Page images
PDF
EPUB

Better Latin rhymes were written by Dona Bernerda Ferreira, a noble Portugueze lady, contemporary with Lope: the best serious specimen of Latin in modern metre is Sir Francis Kinaston's Amores Troili et Creseida, a translation of the first two books of Chaucer's poem; but it was reserved for famous Barnaby to employ the barbarous ornament of rhyme so as to give thereby point and character to good latinity.

At the end of the poem Lope complains bitterly of his fortune, and the language of his complaint is such that it seems more reasonable to suspect his biographers have concealed some circumstances of his life, than to condemn him for indulging in querulous and groundless discontent. He speaks of hinself not only as ruined and neglected, and struggling with domestic embarrassé ments, but as a banished man, and in that circumstance alone resembling* Ovid. It may be too late, perhaps, to hope for any other illustration of Lope's private history than can be discovered in his works: and certainly the inquiry would be prosecuted with much less probability of success in any other country than his own,—but it is evident that very little pains have as yet been bestowed by his countrymen upon the life of this remarkable man.

The sonnet in which Lope was exhorted not to proceed with his Jerusalem seems to have been imputed to Cervantes by Lope or his admirers, rather from jealousy and vague suspicion, than on any satisfactory grounds. Cervantes was too great and therefore too equitable a man, to depreciate a successful rival; and he acknowledged Lope's merits though he perceived his faults, and was conscious of his own immeasurable superiority To those indeed who love and honour the memory of Cervantes, the fact that a complimentary sonnet of his is pretixed to the Dragontea will be a decisive proof that he could never afterwards have satirized that poem. He has also complimented Lope de Vega, in brief but strong terms, in his Viage del Parnaso. But the Portugueze satirist, Diogo de Sousa, who has likewise written a Journey to Parnassus, under the fictitious name of Diogo Camacho, treats Lope in a very different manner. The poet describes himself as having arrived at Madrid on his way from Lisbon.

Yo siempre de la embidia perseguido, De todo bien desamparada pluma, Estrangero en mi patria, y desterrado, Yo me disculpo y el poder me entiende: A Ovidio solo en esto parecido,

No porque tanto de bolar presuma, Aunque por las estrañas siempre hon- Pero por ver lo que la piedra ofende,

Mus que puede esperar de su montaña
De sola ni verdad favorecido,

Ingenio que camina por España?
Y del mortal poder desengañado,
Dejo estas lineas barbaras y viles

De pocos ha de ser mi voz oyda,

Passen los tiempos, y serà estimada, A los pinzeles que vendran sutiles.

Que tienen poco credito en la vida Que mal puede bolar en larga suma

Del dueño, o ya la pluma, o ya la es. Si à cuydados domesticos atiende

pada.'--ff. 595.

Twe

rado:

Two days in that great city did I tarry,

Delaying my departure in regard That I might to the God Apollo carry

A line of notice from the darling Bard Lope, whom as his life he seem’d to prize.

I found him in the lowest damp retreat
Of all the wide and fertile vale which lies

Between Punhete and Pyrene's feet.
A dish of season'd compliments I brought,

Kneaded with salt and butter was the paste,
And more to please his palate as I thought,

Sweetened with honey to the Poet's taste:
Presenting this, I ventured to require

A letter to Apollo for his favour,
And, if he deign’d to grant my bold desire,

Another for the Rhymers of strong savour.
If you should visit Sparta, he replied,

A city of Arcadia which I know, (Having been there myself, I will provide

Some friendly introductions ere you go. Yet a long time had now elapsed, he said,

Since aught of Lord Anfriso he could hear, Nor knew he if he were alive or dead.

