El Estudiante de Salamanca y Otras Selecciones by José de Espronceda - HTML preview
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AND OTHER SELECTIONS
GEORGE TYLER NORTHUP, PH.D.
PROFESSOR OF SPANISH LITERATURE
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
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.
THE LIFE OF ESPRONCEDA
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 Paris via Brussels, from which cityhe writes, March 6, 1829. All this effectually dispels thelegend that he eloped from England with Teresa by way ofCherbourg. The arrival in Paris of the revolutionary fencing-masterput the Madrid police in a flutter. On the seventeenthof that same month the consul in Lisbon had reported thatEspronceda was planning to join General Mina in an attackupon Navarra; and by the middle of April the ambassador toFrance had reported his arrival in Paris. It was then that thebrigadier's papers were seized. Measures were taken to preventEspronceda's receiving passports for the southern provinces ofFrance, and for any other country but England. The friendlyoffices of Charles X, who had succeeded Louis XVIII on thethrone of France, checked for a time the efforts of the patrioticfilibusters. The latter, therefore, must have felt that they wereaiding their own country as well as France when they participatedin the July revolution of 1830. Espronceda fought bravelyfor several days at one of the Paris barricades, and wreakedwhat private grudge he may have had against the house ofBourbon. After the fall of Charles X, Louis Philippe, whomEspronceda was in after years to term el rey mercader, becameking of France. As Ferdinand refused to recognize the newgovernment, the designs of Spanish patriots were not hinderedbut even favored. Espronceda was one of a scant hundredvisionaries who followed General Joaquín de Pablo over thepass of Roncevaux into Navarra. The one hope of success layin winning over recruits on Spanish soil.
De Pablo, who foundhimself facing his old regiment of Volunteers of Navarra, startedto make a harangue. The reply was a salvo of musketry, asa result of which De Pablo fell dead. After some skirmishingmost of his followers found refuge on French soil, among themEspronceda. De Pablo's rout, if less glorious than that ofRoland on the same battlefield, nevertheless inspired a song.Espronceda celebrated his fallen leader's death in the verses"A la Muerte de D. Joaquín de Pablo (Chapalangarra) en losCampos de Vera." This poem, which purports to have beenwritten on one of the peaks of the French Pyrenees whichcommanded a view of Spanish soil, and when the poet wasstrongly impressed by the events in which he had just participated,is nevertheless a weak performance; for Espronceda in1830 was still casting his most impassioned utterances in theclassic mold. Ferdinand had now been taught a lesson andlost little time in recognizing the new régime in France. Thisbit of diplomacy was so cheap and successful that Louis Philippetried it again, this time on Russia. His government favoreda plot, hatched in Paris, for the freeing of Poland. Espronceda,who had not yet had his fill of crack-brained adventures,enlisted in this cause also, desiring to do for Poland whatByron had done for Greece; but the czar, wilier than Ferdinand,immediately recognized Louis Philippe. The plot was thenquietly rendered innocuous.
Espronceda must have felt himselfcruelly sold by the "merchant king."
Espronceda's literary activity was slight during these events,but his transformation into a full-fledged Romanticist begins atthis time. Hugo's "Orientales," which influenced him profoundly,appeared in 1829, and the first performance of"Hernani" was February 25, 1830.
There is no record thathe formed important literary friendships in either England orFrance, but, clannish as the emigrados appear to have been,an impressionable nature like Espronceda's must have been asmuch stirred by the literary as by the political revolutionof 1830; the more so as the great love adventure of his lifeoccurred at this time. The Mancha family followed the other emigrados to London, just when we cannot say. In course oftime Teresa contracted a marriage of convenience with a Spanishmerchant domiciled in London, a certain Gregorio de Bayo.Churchman has discovered the following advertisement in El Emigrado Observador, London, February,1829: "Thedaughters of Colonel Mancha embroider bracelets with thegreatest skill, gaining by this industry the wherewithal to aidtheir honorable indigence." From this it is argued that themarriage to Don Gregorio and the consequent end of the familyindigence must have come later than February, 1829. Esproncedahad met the girl in Lisbon, he may later have resumedthe acquaintance in London. She may or may not be the Elisato whom Delio sings in the
"Serenata." According to BalbinoCortés in an interview reported by Solís, Teresa and her husband,while on a visit to Paris in October, 1831, happened tolodge at the hotel frequented by Espronceda. Shortly afterwardsTeresa deserted her husband and an infant son and eloped withEspronceda. She followed him to Madrid in 1833, wherea daughter, Blanca, was born to them in 1834. Within a yearTeresa abandoned Espronceda and her second child. She sankinto the gutter and died a pauper in 1839. This sordid romanceoccupied only about three years of Espronceda's life, a muchshorter time than had been supposed. Churchman was the firstto break the long conspiracy of silence which withheld from theworld Teresa's full name. Cascales y Muñoz has since thrownmore light upon this episode. But these gentlemen have donenothing more than to tell an open secret. Escosura, long ago,all but betrayed it in the following pun:
"Tendamos el velo deolvido sobre esa lamentable flaqueza de un gran corazón," hesays, referring to the affair with Teresa, "y recordemos, depaso, que el sol mismo, ese astro de luz soberano, tan sublimementecantado por nuestro vate, manchas tiene que si una partede su esplendor anublan, a eclipsarlo no bastan." Señor Cascalespublishes a reproduction of Teresa's portrait. We see a faceof a certain hard beauty. We are struck with the elaboratecoiffure, the high forehead, the long nose, the weak mouth.The expression is unamiable. It is the face of a termagantready to abandon husband and child. Espronceda seems tohave returned to England for a brief period in 1832, as wemay infer from the fact that the poem "A Matilde" is datedLondon, 1832. Corroboration of this belief was discovered byChurchman, who found that the paper on which "Blanca deBorbón" was written shows the water-mark of an English firmof that date.
