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and amatory lyric, the Spanish poets had never been able to divest themselves of that faint of exaggeration which their early intercouse with the East had communicated to them, or at least increased. * Hence, if there is any prominent distinction between the poetry of the two countries at this period, it arises from this. The Spanish poets have more warmth, but less taste ; and, while they are frequently more natural, they are generally deficient in that delicacy of thought and expression which is so eminently the characteristic of the Italians. Something of the old leaven of impetuosity and hyperbole adheres to all of them, perhaps, except Garcilaso ; and hence, though undoubtedly at the head of the pastoral poets of Spain, he is by no means the most perfect representation of the general tone of the poetry of the age. In this respect Boscan, Montemayor, and Saa de Miranda, may be said to embody more accurately the national feeling. Boscan, in particular, who preceded Garcilaso in the use of the Italian measures, though he studied with the greatest care the poetry of Petrarch, Bembo, Sannazzaro, Politian, and Bernardo Tasso,+ never could acquire their elegance of tasle, or divest himself of the national tendency to Orientalism. There are passages, no doubt, in his “ Claros y frescos rios,” which have a truth and nature about them not often to be found in Italian poetry. But wherever he attempted to rival the neatness of Petrarca, he failed. I Montemayor, again, exhibits a strange union, or rather contest, of the two styles. In his Diana he was perpetually blending them; and while the fond of his work is evidently from the Italian and Greek Romances, and many specimens of the Canzone, Sestina, Sonnet, and those triple rhymes (esdrujolos) which he had borrowed from the Arcadia, occur, yet nearly an equal number of the poems interspersed tbrough that work are redondillas and chanzonetas, in the old national style, and full of that despairing energy which distinguishes the picges in the Cancioneros.
In Garcilaso, however, the Italian poels found a rival, and, we are inclined to think, a superior ; for if the charge of exaggeration applies to the Spanish poets, that of unnatural subtlety is not less applicable to the Italian. The enthusiastic study of the Grecian philosophy in Italy, and particularly of the writings of the later Platonists, had, at an early period,
* Someting of the same fault seems to have adhered to the Spanish writers even in the days of Roman literature. Quinctilian, speaking of the superiority of their imagination to their taste, says,
Velles eos suo ingenio scripsisse, alieno judicio.".
+ Mr. Wiffen enumerates Tansillo among the Italian poets whose fame gave an impulse to the taste of Garcilaso. We rather think that this is a mistake. Garcilaso had certainly written many of his compositions before 1530, and Tansillo had written nothing before 1531, in the autumn of which year he acquired a disgraceful notoriety by the publication of his Vendemmiafore. But his Sonnets, his Canzoni, and his Lagrime di San Pietro, which alone were likely to have been congenial to the pure taste of the Spanish poet, did not appear till after his death.
I Ose instance will give an idea of this. Petrarch, in one of his Sonnets (LXIX.), speaking of the impression left by the beauty of Laura, even after her charms were beginning to decay, says,
“ Piaga per allentar d'arco non sana.”
“ The wound does not heal, though the bow is relaxed.” This truism, which pleases in one line, is thus absurdly expanded by Boscan, and applied to the case of Absence:
“ No sanan las heridas en el dadas;
Aunque cese el mirar que las causó
Obras de Boscan y Aly. de Garcilaso, p. 52.
introduced a metaphysical and reasoning style in subjects where it was peculiarly out of place. Poetry deals only with obvious relations and differences; and whenever it has recourse to distant and far-fetched resemblances, or shadowy distinctions, it trenches on the provinces of wit or philosophy. Garcilaso, however, contrived so finely to temper the subtlety of Italian taste with the impetuosity of the Spanish, that the result is superior to any thing to be found in his models. He has written but a few Odes, Eclogues, and Sonnets; and yet he is justly regarded as the first of Spanish classical poets, and his verses pass from mouth to mouth as proverbs among his countrymen.
