Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The following sonnets will serve as illustrations. They are from the hand of the wonderful Lope de Vega:

Shepherd ! that with thine amorous sylvan song
Hast broken the slumber that encompassed me,
That madest thy crook from the accursed tree
On which thy powerful arms were stretched so long, –
Lead me to mercy's ever-flowing fountains,
For thou my shepherd, guard, and guide shalt be,
I will obey thy voice, and wait to see
Thy feet all beautiful upon the mountains.
Hear, Shepherd ! — thou that for thy flock art dying,
Oh, wash away these scarlet sins, for thou
Rejoicest at the contrite sinner's vow.
Oh, wait! — to thee my weary soul is crying, -
Wait for me!

yet why ask it when I With feet nailed to the cross, thou art waiting still for

see,

me ?

And pass

“Lord, what am I, that with unceasing care
Thou didst seek after me, that thou didst wait,
Wet with unhealthy dews before my gate,

the gloomy nights of winter there? O strange delusion!

that I did not greet
Thy blessed approach! and oh, to Heaven how lost,
If my ingratitude's unkindly frost
Hast chilled the bleeding wounds upon thy feet!
How oft my guardian angel gently cried,
• Soul, from thy casement look without and see
How he persists to knock and wait for thee!'
And oh, how often to that voice of sorrow,

To-morrow we will open!' I replied;
And when the morrow came, I answered still, To-

morrow!"

not enough, in the midst of what was intended as a solemn, religious celebration, scenes of low buffoonery are often introduced.

The most remarkable of the sacred dramas which I have read is La Devocion de la Cruz, “ The Devotion of the Cross," by Calderon; and it will serve as a specimen of that class of writing. The piece commences with a dialogue between Lisardo, the son of Curcio, a decayed nobleman, and Eusebio, the hero of the play and lover of Julia, Lisardo's sister. Though the father's extravagance has wasted his estates, Lisardo is deeply offended that Eusebio should aspire to an alliance with the family, and draws him into a secluded place in order to settle their dispute with the sword. Here the scene opens, and, in the course of the dialogue which precedes the combat, Eusebio relates that he was born at the foot of a cross, which stood in a rugged and desert part of those mountains; that the virtue of this cross preserved him from the wild beasts; that, being found by a peasant three days after his birth, he was carried to a neighboring village, and there received the name of Eusebio of the Cross; that, being thrown by his nurse into a well, he was heard to laugh, and was found floating upon the top of the water, with his hands placed upon his mouth in the form of a cross; that the house in which he dwelt being consumed by fire, he escaped unharmed amid the flames, and it was found to be Corpus Christi day; and, in fine, after relating many other similar miracles, worked by the power of the cross, at whose foot he was born, he says that he bears its image miraculously stamped upon his breast.

After this they fight, and Lisardo falls mortally wounded. In the next scene, Eusebio has an interview with Julia, at her father's house ; they are interrupted, and Eusebio conceals himself; Curcio enters, and informs Julia that he has determined to send her that day to a convent, that she may take the veil, “para ser de Cristo esposa." While they are conversing, the dead body of Lisardo is brought in by peasants, and Eusebio is declared to be the murderer.

The scene closes by the escape of Eusebio. The second 'act, or jornada, discovers Eusebio as the leader of a band of robbers. They fire upon a trav

The most remarkable portion of the devotional poetry of the Spaniards is to be found in their sacred dramas, their Vidas de Santos and Autos Sacramentales. These had their origin in the Mysteries and Moralities of the dark ages,

and are indeed monstrous creations of the imagination. The Vidas de Santos, or Lives of Saints, are representations of their miracles, and of the wonderful traditions concerning them. The Autos Sacramentales have particular reference to the Eucharist and the ceremonies of the Corpus Christi. In these theatrical pieces are introduced upon the stage, not only angels and saints, but God, the Saviour, and the Virgin Mary; and, in strange juxtaposition with these, devils, peasants, and kings ; in fine, they contain the strangest medley of characters, real and allegorical, which the imagination can conceive. As if this were

[ocr errors]

neighboring villages, is approaching. The attack commences.

