Modern Spanish Lyrics (Líricos Español Modernos) by Elijah Clarence. Hills, Ph.D S. Griswold Morley, - HTML preview

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A liberal in politics xxxiiilike Quintana, Gallego also took the side of his peopleagainst the French invaders and against the servile Spanishrulers. He is best known by the ode El dos de mayo, inwhich he exults over the rising of the Spanish against theFrench on the second of May, 1808; the ode Á la defensa deBuenos Aires against the English; and the elegy Á la muertede la duquesa de Frías in which he shows that he is capableof deep feeling. Gallego was a close friend of Quintana,whose salon in Madrid he frequented. Gallego wrote little,but his works are more correct in language and style thanthose of Quintana. It is interesting that although thewritings of these two poets evince a profound dislike anddistrust of the French, yet both were in their art largelydominated by the influence of French neo-classicism. Thisis but another illustration of the relative conservatism ofbelles-lettres.

In the year 1793 there had been formed in Seville by agroup of young writers an Academia de Letras Humanasto foster the cultivation of letters. The members of thisacademy were admirers of Herrera, the Spanish Petrarchistand patriotic poet of the sixteenth century, and they strovefor a continuation of the tradition of the earlier Sevillangroup. The more important writers of the later Sevillanschool were Arjona, Blanco, Lista and Reinoso. ManuelMaría de ARJONA (1771-1820), a priest well read in theGreek and Latin classics, was an imitator of Horace. JoséMaría BLANCO (1775-1841), known in the history of Englishliterature as Blanco White, spent much time in Englandand wrote in English as well as in Castilian. Ordained aCatholic priest he later became an Unitarian. The best-knownand most influential writer of the group was Alberto xxxivLISTA (1775-1848), an educator and later canon of Seville.Lista was a skilful artist and like Arjona an admirer andimitator of Horace; but his ideas lacked depth. His best-knownpoem is probably a religious one, Á la muerte deJesús, which abounds in true poetic feeling. Lista exertedgreat influence as a teacher and his Lecciones de literaturaespañola did much to stimulate the study of Spanish letters.Félix José REINOSO (1772-1814), also a priest, imitatedMilton in octava rima. As a whole the influence of theSevillan school was healthful. By insisting upon purity ofdiction and regularity in versification, the members of theschool helped somewhat to restrain the license and improvethe bad taste prevailing in the Spanish literature of the time.The Catalonian Manuel de CABANYES (1808-1833) remainedunaffected by the warring literary schools and followedwith passionate enthusiasm the precepts of the ancientsand particularly of Horace.

In the third decade of the nineteenth century romanticism,with its revolt against the restrictions of classicism,with its free play of imagination and emotion, and withlyricism as its predominant note, flowed freely into Spainfrom England and France. Spain had remained preëminentlythe home of romanticism when France and Englandhad turned to classicism, and only in the second half of theeighteenth century had Spanish writers given to classicisma reception that was at the best lukewarm. Now romanticismwas welcomed back with open arms, and Spanishwriters turned eagerly for inspiration not only to Chateaubriand,Victor Hugo and Byron, but also to Lope de Vegaand Calderón. Spain has always worshiped the past, forSpain was once great, and the appeal of romanticism was xxxvtherefore the greater as it drew its material largely fromnational sources.

In 1830 a club known as the Parnasillo was formed inMadrid to spread the new literary theories, much as theCénacle had done in Paris. The members of the Parnasillomet in a wretched little café to avoid public attention.Here were to be found Bretón de los Herreros, EstébanezCalderón, Mesonero Romanos, Gil y Zárate, Ventura de laVega, Espronceda and Larra. The influence of Spanish epicand dramatic poetry had been important in stimulating thegrowth of romanticism in England, Germany and France.In England, Robert Southey translated into English thepoem and the chronicle of the Cid and Sir Walter Scottpublished his Vision of Don Roderick; in Germany, Herder'stranslation of some of the Cid romances and theSchlegel brothers' metrical version of Calderón's dramashad called attention to the merit of the earlier Spanishliterature; and in France, Abel Hugo translated intoFrench the Romancero and his brother Victor madeSpanish subjects popular with Hernani and Ruy Blas andthe Légendes des siècles. But Spain, under the despotismof Ferdinand VII, the "Tyrant of Literature," remainedapparently indifferent or even hostile to its own wonderfulcreations, and clung outwardly to French neo-classicism.2Böhl von Faber,3 the German consul at Cadiz, who wasinfluenced by the Schlegel brothers, had early called attentionto the merit of the Spanish literature of the Golden Ageand had even had some of Calderón's plays performed at xxxviCadiz. And in 1832 Durán published his epoch-making Romancero. In 1833 Ferdinand VII died and the romanticmovement was hastened by the home-coming of a numberof men who had fled the despotism of the monarch and hadspent some time in England and France, where they hadcome into contact with the romanticists of those countries.Prominent amongst these were Martínez de la Rosa, AntonioAlcalá Galiano, the Duke of Rivas and Espronceda.