His fame chiefly rests, however, on his first Eclogue, and his Ode " A la Flor de Guido.” Garcilaso, whose character in some points bears a striking resemblance to that of Virgil, seemed to have caught a double portion of his spirit while lingering near that Parthenope, which the Roman regarded with such peculiar affection ; and this first and finest of his Eclogues was produced at Naples. The plan is as simple as possible. Two shepherds, Salicio and Nemoroso (in whom he is supposed to bave figured himself and his friend Boscan), alternately give vent to their feelings in melancholy strains. The subject of the first is the infidelity, -of the second, the death, of a mistress ; and it is difficult to say to which the preference ought to be given. The classical reader will at every turn recognise resemblances to the Latin poets : but Garcilaso possessed the talent of introducing these imitations so admirably, that in general the knowledge that they are imitations rather increases ihan diminishes our sense of the talent of the poet; and in this Eclogue they are so happily interwoven with the romantic texture of the poem, that they seem rather to receive than to give ornament. This Eclogue has been translated with peculiar beauty by Mr. Wiffen, whose elegant volume must be regarded as a great acquisition to the Spanish scholar. His translations uniformly rise with the subject; and he has shown very considerable dexterity in rendering with fidelity, yet in an improved shape, some of those prosing passages which occur here and there in many of Garcilaso's poems.
We have stated the causes which appear to us to have led the Spanish poets into an ideal world, and banished almost entirely the inspiration which is derived from contemporary events; and the few exceptions to this which occur in the odes of Herrera, will be found, we believe, to confirm the view which we have adopted. For the events which are the subject of his odes are precisely those to which, amidst the gloom of wars which all the splendour of success could not brighten, and of persecutions which all the sophistry of superstition and bigotry could not palliate or disguise, the mind of a poet could turn with feelings of unqualified exultation or majestic sorrow unmingled with shame :-the triumph of religion and the liberation of many thousand Christian captives at Lepanto—and the fatal defeat of Sebastian, in his expedition to Africa, at Alcazar. Of all the Spanish poets, Herrera possesses the loftiest and most elevated style of expression; and in compositions where the dignity of the subject authorised a corresponding pomp of expression, he was eminently successful. Like the Italian poet Fi
t I have not room for any of the specimens of Spanish poetry with which the reviewer has enriched his Essay. (See Stanzas from Garcilaso's Lament of Salicio, Vol. xl. p. 457.; and from that of Nemoroso, p. 459. Sannazzaro's Eclogue, addressed by Ergasto to the tomb of Androgeus, p. 461.; Montemayor, Serena addressing a lock of Diana's hair, p. 463.)
licaja, his mind was deeply imbued with the beauties of the Sacred Writing; and in these odes he introduces many of those sublime and terrible images from the prophetic writers, which give such a peculiar majesty and charm to Filicaja's Canzone on the siege of Vienna, and that addressed to John Sobieski. There is a striking resemblance between the tone of the canzoni and those of Herrera, arising undoubtedly, in some measure, from the similarity of the subjects, both of which are commemorative of the triumph of the Cross over the Crescent; but owing, in a still greater degree, to a similarity of genius between the poets. On the whole, however, Herrara is inferior to the Italian ; for the canzoni of the Spanish poet generally owe their beauties more to the innate grandeur of the subject than to the characteristic feeling of the writer ; and his sonnets are, almost without exception, laboured and affected; while Filicaja poured over all his lyrical poems a melancholy tenderness, which renders even his most triNing compositions interesting and affecting.+
The greatest of the Spanish poets of this age, and perhaps one of the noblest lyric poets that ever existed, yet remains to be noticed. While he stands alone among his countrymen of this period in the character of his inspiration, the influence of the spirit of the age is still visible in the absence of every thing that betrays any extensive acquaintance or sympathy with actual life. That relief, which other poets sought in the scenery of an imaginary Arcadia, Luis Ponce de Leon, bred in the silence and solitude of the cloister, found in the contemplation of the divine mysteries, and in the indulgence of those rapturous feelings which it is the tendency of Catholicism to create. His mind, naturally gentle and composed, avoided the shock of polemical warfare, and seems to have been in no degree tinctured with that fanaticism which characterises his brethren. Hence it was to the delights, rather than to the terrors, of religion, that he turned his attention. A profound scholar, and deeply versed in the Grecian philosophy, he had “ unsphered the spirit of Plato," and embodied in his poetry the lofty views of the Greek philosopher, with regard to the original derivation of the soul from a higher existence, but heightened and rendered more distinct and more deeply interesting by the Christian belief, that such was also to be its final destination. Separated from a world of which he knew neither the evil nor the good, his thoughts had wandered so habitually“ beyond the visible diurnal sphere,” that to him the realities of life had become as visions, the ideal world of his own imagination had assumed the consistency of reality. His whole life looks like a religious reverie, a philosophic dream, which was no more disturbed by trials and persecutions from without, than the visions of the sleeper are influenced by the external world by which he is surrounded.
