Page images
PDF
EPUB

'To all besides,-to those who garnish o'er
With rhyme their subtleties so exquisite;
To polished and to rude, these lines are writ,
However widely scattered they may be,
To all who study art's deep mistery,
Even to the dumb;—this comes, reply to it!

And tell me, Sirs ; yes ! let your wisdom tell
Whence poetry's derived-is it from art?
Is it from genius? from a daring heart?
A tow'ring spirit? or an intellect well
Tuned to discretion ? has it much the start
Of folly's self? or can its votaries claim,
By mere presumption bold, a poet's name,
Or must original nature do her part?

Finale.

Who well shall answer, ev'n by accident, · He shall be conqueror ;-tho' no poet he, And in his happy fortune we shall see A check-mate play, by art most excellent."*

*“ A todos aquellos que son muy agudos en la poetria. que saben trobari a todos los otros. que saben trobar los dichos ssotyles. de los muy sessudos a todos los onbres, envyssos e rrudos que son derramados. por todas las partes a todos los sabios. que saben las artes los fago pregunta. tan bien a los mudos Desid me señores. por vra mesura el arte de trobar. ssy es por ciencia o es por engenio. o es por ffemencia O es por abdaçia. o es por cordura o el arte gayosso. ssy toca en locura o aquel que la sygue. sy sube en el peso de ser estruydo. su cuerpo con ssesso ssy non lo manpara. quien fyso natura.

Ffynida. Quien bien rrespondiere. quiça por ventura sera muy loado. ser mas qui poeta por ende veamos. quien pone carreta e juega de mate. por arte madura."

an exp of D. Berech

In concluding our inquiries into the Hebrew poetical literature of Spain, in the fifteenth century, we must not omit to notice Vidal Ben Solomon who wrote an exposition of the Jewish faith, under the title “ Golden Poetry of David,” which was translated into Latin . by Wolfius. Moses Ben Chahib composed, about the same time, his “ Medicine of the Tongue," which Buxtorff often refers to in his history of Hebrew poetry. Chasdai Kreskas, of Zaragoza, made some poetical translations from the Arabic. Joseph Ezobi, and others, belong to this era, and Isaac Abarbanel, (the Hebrew lion,) though no poet, ought not to be passed over without the introduction, at least, of his name.

And here we must abandon the Spanish Jews. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, their history is one of varied sufferings. The fifth Ferdinand consummated and condensed the injustice and the barbarism of the worst of his predecessors. The banishment of the whole Jewish nation was speedily determined by the first Inquisitor General, and the same was carried into effect with a brutality, whose consequences to its victims are too horrible for contemplation..

. There is in the poetry of Spain a singular compound of simplicity and affectation of labored absurdity, and of free and flowing genius ; and as the whimsical peculiarities, which have been often considered as the unerring marks of poetical superiority, seem to attach to no particular class nor era, we shall amuse our readers with a few examples. The seclusion of monastic habits has been the prime cause of all this ingenious and unworthy trifling. Time is of little value to him whose wants are provided for—who takes no thought for the morrow—who has no worldly ambition-whose path is pleasantness on earth -and whose way is clear for heaven. Friendly as have been, on some occasions, the cells of the monastery to deep and elaborate research, and certain as it is that we owe to their solitary retirements very much of the information which lived through the long and dreary centuries of ignorance and misery; they have served, on the other hand, to direct the noblest energies of the mind to the gathering together of cobwebs, and to the pursuit of objects, the most ridiculous and the most unimportant. Shut out from all exercise of the affectionate sympathies--deprived of the means of estimating the value of any one branch of knowledge by the quantity of utility it produces ; -necessarily indifferent, perhaps opposed, to the only safe maxim of Christian benevolent exertion, to provide for the greatest happiness of the greatest number, their views and their efforts have always been contracted to a narrow sphere, directed to only a few, and these frequently absurd, pursuits, which they have followed with perfect intensity of application, and a complete concentration of the powers of their minds. In such a

state, whatever be the immediate subject of thought and feeling, soon becomes all important-self-love exaggerates--habit.ministers to its tyranny over the character. In the convents of the Peninsula, curious instances of this misapplication of time have fallen under our notice. We knew a worthy Geronimite friar, all whose life was devoted to rearing young canary birds, and whose prime delight it was to measure the width of their gaping mouths; another,-a Franciscan inquisitor, (the pride of his convent and the glory of his native place,) whose thoughts by day, and dreams by night, were all directed to the construction of a wooden orrery; and a pretty uncouth piece of machinery it was, as much like the system of the universe as our monk was like Newton. Every convent has had its company, of triflers; and among these we will select, as an instance, Pedro Compostelano, who, in the twelfth century, amused himself and edified posterity with poetry such as this : :

“ Cum vitio nuper proprio caro victa pareret;
Iratum, nec mente ratum, cor ad ima moveret
Et levitas in mente sitas excedere metas
Auderet, nec res sineret reprehendere cretas.
Et Veneris procul à superis rubrica tumultum
Inferret, nec abhorreret mens turpia multum.”

