Imatges de pÓgina

reason to doubt the sincerity of his praise. At this time, and perhaps enabled by this patronage, he married Doña Isabel Diaz de Urbina, a woman of quality. Their domestic happiness was soon interrupted;-roused by certain sarcasms against his writings, Lope revenged himself upon his critic by a stinging satire. No men have ever shown themselves sorer under such castigation than those who have in a similar manner deserved it ;-the critic challenged the satirist, and found him as much master of the sword as he was of the pen; he was left dangerously wounded, and Lope in consequence was fain to fly from Madrid. Valencia was the place of his retreat; there he was compelled to remain some years separated from his wife; and when after so painful a separation and so anxious a state of long protracted hope he had at last rejoined her at Madrid, she died in the course of a few months.

The death of this lady was celebrated in an eclogue remarkable as being the joint composition of Pedro de Medina Medinilla and Lope himself, each speaking in his own character, though under an assumed name-one as the widowed husband, the other as his sympathizing friend. To complete the singularity of such a composition, it is a close imitation of other Spanish poets, and in many parts a cento of expressions and whole lines adapted from their works. Strange and artificial as this mode of composing must appear upon such a subject, the poem nevertheless is written with a power and passion which atone not only for this but for its hyperbolical language, its violent metaphors, and its pastoral form.

'If,' says the noble biographer, there be any truth in the supposition that poets have a greater portion of sensibility in their frames than other men, it is fortunate that they are furnished by the nature of their occupations with the means of withdrawing themselves from its effects. The act of composition, especially of verse, abstracts the mind most powerfully from external objects. The poet therefore has always a refuge within reach; by inventing fictitious distresses, he may be blunting the poignancy of real grief; while he is raising the affections of his readers, he may be allaying the violence of his own, and thus find an emblem of his own susceptibility of impression in that poetical spear which is represented as curing with one end the wounds it had inflicted with the other. Whether this fanciful theory be true or not, it is certain that poets have continued their pursuits with ardour under the pressure of calamity.'

Such are Lord Holland's remarks upon this part of Lope de Vega's history; and it is indeed certain that minds are elastic in proportion as they are active; and that the more buoyant the spirit the better is it able to bear the buffetings which it must meet with upon this rude sea of life. But when he proceeds to instance Ovid as an illustration of this theory, because banishment riveted him

OсT. to the habits of composition, and taught him to seek for consolation where he had hitherto only found amusement,' his choice is not fortunate; the case is rather that of a feeble mind vainly indulging and thereby prolonging its sorrows, than of a strong one which struggles against them and surmounts them. Had Ovid employed the years of his exile in studying and faithfully describing the manners of the people among whom he was cast, he would have been far more happily as well as more usefully employed, than in pouring forth his querulous regret. One treatise upon this important subject, though it had not been longer than that of Tacitus concerning the Germans, would have been worth whole volumes of Tristia.

Lope de Vega's was a manlier spirit. Lord Holland, following the Spanish biographer, represents him as flying from his sorrows, seeking for a situation in which external objects might, as far as possible, distract him from himself, and for this purpose entering as a volunteer in the Armada. It is remarkable that his lordship, who refers almost immediately afterwards to the Egloga a Claudio, should not have perceived that Lope gives a very different account of his own motives. There it appears that he became a soldier, not in consequence of grief for the loss of his wife, but because of the rigour of his mistress: Phillis had banished him; for this reason he wished to change climate and element; and marching to Lisbon with a musket on his shoulder, he tore up for cartridges the verses which he had written in her praise.*

The success of the Armada against England was expected with the most exultant anticipation by the Spaniards. Of the many instances which might be given of this confident hope, two may suffice. The first is from an Ode by Luis de Gongora.