Footnote 2: (return) Cf. l'Épopée castillane, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Paris, 1910, pp. 249-252.

Footnote 3: (return) The father of Fernán Caballero.

In this period of transition one of the first prominent menof letters to show the effects of romanticism was FranciscoMARTÍNEZ DE LA ROSA (1787-1862). Among his earlierwritings are a Poética and several odes in honor of the heroesof the War of Independence against the French. Afterhis exile in Paris he returned home imbued with romanticism,and his two plays, Conjuración de Venecia (1834) and Abén Humeya (1836: it had already been given in Frenchat Paris in 1830), mark the first public triumph of romanticismin Spain. But Martínez de la Rosa lacked forceand originality and his works merely paved the way forthe greater triumph of the Duke of Rivas. Ángel de Saavedra,DUQUE DE RIVAS (1791-1865), a liberal noble, insuredthe definite triumph of romanticism in Spain by the successfulperformance of his drama Don Álvaro (1835). At first afollower of Moratín and Quintana, he turned, after severalyears of exile in England, the Isle of Malta and France, tothe new romantic school, and casting off all classical restraintssoon became the acknowledged leader of the Spanishromanticists. Among his better works are the lyric Al faro de Malta, the legendary narrative poem El moroexpósito and his Romances históricos. The Romances aremore sober in tone and less fantastic,—and it should be xxxviiadded, less popular to-day,—than the legends of Zorrilla.After a tempestuous life the Duke of Rivas settled quietlyinto the place of director of the Spanish Academy, whichpost he held till his death.

José de ESPRONCEDA (1808-1842) was preëminently adisciple of Byron, with Byron's mingling of pessimism andaspiration, and like him in revolt against the establishedorder of things in politics and social organization. His passionateoutpourings, his brilliant imagery and the music ofhis verse give to Espronceda a first place amongst theSpanish lyrical poets of the nineteenth century. Some ofhis shorter lyrics (e.g. Canto á Teresa) are inspired by hisone-time passion for Teresa with whom after her marriageto another he eloped from London to Paris. The poet'sbest known longer works are the Diablo mundo and the Estudiante de Salamanca, which are largely made up ofdetached lyrics in which the subjective note is strikinglyprominent.

Espronceda was one of those fortunate fewwho shine in the world of letters although they work little.Both in lyric mastery and in his spirit of revolt, Esproncedaholds the place in Spanish literature that is held in Englishby Byron. He is the chief Spanish exponent of a greatrevolutionary movement that swept over the world ofletters in the first half of the nineteenth century.

José ZORRILLA (1817-1893) first won fame by the readingof an elegy at the burial of Larra.

Zorrilla was a mostprolific and spontaneous writer of verses, much of which isunfinished in form and deficient in philosophical insight.But in spite of his carelessness and shallowness he rivaledEspronceda in popularity. His verses are not seldom melodramaticor childish, but they are rich in coloring and poetic xxxviiifancy and they form a vast enchanted world in which theSpaniards still delight to wander. His versions of oldSpanish legends are doubtless his most enduring work andtheir appeal to Spanish patriotism is not less potent to-daythan when they were written. Zorrilla's dramatic works weresuccessful on the stage by reason of their primitive vigor,especially Don Juan Tenorio, El Zapatero y el rey and Traidor,inconfeso y mártir. This

"fantastic and legendary poet" wentto Mexico in 1854 and he remained there several years.After that date he wrote little and the little lacked merit.

Gertrudis Gómez de AVELLANEDA (1814-1873) was born inCuba but spent most of her life in Spain. Avellaneda was agraceful writer of lyrics in which there was feeling and melodybut little depth of thought. With her the moving impulsewas love, both human and divine. Her first volume of poems(1841) probably contains her best work. Her novels Sab and Espatolino were popular in their day but are now fallen intooblivion. Some of her plays, especially Baltasar and Munio,do not lack merit. Avellaneda is recognized as the foremostpoet amongst the women of nineteenth-century Spain.

