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LIFE IS A DREAM.
(LA VIDA ES SUENO.) TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH OF CALDERON, BY JOHN oxen FORD.
[In the following translation I have taken every pains to give the meaning of the author, while I have departed from the measure of Spanish tragedy, substituting the ordinary English blank verse for the short lines which rhyme, or form a rima asonante* of the original. As one rima asonante is frequently carried on for hundreds of lines, it would have been an immense labour, if not altogether impracticable, to have followed it, and the result, after all, would not have addressed itself to the English ear. Hence having before me the precedent of Shelley, who translated a portion of the Magico Prodigioso of Calderon into blank verse, I followed the same plan. At the same time, I have endeavoured to preserve the strange conceits with which the Spanish dramatic language is overloaded, in all their fantastical prominence; by no means desiring to appear as an advocate of the drama of Calderon, or to conceal his extravagances, but merely wishing to give, in a readable English form, a portion of foreign literature with which the public in general is but little acquainted. As the fantasies of Calderon render him in some passages difficult even to the Spaniards themselves to comprehend, it is not improbable that a few inaccuracies may have crept in here and there. To guard against them as much as possible, I have availed myself throughout of the admirable German translation of M. Griess, with which I have collated every word of the original. From him the descriptions of the scenes are taken, since in the Spanish, as in the early editions of the old English dramatists, these are left to the imagination of the reader.
BASILIO, King of Poland.
SIGISMUND, the Prince.
Astolfo, Duke of Muscovy.
CLOTALDO, an Old Man.
CLARIN, a Comic Character (gracioso).
ESTRELLA, a Princess (infanta).
Rosaura, a Lady.
Soldiers, Guards, Musicians, Train.
Scene I.-A wild spot, with a high mountain in the back-ground.
To the side a tower surrounded by rocks and bushes. RosaURA, dressed in male travelling attire, is descending the mountain.
Night is drawing on.
Rosaura. Wild hippogryph, that flyest as the wind-
Whence lightning without flame, whence plumeless bird,
Whence scaleless fish, brute without natural sense,
Whence 'mid the labyrinth of naked rocks
* The rima asonante is a peculiarity of Spanish verse, consisting of the repetition of tbe vowels ending in the corresponding words: as, sido-visto.
Dost thou unbridled rush precipitate ?
Remain amid these hills, that the wild beasts
May have their Phaëton. While I ascend
The entangled ruggedness of this bigh mount,
Which with its wrinkled brow defies the sun,
Having no path but such as fate may give,
But wand'ring blindly and despondingly.
Why, Poland, thou receiv'st a stranger ill,
Since with the blood that stains his wounded feet
Thou writest his arrival on thy sands,
And scarcely has he come but he meets pain.*
Thus says my lot :-Oh when was pity found
For one unfortunate?
Enter Clarin, descending by the same rock.
For one ?—say two.
Don't leave me in the lurch, when thou complain'st.
If we are two, quitting our native land
To seek adventures-if we still are two,
Arriving here 'mid madness and ill-luck,
And two, when tumbling down the hill together,
Methinks 'tis hard that I must bear my part
In all the troubles that we undergo,
And yet not figure in the account thereof.
I will not give thee part in my complaints,
Lest, Clarin, I deprive thee of the right
Thou hast of soothing all thy woes by murmuring,
For there is such great pleasure in complaint,
Said a philosopher, it were worth while
To seek out evils for the sake of mourning !
A drunken grey-beard that philosopher !
Oh would he had more than a thousand cuffs !
That would have been rich matter for complaint.
But prithee, lady, what are we to do,
Alone, on foot, lost in a desert mount,
When yonder the sun sets?
Who ever saw
Such strange adventures ?-Stay, my eye's deceived
With images such as the fancy makes,
Or yonder, by the parting light of day,
Methinks I see a building.
Or my wish
Deceives, or I can mark the signs of one.
A rustic palace grows 'mid barren rocks,
So lowly, it scarce looks upon the sun,
And it is built with such rude artifice,
That at the foot of all these lofty rocks
That touch the sun's bright ray, it only seems
As 't were some fragment tumbled from the heights.
* In the original there is a play upon words here :
Y apenas llega cuando llega a penas.
Clarin. Let us approach—'tis well enough to gaze,
But better if the folks who dwell in it
Admit us courteously.
But see, the door-
Or rather the dark mouth-is opened wide,
And lets the night out from its birth-place there.
(A sound of chains heard within.) Clarin. Chains! What is that? Rosaura.
I feel I cannot stir.
I am a form of fire and ice.
Was that of chains; it is some galley-slave,
Beshrew me, but my terrors tell me so.
Sigismund (within). Unhappy me!
What mournful voice is this?
I feel new pain, new torture-
And new fear.
Rosaura. Clarin !