In 1833 Ferdinand VII died, and his daughter Isabel IIascended to the throne under the regency of her mother Cristina.As the conservatives espoused the cause of the pretender,Don Carlos, the regency was forced to favor the liberals. Therigid press censorship was abolished, and a general amnestywas granted all the victims of Ferdinand's tyranny. In politicsthe year 1833 marks the beginning of the Carlist war, andin literature of Spanish Romanticism. Espronceda was one ofmany emigrados who returned to Spain, bringing with them newideas for the revitalizing of Spanish literature. He did not arrivesoon enough to see his aged father. Brigadier Espronceda'sdeath certificate is dated January 10, 1833.
Shortly after José's arrival he joined the fashionable Guardiade Corps or royal guard regiment.
This step, apparently soinconsistent with his revolutionary activities, has puzzled all hisbiographers. But Espronceda was only following the familytradition. His elder brother had done the same. Doubtless hebelieved, in his first enthusiasm, that Spain was now completelyliberalized. Besides, he was a dandy always eager for socialdistinction, and he had to live down the fact that his motherwas proprietress of an establecimiento de coches. The conductof his fellow-Numantino, Escosura, who had found it possibleto accept a commission under Ferdinand, is far more surprising.Espronceda's snobbishness, if he had any, cannot have beenextreme, for he took up residence with his mother over theaforementioned livery stable, in the Calle de San Miguel.Teresa was prudently lodged under another roof. Doña Carmenwas as indulgent as ever, and especially desirous that her sondress in the most fashionable clothes procurable. What withher rent from the house, her widow's pension, and the yield ofher business venture, she was comfortably circumstanced.When Teresa abandoned the child Blanca, Doña Carmenbecame a mother to her. When Doña Carmen died in 1840everything went to her son.
Espronceda's career as a guardsman was brief. As a resultof reading a satirical poem at a public banquet, he was cashieredand banished to the town of Cuéllar in Old Castile. There hewrote his
"Sancho Saldaña o el Castellano de Cuéllar,"a historical novel in the manner of Walter Scott, describing thequarrels of Sancho el Bravo with his father Alfonso X. Thissix-volume work was contracted for in 1834 and completed andpublished the same year. For writing it the author receivedsix thousand reales. Many writers in Spain were striving torival the Wizard of the North at this time. Ramón López Solerhad set the fashion in 1830 with "Los Bandos de Castilla."Larra's "Doncel de Don Enrique el Doliente" appeared in thesame year with "Sancho Saldaña." But Espronceda wasprobably most influenced by his friend Escosura, who hadprinted his "Conde de Candespina" in 1832. The latter's besteffort in this genre, "Ni Rey ni Roque,"
1835, was writtenwhen its author was undergoing banishment for political reasonsin a corner of Andalusia. To employ the enforced leisure ofpolitical exile in writing a historical novel was quite the properthing to do. The banishment to Cuéllar must have taken placein late 1833 or early 1834, for Espronceda's novel is unquestionablyinspired by his enforced visit to that town, and the contractwith his publisher is dated in Madrid, February 5, 1834. Onreading the contract it is apparent that the novel had hardlybeen begun then, as it was to be paid for in installments.Whether it was written mostly in Cuéllar or Madrid we do notknow and care little.
In January of that year El Siglo wasfounded, a radical journal with which Espronceda was prominentlyconnected. During the brief existence of this incendiarysheet (January 21 until March 7) Espronceda contributed to itseveral political articles. The last issue came out almost whollyblank as an object lesson of the censor's activity. There followa few months of agitation and political intrigue, the upshot ofwhich was Espronceda's imprisonment for three weeks withouttrial. After protesting in the press and appealing to the queenregent, he was released and banished to Badajoz. How longhe was absent from the capital we do not know, except thatthis banishment, like the others, was of short duration. Duringall this commotion there was produced at the Teatro de la Cruz,in April, an indifferent play, "Ni el Tío ni el Sobrino," whoseauthors were Espronceda and his friend Antonio Ros y Olano.It is difficult to paint anything but a confused picture ofEspronceda's life during the remaining years of this decade.We catch glimpses of him debating questions of art and politicsat cafés and literary tertulias like the Parnasillo, where MesoneroRomanos saw him faultlessly attired and "darting epigramsagainst everything existing, past, and future." Córdoba in hismemoirs bears witness that he was still the buscarruidos of old.Espronceda with Larra, Escosura, Ros De Olano, and Córdobaconstituted the "Thunder Band" of the Parnasillo ( partida deltrueno). After a long literary discussion they would sally forthinto the streets, each armed with a peashooter and on mischiefbent. A favorite prank was to tie a chestnut vender's table toa waiting cab and then watch the commotion which followedwhen the cab started to move. On one occasion, finding theDuke of Alba's coachman asleep on the box, they painted theyellow coach red, so altering it that the very owner failed torecognize it when he left the house where he had been calling.In politics Espronceda is always a leader in revolt, fightingwith pen and sword for his none-too-clearly-defined principles.Even the Mendizábal ministry, the most advanced that Spainhas ever had, does not satisfy him. His ideal is a republic andthe downfall of "the spurious race of Bourbon." His loveaffairs are equally stormy. In literature he is attemptingeverything, plays, a novel, polemical articles, lyric poems, andone supreme work which is to be the very epic of humanity.
In 1835 Espronceda became an officer in the NationalMilitia. In August of that year the militiamen were defeatedin an unsuccessful revolt against the Toreno ministry. In 1836he was equally unfortunate in a revolt against the Istúrizministry. It was then, when pursued by the police, that a friendsecreted him in the safest possible place, the home of a highpolice official.