I answered, Sir, I shall not travel there; Nor will I enter in the Holy Land

Except with caution and in sale disguise; Because the school-boys there, I understand,

Inveigh against your Reverence with loud cries: For they complain that what Torquato did

Hath been unhappily undone by you. Thereat the indignant Lope at my head

With furious force his weighty inkstand threw. I saw his sudden purpose, and in fear

Turning my back began all speed to fly: The heavy weapon reached me in the rear,

And rearward I returned a long loud sigh. Humbly I then essayed to supplicate

The offended author's favour as before: But even while I spake, the Bard irate

Drew back, and in my face he shut the door.*

Lope Lope de Vega did not succeed better in narrative poetry when he pitched it in a lower key; the attempt was made in his Isidro de Madrid, a poem in ten cantos, consisting of about six thousand lines. Scholars and historians are well acquainted with the name of St. Isidore; the personage whom Lope celebrated was a peasant born in that village which has since grown to be the capital of Spain, about the time when the body of St. Isidore was translated from Seville to Leon, and therefore christened after him. The legend is a modest one; and for any thing which appears in it, Isidro, if there ever were such a person, may have led a deceni, clean and comfortable life. The miracles wrought by him, or for him, were of the most convenient kind—while he was at mass or at prayers the oxen ploughed by themselves, and sometimes a supernatural team assisted them, with angels as ploughmen: when he carried his master's corn to the mill, he would feed the birds as he went and give liberal handfulls to the poor; nevertheless, however small the quantity which was put in the hopper, it produced always as much meal as if there had been no expenditure on the way. His kettle had the convenient virtue of producing as much food as he chose to bestow in alnis; and he could with the same ease oblige Iban de Vargas his master by raising a child from the dead for him, or a horse. His wife, Maria de la Cabeza, was in every way a fit helpmate for such a husband; she was equally pious, equally charitable, and could, when it was required, equally work miracles. The devil, who on the whole gave Isidro very little trouble, afflicted him with a fit of jealousy, of which Maria effectually cured him by making use of her cloak for a boat, and crossing the Xarama upon it when that river was swollen by rain. During his life no Saint could be more gentle and obliging: after his death he became a severe creditor, and stood upon the point of honour with all the punctiliousness of a newly made grandee. A lady vowed to contribute a certain sum toward the expenses of his canonization, if the marriage of her sister should be effected according to her desire; the marriage took place, the payment was forgotten, and Isidro sent his wife with a swarthy and stern alguazil leading a black dog in a chain, to arrest her in a dream. A cavalier made a similar vow, if by the Saint's favour he might obtain the lady whom he loved; and he promised to make the offering on his wedding-day;

* Dous dias dilatey ninha partida,

Para levar a Febo hum só bilhete
De Lope, que he sua alma, e sua vida.
Achey-o no niais humido retrete
Que tem a fertil e comprida veyga

Dos montes Perineos atè Punhete.
Apresentey-lhe huma redonda teyga
Chea de recheados cumprimentos
Amassados com mel, sal e manteyga.
VOL. XVIII, NO. XXXV.

Declarey-lhe meus altos pensamentos,

E para Apollo lhe pedi huna carta,

E outra para os Vates fedorentos.
Disse me; Padre ineu, se vay a Esparta,

Cidade de Arcadia, onde eu estive,

Eu lha mandarey dar, antes que parta.
Posto que ha muytos dias, que nam tive

Novas de Antriso, que era o senhor della,
Nam sey se he morto já, ou se inda vive.

Eu lhe disse ; Senhor, nam hey de entrar E com elle me fez hum horrendo tiro; nella,

Virey The as costas, deo-me no trazeyro; Nem menos entrarey em Palestina, Lancey por elle entam hum gram suspiro,

Senam emmascarado, e com cautella. E para Lope bravo e agastado, Porque dizem os meninos da doutrina Humilde e brando me revolvo e viro.

Que quanto Frey Torcato fez primeyro, Fechou-me a porta, fuy me envergonhado.' Foy por vossa mercè posto em ruina.

A Fenis Renascida. Vol.v. p. 13, 14. Deytou Frey Lope maū do seu tinteyro,

ON

-on the wedding day he was too happy to remember his debt :before the wedding guests had departed, he was called away from the table by an old man whom he had no power to resist,-it was Isidro himself, who led him to the church in which the offering ought to have been made, and, telling the terrified and confounded bridegroom to remember, and discharge his debts, withdrew into his tomb, and left him to pass the night there as pleasantly as he could.

