Графични страници
PDF файл

tirely agree with him in the propriety and importance of his interpretation. The passage is the following: "repressaque in prsesens exitiabilis superstitio, rursus erumpebat," &c. The meaning has been supposed to be, that Christianity was checked by the persecutions of the Roman Emperors, but afterwards reappeared and spread itself with greater rapidity. Mr. C. considers the temporary repression to refer to the time immediately succeeding the death of Christ, and the subsequent revival to relate to the numerous conversions which took place when the apostles began their ministry in Jerusalem. And though he considers the work which bears the name of the Acts of Pilate to be spurious, yet he contends that "it is in the highest degree probable, both from the nature of the thing, and from the title of these forgeries, that as it must have been, or rather was, an established practice with the governors of provinces to send occasional dispatches, detailing the most remarkable incidents which affected their governments, so Pilate had conveyed ample information concerning Jesus. There is, I think, some ground for believing, that Tacitus derived from sources of this kind the information which be has transmitted respecting Christ." p. 282.

The last part of this work forms an excellent sequel toPaley's Evidences of Christianity. As Dr. Paley deduces his argument, from the persecutions and martyrdom which the first preachers of Christianity underwent in support of their assertions, Mr. C. derives his evidence, in the part of the work to which we refer, from the fact of the Jews and Gentiles embracing the Christian Religion. Whatever power some may ascribe to the caprice and changeableness of the human mind, to imposture on the one hand, and credulity on the other, this volume contains abundant proof that Christianity could not have made progress, or gained footing, among the Jews or the Gentiles, unless it were divine.

Art. III. Some Account of the Life and Writings of Lope Fe/ix de Vega Car/iio. By Henry Richard Lord Holland, 8vo. pp. 300. Price 7s. Longman and Co. 1806.

"HPHIS book deserved an earlier attention than we have had the opportunity of giving it, and may perhaps be*intitled to a more ample examination than we can now afford. . The public arc so rarely benefited by the intellectual labours of the great, who in general are unambitious of displaying any superiority except that which commands precedence at the Hit Id's office, that when asolitary individual of high rank condescends to stray into the paths of literature, in quest of a wreath more illustrious than a coronet, it is doubtless our duty to manifest our sense of the great difference of quality which distinguishes him from us, by the earliness of our notice, and the liberality of our praise. Having failed in the former tribute of respect, we will not be chargeable with neglecting the latter.

The subject of these memoirs, Lope Felix de Vega Carpioj if not the greatest of authors, was assuredly one of the most extraordinary ; for though in the quality of his writings he may have been excelled by many, in the quantity of them he has been equalled by none. And when we consider the fluenc\' of his style, the ingenuity of his thoughts, the felicity of his language, and the luxuriance of his imagination, it must be acknowledged that he was not only one of the most singular, but one of the most "truly eminent poets;" that ever appeared in the world. Perhaps no grandeur of genius can be deemed more wonderful, or affect the mind with a stronger and sublimer sense of power, than the inconceivable rapidity of this man's composition, and the unexhausted fertility of his invention. 'The multitude of his productions has indeed been most fabulously exaggerated by tradition; yet still their amount, as it has been authentically, or at least unanswerably ascertained, seems to extend beyond the limits pf credibility.

This prodigious poet was born at Madrid, on the 25th of November, 1562. About the age of thirteen he was seized with so restless a desire to see the world, that he ran away from school; but his money being soon expended, he was compelled to relinquish this adventure. It appears that long before this time his astonishing genius had begun to unfold itself; even "at two years of age it was perceptible in the brilliancy of his eyes V We should guess it was perceptible still earlier: his mother no doubt discovered, as soon as he was born, that her child was the wittiest, the wisest, the most beautiful in the world. At five he could read Greek and Latin; and before his hand had strength to write, he dictated verses, which he used to barter for play-things, thus early turning his talents to profit, and beginning a trade which never foiled him afterwards. At twelve be had already composed several comedies, according to the following lines, which we give in Lord Holland's ferSiod, having no room to spare for the Spanish originals.