Espronceda employed his leisure hours in thisrefuge by writing "El Mendigo" and "El Verdugo."
Twoyears later he traveled extensively through Andalusia engagedin revolutionary propaganda.
He was probably trying to bringabout a republican form of government. In September, 1838,his play "Amor venga sus agravios," written in collaborationwith Eugenio Moreno López, was produced at the Teatro delPríncipe. Its success was moderate. The next year, while inGranada, he and his friend Santos Álvarez were guests ofhonor at a literary soirée. Espronceda's contribution was thereading of "El Estudiante de Salamanca." This poem was firstprinted, at least in part, in La Alhambra for 1839. The greatpolitical event of this year was the ending of the first Carlistwar. The victories of the national troops were celebrated bya huge public demonstration in Madrid on the national holiday,May 2, 1840. For this occasion Espronceda wrote his patrioticpoem "El Dos de Mayo." Only three days later his volume of"Poesías" was placed on sale, and, like Byron, he awoke tofind himself famous. His old teacher Lista wrote a favorablereview. From then on Espronceda was a man of note. TheMadrid revolution of September 1 forced an unwilling regentto make Espartero, hero of the Carlist war, prime minister. Aradical sheet, El Huracán, was accused of attacking Cristinaand of advocating republicanism. Espronceda, though nota lawyer, was chosen to defend the journal. This he did withcomplete success. His speech has not come down to us, butwe are told that in it he appeared in the rôle of an uncompromisingrepublican.
Nevertheless he was soon to compromise. He was nowa man of mark, and the liberal régime in power were not slowto see that it would be advantageous to enlist his services. InNovember, 1841, he accepted an appointment to serve as secretaryto the Spanish legation at the Hague. He served in thiscapacity exactly five days. Arriving at the Hague on January29, 1842, he departed for Madrid on February 3. A certainCarrasco had been elected deputy of the province of Almería.He was now urged to resign to make room for Espronceda.This he did, and Espronceda was elected and served in his stead.Of course all this had been prearranged. After his return hecontinued to hold his diplomatic position and receive pay for it,a not very honorable course on the part of one who pled soeloquently for the abolition of useless offices and the reform ofthe diplomatic service. In this way the Espartero governmentconciliated Espronceda with two offices. Henceforth his republicanismwas lukewarm. Escosura tells us that concern forhis daughter Blanca's financial future had rendered him prudent.
I am inclined to think that Espronceda's biographers underratehis services in the Chamber of Deputies. The trouble isthat in his rôle of deputy their hero failed to justify preconceivednotions regarding his character. Those who looked for revolutionin his speeches found only sound finance. We seek in vainfor anything subversive. There is nothing suggestive of thelyric poet or even of the fiery defender of El Huracán. As apoet he had praised the destructive fury of the Cossacks whoswept away decadent governments. In defending El Huracán he had used the word Cossack as a term of reproach, applyingit to those self-seeking politicians who were devouring thepublic funds. By this time he had himself become a Cossackon a small scale. Yet we must do him the justice to point outthat he had had sufficient firmness of principle to refuse officeunder Mendizábal, Istúriz, and the Duque de Rivas. Fitzmaurice-Kellyis possibly going too far in intimating that he wasdegenerating into a hidebound conservative and opportunist.Something of the old reforming zeal survived. Though manydisillusionments may have rendered him less eager for arepublican form of government, his latest utterances show himzealous as ever for social and economic reform. Espronceda'sparliamentary career lasted less than three months (March 1 toMay 23, 1842). One can only wonder that in so brief a timea man already stricken with a fatal illness should have takenso able a part in an assembly in which he was a newcomer.Nor should we complain that his speeches lack eloquence. Itis fairer to give him credit for not falling into the abuse of palabrería, the besetting sin of most diputados.
His views were sober and sound. Travel had given hima wider outlook than most of his colleagues possessed. He wasthe enemy of españolismo, wanted his nation to take a prominentpart in European affairs, and no longer to lead the life ofa hermit nation. But he is no jingo. He speaks against thebill to add fifty thousand to the standing army. Spain hadpassed through too many upheavals. What she needed tomake her a European power was tranquility and opportunityto develop financial strength. Give the producing classes theirlong-awaited innings.
But he is bitter against the magnates ofthe bourse and those politicians who legislate to produce anartificial rise in values. The true policy is to better the conditionof the masses, to encourage agriculture and manufactures:even the construction of railways should wait until there is firstsomething to haul over them. But manufactures should not beprotected by a tariff. In his speech against the tariff on cottonhe shows himself an out and out free-trader. He praises theEnglish for their policy of free trade, enlightened self-interesthe deems it, which tends to make the world one large family.As a writer he had inveighed against commercialism. But henow discerns a future where commerce shall replace war. Hewas unable to foresee that in the future trade was to be achief cause of war.
That he was a ready debater is shown by his neat rejoinderto Deputy Fontán. This gentleman had made sneering allusionsto men of letters who dabbled in diplomacy. Far from acceptingthe remark as a thrust at himself, as it was intended, Esproncedaresented it as an insult to the then American ministerWashington Irving, "novelist of the first rank, known inEurope through his writings even more than through thebrilliancy of his diplomatic career."
