Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/611

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590
[LITERATURE
SPAIN


narration and by the quality of their language; it would not be too much to liken these Catalan chroniclers, and Muntaner especially, to Villehardouin, Joinville and Froissart. The Doctor Illumi- natus, Raymond Lully, whose acquaintance with Latin was very poor — his philosophical works were done into that language by his disciples — wrote in a somewhat Provencalized Catalan various moral and propagandist works — the romance Blanquerna in praise of the solitary life, the Libre de les maravelles, into which is introduced a " bestiary " taken by the author from Kalilah and Dimnah, and the Libre del orde de cavalleria, a manual of the perfect knight, besides a variety of other treatises and opuscula of minor importance. The majority of the writings of Lully exist in two versions — one in the vernacular, which is his own, the other in Latin, originating with his disciples, who desired to give currency throughout Christendom to their master's teachings. Lully — who was very popular in the lay world, although the clergy had a low opinion of him and in the 15th century even set themselves to obtain a condemnation of his works by the Inquisition — had a rival in the person of Francesch Ximenez or Eximeniz, a Franciscan, born at Gerona some time after 1350. His Crestid (printed in 1483) is a vast encyclopaedia of theology, morals and politics for the use of the laity, supplemented in various aspects by his three other works — Vida de Jcsucrist, Libre del angels, and Libre de les dones; the last named, which is at once a book of devotion and a manual of domestic economy, contains a number of curious details as to a Catalan woman's manner of life and the luxury of the period. Lully and Eximeniz are the only Catalan authors of the 14th century whose works written in a vulgar tongue had the honour of being translated into French shortly after their appearance.

We have chiefly translators and historians in the 15th century. Antoni Canals, a Dominican, who belongs also to the previous century, translates into Catalan Valerius Maximus and a treatise of St Bernard; Bernat Metge, himself well versed in Italian literature, presents some of its great masters to his countrymen by translating the Griselidis of Petrarch, and also by composing Lo Sompni (" The Dream "), in which the influence of Dante, of Boccaccio, and, generally speaking, of the Italy of the 13th and 14th centuries is very perceptible. The Feyts d'armes de Calalunya of Bernat Boades (d. 1444), a knightly chronicle brought to a close in 1420, reveals a spirit of research and a con- scientiousness in the selection of materials which are truly remarkable for the age in which it was written. On the other hand, Pere Tomich, in his Histories e conquestes del reyalme d'Aragd (1448), carries us back too much to the manner of the medieval chroniclers; his credulity knows no bounds, while his style has altogether lost the naive charm of that of Muntaner. To the list of authors who represent the leading tendencies of the literature of the 15th century we must add the name of Johanot Martorell, a Valencian author of three-fourths of the celebrated romance, Tirant lo blanch (finished in 1460 and prin.ed in 1400), which the reader has nowadays some difficulty in regarding as that " treasury of content " which Cervantes will have it to be.

With the loss of political was bound to coincide that of literary independence in the Catalonian countries. Catalan fell to the rank of a patois and was written less and I6th-I8th j ess . i e tt ere( j persons ceased to cultivate it, and the upper classes, especially in Valencia, owing to the proximity of Castile, soon affected to make no further use of the local speech except in familiar conversation. The 16th century, in fact, furnishes literary history with hardly more than a single poet at all worthy of the name — Pere Serafi, some of whose pieces, in the style of Auzias March, but less obscure, are graceful enough and deserve to live; his poems were printed at Barcelona in 1565. Prose is somewhat better represented, but scholars alone persisted in writing in Catalan — antiquaries and historians like Miquel Carbonell (d. 1 31 7), compiler of the Chroniques de Espanya (printed in 1547), Francesch Tarafa, author of the Cronica de cavaliers Catalans, Anton Beuter and some others not so well known In the 17th and 18th centuries the decadence became


still more marked. A few scattered attempts- to restore tc Catalan, now more and more neglected by men of letters, some of its old life and brilliance failed miserably. Neither Hieronim Pujades, author of an unfinished Coronica universal del principal de Catalunya (Barcelona, 1609), nor even Vicent Garcia, rector of Vallfogona (1582-1623), a verse-writer by no means destitute of verve or humour, whose works were published in 1700 under the quaint title of La Armonia del Parnds, mes numerosa en las poesias varias del atlant del eel poetic lo Dr Yicent Garcia, and whose literary talent and originality have been greatly exaggerated by the Catalans of the present day, could induce his countrymen to cultivate the local idiom once more. Sermons, lives of saints, a few works of devotion, didactic treatises and the like are all that was written henceforth in Catalan till the beginning of the 19th century. Writers who were Catalan by birth had so completely unlearned their mother-tongue that it would have seemed to them quite inappropriate, and even ridiculous, to make use of it in serious works, so profoundly had Castilian struck its roots in the eastern provinces of Spain, and so thoroughly had the work of assimilation been carried out to the advantage of the official language of the court and of the government.

In 1814 appeared the Gramdtica y apologia de la llengua Calhalana of Joseph Pau Ballot y Torres, which may be con- sidered as marking the origin of a genuine renaissance „ . . of the grammatical and literary study of Catalan. Catalan Although the author avows no object beyond the Language purely practical one of giving to strangers visiting *" d Barcelona for commercial purposes some knowledge of the language, the enthusiasm with which he sings the praises of his mother-tongue, and his appended catalogue of works which have appeared in it since the time of James L, show that this was not his only aim. In point of fact the book, which is entitled to high consideration as being the first systematic Catalan grammar, written, too, in the despised idiom itself, had a great influence on the authors and literary men of -the principality. Under the influence of the new doctrines of romanticism twenty years had not passed before a number of attempts in the way of restoring the old language had made their appearance, in the shape of various poetical works of very unequal merit. The Oda & la patria (1833) of Buenaventura Carlos Aribau is among the earliest if not actually the very first of these, and it is also one of the best; the modern Catalan school has produced few poems more inspired or more correct. Following in the steps of Aribau, Joaquin Rubio y Ors {Lo Gayter del Llobregat), Antonio de Bofarull {Lo Coblejador de Moncada), and soon afterwards a number of other versifiers took up the lyre which it might have been feared was never to sound again since it fell into the hands of Auzias March. The movement spread from Catalonia into other provinces of the ancient kingdom of Aragon; the appeal of the Catalans of the principality was responded to at Valencia and in the Balearic Isles. La*er, the example of Provence, of the felibritge of the south of France, accelerated still further this renaissance movement, which received official recognition in 1859 by the creation of the jochs florals, in which prizes are given to the best competitors in poetry, of whom some succeed in obtaining the diploma of meslre en gay saber. It is of course impossible to foresee the future of this new Catalan literature— whether it is indeed destined for that brilliant career which the Catalans themselves anticipate. In spite of the unquestionable talent of poets like Mariano Aguilo (Majorca), Teodoro Llorente (b. 1836; Valencia), and more especially Jacinto Verdaguer (1845-1902), author of an epic poem Atldnlida and of the very fascinating Cants mistichs, it is by no means certain that this renaissance of a provincial literature will be permanent now that the general tendency throughout Europe is towards unity and centralization in the matter of language. At all events it would be well if the language were somewhat more fixed, and if its writers no longer hesitated between a pretentious archaism and the incorrectness of vulgar colloquialism. Some improvement in this respect is discernible in the poems of Joan Maragall (b. 186c), the lyrical verse r>f