« AnteriorContinuar »
Bull who had persecuted her with such fury, filled with flowers I the Muses.
The names in this poem are given with as much precision as tr facts; Cavendish is called Candir; Hawkins, Achines; and S Thomas Baskerville is metamorphosed into Don Thomas Vasuili It opens in a bold spirit of Catholic fiction. Christianity appeal before the throne of God, and complains against Queen Elizabet and Sir Francis Drake. In her harangue she makes a pun upo the name of Sir Thomas More, calling him,
'Aquel martir Thomas, Christiano y Moro.' And she adjures the Almighty by the Virgin Mary, and by th mystery of the Sacrament, not to let the Dragon of this nev Medea exalt himself against the Woman. Her prayer is heard meantime Drake sees in a vision that personage whom the Scripture describes with a crown upon her head, and the golden cup o her abominations in her hand; she does not tell him that the King of Spain is lawful master of the two worlds, nor of the great victories of Don Juan de Austria and the Alvas; but she tells him tbal while he is sleeping Spain sleeps, reminds him of his circumnavigation, and of his giving the master of the register-ship a receipt in his books for one million six hundred thousand ducats, which he had taken in her; and she exhorts him to undertake a second expedition in hope of equal success. In the progress of the expedition, Lope tells us, that some ships were lost, and the people who were on board went to hell by water; and that eighteen Englishmen, who were taken in another, were constrained to confess what they knew of their leader's plans, by having their skin and their nerves made to touch their bones, the thought of which operation makes him jocosely remark, that they had a great hatred to confession! *—The heart of the writer must here have been as much corrupted as his taste. Camden relates in his history, that when the squadron anchored before Puerto Rico, ' the enemy played upon them with their ordnance from the forts, and at supper-time, Sir Nicholas Clifford, Knight, and Brute Brown were mortally wounded with a shot.' The name of this last person would have been subjected to scurvy jests in abundance, if Lope had known it: he dwells upon the incident itself with much satisfaction; the salt, he says, was overturned for a sign of bad luck, sixteen persons who. were seated at the board supt with death that night; the table, the dishes, the servants, the master and all going to hell together. At the end of the poem this veracious poet asserts, that Drake did not die of disease, but was poisoned by his own people, because he took all the
*' Diez y ocho Ingleses que tomo pregunta, 'Al tormento confiessan Jos que tieuen, Y el cuero y nervios con el huessos junta. T»» grau odio (seuor) ai confewarse.'
booty to himself, and fed them with salt fish, rancid cheese, wormeaten biscuit, and vinegar, while he was regaling upon poultry, veaj, and spiced wines. This Dragon had now to pass, not the straits of Magalhaens, but the straits of death, which would bring him to a place drier and hotter than India. The people at Panama, he adds, were so rejoiced at the news of his death, that they appointed two days of public rejoicing; this may be believed on their own authority, and whether it be more honourable to them or to the enemy over whose decease they thus exulted,—is a point upon which a Spaniard in the present age would differ in opinion with Lope de Vega.
The poem concludes with a thanksgiving to the Lord of heaven and earth for having with the Lamb made war upon the Great Dragon and the Harlot, for having placed a hook in the Dragon's mouth, tied up his tongue, and given his head a prey to the fishes. For this, he says, Gregory the Pope blessed the Lord, and Philip blessed him, and he, the poet, proclaims his sense of this mercy to all mankind. He says also of the aforesaid Dragon, alias Sir Francis Drake, that the English themselves affirmed he had made a written compact with the devil, selling his soul to him at a certain time. If this be so indeed, he says, it is a portentous thing, and when his Muse relates it, the hair of her head stands on end. But in this maimer his own countrymen extolled him; it was no calumny invented by the Spaniards; and when a man had renounced his God, who can doubt that he would apply to the devil lor assistance? That Drake dealt with the devil, and carried about with him a familiar spirit in a ring, was what he heard from some of his shipmates in the Armada, who had themselves heard it when they were prisoners in London. In all this Lope de Vega simply relates what he was credulous enough, and Catholic enough, to believe; and it is very probable that his shipmates really heard such things asserted in London, as they affirmed, for Sir Francis Drake has to this day, among the vulgar, the credit of being an enchanter. A wild tradition concerning him is still current in Somersetshire. When he departed for his great voyage round the world, according to this tradition, he told his wife that if he did not return within ten years, she might marry again. During ten years Madam Drake was as true as Penelope, but when that term was expired, she accepted the offer of a suitor. On their way to church, a huge round stone fell through the air, close by her, upon the train of her gown, and immediately she turned back, for slie said it came from her husband. It was not long before he returned; and, imitating Guy, Earl of Warwick, asked alms of her at liis own door in disguise of a beggar; but a smile escaped him while
he was telling a feigned tale, upon which she recognised him, and let him in joyfully. 'The stone still remains where it fell; it is used as a weight upon the harrow of the farm, and if it be removed from the estate, it is always brought back, no person knows how. Another tradition says, that he supplied Plymouth with water by art magic; he rode thither from Dartmoor, and a stream of water followed his horse's heels. In this manner the skill in hydraulics, which on that occasion he actually displayed, is represented; and by a less pardonable perversion he is said to have delivered England from the Spanish Armada, not by his courage and seamanship, but by taking a piece of wood and cutting it in pieces over the side of his own vessel, when every chip became a man of war as it fell into the sea. How gladly would Lope have believed this also if be had happened to hear it, and how.satisfactorily would it have served to account for the disgrace and disaster which befell the Invincible Fleet! But thus has this great navigator shared the fate of Virgil, Friar Bacon, and Pope Sylvester, in being converted into a
In addition to that national hatred which Drake had well deserved of the Spaniards, Lope de Vega perhaps bore towards him a personal ill will, as one main cause of the sufferings which he had undergone in the Armada, and which, as Lord Holland observes, he seems never totally to have forgotten. 'The tyranny, the cruelty, and, above all, the heresy of Queen Elizabeth, are the perpetual objects of his poetical invective.' On a former * occasion, we have shown in what manner this Queen was represented to the Catholic world by Catholic writers. Lope no doubt believed that she had substituted her own name in the Liturgy in place of the Virgin's, and that under her laws the daughters of Catholic families were condemned to public prostitution. In this light Gongora regarded her when he thus addressed England:
O once the Catholic and powerful Isle
When better years were thine,
The happy mother of a glorious line,
In valour rich, and rich in piety!