Two of the most successful dramatists of this period,García Gutiérrez and Hartzenbusch, were also lyric poets.Antonio GARCÍA GUTIÉRREZ (1813-1884), the author of El trovador, published two volumes of mediocre verses.Juan Eugenio HARTZENBUSCH (1806-1880) was, like FernánCaballero, the child of a German father and a Spanishmother. Though an eminent scholar and critic, he did nothesitate in his Amantes de Teruel to play to the popularpassion for sentimentality. He produced some lyric verseof worth. Manuel BRETÓN DE LOS HERREROS

(1796-1873)was primarily a humorist and satirist, who turned from xxxixlyric verse to drama as his best medium of expression. Hedelighted in holding up to ridicule the excesses of romanticism.Mention should be made here of two poets whohad been, like Espronceda, pupils of Alberto Lista. Theeclectic poet MARQUÉS DE MOLINS (Mariano Roca deTogores: 1812-1889) wrote passively in all the literarygenres of his time. VENTURA DE LA VEGA (1807-1865)was born in Argentina, but came to Spain at an early age.He was a well-balanced, cautious writer of mediocre versesthat are rather neo-classic than romantic.

A marked reaction against the grandiose exaggerationsof later romanticism appears in the works of José SELGAS yCarrasco (1824-1882), a clever writer of simple, sentimentalverses. At one time his poetry was highly praised andwidely read, but for the most part it is to-day censured asseverely as it was once praised. Among the contemporariesof Selgas were the writer of simple verses and one-timepopular tales, Antonio de TRUEBA (1821-1889) and EduardoBUSTILLO, the author of Las cuatro estaciones and El ciegode Buenavista. Somewhat of the tradition of the Sevillanschool persisted in the verses of Manuel CAÑETE andNarciso CAMPILLO (1838-1900) and in those of the poet andliterary critic José AMADOR DE LOS RÍOS.

The Sevillan Gustavo Adolfo BÉCQUER (1836-1870) wroteperhaps the most highly polished Spanish verse of the nineteenthcentury. His Rimas are charged with true poeticfancy and the sweetest melody, but the many inversions ofword-order that were used to attain to perfection of metricalform detract not a little from their charm. His writingsare contained in three small volumes in which are found,together with the Rimas, a collection of prose legends. His xlprose work is filled with morbid mysticism or fairy-likemystery. His dreamy prose is often compared to that ofHoffmann and his verses to those of Heine, although it isdoubtful if he was largely influenced by either of theseGerman writers. Bécquer sings primarily of idealized humanlove.

His material life was wretched and it wouldseem that his spirit took flight into an enchanted land of itsown creation. Most human beings love to forget at timestheir sordid surroundings and wander in dreamland; hencethe enduring popularity of Bécquer's works and especiallyof the Rimas. Bécquer has been widely imitated throughoutthe Spanish-speaking world, but with little success. In thisconnection it should be noted that the Spanish poets whohave most influenced the Spanish literature of the nineteenthcentury, both in the Peninsula and in America, arethe Tyrtaean poet Quintana, the two leading romanticistsEspronceda and Zorrilla and the mystic Bécquer.

Like most writers in Latin lands, Juan VALERA y AlcaláGaliano (1824-1905) and Marcelino MENÉNDEZ Y PELAYO(1856-1912) began their literary career with a volume or twoof lyric verses. Valera's verses have perfect metrical formand evince high scholarship, but they are too learned to bepopular. The lyrics of Menéndez y Pelayo have also moremerit in form than in inspiration and are lacking in humaninterest. Both authors turned soon to more congenialwork: Valera became the most versatile and polished of allnineteenth century Spanish writers of essays and novels;and Menéndez y Pelayo became Spain's greatest scholar inliterary history. The popular novelist, Pedro Antonio deALARCÓN (1833-1891), wrote lyrics in which there is acurious blending of humor and skepticism. xliThe foremost Spanish poet of the closing years of thenineteenth century was Ramón de CAMPOAMOR y Campoosorio(1817-1901) who is recognized as the initiator inSpain of a new type of verse in his Doloras and Pequeñospoemas.

The doloras are, for the most part, metrical fablesor epigrams, dramatic or anecdotal in form, in which theauthor unites lightness of touch with depth of feeling. The pequeño poema is merely an enlarged dolora. Campoamordisliked Byron and he disliked still more the sonorous emptinessthat is characteristic of too much Spanish poetry.4In philosophy he revered Thomas à Kempis; in form heaimed at conciseness and directness rather than at artisticperfection. His poetry lacks enthusiasm and coloring, butit has dramatic interest.

Footnote 4: (return) Menéndez y Pelayo ( Ant. Poetas Hisp.-Am. , I, p. lv) says: "Al fin españoles somos, y á tal profusión de luz y á tal estrépito de palabrassonoras no hay entre nosotros quien resista."

