El Estudiante de Salamanca y Otras Selecciones by José de Espronceda - HTML preview

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The selections from Espronceda included in this volume havebeen edited for the benefit of advanced Spanish classes inschools and universities. The study of Espronceda, Spain'sgreatest Romantic poet, offers the best possible approach to thewhole subject of Romanticism. He is Spain's "representativeman" in that movement. Furthermore, the wealth of metershe uses is such that no other poet provides so good a text foran introduction to the study of Spanish versification. Theeditor has therefore treated the biography of Espronceda withsome degree of completeness, studying his career as one fullyrepresentative of the historical and literary movements of theperiod. A treatment of the main principles of Spanish versificationwas also considered indispensable. It is assumed thatthe text will be used only in classes where the students arethoroughly familiar with the rudiments of Spanish grammar.Therefore only the more difficult points of grammar are dealtwith in the notes, and little help, outside of the vocabulary, isgiven the student in the translating of difficult passages.

The editor makes no pretense to having established criticaltexts of the poems here printed, although he hopes that someimprovement will be noted over previous editions. A criticaledition of Espronceda's works has never been printed. Esproncedahimself gave little attention to their publication. Hartzenbuschand others intervened as editors in some of the earliesteditions. Their arbitrary changes have been repeated in allsubsequent editions. The text of "El Estudiante de Salamanca"has been based upon the "Poesías de D. José de Espronceda,"Madrid, 1840, the so-called editio princeps. This edition, however,cannot be regarded as wholly authoritative. It was notprepared for the press by the poet himself, but by his friendJosé García de Villalta. Though far more authentic in itsreadings than later editions, it abounds in inaccuracies. I havenot followed its capricious punctuation, and have studied itconstantly in connection with other editions, notably the editionof 1884 ("Obras Poéticas y Escritos en Prosa," Madrid, 1884).To provide a really critical text some future editor must collatethe 1840 text with that version of the poem which appeared in La Alhambra, an obscure Granada review, for the year 1839."El Mendigo" and "El Canto del Cosaco" I also base uponthe 1840 edition, although the former first appeared in LaRevista Española, Sept. 6, 1834. I base the "Canción delPirata" upon the original version published in El Artista,Vol. I, 1835, p. 43. I take the "Soneto" from "El LiceoArtístico y Literario Español," 1838. For "A Teresa, Descansaen Paz," I follow the Madrid edition of 1884.

The textof this, as for the whole of "El Diablo Mundo," is morereliable than that of the earlier poems.

I desire to thank Professors Rudolph Schevill, Karl Pietsch,and Milton A. Buchanan for helpful suggestions, and the lattermore particularly for the loan of rare books. The vocabularyis almost entirely the work of my wife Emily Cox Northup,whose collaboration is by no means restricted to this portionof the book. More than to any other one person I am indebtedto Mr. Steven T.

Byington of the staff of Ginn andCompany, by whose acute and scholarly observations I haveoften profited.


















Don José de Espronceda y Lara, Spain's foremost lyric poetof the nineteenth century, was born on the 25th of March, 1808,the year of his country's heroic revolt against the tyranny ofNapoleon. His parents were Lieutenant-Colonel Don Juan deEspronceda y Pimentel and Doña María del Carmen Delgadoy Lara. Both were Andalusians of noble stock, and, as we learnfrom official documents, were held to be Christians of cleanblood "without taint of Jews, heretics, Moors, or personspunished by the Holy Inquisition, and who neither were norhad been engaged in mean or low occupations, but in highlyhonorable ones." This couple of such highly satisfactory antecedentshad been married four years previously. In 1804 DonJuan, a mature widower of fifty-three, was still mourning hisfirst wife when he obtained the hand of Doña María, a youngwidow whose first husband, a lieutenant in the same regiment,was recently deceased. The marriage was satisfactory in aworldly way, for Doña María brought as a dower four hundredthousand reales to be added to the two hundred thousandwhich Don Juan already possessed. By his first marriage DonJuan had had a son, Don José de Espronceda y Ramos, whobecame ensign in his father's regiment, then studied in theArtillery School at Segovia, and later entered the fashionableGuardia de Corps regiment. He died in 1793 at the early ageof twenty-one, soon after joining this regiment. By the secondmarriage there were two other children, both of whom died ininfancy: Francisco, born in 1805, and María, born in 1807.During the early months of 1808 the Bourbon cavalry regimentin which Don Juan served was stationed in the littlehamlet of Villafranca de los Barros, Estremadura, and therethe future poet was born.