4 Plays of three acts we owe to Virues' pen,
Which ne'er had crawl'd but on all fours till then;
An action suited to that helpless age,
-The infancy of wit, the childhood of the stage-
Such did I write ere twelve years yet had run,
Plays on four sheets, an act on every one.' p. 9.,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

As he advanced to manhood he continued to write for the Stage, and published also his'" Arcudia" a rhapsodical species of composition, of which Sannazarius had given the first example in Italy. 'Lord Holland enters into an ingemous examination of this piebald production, in which prose rim mad, ahd verse become tame, contend with each ot'.er in extravagance and insipidity. Wc cannot follow his Lordship either in this or through any of his following disquisitions, on Lope's most eminent works, but we take the opportunity of stating that the principal value of this volume consists in these critical essays, which are distinguished by much acuteness of remark, and a peculiar urbanity of style. Even wc, formal and technical as we are, and equally jealous of rivalry and of innovation in our trade, are obliged to confess that " Henry Richard Lord Holland" is a very exquisite Amateur'Crick. One amusing instance of Spanish fustian we must quote here, f^om Lope's Arcadia. It is the so; g of a giant, iri honour of his Dulcinea; it is truly gigantic, for.nothing can be more tnonstrous.

* The song of the Giant to Chrisalda in the first book is the most singular instance of this conceit, (an accumulation of strained illustrations) but is much too long to be transcribed. It"is divided into seven strophes or paragraphs, most of which are subdivided into seven stanzas of four lines; in each stanza the beauty of Chrisalda is illustrated by two comparisons; and the names of the things to which she is compared are enumerated in the last stanza of each strophe, and which alone consists of six lines, and which i< not unlike a passage in the Projiria qua martins, being chiefly composed of nouns substantive without the intervention of a single verb. In the first strophe she is compared to fourteen different celestial objects; in the next to ten species of flowers; in the third to as many metals and precious stones; in the fourth to eleven birds of different sorts; in the fifth to twelve trees of different names; in the sixth to as many quadrupeds; and in the last to the same number of marine productions. After having recapitulated each of these in their respective strophe, in a strain not unworthy of a vocabulary, he sums up the whole by observing with great truth,

Thus what contains or sea, or earth, or. air, •

I to thy form, if you approve, compare.' pp. 16'—18.

We are surprised that Lord Holland should fall into the vulgar fault of confounding the plural and singular pronouns, as he does in the second line of this couplet, andin the following passages: '. ■'

'Much I apphiud thy wisdom, much thy zeal,

• And now, to try thy courage, will reveal

• That which you covet so to learn.'—p. 146. ■ '——' Tou came not here to-day

• The advocate to plead a traitor's cause, . . A

• But to perform my will.- :

:—-* and why the culprit bleed

« Matters not thee.'—p. 147.

Soon after the publication of his " Arcadia", Lope married; buthavingdantrerooslywonnded a gentleman who had ridiculed his verses* and on whom he had retorted so severely, that the man of rank appealed to the sword, hoping to find the poejt less expert with that weapon than with the pen,—he was forced to fly from Madrid, and did not return for several years. Not long after his restoration to domestic tranquillity, his wife died; and he took refuge from sorrow for her loss on board the Armada, then fitting out for the invasion of England. During this ill-fated expedition, he consoled himself with writing the "Hermosura de Angelica," a poem in twenty cantos, in continuation of Ariosto's Orlando Fuiioso. In his next per^ formance, he avenged his country and himself on Sir Francis Drake, Who had been so presumptuous as to vanquish the Invincible Armada: the " Dragontea" is an epic poem on the death of that scourge of Spain, aud the reader is informed in the first page of it, that wherever the word Dragon occurs, it means the English Admiral, whom the author also dignifies with the titles of tyrant, slave, butcher, and even coward. The tyranny, cruelty, and above all the heresy of our Queen Elizabeth, are also favourite and unfailing themes for his bitterest poetical execration.