The poets Manuel del PALACIO (1832-1895) and FedericoBALART (1831-1905), though quite unlike in genius, won theesteem of their contemporaries. Palacio wrote excellentsonnets and epigrams. In his Leyendas y poemas he provedhis mastery of Spanish diction; he had, moreover, the savinggrace of humor which was so noticeably lacking in Zorrilla'slegends. The poet and literary critic, Balart, achievedfame with his Dolores, in which he mourns with sincere griefthe death of his beloved wife. Mention should also bemade of the following poets who deserve recognition in thisbrief review of the history of Spanish lyric poetry: VicenteWenceslao QUEROL (1836-1889), a Valencian, whose Eleclipse, Cartas á María, and La fiesta de Venus, evince aremarkable technical skill and an unusual correctness of diction; xliiTeodoro LLORENTE (cf. p. 279); José GALIANO ALCALÁwhose verses have delicate feeling and lively imagination;Emilio FERRARI (b. 1853), the author of Abelardo é Hipatia and Aspiración; the pessimistic poets, Joaquín María de BARTRINA (1850-1880) and Gabino TEJADO; Salvador RUEDA(b. 1857), author of El bloque, En tropel and Cantos de la vendimia; and the poet and dramatist, Eduardo MARQUINA.

After the death of Campoamor in the first year of thetwentieth century, the title of doyen of Spanish letters fell by universal acclaim to Gaspar NÚÑEZ DE ARCE (1834-1903).Núñez de Arce was a lyric poet, a dramatist and a writer of polemics, but first of all a man of action. With him the solution of political and sociological problems was all-important, and his literary writings were mostly the expression of his sociological and political views. Núñez deArce is best known for his Gritos del combate (1875), in which he sings of liberty but opposes anarchy with energy andcourage. As a satirist he attacks the excesses of radicalismas well as the vices and foibles common to mankind.5 Asa poet he is neither original nor imaginative, and often hisideas are unduly limited; but he writes with a manly vigorthat is rare amongst Spanish lyric poets, most of whom havegiven first place to the splendors of rhetoric.

Footnote 5: (return) Speaking of Núñez de Arce's satire, Juan Valera says humorously, in Florilegio de poesías castellanas del siglo XIX, Madrid, 1902, Vol. I, p. 247: «Está el poeta tan enojado contra la sociedad, contra nuestra descarriada civilización y contra los crímenes y maldades de ahora, y nos pinta tan perverso, tan vicioso y tan infeliz al hombre de nuestrosdías, atormentado por dudas, remordimientos, codicias y otras vilespasiones, que, á mi ver, lejos de avergonzarse este hombre de descender del mono, debiera ser el mono quien se avergonzara de haberse humanado.»

Most writers on the history of European literatures have xliiicalled attention to the fact that at the beginning of thenineteenth century there was a great outpouring of lyricism,which infused itself into prose as well as verse. When thismovement had exhausted itself there came by inevitablereaction a period of materialism, when realism succeededromanticism and prose fiction largely replaced verse. Andnow sociological and pseudo-scientific writings threaten thevery existence of idealistic literature. And yet through itall there has been no dearth of poets.

Browning in Englandand Campoamor in Spain, like many before them, havegiven metrical form to the expression of their philosophicalviews. And other poets, who had an intuitive aversion toscience, have taken refuge in pure idealism and have createdworlds after their own liking. To-day prose is recognizedas the best medium for the promulgation of scientific orpolitical teachings, and those who are by nature poets areturning to art for art's sake. Poetry is less didactic thanformerly, and it is none the less beautiful and inspiring.

The Notes to this volume contain historical sketches ofthe literatures of Argentina (p. 279),

Colombia (p. 285), Cuba(p. 291), Ecuador and Peru (p. 296), Mexico (p. 307), andVenezuela (p.

315). It is to be regretted that lack of spacehas excluded an account of the literatures of other Spanish-Americancountries, and especially of Chile and Uruguay.



Spanish versification is subject to the following general laws:

(1) There must be a harmonious flow of syllables, inwhich harsh combinations of sounds are avoided. This xlivusually requires that stressed syllables be separated by oneor more unstressed syllables.6

Footnote 6: (return) By stress is meant secondary as well as primary syllabic stress. Thus, en nuestra vida has primary stress on vi-, and secondary stress on nues-.

(2) Verse must be divided into phrases, each of which canbe uttered easily as one breath-group.

The phrases arenormally of not less than four nor more than eight syllables,with a rhythmic accent on the next to the last syllable ofeach phrase.7 Phrases of a fixed number of syllables mustrecur at regular intervals. There may or may not be apause at the end of the phrase.

