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assumed, and aware that Trava, her son's tutor, had no object but that of governing the kingdom in his pupil's name, fled secretly to her husband, whom she was artful enough to appease by her tears.
The Queen's reconciliation with Alphonso brought fresh troubles on the Galician party. Trava's rivals for power could not endure the thoughts of his reigning in the name of the young prince. A force was raised to take the royal pupil out of his hands, and both were besieged in a castle, which, from its strength, seemed only to be reduced by famine. Unwilling to carry dissension to extremities, and thinking that the presence of the Queen, whom they knew too well to suppose she would long continue quiet with her husband, might reconcile their contending interests, a secret interview was procured, where Urraca concerted a second escape to Galicia. The plot, however, coming to Alphonso's knowledge, he, with a degree of forbearance which could hardly be expected in that rude age, conveyed his wife to Sória, then on the limits of the two kingdoms, and, having obtained a divorce, in an Ecclesiastical Court, allowed her to depart in perfect liberty.
The divisions of Spain, to which we here give the name of kingdoms, were, in those days, far from exhibiting an organized society, existing under a regular government, and forming the compact bodies to which we are accustomed at present. A number of fortified towns and castles stood at considerable distances, without other ties but those of religion, language, and an almost nominal allegiance to the same monarch. Hence the surprising facility with which they changed masters ; not only as fortune or intrigue favoured, by turns, some of the more powerful chiefs among the Spaniards, but even as the strength or imbecility of their princes pushed or withdrew the limits between the Moors and the Christians. Under this imperfect system of policy, we must not be surprised to find Alphonso committing the principal fortresses of Castile into the charge of some of his noblemen, and expecting that they would continue in his allegiance, notwithstanding his separation from Urraca.
On none did he repose more confidence than Peranzúles, whom, during the imprisonment of the Queen, he had recalled to be the main support of the Castilian crown, and to help him in the work of improving that kingdom. The most important towns and castles of the country were, accordingly, in that nobleman's keeping ; while, during the frequent expeditions of the King, either against the Aragonese Moors, or to quell the rebellions which broke out in Galicia, Peranzúles appeared at the helm of the state by a kind of natural right.
Alphonso's feelings of surprise and indignation on receiving intelligence that Peranzúles had surrendered all the towns and castles into the hands of the Queen, without resistance or delay, and merely upon a simple summons, cannot be easily described. Burning with thoughts of revenge, the Aragonese was collecting an army to repossess himself of what he had meant to preserve, probably as a compensation for the claims to the throne which he had resigned, when, upon a muster-day, as he was surrounded by the flower of
his warriors, a knight, in bright armour, and mounted upon a spirited war-horse, was seen to approach the splendid group, which formed the King's court in the open field. Unable to guess who the stranger could be, the eyes of all were rivetted. on his person, while he drew up to within a short distance. Here, alighting from the horse, and letting down his beaver, Peranzúles was recognized with a suppressed emotion—the first note of an indignant shout from the crowd of warriors. This sudden ebullition was changed into suspense,
when they saw the ancient knight take off his helmet, and exchange it for something which he took from the hands of his attendant.
The thin white locks which, freed from the casque, fell over a countenance where neither fear nor shame had ever impressed a line, though furrowed, and that deeply, by thought and age, seemed to dazzle at once the multitude of proud eyes which had been raised to look down on the Castilian. Their aim was changed, their eyelids were relaxed, and none looked straight before him but Peranzúles. He advanced with humble dignity to the King's presence, where, bending one knee to the ground, and holding up a halter in his right hand : “My Liege (he said)—I have addressed your Highness by that word which I cannot utter without myself sealing the doom which you have already passed against my
life. With that life, indeed, I swore to answer for the places which you intrusted to my loyalty, and here I come to lay it down at your feet. Yet think not that, with life, you will take away my honour, nor sully the name of Peranzúles with the odious reproach of treachery. It has pleased Heaven, indeed, to try me on the brink of the grave by the conflicting claims of the most opposite duties. But I appeal to all who know the laws of Castile and the rules of Spanish knighthood, whether I swerved from the path of honour by delivering up the towns to their and
whose crown you gave back when you put her away. Alas! that I should have to blush for my country!--As for myself, though the affront which you have put on the blood of our kings might be supposed to cancel all former obligations, I will have no traitor in future times screen himself behind the name of Peranzúles. Let those whom Fortune may compel to decide between the rights of contending sovereigns--those who, to be just, must be faithless-learn the only price at which they can save both conscience and honour. I have delivered my trust to the right owner, and now give up my life to whom I pledged it.”