Eusebio and Curcio meet, but a secret and mysterious sympathy prevents them from fighting; and a great number of peasants, coming in at this moment, rush upon Eusebio in a body, and he is thrown down a precipice. There Curcio discovers him, expiring with his numerous wounds. The dénouement of the piece commences. C'urcio, moved by compassion, examines a wound in Eusebio's breast, discovers the mark of the cross, and thereby recognizes him to be his son. Eusebio expires, calling on the name of Alberto, who shortly after enters, as if lost in those mountains. A voice from the dead body of Eusebio calls his name.

I shall here transcribe a part of the scene.

ALBERTO.

Homeward now from Rome returning,
In the deep and silent pauses
Of the night, upon this mountain
I again have lost my way!
This must be the very region
Where

my

life Eusebio gave me, And I fear from his marauders Danger threatens me to-day!

eller, who proves to be a priest, named Alberto, and who is seeking a spot in those solitudes wherein to establish a hermitage. The shot is prevented from taking effect by a book which the pious old man carries in his bosom, and which he says is a “ treatise on the true origin of the divine and heavenly tree, on which, dying with courage and fortitude, Christ triumphed over death; in fine, the book is called the Miracles of the Cross.'” They suffer the priest to depart unharmed, who in consequence promises Eusebio that he shall not die without confession, but that wherever he may be, if he but call upon his name, he will hasten to absolve him. In the mean time Julia retires to a convent, and Curcio goes with an armed force in pursuit of Eusebio, who has resolved to gain admittance to Julia's convent. He scales the walls of the convent by night, and silently gropes his way along the corridor. Julia is discovered sleeping in her cell, with a taper beside her. He is, however, deterred from executing his malicious designs, by discovering upon her breast the form of a cross, similar to that which he bears upon his own, and “ Heaven would not suffer him, though so great an offender, to lose his respect for the cross.” To be brief, he leaps from the convent-walls and escapes to the mountains. Julia, counting her honor lost, having offended God, como á Dios, y como á esposa,” pursues him, descends the ladder from the conventwall, and, when she seeks to return to her cell, finds the ladder has been removed. In her despair, she accuses Heaven of having withdrawn its clemency, and vows to perform such deeds of wickedness as shall terrify both heaven and hell.

The third jornada transports the scene back to the mountains. Julia, disguised in man's apparel, with her face concealed, is brought to Eusebio by a party of the banditti. She challenges him to single combat; and he accepts the challenge, on condition that his antagonist shall declare who he is. Julia discovers herself; and relates several horrid murders she has committed since leaving the convent. Their interview is here interrupted by the entrance of banditti, who inform Eusebio that Curcio, with an armed force, from all the

[blocks in formation]

On the wind my name repeating, Who art thou ?

EUSEBIO.

Eusebio am I. Come, Alberto, hither hasten, Hither, where I buried lie; Come, and lift aside these branches; Do not fear.

of religion which are not the prerogative of any one sect or denomination, but the common privilege of all, it possesses strong claims to our admiration and praise. I know of nothing in any modern tongue so beautiful as some of its finest passages. The thought springs heavenward from the soul, —- the language comes burning from the lip. The imagination of the poet seems spiritualized ; with nothing of earth, and all of heaven, – a heaven like that of his own native clime, without a cloud, or a vapor of earth, to obscure its brightness. His voice, speaking the harmonious accents of that noble tongue, seems to flow from the lips of an angel, - melodious to the ear and to the internal sense, - breathing those

ALBERTO.

No fear have I.

GIL.

I have!

ALBERTO (uncovering Eusebio).

Now thou art uncovered, Tell me, in the name of God, What thou wishest.

[merged small][ocr errors]

EUSEBIO.

Long ago

In his name
'T was my Faith, Alberto, called thee,
So that ere my life be ended
Thou shouldst hear me in confession.

I should have died,
For remained untenanted
By the spirit this dead body;
But the mighty blow of death
Only robbed it of its motion,
Did not sever it asunder.

He rises.
Come where I may

make confession Of my sins, Alberto, for they More are than the sands of ocean, Or the atoms of the sun! So much doth avail with Heaven The Devotion of the Cross!