Raise thy renowned hand,

O Spain, from French Pyrene, to the land
Where the Moor Atlas lifts his mountain height,
And at the martial trumpet's lofty sound
Bid thou thy valiant offspring cluster round
Beneath thy old victorious banners, bright
In hardest adamant, a fearful sight,-

Such that the lands of languid power,
The nations leagued against thy faith, dismay'd

* Joven me viste, y visteme soldado,
Quando vio los armiños de Sidonia
La selva Caledonia

Por Jupiter avrado,

Y las riberas de la gran Bretaña
Los arboles portatiles de España.
All de Filis desterrado intento
(Desola ta verdad acompañado)
Mudar a mi cuidado

De cielo y de elemento,

Y el cisne Amor, efeto de su espuma
Corto las aguas siu inojar la pluma.
Mas luego a Marte en mi defensa nombro,
Y paso entre la gente Castellana
La playa Lusitana,

El arcabuz al hombro,

Volando en tacos del cañon violento

Los papeles de Füis por el viento


At the strong radiance of their beamy arms,

At the fierce splendour of the falchion blade,
With looks averted, in alarms,

Shall turn at once their eyes and backs for flight,
Like clouds before the deity of day;
Or even like yielding wax dissolve away
Before the luminous and golden fire
That from their graven helmets forth shall fly;
As blind of faith, so blinded then in eye.
By pious zeal and noble wrath possest,
With restless woods hast thou

Peopled the humid Neptune's billowy breast;
And all who in thy kingdoms would advance
Bold against Britain the avenging lance,
Collected in their numbers now

So multiplied a multitude hast sent,
That for their barks the wat'ry element
Scarcely hath scope, and scanty are the gales
Of heaven, to fill their sails.

Therefore be sure that, on thy vengeance day,
Ocean shall die his waves, now green and grey,
All scarlet with the English pirates' gore,
And rich with ruins of the fray

Waft their wreck'd navies o'er,

And tattered banners, thy triumphal boast,
And dash her slaughtered sons upon thy coast,
Illustrating thy ports and trophied shore.*

The other instance is in a child's poem, or more properly a poem written in the character of a child; a species of playful composition which was at that time popular among the Spaniards. A little girl is speaking to her play-fellow, and she tells him

El Seno undoso al humido Neptuno,
De Selvas inquietas has poblado,
Y quantos en tus Reynos uno à uno
Empuñan Lanza contra la Bretaña,
Sin perdonar al tiempo, has embiado
Eu numero de todo tan sobrado,
Que a tanto leño el humido Elemento,
Y a tanta Vela es poco todo el Viento.
Fia que en Sangre del Ingles Pirata
Teñira de Escarlata

A la Armada que el Rey Felipe Segundo, nuestro Señor, embio contra Inglaterra. Levanta España tu famosa Diestra Desde el Frances Pirene, al Moro Atlante, Y al ronco son de Trompas belicosas, Haz embuelta en durissimo Diamante De tus valientes hijos feroz muestra, Debaxo de tus Scñas Vitoriosas, Tal, que las flacamente poderosas Tierras, Naciones contra su Fè armadas, Al claro resplandor de sus Espadas, Y à la de tus Arneses fiera lumbre, Con mortal pesadumbre Ojos, y Espaldas buelvan,

Y como al Sol las Nieblas se resuelvan,
O qual la blanda Cera desatados,
A los dorados luminosos Fuegos
De los Yelmos gravados,
Queden como de Fè, de Vista ciegos.
Tu, que con Zelo pio, y noble Saña,

Su Color verde y cano,

El rico de ruinas Oceano,

Y aunque de lexos con rigor traidas,
Ilustrarà tus Playas y tus Puertos

De Vanderas rompidas,

De Naves destrozadas, de Hombres muer


Obras de Gongora, p. 180. Brussels, 1659.