The character of Luis de Leon is distinguished by another peculiarity. It might paturally be expected that, with this tendency to mysticism in his ideas, his works would be tinctured with vagueness and obscurity of expres
+ I must refer the reader to the Review for the noble ode which follows, on Sebastian's defeat, translated by Mrs Hemans, p, 465–467.
# He was confined for five years in the Inquisition, without seeing the light of day, for venturing to translate into Spanish the Song of Solomon, contrary to the prohibitory law, that no part of the Bible should be translated into the vulgar tongue. He bore his imprisonment with the utmost calmness and resignation; and when he was at last released, and restored to his theological chair, he sever alluded to his imprisonment. An inmense crowd had assembled to hear his reopening lecture; but Luis de Leon, as if no such melancholy interval had taken place, resumed his subject with the usual formala, “Heri dicebamus," &c.
sion ; but no poet ever appears to have subjected the creations of an enthusiastic imagination more strictly to the ordeal of a severer and critical taste, or to have imparted to the language of rapture so deep an air of truth and realily. While he had thoroughly imbued himself with the lofty idealism of the Platonic philosophy, he exhibits in his style all the clearness and
precision of Horace; and, with the exception of Testi among the Italians,* is certainly the only modern who has caught the true spirit of the Epicurean poet. In the sententious gravity of his style he resembles him very closely. But the Moral Odes of Luis de Leon “have a spell beyond ” the Lyrics of Horace. That philosophy of indolence which the Roman prosessed, which looks on life only as a visionary pageant, and death as the deeper and sounder sleep that succeeds the dream, — which places the idea of happiness in passive existence, and parts with inditference from love and friendship- from liberty-from life itself, whenever it costs an elfort to retain them, is allied to a principle of universal mediocrity, which is destructive of all lofty views, and, when minutely examined, is even inconsistent with those qualified principles of morality which il nominally professes and prescribes. But in the odes of Luis de Leon, we recognise the influence of a more animating and ennobling feeling. He looked upon the world,
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with calmness, but not with apathy or selfishness. The shortness of life, the flight of time, the fading of flowers, the silent swiftness of the river, the decay of happiness, the mutability of fortune, -the ideas and images, which to the Epicurean poet only afford inducements to devote the present hour to enjoyment, are those which the Spanish moralist holds out as incitements to the cultivation of that enthusiasm, which alone appeared to him capable of fully exercising the powers of the soul, or disengaging it from the intluence of worldly feelings, and elevating it to that heaven, from which it had its birth. +
Such are some of the great men who, during the age of Charles, effected a revolution in Spanish taste; and such the character of that period, which is still considered by the Spanish critics as the golden age of their poetry. We confess we are inclined to question whether this epithet ought to be taken in the same extended sense in which it is used by Spanish writers. That the lyrical compositions of Garcilaso and some of his contemporaries were superior to any single production that had preceded them, with the exception, perhaps, of Manrique's poem on the death of his father, is no doubt true; but that the poetry of the age, taken as a whole, is to be considered superior to that of any which preceded it, appears to us a more questionable proposition. To appreciate properly the spirit of the romantic poetry, we must peruse its numerous collections of legendary ballads, and
* We think it is evident that Testi was largely indebted to the Spanish poet. The resemblances between Luis de Leon's ode addressed to Felipe Ruiz, “ Cuando sera que puedo,” and Testi's canzone to Virginio Cesarini, “ Armai d'arco sonoro," and between Leon's “ No siempre es poderosa,” addressed to Carrera, and Testi's ode to Montecuculli, “Ruscelletto orgoglioso.” are coo close to be accidental. The allusion to Typheus is expressed by both nearly in the same terms, in these latter poenis.