Espronceda's health had been failing for some months. Itis said that chronic throat trouble had so weakened his voiceas to make his remarks in the Cortés scarcely audible. OnMay 18, 1842, he journeyed on horseback to Aranjuez to visitDoña Bernarda Beruete, a young lady to whom he was thenengaged. Hastily returning to Madrid on the afternoon of thesame day, so as not to miss a night session of the Cortés, hecontracted a cold which soon turned into a fatal bronchitis.Others say he was taken ill at a reception given by Espartero.He died May 23, 1842, at the early age of 34. He washonored with a public funeral in keeping with his position asdeputy and distinguished man of letters. His first place ofburial was the cemetery of San Nicolás; but in 1902 hisremains, together with those of Larra, were exhumed andreburied in the Pantheon for Distinguished Men of the NineteenthCentury, situated in the Patio de Santa Gertrudis in theCementerio de la Sacramental de San Justo.
In forming our estimate of the man, we must carefullydistinguish between the Espronceda of legend and the Esproncedaof fact; for a legend sprang up during his own lifetime,largely the result of his own self-defamation. Like many otherRomanticists, Espronceda affected a reputation for diabolism.He loved to startle the bourgeois, to pose as atheist, rake,deposer of tyrants. Escosura sums up this aspect of hischaracter by branding him "a hypocrite of vice."
Many havebeen led astray by Ferrer del Río's statement that in drawingthe character of the seducer, Don Félix de Montemar, Esproncedawas painting his own portrait. Such criticism would havedelighted Espronceda, but the imputation was indignantlydenied by his close friend Escosura. Modern critics are carefulto avoid this extreme; but, in the delight of supporting aparadox, some are disposed to go too far in the opposite direction.Señor Cascales, for instance, is unconvincing when heseeks to exonerate Espronceda from all blame in the Teresaepisode.
Like the devil, Espronceda was not so black as hewas painted, not so black as he painted himself; but he wasfar from being a Joseph. It is easy to minimize the importanceof the part he played in the national militia. Doubtless muchof his plotting was puerile and melodramatic. His activities asa revolutionist cannot have greatly affected the course of events.But it is unfair to deny him credit for constant willingness torisk his life in any cause which seemed noble. That his conductwas inconsistent merely proves that he followed no calmlyreasoned political system.
He reflects in his conduct theheated sentiment of the time, varying as it did from day today. He sometimes compromised with his ideals, his sense ofhonor was not always of the highest, but he never seems tohave grown lukewarm in his desire to serve the people. Heis a liberal to the last, a liberal with notions of political economyand English constitutional practice. His quarrel with the churchseems to have been political rather than theological. He hatedthe friars and the church's alliance with Carlism. That thelast rites were administered to him shows that he died a professingCatholic. In appearance Espronceda was handsome,if somewhat too effeminate-looking to suggest the fire-eater.He never cultivated slovenliness of attire like most membersof the Romantic school; on the contrary, he was the leadingrepresentative in Spain of dandyism. To sum up, Espronceda'swas a tempestuous and very imperfect character. "Siemprefuí el juego de mis pasiones," is his own self-analysis. Thebest that can be said of him is that he was a warm, affectionatenature, generous, charitable to the poor, a loyal friend, and oneactuated by noble, if sometimes mistaken, ideals. Years afterward,when Escosura passed in review the little circle of theColegio de San Mateo, Espronceda was the only one of themwhom he could truly say he loved.
THE WORKS OF ESPRONCEDA
Of all the Spanish poets of the period of Romanticism,Espronceda is the most commanding figure. Piñeyro, adoptingEmerson's phrase, calls him the Representative Man of thatage of literary and political revolt. More than that, criticism isunanimous in considering him Spain's greatest lyric poet of thenineteenth century.
First of all he interests as the poet of democracy. TheRomantic poets were no more zealous seekers for politicalliberalism than the classic poets of the previous generation hadbeen; but their greater subjectivity and freedom of expressionrendered their appeal more vigorous. Espronceda's hatred forabsolutism was so intense that in moments of excitement hebecame almost anti-social.
The pirate, the beggar, the Cossack,were his heroes. The love of this dandy for the lower classescannot be dismissed as mere pose. He keenly sympathizedwith the oppressed, and felt that wholesale destruction mustprecede the work of construction. We look in vain for areasoned political philosophy in his volcanic verse. His outpouringswere inspired by the irresponsible ravings of groupsof café radicals, and the point of view constantly changed aspublic sentiment veered. According to his lights he is alwaysa patriot. Liberty and democracy are his chief desires.
Like most Romanticists, Espronceda was intensely subjective.He interests by his frank display of his inner moods. Bonilla,in his illuminating article "El Pensamiento de Espronceda,"states that the four essential points in the philosophy of Romanticismwere: doubt, the first principle of thought; sorrow, thepositive reality of life; pleasure, the world's illusion; death,the negation of the will to live. Espronceda shared all of theseideas. It is often impossible to say how much of his sufferingis a mere Byronic pose, and how much comes from the reactionof an intensely sensitive nature to the hard facts of existence.There is evidence that he never lost the zest of living; but inhis writings he appears as one who has been completely disillusionizedby literature, love, politics, and every experience oflife. Truth is the greatest of evils, because truth is always sad;"mentira," on the other hand, is merciful and kind. He carriesdoubt so far that he doubts his very doubts. Such a philosophyshould logically lead to quietism. That pessimism did not inthe case of Espronceda bring inaction makes one suspect thatit was largely affected. There is nothing profound in this verycommonplace philosophy of despair. It is the conventionalattitude of hosts of Romanticists who did little but re-echo the Vanitas vanitatum of the author of Ecclesiastes.
Espronceda'sthought is too shallow to entitle him to rank high as a philosophicpoet. In this respect he is inferior even to Campoamorand Núñez de Arce. Genuine world-weariness is the outgrowthof a more complex civilization than that of Spain. Far frombeing a Leopardi, Espronceda may nevertheless be consideredthe leading Spanish exponent of the taedium vitae.
He haseloquently expressed this commonplace and conventional attitudeof mind.