We do not know where the motherand son found refuge during the stormy years which followed.The father was about to begin the most active period of hiscareer. We learn from his service record that he won the gradeof colonel on the field of Bailén; that a year later he recapturedthe cannon named Libertad at the battle of Consuegra (a featwhich won him the rank of brigadier), and fought gallantly atTalavera as a brother-in-arms of the future Duke of Wellington.The mere enumeration of the skirmishes and battles in whichhe participated would require much space. In 1811 he distinguishedhimself at Medina Sidonia and Chiclana, and soughtpromotion to the rank of field-marshal, which was never granted.After the Peninsular War he seems to have been stationed inMadrid between 1815 and 1818. His family were probablypermanently established in that city, for we know that motherand son resided there during the time that the brigadier wasdoing garrison duty in Guadalajara (1820-1828), and there isno evidence that they followed him to Coruña during his termof service in that city (1818-1820). Possibly the old soldierpreferred the freedom of barrack life, where his authority wasunquestioned, to the henpecked existence he led at home."Ella era él y él era ella," says Patricio de Escosura in speakingof this couple; for Doña María was something of a shrew.She was a good business woman who combined energy withexecutive ability, as she later proved by managing successfullya livery-stable business. But, however formidable she may havebeen to her hostlers, her son José found her indulgent. He,the only surviving son of a mature couple, rapidly developedinto a niño consentido, the Spanish equivalent of a spoiledchild. Parallels are constantly being drawn between Byron andEspronceda. It is a curious fact that both poets were rearedby mothers who were alternately indulgent and severe.

In 1820 the Espronceda family occupied an apartment in theCalle del Lobo. It was there and then that Patricio de Escosurafirmed his intimacy with the future poet. He describes graphicallyhis first meeting with the youth who was to be his lifelongfriend. He first saw José sliding down from a third-story balconyon a tin waterspout. In the light of later years Escosura feltthat in this boyish prank the child was father of the man. Theboy who preferred waterspouts to stairways, later in life alwaysscorned the beaten path, and "the illogical road, no matter howventuresome and hazardous it was, attracted him to it by virtueof that sort of fascinating charm which the abyss exercises overcertain eminently nervous temperaments." The belief thatEspronceda studied at the Artillery School of Segovia in 1821appears to rest upon the statement of Solís alone. Escosura,who studied there afterwards, never speaks of his friend ashaving attended the same institution. Solís may have confusedthe younger José with his deceased, like-named brother, who, weknow, actually was a cadet in Segovia. On the other hand,Solís speaks with confidence, though without citing the source ofhis information, and nothing would have been more natural thanfor the boy to follow in his elder brother's footsteps, as he didlater when he joined the Guardia de Corps. However, the matteris of slight moment, for if he studied in Segovia at all hecannot have remained there for more than a few weeks.

What little education Espronceda was able to acquire in thecourse of his stormy life was gained mostly in the Colegio de SanMateo between the years 1820 and 1830. This was a privateschool patronized by sons of the nobility and wealthy middleclass. Two of the masters, José Gómez Hermosilla and AlbertoLista, were poets of repute. Lista was the best teacher of histime in Spain. The wide range of his knowledge astonishedhis pupils, and he appeared to them equally competent inthe classics, modern languages, mathematics, philosophy andpoetics, all of which subjects he knew so well that he neverhad to prepare a lecture beforehand. Plainly Lista was not aspecialist of the modern stamp; but he was something better,a born teacher. In spite of an unprepossessing appearance,faulty diction, and a ridiculous Andalusian accent, Lista wasable to inspire his students and win their affection. It is nocoincidence that four of the fellow students of the Colegio deSan Mateo, Espronceda, Felipe Pardo, Ventura de la Vega, andEscosura, afterwards became famous in literature.

Espronceda's school reports have been preserved. We learnthat he studied sacred history, Castilian grammar, Latin, Greek,French, English, mythology, history, geography, and fencing,which last he was later to turn to practical account. He showedmost proficiency in French and English, and least in Greek andmathematics. His talent was recognized as unusual, his industryslight, his conduct bad. Calleja, the principal, writes in trueschoolmaster's fashion:

"He is wasting the very delicate talentwhich nature gave him, and is wasting, too, the opportunity ofprofiting by the information of his distinguished professors."It cannot be denied that Espronceda's conduct left much to bedesired. According to Escosura he was "bright and mischievous,the terror of the whole neighborhood, and the perpetualfever of his mother." He soon gained the nickname buscarruidos,and attracted the notice of police and night watchmen.