Saints and miraculous images come into fashion in catholic countries for a season, like mineral springs and quack medicines, and Isidro happened to be in full vogue when Lope flourished. Philip III. had been dangerously ill with a fever at Casarrubios, a small town about thirty miles from the capital; the people of Madrid being as devout as they were loyal, sent the body of Isidro in procession to visit him; the king recovered; the physicians were allowed as little merit as in all likelihood they deserved, and Isidro had the whole credit of the cure. Such a cure at once established his reputation; it did not become his Catholic Majesty to be ungrateful; Isidro had done much for him, and happily it was still in his power to do something for Isidro; for though he was not the fountain of ecclesiastical honour, no person had better interest at the fountain head, or could solicit a Saintship for a favourite with surer prospect of success. Measures accordingly were taken for Isidro's apotheosis, and while the process was going on at the court of Rome, Lope, whose piety was completely in the mode, celebrated his history in a long poem. It is written in the Copla Real, a measure composed of quintillas, or stanzas of five lines. The following passage will at once exemplify the metre, and explain the poet's reason for preferring it.

• Si os pusiere por objeto

De tantos algun discreto
Que sois humildes y llanos.
Dezid que son Castellanos

Los versos como el sujeto.
Todo paxaro en su nido

Natural canto mantiene,
En que a ser perfeto viene,
Porque en el canto aprendido
Mil imperfeciones tiene.'

ff. 2.
If some critic too perverse

Should among thy faults rehearse
What he calls thy creeping strain,
Say the subject is of Spain,
Spanish therefore is the verse.

Every

[ocr errors]

c 2

Every bird that free as day

Sports his native woods among
Warbles well its native song:
Is it taught another lay?

Then it falters and goes wrong. In conformity with this opinion, which however was merely taken up for the occasion, he justifies his choice in the preface, and gives the preference to the vernacular metres over those which Boscan and Garcilaso, at Navagero's instigation, had introduced from the Italian. He would have done well in acting upon this opinion, if while he adopted one of the old Castillian metres he could at the same time have imitated the condensation of thought and terseness of expression which characterize the famous coplas of Manrique, or if he could even have rivalled the skill which is displayed in the Gloses upon that exquisite poem,—a poem so inimitable in its execution, that it is as impossible to translate it as to paint the fragrance of a rose, or the sound and the motion of a waterfall. But in whatever metre Lope de Vega wrote, the characteristic vices of his style predominated. It was impossible to cure him of what D. Francisco Manoel calls his looseness.Whatever might be the subject, away he went after every will-ofthe-wisp which started up in his fancy, and these digressions from the straight story are so capricious and so frequent, that it is an act of grace when he returns to the business of his narration, and you see no reason why he should ever get to the end. They called him the Potosi of rhymes; his wealth of words indeed was inexhaustible, and this betrayed him into a thoughtless and fatal prodigality.

Lope observes with great delight that he, as well as Isidro, was a native of Madrid; wherever had been his birth-place, he says, he should have adored the saint with equal love; but he rejoiced more in having been born in Isidro's native place, though poor and trampled under foot, than he should have done had he been in any other place the heir of rank, honours, and prosperity. The early life and occupation of Isidro are prettily described : He is said to have learnt the language of birds; Lope we may be sure supposed this to be a miraculous gift; but there is a living artist of the first rank in English art, who having passed much of his time in boyhood alone, in lonely situations, and having ears as discriminative and as observant as his eyes, has acquired this knowledge, and in consequence almost as great a command of birds as a skilful apiarist possesses over bees: from the song of the parents he learns where the nest is situated, whether it contains eggs, or if the brood be hatched; and he knows the number of the young birds, and their age, before he sees them. This strange philosophy as Lope calls it, Isidro acquired by loving all created beings, and see

« PreviousContinue »