Like so many other writers of the Latin race, Espronceda ismore admirable for the form in which he clothed his thoughtsthan for those thoughts themselves. He wrote little and carefully.He is remarkable for his virtuosity, his harmonioushandling of the most varied meters. He never, like Zorrilla,produces the effect of careless improvisation. In the matter ofpoetic form Espronceda has been the chief inspiration of Spanishpoets down to the advent of Rubén Darío. Fitzmaurice-Kelly,with his happy knack of hitting off an author's characteristicsin a phrase, says: "He still stirs us with his elemental force,his resonant musical potency of phrase, his communicativeardor for noble causes."
Much harm has been done Espronceda's reputation fororiginality by those critics who fastened upon him the name of"the Spanish Byron." Nothing could be more unjust thanto consider him the slavish imitator of a single author. Inliterature, as in love, there is safety in numbers, and the writerwho was influenced by Calderón, Tasso, Milton, Goethe,Béranger, Hugo, Shakespeare, and Scott was no mere satelliteto Byron. Señor Cascales is so sensitive on the point that he isscarcely willing to admit that Byron exerted any influencewhatsoever upon Espronceda. The truth is that Byron didinfluence Espronceda profoundly, as Churchman has sufficientlyproved by citing many instances of borrowings from the Englishpoet, where resemblance in matters of detail is wholly conclusive;but it is another matter to assert that Espronceda wasalways Byronic or had no originality of his own.
In considering Espronceda's writings in detail, we needconcern ourselves little with his dramatic and prose writings.The quickest road to literary celebrity was the writing ofa successful play.
Espronceda seems never to have completelyrelinquished the hope of achieving such a success.
His firstattempt was a three-act verse comedy, "Ni el Tío ni elSobrino" (1834), written in collaboration with Antonio Ros deOlano. Larra censured it for its insipidity and lack of plan.
Amore ambitious effort was "Amor venga sus agravios" (1838),written in collaboration with Eugenio Moreno López. This wasa five-act costume play, in prose, portraying the life at thecourt of Philip IV. It was produced without regard to expense,but with indifferent success.
Espronceda's most ambitious playwas never staged, and has only recently become easily accessible:this was "Blanca de Borbón," a historical drama of thetimes of Peter the Cruel in five acts, in verse. The first twoacts were written in Espronceda's early Classic manner; thelast three, written at a later period, are Romantic in tone.The influence of "Macbeth" is apparent. "Blanca de Borbón"could never be a success on the stage. The verse, too, is notworthy of the author.
Espronceda was too impetuous a writerto comply with the restrictions of dramatic technique.
Thedramatic passages in "El Estudiante de Salamanca" and "ElDiablo Mundo" are his best compositions in dialogue.
"Sancho Saldaña" is Espronceda's most important prosework. It is a historical novel of the thirteenth century, writtenfrankly in imitation of Walter Scott's Waverley Novels. Theromance contains many tiresome descriptions of scenery, anddrags along tediously as most old-fashioned novels did. ButEspronceda had none of Sir Walter's archaeological erudition,none of his ability to seize the characteristics of an epoch, andabove all none of his skill as a creator of interesting characters.The personages in "Sancho Saldaña" fail to interest. Themost that can be said of the work is that among the numerousimitations of Scott's novels which appeared at the time it isneither the best nor the worst. Of his shorter prose worksonly two, "De Gibraltar a Lisboa, viaje histórico" and "UnRecuerdo," are easily accessible. They are vivid portrayals ofcertain episodes of his exile, and may still be read with interest.His most important polemical work is
"El Ministerio Mendizábal"(Madrid, 1836). In this screed we find the fiery radicalattacking as unsatisfactory the ultra-liberal Mendizábal. Thisand shorter political articles interest the historian and thebiographer, but hardly count as literature. His rare attemptsat literary criticism have even less value.
Espronceda shows true greatness only as a lyric poet. Forspirit and perfection of form what could be more perfect thanthe "Canción del Pirata"? Like Byron in the "Corsair," heextols the lawless liberty of the buccaneer. Byron was herehis inspiration rather than Hugo. The "Chanson de Pirates"cannot stand comparison with either work. But Espronceda'sindebtedness to Byron was in this case very slight. He hasmade the theme completely his own. "El Mendigo" and"El Canto del Cosaco," both anarchistic in sentiment, wereinspired by Béranger. Once more Espronceda has improvedupon his models, "Les Gueux" and "Le Chant du Cosaque."Compare Espronceda's refrain in the "Cossack Song" withBéranger's in the work which suggested it:
¡Hurra, Cosacos del desierto! ¡Hurra!
La Europa os brinda espléndido botín
Sangrienta charca sus campiñas sean,
De los grajos su ejército festín.
Hennis d'orgueil, o mon coursier fidèle!
Et foule aux pieds les peuples et les rois.
The "Canto del Cosaco" was a prime favorite with the revolutionaryyouth of Spain, who thundered out the "hurras"with telling effect. "El Reo de Muerte" and "El Verdugo" arein a similar vein, though much inferior. "Serenata," "A laNoche," "El Pescador" (reminiscent of Goethe), "A unaEstrella," and "A una Rosa, soneto" are lighter works. Theymake up in grace what they lack in vigor. "El Himno al Sol"is the most perfect example of Espronceda's Classic manner,and is rightly considered one of his masterpieces. It challengescomparison with the Duque de Rivas' very similar poem. Ofthe numerous patriotic poems "Al Dos de Mayo" and "A laPatria" deserve especial mention. He attempted satire in "ElPastor Clasiquino," recently reprinted by Le Gentil from"El Artista." In this poem he assails academic poetry like thatproduced by his old fellow-academicians of the Myrtle. Itbetrays the peevishness of a Romanticist writing when Romanticismwas already on the wane.