"Inperson he was agreeable, likable, agile, of clear understanding,sanguine temperament inclined to violence; of a petulant,merry disposition, of courage rash even bordering upon temerity,and more inclined to bodily exercise than to sedentary study."The two friends were much influenced by Calderón at this time.The height of their ambition was to be like the gallants of acape-and-sword play, equally ready for a love passage or a fight.Lista's influence upon his pupils was not restricted to classexercises. In order to encourage them to write original verseand cultivate a taste for literature, he founded in April, 1823,the Academy of the Myrtle, modeled after the numerousliterary academies which throve in Italy and Spain during theRenaissance period and later. Lista himself presided, assumingthe name Anfriso. Was Delio, the name Espronceda assumedin his "Serenata" of 1828, his academic designation? Themodels proposed for the youthful aspirants were the best poetsof antiquity and such modern classicists as Meléndez, Cienfuegos,Jovellanos, and Quintana. Two of Espronceda's academic exerciseshave been preserved. They are as insipid and jejune asGoethe's productions of the Leipzig period. As an imitator ofHorace he was not a success. What he gained from theAcademy was the habit of writing.

The Academy lasted until 1826, when many of its membershad been driven into exile; but its later meetings must haveseemed tame to spirited boys engrossed in the exciting politicalevents of those times. The year 1823 is famous in Spanishhistory for the crushing out of liberalism.

This was effected bymeans of the Holy Alliance, an infamous association of tyrantswhose main object was to restore absolutism. Louis XVIII, theBourbon king of France, sent a force of one hundred thousandmen under the Duke of Angoulême who met with little resistance,and in short order nullified all that had been accomplishedby the Spanish liberals. Before the end of the year Ferdinand VII,who had been virtually deposed, was restored to his throne, andthe constitution of 1820 had been abolished. Espronceda, theson of a hero of the War of Liberation, felt that the work of themen of 1808 had been undone. They had exchanged a foreignfor a domestic tyrant.

What his feelings were we may gatherfrom his ode in commemoration of the uprising of the Madridpopulace against the troops of Murat, "Al Dos de Mayo":

¡Oh de sangre y valor glorioso día!

Mis padres cuando niño me contaron

Sus hechos, ¡ay! y en la memoria mía

Santos recuerdos de virtud quedaron.

But, as he says later in the poem,

El trono que erigió vuestra bravura,

Sobre huesos de héroes cimentado,

Un rey ingrato, de memoria impura,

Con eterno baldón dejó manchado.

¡Ay! para herir la libertad sagrada,

El Príncipe, borrón de nuestra historia,

Llamó en su ayuda la francesa espada,

Que segase el laurel de vuestra gloria.

These verses were written in later life; but already in 1827 hedates a poem "fourth year after the sale of Spanish liberty."

It was an age of political conspiracy and secret societies.Many liberals were members of Masonic lodges, and in additionthere were circles like the Friends of Liberty, the Friends ofthe Constitution, the Cross of Malta, the Spanish Patriot, andothers. Nothing more natural than that boys whose age madethem ineligible to join these organizations should form one oftheir own.

The result was La Sociedad de los Numantinos.The prime movers were Miguel Ortiz Amor and Patricio deEscosura, who drew up its Draconic constitution. Other founderswere Espronceda, Ventura de la Vega, and Núñez de Arenas.All told, the society had about a dozen members.

Their firstmeetings were held in a sand-pit, until the curiosity of thepolice forced them to seek safer quarters. One of the memberswas an apothecary's apprentice, who, unknown to his master,installed the club in the shop cellar. There they built an altarbearing all the romantic paraphernalia of skull and cross-bones,swords, and pistols. The members stood wrapped in blackgarments, their faces muffled with their long Spanish capes,wearing Venetian masks, each one grasping a naked dagger.There they swore binding oaths and delivered fiery orations.Red paper lanterns cast a weird light over the scene. How tamethe sessions of the Myrtle must have seemed by comparison!Yet the two organizations throve simultaneously.

With the return of Ferdinand in September the persecutionof the liberals began. The boys witnessed the judicial murderof Riego, the hero of the constitutional movement, November8, 1823. This made the impression upon them that might havebeen expected. That night an extraordinary session of theNumantinos was held at which Espronceda delivered an impassionedoration. Then all signed a document in which the king'sdeath was decreed. Some of the members' parents seem tohave learned what was happening. The father of Ortiz, theclub's first president, prudently sent him away to Oñate.Escosura became the second president, and held office untilSeptember of 1824, when his father sent him to France.Espronceda then became the club's third president, but histerm was brief. The boys had made the mistake of admittingone member of mature years whose name we do not know;for, in spite of his treachery, the Numantinos even in their oldage chivalrously refrained from publishing it. This Judasbetrayed the secrets of his fellow-members, and placed incriminatingdocuments, among them the king's