The following sonnets of Francisco de Aldana, a writer remarkable for the beauty of his conceptions and the harmony of his verse, are illustrations of this remark. In what glowing language he describes the aspirations of the soul for its paternal heaven, its celestial home! how beautifully he portrays in a few lines the strong desire, the ardent longing, of the exiled and imprisoned spirit to wing its flight away and be at rest! The strain bears our thoughts upward with it; it transports us to the heavenly country; it whispers to the soul, — Higher, immortal spirit! higher! “Clear fount of light! my native land on high,

Bright with a glory that shall never fade!
Mansion of truth! without a veil or shade,
Thy holy quiet meets the spirit's eye.
There dwells the soul in its ethereal essence,
Gasping no longer for life's feeble breath;
But, sentinelled in heaven, its glorious presence
With pitying eye beholds, yet fears not death.
Beloved country! banished from thy shore,
A stranger in this prison-house of clay,
The exiled spirit weeps and sighs for thee!
Heavenward the bright perfections I adore
Direct, and the sure promise cheers the way,
That whither love aspires, there shall my dwelling be.”

Eusebio then retires to confess himself to Alberto ; and Curcio afterward relates, that, when the venerable saint had given him absolution, his body again fell dead at his feet. Julia discovers herself, overwhelmed with the thoughts of her passion for Eusebio and her other crimes, and as Curcio, in a transport of indignation, endeavors to kill her, she seizes a cross which stands over Eusebio's

grave,

and with it ascends to heaven, while Alberto shouts, “Gran milagro!" and the curtain falls.

Thus far I have spoken of the devotional poetry of Spain as modified by the peculiarities of religious faith and practice. Considered apart from the dogmas of a creed, and as the expression of those pure and elevated feelings

“ O Lord ! that seest from yon starry height
Centred in one the future and the past,
Fashioned in thine own image, see how fast
The world obscures in me what vas bright!
Eternal Sun! the warmth which thou hast given
To cheer life's flowery April fast decays;

The concep

[ocr errors]

Yet in the hoary winter of my days,
Forever green shall be my trust in Heaven.
Celestial King! Oh, let thy presence pass
Before my spirit, and an image fair
Shall meet that look of merey from on high,
As the reflected image in a glass
Doth meet the look of him who seeks it there,

And owes its being to the gazer's eye.” The prevailing characteristics of Spanish devotional poetry are warmth of imagination, and depth and sincerity of feeling. tion is always striking and original, and, when not degraded by dogmas, and the poor, puerile conceits arising from them, beautiful and sublime. This results from the frame and temperament of the mind, and is a general characteristic of the Spanish poets, not only in this department of song, but in all others. The very ardor of imagination which, exercised upon minor themes, leads them into extravagance and hyperbole, when left to act in a higher and wider sphere conducts them nearer and nearer to perfection. When imagination spreads its wings in the bright regions of devotional song, - in the pure empyrean, — judgment should direct its course, but there is no danger of its soaring too high. The heavenly land still lies beyond its utmost flight. There are heights it cannot reach ; there are fields of air which tire its wing; there is a splendor which dazzles its vision; — for there is a glory 66 which

eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.”

But perhaps the greatest charm of the devotional poets of Spain is their sincerity. Most of them were ecclesiastics, men who had in sober truth renounced the realities of this life for the hopes and promises of another. We are not to suppose that all who take holy orders are saints; but we should be still farther from believing that all are hypocrites. It would be even more absurd to suppose that none are sincere in their professions than that all are. Besides, with whatever feelings a man may enter the monastic life, there is something in its discipline and privations which has a tendency to wean the mind from earth, and to fix it upon heaven. Doubtless many have seemingly renounced the world from motives of worldly aggrandizement; and others have re

nounced it because it has renounced them. The former have carried with them to the cloister their earthly ambition, and the latter their dark misanthropy; and though many have daily kissed the cross and yet grown hoary in iniquity, and shrived their souls that they might sin more gayly on, — yet solitude works miracles in the heart, and many who enter the cloister from worldly motives find it a school wherein the soul may be trained to more holy purposes and desires. There is not half the corruption and hypocrisy within the convent's walls that the church bears the shame of hiding there. Hermits may be holy men, though knaves have sometimes been hermits. Were they all hypocrites, who of old for their souls' sake exposed their naked bodies to the burning sun of Syria ? Were they, who wandered houseless in the solitudes of Engaddi? Were they, who dwelt beneath the palm-trees by the Red Sea ? Oh, no! They were ignorant, they were deluded, they were fanatic, but they were not hypocrites; if there be any sincerity in human professions and human actions, they were not hypocrites. During the Middle Ages, there was corruption in the church, - foul, shameful corruption ; and now also hypocrisy may scourge itself in feigned repentance, and ambition hide its face beneath a hood ; yet all is not therefore rottenness that wears