"El Diablo Mundo," Espronceda's most ambitious work, iscommonly considered his masterpiece; an unfinished masterpiece,however. Even if death had spared him, it is doubtful if hecould have finished so all-embracing a theme as he proposed:
Nada menos te ofrezco que un poema
Con lances raros y revuelto asunto,
De nuestro mundo y sociedad emblema....
Fiel traslado ha de ser, cierto trasunto
De la vida del hombre y la quimera
Tras de que va la humanidad entera.
Batallas, tempestades, amoríos,
Por mar y tierra, lances, descripciones
De campos y ciudades, desafíos,
Y el desastre y furor de las pasiones,
Goces, dichas, aciertos, desvaríos,
Con algunas morales reflexiones
Acerca de la vida y de la muerte,
De mi propia cosecha, que es mi fuerte.
Adam, hero of the epic, is introduced in Canto I as an agedscholar disillusioned with life, but dreading the proximity ofDeath, with whom he converses in a vision. The Goddess ofLife grants him the youth of Faust and the immortality of theWandering Jew. Unlike either, he has the physical and mentalcharacteristics of an adult joined to the naïveté of a child. InCanto III Adam appears in a casa de huéspedes, naked and poor,oblivious of the past, without the use of language, with longingsfor liberty and action. Here his disillusionment begins. Hisnakedness shocks public morality; and the innocent Adam whois hostile to nobody, and in whom the brilliant spectacle ofnature produces nothing but rejoicing, receives blows, stonings,and imprisonment from his neighbors. Childlike he touchesthe bayonet of one of his captors, and is wounded. Thissymbolizes the world's hostility to the innocent. In Canto IVwe find Adam in prison. His teachers are criminals. He wasborn for good; society instructs him in evil. In Canto V
heexperiences love with the manola Salada, but sees in this passionnothing but impurity. He longs for higher things. Circumstancesabase him to crime. He joins a band of burglars, and,falling in love with the lady whose house they are pillaging,protects her against the gang. In Canto VI he continues alonghis path of sorrow. He enters a house where a beautiful girlis dying, while in another room revelers are making merry.This leads him to speculate on life's mysteries and to reasonfor himself. The poem ends where Adam has become thoroughlysophisticated. He is now like any other man.
Evidently it was the poet's intention to make Adam gothrough a series of adventures in various walks of life, everywhereexperiencing disillusionment. In spite of the elaborateprospectus quoted above, we may agree with Piñeyro that thepoet started writing with only the haziest outline planned beforehand.Espronceda frankly reveals to us his methods of poeticcomposition:
¡Oh cómo cansa el orden! no hay locura
Igual a la del lógico severo.
Terco escribo en mi loco desvarío
Sin ton ni són, y para gusto mío....
Sin regla ni compás canta mi lira:
Sólo mi ardiente corazón me inspira!
"El Diablo Mundo" is no mere imitation of Byron's "DonJuan" and Goethe's "Faust," though the influence of each ismarked. It has numerous merits and originalities of its own.Inferior as Espronceda is to Byron in wit and to Goethe indepth, he can vie with either as a harmonious versifier.
The philosophy of "El Diablo Mundo" is the commonplacepessimism of Romanticism. The following excerpt shows howthe author's skepticism leads him to doubt his very doubts;hence his return to a questioning acceptance of Christianity:
Las creencias que abandonas,
Los templos, las religiones
Que pasaron, y que luego
Por mentira reconoces,
¿Son quizá menos mentira
Que las que ahora te forges?
¿No serán tal vez verdades
Los que tú juzgas errores?
Canto II of "El Diablo Mundo" consists of the poem "ATeresa. Descansa en Paz." This has not the slightest connectionwith the rest of the poem, and can only be understood asa separate unity.
It is included in the present collection becauseit is the supreme expression of our poet's subjective method.As such it stands in excellent contrast to "El Estudiante deSalamanca," which is purely objective. No reader knowsEspronceda who has read merely his objective poems.
Forself-revelation "A Jarifa en una Orgía" alone may be comparedwith "A Teresa." We may agree with Escosura that Esproncedais here giving vent to his rancor rather than to his grief,that it is the menos hidalgo of all his writings. But for once wemay be sure that the poet is writing under the stress of genuineemotion. For once he is free from posing.
"THE STUDENT OF SALAMANCA"
"El Estudiante de Salamanca" represents the synthesis oftwo well-known Spanish legends, the Don Juan Tenorio legendand the Miguel Mañara legend. The first of these may bebriefly stated as follows: Don Juan Tenorio was a youngaristocrat of Seville famous for his dissolute life, a gambler,blasphemer, duelist, and seducer of women. Among numerousother victims, he deceives Doña Ana de Ulloa, daughter of theComendador de Ulloa. The latter challenges Don Juan toa duel, and falls. Later Don Juan enters the church where theCommander lies buried and insults his stone statue, after whichhe invites the statue to sup with him that night. At midnightDon Juan and his friends are making merry when a knock isheard at the door and the stone guest enters.
Don Juan, whodoes not lose his bravery even in the presence of the supernatural,plays the host, maintaining his air of insulting banter.At the end of the evening the guest departs, offering to repaythe hospitality the following night if Don Juan will visit histomb at midnight. Though friends try to dissuade him, DonJuan fearlessly accepts the invitation. At the appointed hourhe visits the tomb. Flames emerge from it, and Don Juan paysthe penalty of his misdeeds, dying without confession.