We select these for the curious entanglement of rhyme.
So, again :

“O juvenis, captusque catenis carnis obesæ
Te læsæ. Cor habes? Tabes. Scis quod morieris?
Et superis cariturus eris, si verba puellæ
Bellæ corde tuo fatuo sectaveris ? illa
Stilla manu quamvis pravis blanditur ocellis
Cum mellis calice,” &c.

Spain has given us some of the most elaborate specimens of this absurd and wretched patchwork. We have now before. us a little MS. volume of verses, written on occasion of the death of the queen of Charles II., which are wholly composed of acrostics, hieroglyphics, and labored pieces of childishness. The words “ Maria Luisa de Borbon” are introduced in every way that ingenuity can conceive. In 'some of the sonnets, every line both begins and ends with the same letter. In others, an echo of Ay! Ay! (Alas! Alas !) is introduced with singular and affected repetition." One or two are worth preserving, as specimens of the 'way in which the learned of those days wasted away their hours and days. They serve, too, as a

others line bothuity cance Bort

curious illustration of the sincerity and amount of that grief, which, on this occasion, was designated by “ fountains of water pouring forth abundant and unceasing streams of tears." The first is equally Latin, (Castillian,) says Father Cisneros, the author; and he may be allowed to say so: we shall not quarrel with him on this score.

“ Pyra funesta luces ostentando
Quæ multiplicas taciturna injurias
Justas querellas contra injustas furias
Cesa nocturnas aves detestando :
Evita horrores funebres mirando.
Salva Maria ! superiores curias
Contra terrenas rigidas penurias
Gloriosos triumfos canta celebrando.
O Santa Phenix! O tu quæ reluces
Mostrando albores infinitas glorias,
De alto holocausto, tu quæ tantas luces
Vibras de Hesperiada grata memorias
Renovando mercedes anteriores.” .

But perhaps none is more original—to us, at least, it is peculiarly so-than the following:

“D eidad que sin llegar a sencectu D

Os O Cloto cogerte en tu verd Or
No el Nacer Reyna tu tempra N a flor
A lcanz A hacer etern A tu salud
Mira el Maio des Mayó en ataud
A romas A un ex A la su vapor
Regia' Pyra Rub Rica dento ardor
I enta la mejor L I s; no su virtu
A liento el A ur A fué de su vivir
Lofatal entref L ores L eve huella
U igor det U hermosura fué morir
Insufr I ble dolor p ens I on de bella
Su Spende lyra llora este sentir
A spira à Elisios campos a cogell A.”*

* Not having indulged in attempts of this kind, we were not a little surprised at the facility with which, in twenty minutes, the following imitation of the above sonnet was produced. If, in our not very manageable language-at least in versification--such attempts are so little laborious, in an idiom so full of vowel terminations as the Spanish, the effort would be much less tedious than we had imagined. ... .

We dare not make farther extracts. Those who are curious may find examples of a similar character in Faria y Souza's notes to Camöes. It is strange that men of undoubted genius should have given so much time to these whimsical vagaries, and have become the mere posture-masters of poetry.

Of the Arabic poets of Spain, the greatest number were natives of Andalucia, a province which, as it was the witness of the first successes of the Moorish invaders, continued to be the seat of their affections, and the central point of their dominion. Their poetry was of a very varied character, and the number of poets was very considerable indeed. In the fourth century of the Hegira, flourished Maria Alphaisuli of Seville, who has been called the Arabic Sappho. Ébn Tarhun, also a native of Seville, wrote on the creation of the world, on the nature of the soul, and on the temple of Mecca. Dhialdin Alkazrag made poetry the subject of his compositions, of which his Treasure of Poets is best known. Ebn Forgia and Ebn Macrana wrote learned criticisms on the poetry of Arabia and Persia. Of the ancient Spaniards and Africans eminent in literature, and especially in poetical literature, Ben Mahommed Abu Nassar Alphath of Seville, composed a biographical account, in the sixth century of the Hegira. Religion, morals, politics, experimental and abstract science, history and general letters, form the varied subjects of this interesting class; a mine of treasures almost unexplored : for notwithstanding the great merit and industry of which Conde has given so many proofs, we must be allowed to regret, that what has appeared, since our former article, of his interesting history of the Moors in Spain, has disappointed us in many particulars. It is chiefly a detail of various military triumphs, which opens to us but too little

Lady! in whom the fairest graces dwel L
Aw A ke to breathe the morning's fragrant A ir,
Descen D and charm our solitary Dell,
Yon starr Y dews invite thee, lad Y fair!
Many a Melody sweetly M ingles there,
And streams, And songs, And flowers of sweetest smell
Round the gay banks R, ea R up their citadel
In proud secur I ty, as tho' they were
A ppointed guardi A ns o'er A scene so sweet;
Lady! all nature L ooks out L ovely now;
Uncounted bea U ties, thoughts mostexq Uisite,
In hol I est union blend; a liv I ng glow
Seem S to pervade the world, and welcome S thee-
A II, all is brightness now o'er heaven, earth, and seA.

« PreviousContinue »