a cowl. Many a pure spirit, through heavenly-mindedness, and an ardent though mistaken zeal, has fled from the temptations of the world to seek in solitude and self-communion a closer walk with God. And not in vain. They have found the peace they sought. They have felt, indeed, what many profess to feel, but do not feel, — that they are strangers and sojourners here, travellers who are bound for their home in a far country. It is this feeling which I speak of as giving a peculiar charm to the devotional poetry of Spain. Compare its spirit with the spirit which its authors have exhibited in their lives. They speak of having given up

the world, and it is no poetical hyperbole ; they speak of longing to be free from the weakness of the flesh, that they may commence their conversation in heaven, — and we feel that they had already begun it in lives of penitence, meditation, and prayer.

THE PILGRIM'S BREVIARY.

If thou vouchsafe to read this treatise, it shall seem no otherwise to thee than the way to an ordinary traveller, — sometimes fair, sometimes foul; here champaign, there enclosed; barren in one place, better soyle in another; by woods, groves, hills, dales, plains, I shall lead thee.

BURTON'S ANATOMIE OF MELANCHOLY. The glittering spires and cupolas of Madrid tournament with the barber; and to the southhave sunk behind me. Again and again I ward, the Sierra Morena, where he did

penhave turned to take a parting look, till at ance, like the knights of olden time. length the last trace of the city has disap For my own part, I confess that there are peared, and I gaze only upon the sky above it. seasons when I am willing to be the dupe of

And now the sultry day is passed; the fresh my imagination; and if this harmless folly but ening twilight falls, and the moon and the lends its wings to a dull-paced hour, I am even evening star are in the sky. This river is the ready to believe a fairy tale. Xarama. This noble avenue of trees leads to Aranjuez. Already its lamps begin to twinkle in the distance. The hoofs of our weary mules On the fourth day of our journey we dined clatter upon the wooden bridge ; the public at Manzanares, in an old and sombre-looking square opens before us; yonder, in the moon inn, which, I think, some centuries back, must light, gleam the walls of the royal palace, and have been the dwelling of a grandee. A wide near it, with a rushing sound, fall the waters of gateway admitted us into the inn-yard, which the Tagus.

was a paved court, in the centre of the edifice,

surrounded by a colonnade, and open to the We have now entered the vast and melan

sky above.

Beneath this colonnade we were choly plains of La Mancha, — a land to which shaved by the village barber, a supple, smooththe genius of Cervantes has given a vulgo-clas faced Figaro, with a brazen lava and a gray sic fame. Here are the windmills, as of old ; montera cap.

There, too, we dined in the every village has its Master Nicholas, - every open air, with bread as white as snow, and the venta its Maritornes. Wondrous strong are rich red wine of Valdepeñas; and there in the the spells of fiction! A few years pass away, listlessness of after-dinner, smoked the sleepand history becomes romance, and romance, inviting cigar, while in the court-yard before history. To the peasantry of Spain, Don us the muleteers danced a fandango with the Quixote and his squire are historic personages; maids of the inn, to such music as three blind and woe betide the luckless wight who unwar musicians could draw from a violin, a guitar, ily takes the name of Dulcinea upon his lips and a clarinet. When this scene was over, within a league of El Toboso ! The traveller, and the blind men had groped their way out too, yields himself to the delusion ; and as he of the yard, I fell into a delicious slumber, traverses the arid plains of La Mancha, pauses from which I was soon awakened by music of with willing credulity to trace the footsteps of another kind. It was a clear youthful voice, the mad Hidalgo, with his " velvet breeches on singing a national song to the sound of a guia holiday, and slippers of the same.” The tar. I opened my eyes, and near me stood a high-road from Aranjuez to Córdova crosses tall, graceful figure, leaning against one of the and recrosses the knight-errant's path. Be pillars of the colonnade, in the attitude of a tween Manzanares and Valdepeñas stands the serenader. His dress was that of a Spanish inn where he was dubbed a knight; to the student. He wore a black gown and cassock, northward, the spot where he encountered the a pair of shoes made of an ex-pair of boots, windmills; to the westward, the inn where he and a hat in the shape of a half-moon, with made the balsam of Fierabras, the scenes of the handle of a wooden spoon sticking out on his adventures with the fulling-mills, and his one side like a cockade. When he had fin

« AnteriorContinuar »