For her accursed sake,
* Vol. VI. p. 336. On the Spanish andPortusueze Inquisition*.
SheShe-wolf libidinous and fierce for blood, Thou strumpet-offspring of the adulterous bed, Soon may indignant heaven hurl down Its fiery wrath, and blast thy impious head !* Little were these writers able to appreciate the character of Elizabeth, or understand with what just gratitude her reign would be remembered in England.
In a ridiculous sort of sonnet which has been ascribed to Gongora and to Cervantes, Lope is advised to cancel his Dragontea, burn his Angelica, and not finish his Jerusalem, for Jerusalem was already miserable enough. This was resented by one of Lope's friends in a dirty reply; and Lope himself, in the motto to his Jerusalem, implies that an unfavourable prepossession had gone forth against this which he probably conceived to be the most important of his works. Legant prius et postea despkiunt, ne videatitur non exjudicio sed ex odii prasumptione ignorata damnare. The author calls the work a Tragic Epopeya, and styles himself in the title-page, as an honourable designation, Familiar of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Advantage was taken of his absence when the book was printed to insert his portrait and eulogy from a book of portraits composed iu Seville by Francisco Pacheco, accompanied however with an advertisement that it is not the portrait which Francisco Pacheco made,—a notice very needful to the artist's reputation. His collection is said by Nicholas Antonio to have been bequeathed to the Conde de Olivares, and to exist, if it were still in existence, among the wreck of that minister's library. We know not whether it be from this, or from what other original, that the fine countenance in Lord Holland's work has been engraved; its character is very different from that in the Parnasso Espanol, which bears more resemblance to the wretched performance prefixed to the Jerusalem.
A living Portugueze poet, who has drawn upon himself a torrent of indignation for exposing the absurdities of the Lusiad, and detecting the numberless imitations of which it is composed, speaks in one of his critical prefaces, of the frozen and hyperborean Jerusalem of Lope de Vega. That it is a failure is generally acknowledged, though Marini, in his funeral eulogium upon the poet,
* ' O ya IslaCatholica y Potente,
Aoia condenada a lufamia eterna
Por la que te govierna,
Con la mano occupada
Libidinosa, y fiera,
audaciously audaciously prefers it to the work of Tasso: but the Portugueze critic could not have characterized it by any epithets more inappropriate. There is warmth enough in the composition; in this, indeed, Lope has seldom been deficient,—his fault is that he never gives himself time to cool, but when his thoughts fly off like sparks from the anvil is contented because they shine. Joze Agostinho de Macedo is not so well read in Castiilian as he is in Italian literature, or he would not have complained of what he calls the invincible infecundity of the Spaniards in epic poetry; they have beerr as prolific as their neighbours in works of mediocrity. This writer probably despised the Jerusalem too much to read it. Few persons perhaps in the present generation have perused it: its length, for it contains about five and twenty thousand lines, may well have deterred them; even Lord Holland dismisses it with a mere assertion that the poet has failed in his ambitious attempt. A failure indeed it is, and a total one; the plan, when compared to that of the Angelica, is as ' confusion worse confounded;' it has neither beginning, middle, nor end; neither method, nor purpose, nor proportion, and many of the parts might be extirpated, or, what is more extraordinary, might change places, without any injury to the whole. But there is more vigour of thought in it, and more felicity of expression than in any other of his long poems. The subject is that crusade of which Richard Cceur de Lion was the hero; but as the Castillians bore a part in it, they, of course, are preferred to the place of honour by their countryman.
In the first book there is an incident like a very remarkable one in the Castle of Otranto: the picture of Norandine stalks from its pannel, and addresses Saladine:—the resemblance may be merely accidental, but if Horace Walpole had looked at the beginning of the poem, it is the first thing which he would have found1 there. In the third book the apostate Count of Tripoli, a man infamous in the history of the crusades, is killed by a night-mare. This passage may be quoted to exemplify the occasional oddity of Lope's manner.
Two kind of dreams there be; of softest down
The gentle one is framed, the sterner kind
And as he spake essays to lift his head;
To escape from that incumbent load of lead.
The throttling spectre pins him to the bed,