Let us flee the horrors
Of this enchanted tower.
But I have not
A heart to flee, if it should come to that.
Rosaura. Yonder dim exhalation, is it not
A trembling light, like to a pallid star,
That faintly twinkling flashes heat and Aame,
Making the murky dwelling still more dark
With doubtful rays ?-It is, and by its aid
A gloomy prison I can see, though distant,
The tomb of some live corpse. More frightful still,
Clad as a beast, a man is lying there,
Loaded with chains, alone with that dim light.
We cannot fly, so let us listen here,
And learn the tale of his calamities.
SIGISMUND is discovered by the light, chained and clothed in skins.
Sigismund. Unhappy me! Oh, I would know, ye heav'ns,
What is my crime that you should treat me thus,-
My crime at birth,- but yet full well I know
That it is crime enough, if I were born ;
There is sufficient reason for your rigour,
Since the grand crime of man is to be born.
Still I would know, to understand my woes,
Setting a part the crime of being born,
Wherein, ye heav'ns, have I offended more,
That I am punished more ?-All else are born-
And being born, what privilege have they
That I have not? The bird is also born;
Yet is no sooner clad in all his beauty,
A winged nosegay or a feathered Power,
Than swiftly he cleaves through the halls of air
And thinks no more upon his peaceful nest.
1-with a greater soul-am I less free?
The beast is born ; yet scarcely is his skin
Mark'd with fine spots, as if bedecked with stars,
(Thanks to the learned pencil that has marked them,)
Than fierce and wild, taught by necessity
The need of cruelty, he roams along,
The fearful monster of his labyrinth.
With better instinct, then, am I less free?
The fish is born, not breathing, being but
The abortive progeny of spawn and mud,
And scarce, a scaly boat, he finds himself
Above the waves, than everywhere he turns,
Measuring all the vast expanse of space
Which the cold waters of the sea afford.
And I, with bolder will, am I less free?
The rivulet is born ; a snake that winds
Among the flowers, and scarce begins to glide-
The silver serpent-than he celebrates
In music all the kindness of the flow'rs.
To him the Almighty gives the open field;
And I, who have more life, am I less free?
Oh, at this height of passion I become
An Ætna, I could tear from out my breast
My heart in fragments. What can be the law,
The motive, justice, that can take from man
The sweetest privilege that God has given
E'en to the bird, the brute, the fish, the brook?
Rosaura. Pity and fear his words awake in me.
Sigismund. Who heard my voice? Is it Clotaldo? Speak!
Clarin. Say “ Yes."
No, 'tis but an unhappy one,
Listening in these cold vaults to thy complaints.
Sigismund. Then I will kill thee, that thou may'st not know,
That I know, that thou knowest all my weakness.
My strong arms grasp thee thus, for hearing me,
And I will rend thee. (Seizes her.)
Faith, then, I am deaf.
I could not hear a word.
• This curious phraseology, with the repetition of "know,” is in the original :
Porque no sepas que sé
Que sabes flaquezas mias. J. O.
If thou art human,
Thou'lt free me when I supplicate thee thus. (Kneeling.)
Sigismund. Thy voice has softened me, thy presence thrills me.
What art thou ?-Though but little of the world
I know, this castle being my tomb and cradle,
And though since I was born (if this be birth)
I have seen nought beside this rugged desert,
Wherein I pass my miserable life,
A living skeleton, a breathing corpse ;
Though but one man I have addressed or seen-
A man who pities my calamities,
And taught me all about the heav'ns and earth;
Although I terrify thee, being here,
And thou mayst call me but a human monster,
Living among these dread and hideous forms,
A brute with men, a man among the brutes ;
Though I've learned politics of beasts and birds,
Here in the midst of my calamity,
And traced the orbit of the most sweet stars;-
Thou hast been able, thou, and only thou,
To stay my grief-to strike my eyes with wonder,
My ear with admiration. Every glance
That I fix on thee, I admire anew-
The more I gaze, the more I wish to gaze.
I must believe my eyes are dropsical.*
Though it is death to drink, they drink the more ;
And though I know that seeing gives me death,
I die that I may see. Well, be it so!
Let me see thee and die; I do not know,
If it be seeing thee that gives me death ;
What were my fate, if I could see thee not.
It would be more than death, rage, anger, grief,
It would be death, and I can test it thus,
That giving life to one in misery,
Is giving death to one in happiness.
Rosaura. Dreading thy sight, and wondering at thy words
I scarce know what to say, nor what to ask ;
I'll only say that Heav'n has led me here
To give me comfort, if it be a comfort,
For one in grief to see one still more wretched.
There is a story of a sage so poor,
So wretched, that he only lived upon
The herbs he gathered. This man asked himself,
“ Lives there another man poorer than me?”
He turned his head, and found a quick reply,
For there he saw another sage collecting