This is the outline of the story as told by Tirso de Molinain "El Burlador de Sevilla o el Convidado de Piedra." Thesame theme has been treated by Molière, Goldoni, Mozart,Byron, and Zorrilla, to mention but a few of the hundreds ofwriters who have utilized it. In the hands of non-Spanishwriters the character of Don Juan loses the greater part of itsessential nobility. To them Don Juan is the type of libertineand little more. He was a prime favorite with those Romanticistswho, like Gautier, felt "Il est indécent et mauvais tond'être vertueux." But as conceived in Spain Don Juan's libertinageis wholly subsidiary and incidental. He is a supermanwhose soaring ambition mounts so high that earth cannotsatisfy it. The bravest may be permitted to falter in the presenceof the supernatural; but Don Juan fears neither heavennor hell.
His bravery transcends all known standards, and thisone virtue, though it does not save him from hell, redeemshim in popular esteem.
Don Félix de Montemar is the typical Don Juan type, alibertine, gambler, blasphemer, heartless seducer, but superhumanlybrave. Yet the plot of Espronceda's poem bearscloser resemblance to the story told of Miguel Mañara.
Miguel Mañara (often erroneously spelled Maraña) Vicentelode Leca (1626-1679) was an alderman ( veintecuatro) of Sevilleand a knight of Calatrava. As a youth his character resembledthat of Don Juan. One day some hams sent to him from thecountry were intercepted by the customs. He started out topunish the offending officers, but on the way repented andthenceforth led a virtuous life. In 1661, after his wife's death,he entered the Hermandad de la Caridad, later becomingsuperior of that order. In his will he endowed the brotherhoodwith all his wealth and requested that he be buried under thethreshold of the chapel of San Jorge. His sole epitaph was tobe "Here repose the bones and ashes of the worst man whoever existed in the world." Don Miguel's biography was writtenby his friend the Jesuit Juan de Cardeñas and was added toby Diego López de Haro, "Breve relación de la muerte, de lavida y virtudes de Don Miguel de Mañara," Seville, 1680.
There soon sprang up a legend around the name of Mañara.He is said to have fallen in love with the statue on the Giraldatower. On one occasion the devil gave him a light for his cigar,reaching across the Guadalquivir to do so. Again, he pursueda woman into the very cathedral, forcibly pulled aside hermantilla and discovered a skeleton. Yet more surprising, hewas present, when still alive, at his own funeral in the Churchof Santiago. But these stories associated with the name ofMañara are much older than he. Antonio de Torquemada,"Jardín de Flores Curiosas,"
Salamanca, 1570, tells of an unnamedknight who fell in love with a nun. He enters her conventwith false keys only to find a funeral in progress. On inquiringthe name of the deceased, he is told that it is himself. He thenruns home pursued by two devils in the form of dogs who tearhim to pieces after he has made pious repentance. CristóbalBravo turned this story into verse, Toledo, 1572. One or otherof these versions appears to have been the source of Zorrilla's"El Capitán Montoya." Gaspar Cristóbal Lozano, "Soledadesde la Vida y Desengaños del Mundo"
(Madrid, 1663), tells thesame story, and is the first to name hero and heroine, Lisardoand Teodora. Lozano, too, is the first to make the maleprotagonist a Salamanca student. Lozano's version inspiredtwo ballads entitled "Lisardo el Estudiante de Córdova." Thesewere reprinted by Durán, Romancero general, Vol. I, pp. 264-268,where they are readily accessible.
This ballad of Lisardo the Student of Cordova was undoubtedlyEspronceda's main source in writing "The Studentof Salamanca," and to it he refers in line 2 with the words antiguas historias cuentan. Yet the indebtedness was small.Espronceda took from the ballad merely the idea of makingthe hero of the adventure a Salamanca student, and the episodeof a man witnessing his own funeral. Needless to say Espronceda'sfinished versification owed nothing to the halting meterof the original. Lisardo, a Salamanca student, though a nativeof Cordova, falls in love with Teodora, sister of a friend,Claudio. Teodora is soon to become a nun. One night hemakes love to her and is only mildly rebuked. But a ghostlyswordsman warns him that he will be slain if he does notdesist. Nevertheless he continues his wooing in spite of thefact that Teodora has become a nun. She agrees to elope.While on his way to the convent to carry out this design, hisattention is attracted by a group of men attacking an individual.This individual proves to be himself, Lisardo. Lisardo, then,witnesses his own murder and subsequent funeral obsequies.This warning is too terrible not to heed. He gives over hisattempt at seduction and leads an exemplary life.
There are many other examples in the literature of Spain ofthe man who sees his own funeral.
Essentially the same storyis told by Lope de Vega, "El Vaso de Elección. San Pablo."Bévotte thinks that Mérimée in "Les Ames du purgatoire" wasthe first to combine the Don Juan and the Miguel de Mañaralegends, so closely alike in spirit, into a single work. But SaidArmesto finds this fusion already accomplished in a seventeenth-centuryplay, "El Niño Diablo." Dumas owed much toMérimée in writing his allegorical play "Don Juan de Maraña,"first acted April 30, 1836.
This became immediately popularin Spain. A mutilated Spanish version appeared, Tarragona,1838, Imprenta de Chuliá. It is doubtful whether Esproncedaowes anything to either of these French works, although bothworks contain gambling scenes very similar to that in whichDon Félix de Montemar intervened. In the Dumas play DonJuan stakes his mistress in a game, as Don Félix did his mistress'sportrait. It seems likely that Espronceda derived hiswhole inspiration for this scene from Moreto's "San Francode Sena," which he quotes.