"death warrant,"in the hands of the police. The latter, however, displayedless rigor and more common sense than usual. While all theyouths implicated were sentenced to long terms of imprisonmentin various monasteries scattered throughout Spain, nothingmore was intended than to give the conspirators a salutaryscare. They were all released after a few weeks of nominalservitude. Ortiz and Escosura, the ringleaders, were sentencedto six years of seclusion, and Espronceda received a term offive years to be served in the Monastery of San Francisco deGuadalajara in the city of Guadalajara. His term was pronouncedcompleted after a very few weeks of confinement. That he hada father prominent in the government service stood him ingood stead, and this probably accounts for the fact that hisplace of confinement was in the city where Don Juan wasgarrisoned. The latter, as an old soldier in the wars againstNapoleon, sympathized in a general way with liberal ideas;yet, placed as he was in a very difficult position, he must havefound his son's escapades compromising. His record showsthat he was "purified,"

that is his loyalty to the crown wascertified to, on August 8, 1824. He seems to have maintaineda

"correct" attitude toward his rulers to the end, with all theunquestioning obedience of a military man.

While undergoing this easy martyrdom Espronceda improvedhis time by beginning what was to be a great patriotic epic, his Pelayo. Like many another ambitious project, this was nevercompleted. The few fragments of it which have been printeddate mostly from this time.

The style is still classic, but it isthe pseudo-classicism of his model, Tasso. The poet had takenthe first step leading to Romanticism. Hence this work was notso sterile as his earlier performances. Lista, on seeing thefragments, did much to encourage the young author. Some ofthe octaves included in the published version are said on goodauthority to have come from the schoolmaster's pen. Lista'sclassicism was of the broadest. He never condemned Romanticismtotally, though he deplored its unrestrained extravagancesand the antireligious and antidynastic tendencies of some of itsexponents. He long outlived his brilliant pupil, and celebratedhis fame in critical articles. After his return from exile Esproncedacontinued to study in a private school which Lista hadstarted in the Calle de Valverde. Calleja's Colegio de SanMateo had been suppressed by a government which was thesworn enemy of every form of enlightenment. The new seminary,however, continued the work of the old with little change:While there José carried his mathematical studies throughhigher algebra, conic sections, trigonometry, and surveying, andcontinued Latin, French, English, and Greek. If we may judgefrom later results, a course in rhetoric and poetics must havebeen of greatest benefit to him.

Espronceda's schooling ended in 1826, when he began whatEscosura terms "his more or less voluntary exile." Escosurathinks he may have been implicated in a revolutionary uprisingin Estremadura, and this conjecture is all but confirmed bya recently found report of the Spanish consul in Lisbon, whosuspected him of plotting mischief with General Mina. IfEspronceda was not a revolutionary at this time, he was capableof enlisting in any enterprise however rash, as his past andsubsequent record proves all too clearly, and the authoritieswere not without justification in watching his movements. Ina letter dated Lisbon, August 24, 1827, he writes to his mother:"Calm yourselves and restore papa to health by taking goodcare of him, and you yourself stop thinking so sadly, for nowI am not going to leave Portugal." In these words the boyseems to be informing his parents that he has given up theidea of making a foray from Portugal into Spain as Mina wasthen plotting to do. He had left home without taking leave ofhis parents, made his way to Gibraltar, and taken passage thenceto Lisbon on a Sardinian sloop. The discomforts of this journeyare graphically described in one of his prose works, "DeGibraltar a Lisboa: viaje histórico." The writer describes withcynical humor the overladen little boat with its twenty-ninepassengers, their quarrels and seasickness, the abominable food,a burial at sea, a tempest.

When the ship reached Lisbon theill-assorted company were placed in quarantine. The healthinspectors demanded a three-peseta fee of each passenger.Espronceda paid out a duro and received two pesetas in change.Whereupon he threw them into the Tagus, "because I did notwant to enter so great a capital with so little money." A verysimilar story has been told of Camoens, so that Esproncedawas not only a poseur but a very unoriginal one at that. Somebiographers suspect that while parting with his silver he wasprudent enough to retain a purse lined with good gold onzas.This is pure speculation, but it is certain that he knew he couldsoon expect a remittance from home.