My brother Don John

To England is gone,
To kill the Drake,

And the queen to take,

And the heretics all to destroy;

And he will give me,

When he comes back,

A Lutheran boy

With a chain round his neck;

And Grandmamma

From his share shall have

A Lutheran maid

To be her slave.*

These were not the only poems of that age in which the authors ventured upon prophecy with more boldness than discretion. A remarkable example is found among the works of the Portugueze poet Diogo Bernardes. In a sonnet addressed to the standard which Sebastian had raised for his expedition to Africa, and which bore the crucifix, he affirmed that under such a standard and such a king Africa must be subdued, even though her own Antæus or her Hannibal should arise from the dead for her defence. Bernardes accompanied the expedition for which he presaged so glorious a termination. The poem which he probably wrote next, and which, in the collection of his works, stands next to this memorable sonnet, is an Elegy written in captivity among the Moors; in these elegiac stanzas he reproaches the lost Sebastian for his overweening confidence, and tells him that he must render account before the throne of God for all the effusion of blood and all the misery which his rashness had occasioned. Lope de Vega addressed the Armada in hyperbolical, but not in prophetic language: he bade it go forth and burn the world; wind would not be wanting to the sails, nor fire to the artillery, for his breast, he said, would supply the one and his sorrows the other, such was his ardour and such were his sighs.

The Spaniards and Portugueze are fond of naming ships after their saints, and even after the mysteries of religion,-one of the many practices in which superstition leads to irreverence. Twelve of the largest vessels in the Armada were named after the twelve Apostles, and it was in the galleon St. John, where his brother held a commission, that Lope embarked. In the same spirit which had thus misapplied the names of the Apostles, the word was given

* Mi hermano Bartolo

Se va a Ingalaterra,

A matar el Draque,

Y a prender la Reyna,
Y a los Luteranos

De la Bandomessa:

Tiene de traerme
A mi de la guerra,
Un Luteranico
Con una cadena,
Yuna Luterana
A Señora aguela.

Romancero General. Medina del Campo, 1602, ff. 35.


out for every day in the week: for Sunday it was the name of our Saviour, for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Holy Ghost, the holy Trinity and Santiago, and for the three remaining days, the Angels, All Saints, and Our Lady. These outward and visible signs of devotion were in character with an armament concerning which its commander had affirmed in General Orders that first and before all things, it was to be understood by all persons embarked in it, that the principal foundation and cause which had moved the king to set forth this expedition was to serve God, and to return unto his church a great many contrite souls, who were then oppressed by the heretics, enemies to the holy Catholic faith.' For this reason it was commanded that all persons who came on board should first be duly shriven and receive the sacrament, with competent contrition for their sins; that no person should blaspheme or rage against God or our Lady, or any of the Saints, without suffering condign punishment for the offence; that no gambling should be allowed, and all quarrels, angers, defiances, and injuries, of whatever standing or character, be suspended between individuals so long as the expedition lasted. Lope de Vega entered fully into the spirit of these regulations, and regarded the expedition as a true Catholic and Apostolic crusade. He stood in need of such a feeling to console him for the accumulated miseries which he endured during its disastrous course. His brother died in his arms, whether from a wound, or from the fatigues and hardships to which he was exposed, is not stated. He himself was more fortunate, and perhaps considered the portion of his life which was spent in this voyage as not the least profitable part of it, every day having been one continued penance, which would be duly debited in the account of his good works. Camden has finely described the appearance of this formidable armament when the English first obtained sight of it: They discovered the Spanish fleet with lofty turrets like castles, in front like a half-moon, the wings thereof spreading out about the length of seven miles, sailing very slowly with full sails, the winds being as it were wearied with carrying them, and the ocean groaning under their weight.' It was not for a Spaniard, after the failure of the Invincible Armada, to dwell in like manner upon its imposing magnitude and force. Lope de Vega gives only an animated picture of its outset, and then says of himself, who would have thought that this chin, which had scarcely a hair upon it, should have been sometimes found in the morning so shagged with snow-that it might have been mistaken for a comet!

[ocr errors]

During the voyage, he tells us that he bade adieu to logic as well as love, suffering Aristotle to sleep, with matter and forms and causes and accidents. But he continued constant to poetry, and amid all the danger and confusion in which he lived, composed a

A 4


« AnteriorContinua »