The legend of the man who sees his own funeral belongs tothe realm of folk-lore. Like superstitions are to be foundwherever the Celtic race has settled. In Spain they are especiallyprevalent in Galicia and Asturias. There the estantigua or "ancient enemy" appears to those soon to die. These spirits,or almas en pena, appear wearing winding-sheets, bearingcandles, a cross, and a bier on which a corpse is lying. DonQuijote in attacking the funeral procession probably thoughthe had to do with the estantigua. Furthermore, Said Armestoin his illuminating study "La Leyenda de Don Juan" provesthat the custom of saying requiem masses for the living wasvery ancient in Spain. One recalls, too, how Charles V inhis retirement at Yuste rehearsed his own funeral, actuallyentering the coffin while mass was being said.
Of all Espronceda's poems "El Estudiante de Salamanca"is the most popular. It has a unity and completeness lackingin both the "Pelayo" and "El Diablo Mundo." Every poetof the time was busy composing leyendas. Espronceda attemptedthis literary form but once, yet of all the numerous "legends"written in Spain this is the most fitted to survive. Nowhereelse has the poet shown equal virtuosity in the handling ofunusual meters. Nowhere among his works is there greatervariety or harmony of verse. Though not the most serious,this is the most pleasing of his poems. Espronceda follows theHoratian precept of starting his story "in the middle of things."In the first part he creates the atmosphere of the uncanny,introduces the more important characters, and presents a strikingsituation. Part Second, the most admired, is elegiac innature. It pleases by its simple melancholy. This part and thedramatic tableau of Part Three explain the cause of the duelwith which Part One begins. Part Four resumes the thread ofthe narration where it was broken off in Part One, and endswith the Dance of Death which forms the climax of the whole.The character of Don Félix de Montemar is vigorously drawn.Originality cannot be claimed for it, as it is the conventionalDon Juan Tenorio type. The character of Doña Elvira hardlymerits the high praise of Spanish critics. She is a compositeportrait of Ophelia, Marguerite, and two of Byron's characters,Doña Julia and Haidée, a shadowy, unreal creation, as ghostly inlife as in death. "The Student of Salamanca" tells a story vigorouslyand sweetly. It does not abound in quotable passageslike the "Diablo Mundo." It is neither philosophic nor introspective.It teaches no lesson. Its merit is its perfection of form.
The best biography of Espronceda is that of José Cascalesy Muñoz, "D. José de Espronceda, su época, su vida y susobras," Madrid, 1914. This is an expansion of the sameauthor's "Apuntes y Materiales para la Biografía de Espronceda," Revue hispanique, Vol. XXIII, pp. 5-108. See alsoa shorter article by the same author in La España Moderna,Vol. CCXXXIV, pp. 27-48. Less critical, but useful, isAntonio Cortón, "Espronceda," Madrid, 1906. The veryuncritical book by E. Rodríguez Solís, "Espronceda: su tiempo,su vida y sus obras," Madrid, 1883, is chiefly valuable now asthe best source for Espronceda's parliamentary speeches.J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly's
"Espronceda," The Modern LanguageReview, Vol. IV, pp, 20-39, is admirable as a biography anda criticism, though partially superseded by later works containingthe results of new discoveries. P.H. Churchman, "Byronand Espronceda," Revue hispanique, Vol. XX, pp. 5-210,gives a short biography, though the study is in the main apenetrating investigation of Espronceda's sources. E. Piñeyrohas written two articles on Espronceda: "Poetas Famosos delSiglo XIX," Madrid, 1883, and "El Romanticismo en España,"Paris, 1904. This last was first printed in the Bulletin hispanique for 1903. The older biography of D.A. Ferrer del Río,"Galería de la Literatura," Madrid, 1846, still has a certainvalue; but the most important source for Espronceda's youthfuladventures is "El Discurso del Excmo. Señor D. Patriciode la Escosura, individuo de número de la Academia Española,leído ante esta corporación en la sesión pública inaugural de1870," Madrid, 1870. This matter is expanded in five veryimportant articles which appeared in "La Ilustración Españolay Americana" for 1876 (February 8, February 22, June 22,July 8, September 22), partially reproduced in the book ofCascales y Muñoz. See also López Núñez, "José de Espronceda,Biografía Anecdótica," Madrid, 1917 and A. Donoso,"La Juventud de Espronceda," Revista Chilena, July, 1917.The best study of Espronceda's philosophy is Bonilla y SanMartín's, "El Pensamiento de Espronceda," La EspañaModerna, Vol. CCXXXIV.
For a recent short article seeCejador y Frauca, "Historia de la Lengua y Literatura Castellana,"VII, Madrid, 1917, PP. 177-185.
The best bibliography of Espronceda's writings is that ofChurchman, "An Espronceda Bibliography," Revue hispanique,XVII, pp. 741-777. This should be supplemented by referenceto Georges Le Gentil, "Les Revues littéraires de l'Espagnependant la première moitié du XIXe siècle," Paris, 1909. Theleast bad edition of Espronceda's poems is "Obras Poéticas yEscritos en Prosa," Madrid, 1884. (The second volume, whichwas to contain the prose writings, never appeared.) See alsothe "Obras Poéticas de Espronceda," Valladolid, 1900, and"Espronceda," Barcelona, 1906. Also "Páginas Olvidadas deEspronceda," Madrid, 1873.
There has been a recent reprintof "Sancho Saldaña," Madrid, 1914, Repullés. Churchman haspublished "Blanca de Borbón," Revue hispanique, Vol. XVII,and also "More Inedita" in the same volume. There is saidto be an English translation of "The Student of Salamanca,"London, 1847. An excellent French version is that of R.Foulché-Delbosc, "L'Étudiant de Salamanque,"
Paris, 1893.Mary J. Serrano has made splendid translations of "The Pirate"and "To Spain: An Elegy," Warner's Library of the World'sBest Literature, Vol. XIV.
For a very full treatment and bibliography of the Don JuanTenorio legend see G.G. de Bévotte,