Portugal was at the time rent with civil war. The infantaIsabel María was acting as regent, and her weak governmenthesitated to offend the king of Spain. The liberal emigrantswere kept under surveillance; some were imprisoned, othersforced to leave the kingdom. Espronceda was forced to Livewith the other Spanish emigrants in Santarem. There is noevidence that he was imprisoned in the Castle of St. George,as has so frequently been stated. He appears to have beenfree to go and come within the limits assigned him by thepolice; but he was constantly watched and at last forced toleave the country. It was in Portugal that the nineteen-year-oldboy made the acquaintance of the Mancha family. DonEpifanio Mancha was a colonel in the Spanish army who,unlike the elder Espronceda, had been unable to reconcilehimself to existing conditions. He had two daughters, one ofwhom, Teresa, was to play a large part in Espronceda's life.He undoubtedly made her acquaintance at this time. We aretold that she embroidered for him an artillery cadet's hat; butthe acquaintance probably did not proceed far. The statementthat vows were exchanged, that the Mancha family precededEspronceda to London, that on disembarking he found hisTeresa already the bride of another, all this is pure legend. Asa matter of fact, Espronceda preceded the Manchas to Londonand his elopement with Teresa did not take place until 1831,not in England but in France. All this Señor Cascales y Muñozhas shown in his recent biography.

Espronceda's expulsion from Portugal was determined uponas early as August 14, 1827; but the execution of it wasdelayed. He must have reached England sometime within thelast four months of 1827. The first of his letters written fromLondon that has been preserved is dated December 27 of thatyear. What his emotions were on passing "the immense sea... which chains me amid the gloomy Britons" may be observedby reading his poem entitled "La Entrada del Invierno enLondres." In this poem he gives full vent to his homesicknessin his "present abode of sadness," breathes forth his love forSpain, and bewails the tyrannies under which that nation isgroaning. It is written in his early classic manner and exists inautograph form, dedicated by the

"Citizen" José de Esproncedato the "Citizen" Balbino Cortés, his companion in exile. Thedate, London, January 1, 1827, is plainly erroneous, thoughthis fact has never before been pointed out.

We can onlysuppose that, like many another, Espronceda found it difficultto write the date correctly on the first day of a new year. Weshould probably read January 1, 1828. When he assures us inthe poem: "Four times have I here seen the fields robbed oftheir treasure," he is not to be taken literally. Who will begrudgean exiled poet the delight of exaggerating his sufferings?

Five letters written from London to his parents have beenpreserved, thanks to the diligence of the Madrid police whoseized them in his father's house in their eagerness to followthe movements of this dangerous revolutionary. They are thetypical letters of a schoolboy. The writer makes excuses forhis dilatoriness as a correspondent, expresses solicitude for thehealth of his parents, and suggests the need of a speedy remittance.In fact la falta de metálico is the burden of his song.Living is excessively dear in London. So much so that a suitof clothes costs seventeen pounds sterling; but there will be areduction of three pounds if the draft is promptly sent. Heasks that the manuscript of his "Pelayo" be sent to him, as henow has abundant leisure to finish the poem. He asks that theremittances be sent to a new agent whom he designates. Thefirst agent was a brute who refused to aid him to get credit.He wonders that his father should suggest a call upon theSpanish ambassador. Not one word as to his political plans,a discretion for which Don Juan must have thanked him whenthese interesting documents fell into the hands of the police.

We have information that in London Espronceda becamea fencing-master, as many a French émigré had done in thecentury before. This calling brought him in very little. Hemay have profited by the charity fund which the Duke ofWellington had raised to relieve the Spanish emigrados. Hismore pressing needs were satisfied by Antonio Hernáiz, a friendwith whom he had made the journey from Lisbon; but theremittances from home came promptly and regularly, andEspronceda must have been one of the most favored amongthe refugees of Somers Town. If we may take as autobiographicala statement in "Un Recuerdo," he was entertainedfor a time at the country seat of Lord Ruthven, an oldcompanion-in-arms of his father's. Ruthven is not a fictitiousname, as a glance into the peerage will show. During all thistime he was improving his acquaintance with Shakespeare,Milton, Byron, and other English poets. What is more surprisingis that, if we may judge from his subsequent speechesas a deputy, he gained at least a superficial acquaintance withEnglish political thought and became interested in economics.He was a convert to the doctrine of free trade.

Meanwhile the parents, who appear to have formed a badopinion of a land where a suit of clothes cost seventeen pounds,were urging the son to go to France. He himself thought ofHolland as a land combining the advantages of liberty andeconomy. But before leaving London he required a remittanceof four thousand reales. This bad news was broken to thefamily bread-winner, not by José himself, but by his bankerOrense. The debt, it was explained, had been incurred as theresult of a slight illness. The four thousand reales were dulysent in December, but Espronceda lingered in London a fewmonths longer; first because he was tempted by the prospectof a good position which he failed to secure, and second on accountof the impossibility of obtaining a passport to France direct.He finally made his way to Pa