The King beckoned his knights under a wide-spread oak, whose shade had often been cast over his ancestors while debating the interests of their infant kingdom. Resentment was still stirring in his bosom : but the unanimous voice of his nobles, in favour of Peranzúles, restored the complete ascendancy of his generous mind. They all declared that, by the laws of knightly honour in Spain, the Castilian was guiltless. The King might take his life as a forfeiture; but could not blame, nor reproach him as a criminal.
Alphonso, opening a way through the circle of knights within which he had held his council, came to where the Lord of Valladolid stood alone, holding the rope with as firm a grasp, as if he clung to it over the stormy sea. It was, indeed, the only stay which, in his view, could keep him from sinking into shame. The King did not speak till he had clasped the venerable warrior in his arms. Peranzúles, (he said) thou hast been a judge between contending crowns, and judged honourably and truly. Let none, however, assume that proud office, who cannot, like yourself, face him whom he has cast in judgment!"
THE LIVING FRENCH POETS. NO. .
De Béranger. Pierre Jean de Béranger is one of those geniuses which are rare in the poetical literature of every nation, but most rare in that of France. The rules of French versification have seldom allowed its followers to display originality of thought or manner; and while we see the prose writers of that country developing the most poetical sentiments in their unrhymed sentences, the poets, in the everlasting monotony of their verse, are prosaic to the last degree. Many reasons conspire to produce these paradoxical effects; and the most evident are to be found in the national character. That love of finery, and exaggerated notion of grandeur and grandiloquence, so undeniable in Frenchmen, lead the great majority of their poets, of their best ones too, to follow the beaten track of their predecessors. Then the vanity of upholding the fancied dignity of the Muse; the pride of being enrolled among the train of "faultless monsters" to which French poetry has given birth ; and the imperfect conception of the art in a country which boasts of practising it on the narrowest existing scale ;—all this unites to make French poets the willing slaves of an unexampled system of constraint. But a few of them have, from time to time, sent forth sweet notes of wildness through the bars of their cage—and De Béranger dances in his chains.
This writer is only known to the world under the humble designation of " Chansonnier.” Song-writing is the line which he has wisely selected, for the display of powers fitted for the very highest walks of poetry. He thus has not only made choice of the style to which his language is best adapted, but has completely limited the attacks of national criticism. Had he chosen the tragic or the epic line, he would have at once thrown himself into the cross-fire and sharp-shooting, in which the little wits of his country are so expert. The grand labour of French criticism has ever been to give words a supremacy over thoughts ; to make refinements of idiom superior to bursts of feeling ; and to place language on the pedestal where Nature ought to be 'worshipped. In the spirit of this principle they have put the most ridiculous restrictions on every branch of poetical composition within their reach; they have bowed down to an idol of imaginary perfection; and one of the high priests of this false worship, La Harpe, has acknowledged, with an air of boasting rather than repentance, " Parmi nous le Poëte ne jouit pas du tiers de l'idiome national; le reste lui est interdit comme indigne de lui. Il n'y a guère pour lui qu'un certain nombre de mots convenus.” But the volatile spirit of song-writing rises above the atmosphere of these contemptible constraints. It admits of the whole range of the language. Few words are too low, and none too lofty, for its usage. The poet may in that line attain the liberty, which the same La Harpe imagines to have been confined to the Greek and Latin writers, of being by turns “natural without fearing to appear mean, and sublime without dreading to be thought bombastic." The 'songs of De Béranger are the proofs that the canons of criticism are mere nullities when genius will oppose them ;. and the success of his efforts has cleared at least one path for the vigorous exere
VOL. VIII. NO, XXXIV,
cise of intellect that seeks its developement in poetry. In this point of view he has done more for the literature of France, in the space of seven or eight years, than the host of dull critics of the Academy have effected against it for above a century.
The importance in France of this apparently most humble line of poetry must be well understood, to make us comprehend the amazing popularity of De Béranger. To come to such an understanding, we must divest ourselves of all our own national notions on the subject; for with us the thing is not felt. Music bears away from poetry (with few exceptions) the
whole interest of this species of composition, as may be clearly accounted for by the perusal of the doggrel words which disgrace our best English melodies. The author who exclaimed, “Give to any one the making of a nation's laws, so I have the writing of its songs," must have had, as well as a high notion of his own poetical powers, some particular views not expressed in his so-oftenquoted sentence; for, if it referred to any country but France, we see no profound wisdom in its application. But there the song is indeed a powerful weapon. The ancient government of that country has been wisely and wittily called “une monarchie absolue, tempérée par des chansons ;" and their influence in the present state of the constitution (tempered by circumstances of a different nature) may be best learned in the consideration of the individual case before us.