From this period, Lope's productions flowed upon the public one after another, like waves of the sea, in such multitudinous and uninterrupted succession, that Lord Holland himself finds it impossible to characterize or count them. After having been secretary to the Holy Inquisition, he tqok Priest's orders, and in 1609 became" a kind of honorary member of the brotherhood of St. Francis," though it does not appear, that in this golden age of his life he was addicted to any useless austerities. The principal mortifications that he then suffered, were those to which every great poet is exposed, fron the malevolence ofcriticsand the ingratitude of the public, though no poet was ever more outrageously panegyrized by the former, or mors bountifully rewarded by the latter. To be contented, however, with superfluity of riches and reputation, is seldom the lot of man. About this time he entered into vexatious hostility with Gongora, a rival bard, the inventor of a new style of poetry, called in Castilian cultissimo, which consisted in "using language so pedantic, metaphors so strained, and constructions so involved, that few readers had the knowledge requisite to understand the words, and yet fewer the ingenuity tc* discover the allusion, or patience to unravel the sentences." The following quotation from a sonnet of Gongora's is a precious specimen qf this quintessential absurdity: the poet, meaning to describe the art of writing on paper, says, that tf the pen of (he historian opens (he gates, of memory, and memory stamps shadows on mounds of foam."—The talents of Gongora, however, were so prevailing, that for a century after his death, little or nothing that could be understood, in poetry, was admired in Spain. Lope, probably conscious that his own styje was sufficiently quaint and bombastic, assailed this hideous taste in composition, with all his powers of ridicule and argument; yet he had the courage and honesty, in his "Laurel de Apollo" to acknowledge the unquestionable merit of Go.ngora. He had another dispute with a more formidable adversary in the author of Don Quixote, probably, arising from jealousy of the genius of Cervantes, in Lope,

«n the one hand, and spleen in Cervantes on the other, at eholding the prosperity of Lope, while he himself was pining in want and obscurity. Whatever was the cause, the quarrel is not worth recording, for its very existence is problematical. Lord Holland informs us, that at this time the public admiration of Lope de Vega had become a species of worship. It was hardly prudent in any author to withhold incense from his shrine, much less to interrupt the devotion of his adherents. Having in his Hermosura de Angelica contended against Ariosto, in his Jerusalem Conquistada he entered the lists with Tasso; and in the opinion of his countrymen excelled both the Italians. On occasion of the martyrdom of Mary Queen of Scots, he dedicated his poem, intitled " Corona Tragica" to Pope Urban VIII. who had himself composed an epigram on the subject.

* Upon this occasion he received from that pontiff a letter in his own hand, and the degree of doctor of theology. Such a flattering tribute of admiration sanctioned the reverence in which bis name was held in Spain, and spread his fame through every catholic country. -The cardinal Barberini followed him with veneration in the streets; the king would stop to gaze at such a prodigy; the learned and the studious thronged to Madrid from every part of Spain to see this phcenix of their country, this •" monster of literature ;" and even Italians, no extravagant admirers in general of poetry that is not their own, made pilgrimages from their country for the sole purpose of conversing with Lope. So associated was the idea of excellence with his name, that it grew in common conversation to signify any thing perfect in its kind ; and a Lope diamond, a Lope day, or a Lope woman, became fashionable and familiar modes /Of expressing their good qualities.' pp. 64—rdb'.

Meanwhile, though his fortune kept pace with his fame, "improvident and indiscriminate charity ran away with his gains, immense as they were, and rendered his life unprofitable to his friends, and uncomfortable to himself." It is very remarkable, that during the greater part of his impetuous and unparalleled career, while he was pouring out his plays and romances without number or measure, he. was accounted a pattern of piety j and toward the end of his life his devotion.

« ПредишнаНапред »