+ T'wo splendid odes of Luis de Lcon, which the critic has translated, will be found in pages 471 472.
take into view the general diffusion of poetical and exalted feeling. The more extensive our acquaintance is with these productions, the higher will be our estimate of Spanish character and genius at that period. On the contrary, he will entertain the highest opinion of the poetry of the age of Charles, who confines himself to a few specimens selected from Anthologies and Floreste. That mellifluous softness of expression which is at first so agreeable, palls on the mind ; that limited range of imagery and thought which pastoral poetry admits of, becomes monotonous; and above all, that extreme delicacy, which, when it is systematically attempted, is perhaps the most trying test of poetical tact, becomes intolerable when produced at second hand by a host of imitated imitators. If we consult our general inpressions, the poets of this period leave no strong traces on the mind; they fill our memories with no splendid passages; they animate us by no spiritstirring appeals; they present us with little that speaks to the heart, or comes home to the business of life ;-but they soothe us into an intoxicaling Sybaritic softness; they give dignity to indolence; and they please by a gentleness and melancholy, which, without questioning too minutely their reality, we love to contrast with the stormy agitation of the period which gave them birth.
But the real defects of this style of poetry are most visible when we extend our views a little beyond the reign of Charles V. When, instead of a world purely ideal, nature itself, as displayed in the actual passions, and feelings, and interests of men, forms the general subject of the labours of the poet, however much the public taste may for a short time be led astray by ihe influence of any one individual, it seldom fails to be led back into the path of good taste and natural feeling. But when moral and political errors have led men to abandon entirely the realities of life as a source of inspiration to create a world of their own—to invent imaginary characters, incidents, sentiments, and language, this rectifying standard of Nature can no longer be resorted to; and when, in the natural and almost inevitable progress of things, that peculiar style of poetry begins to be tainted with exaggeration and bad taste, it generally "falls like Lucifer-never to rise again." The natural tone which Garcilaso and his contemporaries conIrived lo blend even wilh the most ideal of their conceptions, as it depended solely on their own good taste, was soon forgotten, when their school of poetry began, like every other, to be corrupted by ambitious improvers. Succeeding poets carried the principle, which they had confined to the choice of their subjects, into all the minutiæ of imagery and expression; till at last every sentence became an enigma, and every epithet was distorted as much as possible from the purposes lo which it was commonly applied. Hence, the corruption of taste which soon after followed was no unnatural sequence of the style of poetry of this period, pure and classical as it appears.
The military and literary glory of Charles V. is, after all, but a specious illusion. The victories of Pavia, of Tunis and Lepanto, were the precursors of the defeat of the Armada, and the mortifying reverses in the Netherlands; and Garcilaso was but the herald of Gongora and Quevedo. $ The reign of Charles had fostered a system of cruelty and treachery abroad-an indifference lo liberty and principle at home and gradually undermined those sound principles of thought and action, with which, by some mysterious connection, the sources of good laste seem to be allied. If, for a lime, the evil principles, which it had engendered or increased, were concealed by the