Voltaire says, that, in order to succeed in song-writing, " Il faut avoir dans l'esprit de la finesse et du sentiment, avoir de l'harmonie dans le tête, ne point trop s'élever, ne point trop s'abaisser, et savoir n'être point trop long." "De Béranger probably unites all these qualities in a degree superior to any of his predecessors; but if he has sometimes gone beyond the limits here prescribed, if occasionally he has raised himself above the level here laid down, if his modesty has induced him to give the name of songs to strains of bolder flight, it would be a rigorous critic indeed who would turn into a reproach the character given of such productions in these words of Benjamin Constant, “ Béranger fait des odes sublimes, quand il ne croit faire que des simples chansons.” It is universally allowed in France that this writer has surpassed all his rivals. That, independent of the elevation of thought and style, of the generous philanthropy and pure patriotism which are properly his own, he combines the ease of Blot, the joyous tone of Collé, and the flowing naïveté of Panard. It is difficult to find any parallel for him in his own country. He resembles, perhaps, La Fontaine more than any other of the French poets, but that chiefly in the ease and gracefulness of his diction ; for there are many distinctive points in their separate styles, in which it would be impossible to trace any analogy. Nor should we be more successful in attempting a comparison between De Béranger and foreign writers. We might trace a resemblance in some particular poems to those rapid transitions of Horace, from the loftiest flights to the graceful utterance of some moral or familiar sentiment. Like Tibullus, who pauses in the midst of his amorous transports to sing of his death, Béranger in one of his songs, "Le Bon Vieillard,” has outstripped Time, to anticipate the advance of age, and to bring before us, in a manner at once tender and striking, the recollections and regrets which, for the sake of literature and his friends, we rejoice to see in such a distant perspective. Similitudes may
be sought for him in our own country. We have remarked some shallow efforts of this kind. That which compares him to Moore has been certainly the most unhappy, for of all writers he resembles him the least. De Béranger has nothing whatever of the voluptuous tenderness and elegant versification of the author of Lalla Rookh. We never find his songs depending on the grace of a metaphor or the tournure of a phrase. He has something infinitely more natural and manly, if less finished and seductive. There is a reason and a philosophy in his style, that savours more of sense than sentiment—more of the mind than the heart-a distinction which physiologists who give all the honour to the head will scarcely comprehend, unless they make broad allowance for a fanciful illustration of a poetical subject. But lest what we have said might be construed into a denial of tenderness to De Béranger, we express our full coincidence in the following summary given by a French critic of the qualities of his poetry. "Every true-born affection, every generous sentiment, benevolence, toleration, philosophy, respect for the laws, belief in a Supreme Being, sublimity of mind, are as evident in the verses of Béranger as they are deeprooted in his heart; but patriotism is the ardent passion which appears to govern it supremely."
Vivacity of expression, joined to considerable force of thought, are the chief characteristics of De Béranger's songs. His weightiest ideas are presented to us with a surprising elasticity of language. When he is satisfied to trifle with a frivolous subject, some word or phrase of mingled vivacity and shrewdness is sure to be found, as if involuntarily, in its natural place ; but in many of his more serious pieces, when some deep thought lies hidden under a surface of gaiety, the expression has invariably a suitable elevation. But even when indulging in the boldest images, he rarely loses that familiar air which renders his bitterest satires so palatable, which has gained him the merit of bringing the ode within the comprehension of the vulgar, and secured for him the title of " the Poet of the People.” He has, moreover, the uncommon merit of putting nothing useless into a style which we might think forced, from its very nature, to have recourse to superfluities. Every verse seems to contain some thought or image; and, what is little common to song-writers, he has the art of convincing without making use of
any of the usual forms of argument. There is at once a precision and a picturesqueness in the terms which he employs, and an amazing äptness in their application, an animation and piquancy, which harmonize well with the originality of his thoughts, and gracefully adapt themselves to all the varieties of his subject. And in remarking the faults of this writer, we find them, with few exceptions, those of his subjects, not of his mind. These being, for the most part, chosen for their familiarity, seem naturally to lead to occasional negligence. In the freedom of his diction, he sometimes falls from naïveté to triviality, a distance no greater than from the sublime to the ridiculous ; and he occasionally appears to write less for the people than the populace ; or, to express my meaning by a phrase of Mercier, when speaking of one of the leading orators of the Convention,
« En voulant ètre populaire, il est quelquefois populacier."
With regard to the graver charges which have been advanced against De Béranger, and which apply to his opinions as a man, rather than his