b. 1848), whose buoyant humour is in quaint contrast with his brother's sepulchral gloom, and Vital Aza (b. 1851) and Ricardo de la Vega (b. 1858) deserve the popularity which they have won, the first by El Seilor Cum and the second by Pepa la frescachona, excellent specimens of humorous contrivance. But the most promising writers for the Spanish stage at the present time are Serafin Alvarez Quintero -(b. 1871) and his brother Joaquin (b. 1873), to


whose collaboration are due El Ojito derecho and Abanicos y panderetes, scenes of brilliant fantasy which continue the tradition of witty observation begun by Lope de Rueda.

Rivas, Espronceda and Zorrilla owe more to foreign models than either Campoamor or Nunez de Arce. It is true that Campoamor has been described, most frequently by foreign critics, as a disciple of Heine, and un- e ry ' doubtedly Campoamor suggests to cosmopolitan readers something of Heine's concentrated pathos; but he has nothing of Heine's acrimony, and in fact continued in his own semi-philosophic fashion a national tradition of immemorial antiquity — the tradition of expressing lyrical emotion in four or eight lines which finds its most homely manifestation in the five volumes of Cantos populares espanoles edited by Francisco Rodriguez Marin. No less national a poet was Nunez de Arce, in whose verses, though the sentiment and reflection are often commonplace, the workmanship is of irreproachable finish. His best performance is Gritos del combate (1875), a series of impassioned exhortations to concord issued during the civil war which preceded the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty. An ineffectual politician, Nunee de Arce failed in oratory, but produced a permanent political impression with a small volume of songs. He wrote much in the ensuing years, and though he never failed to show himself a true poet he never succeeded in repeating his first great triumph— perhaps because it needed a great national crisis to call forth his powers. He found an accomplished follower in Emilio Perez Ferrari (b. 1853), whose Pedro Abelardo and Dos cetros y dos almas re- call the dignity but not the impeccability of his model. Another pupil in the same school was Jose Velarde (d. 1892), whose best work is collected in Voces del alma, some numbers of which are indications of a dainty and interesting, if not virile, talent, Absorbed by commerce, Vicente Wenceslao Querol (d. 1889) could not afford to improvise in the exuberant manner of his countrymen, and is represented by a single volume of poems as remarkable for their self-restraint as for a deep tenderness which finds expression in the Cartas d Maria and in the poignant stanzas A la muerte de mi hermana Adela. The temptation to sound the pathetic note so thrillingly audible in Querol's subdued harmonies proved irresistible to Federico Balart (1831-1905)^ critic and humorist of repute who late in life astonished and moved the public with a volume of verse entitled Dolores, a sequence of elegiacs which bear a slight formal resemblance to In Memoriam; but the writer's sincerity was doubtful, and in Horizontes the absence of genuine feeling degenerated into fluent fancy and agreeable prettiness. A more powerful and interesting personality was Joaquin Maria Bartrina (1850- 1880), who endeavoured to transplant the pessimistic spirit of Leconte de Lisle to Spanish soil. Bartrina's crude materialism is antipathetic; he is wholly wanting in the stately impassability of his exemplar, and his form is defective; but he has force, sincerity and courage, and the best verses in Algo (1876) are not easily forgotten. The Andantes y allegros and Cromos y acuarelas of Manuel Reina (1856-1905) have a delightful Andalusian effusiveness and metrical elegance, which compensate for some monotony and shallowness of thought. Manuel del Palacio (1832-1907) combined imagination and wit with a technical skill equal to that of the French Parnassians; but he frittered away his various gifts, so that but a few sonnets survive out of his innumerable poems. More akin to the English "Lake poets" was Amos de Escalante y Prieto (1831-1902), better known by his pseudonym of " Juan Garcia," whose faculty of poetic description, revealed only to the few who had read his verses in the edition privately circulated in 1890, is now generally recognized. The vein of religious sentiment which runs through Escalante's most characteristic lyrics was also worked by Luis Ramirez Martinez y Guertero (d. 1874), who, under the pseudonym of "Larmig," wrote verses impregnated with Christian devotion as well as with a sinister melancholy which finally led him to commit suicide. The most interesting of the younger poets are provincials by sympathy or residence, if not by birth. Salvador Rueda (b. 1857), in his