Footnote 7: (return) The unstressed syllable may be lacking, or there may be two unstressed syllables, after the rhythmic accent. See under Syllabication.

( a) In the n-syllable binary line the phrases may recurat irregular intervals. In lines with regular ternary movementphrasing is largely replaced by rhythmic pulsation (cf. p. lxx).

(3) There must be rime of final syllables, or final vowels,recurring at regular intervals.

( a) In some metrical arrangements of foreign origin therimes recur at irregular intervals, or there is no rime at all.See the silva and versos sueltos under Strophes.

Whether normal Spanish verse has, or ever had, binary movement,with the occasional substitution of a "troche" for an"iambic," or vice-versa, is in dispute.8 That is, whether inSpanish verse, with the usual movement, (1) the alternation ofstressed and unstressed syllables is essential, or whether (2) the xlvmere balancing of certain larger blocks of syllables is sufficient.For instance, in this line of Luis de León:

ya muestra en esperanza el fruto cierto,

is there regular rhythmic pulsation, much less marked than inEnglish verse, doubtless,—but still an easily discernible alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables? If so, there must be secondary stress on es-. Or is ya muestra en esperanza one block, and el fruto cierto another, with no rhythmic stresses except those on -anza and cierto?

Footnote 8: (return) There are in Spanish certain types of verses in which there is regular ternary movement throughout.

These are treated separately. Cf. p. lxx.

The truth seems to be that symmetry of phrases (the balancingof large blocks of syllables) is an essential and important part of modern Spanish versification; but that, in musical verse of the ordinary type, there is also a subtle and varied binary movement, while in some recitative verse (notably the dramatic romance verse) the binary movement is almost or quite negligible.9

Footnote 9: (return)

A count of Spanish verses (none from drama), by arbitrarily assumingthree contiguous atonic syllables to be equal to-[/-]-

(with secondary stress on the middle syllable), gave the following results (cf. Romanic Review, Vol. III, pp. 301-308): Common syllabic arrangements of 8-syllable lines:

(1) / _ / _ / _ / (_): Esta triste voz oí.

(2) _ / _ / _ _ / (_): Llorando dicen así.

(3) _ / _ _ / _ / (_): Mi cama las duras peñas.

Of 933 lines, 446 (nearly one-half) were in class (1); 257 in class (2); and 191 in class (3). The remaining lines did not belong to any one of these three classes.

Common syllabic arrangements of 11-syllable lines:

(1) _ / _ / _ / _ / _ / (_): Verás con cuánto amor llamar porfía.

(2) / _ / _ _ / _ / _ / (_): Cuántas veces el ángel me decía.

(3) / _ _ / _ / _ / _ / (_): Este matiz que al cielo desafía.

Of 402 lines, 216 (slightly more than one-half) were in class (1); 94 were in class (2); and 75 in class (3). The remaining lines did not belong to any one of these three classes. Note that, in these arrangements of the 11-syllable lines, the irregularities in rhythm are found only in the first four syllables.


Some poets have used at times a quite regular binary movementin Spanish verse; but they have had few or no followers, as theeffect was too monotonous to please the Spanish ear. Thus,Solís: Siempre orillas de la fuente

Busco rosas á mi frente,

Pienso en él y me sonrío,

Y entre mí le llamo mío,

Me entristezco de su ausencia,

Y deseo en su presencia

La más bella parecer.

(p. 53, li. 6-12)

The Colombian poet, José Eusebio Caro, wrote much verse thus,under the influence of the English poets.

On the other hand, some recent "decadent" poets have writtenverses in which the principle of symmetry of phrases, or of afixed number of syllables, is abandoned, and rhythm and rimeare considered sufficient to make the lines musical. Thus,Leopoldo Lugones (born 1875?), of Argentina, in verses which hecalls « libres» (cf. Lunario sentimental, Buenos Aires, 1909): Luna, quiero cantarte

¡Oh ilustre anciana de las mitologías!

Con todas las fuerzas de mi arte.

Deidad que en los antiguos días

Imprimiste en nuestro polvo tu sandalia,

No alabaré el litúrgico furor de tus orgías

Ni su erótica didascalia,

Para que alumbres sin mayores ironías,

Al polígloto elogio de las Guías,

Noches sentimentales de mises en Italia.

( Himno á la luna)

This is largely a harking back to primitive conditions, for in the oldest Castilian narrative verse the rule of "counted syllables" apparently did not prevail. Cf. the Cantar de mío Cid, where there is great irregularity in the number of syllables. And, although xlviiin the old romances the half-lines of eight syllables largely predominate,many are found with seven or nine syllables, and some witheven fewer or more. The adoption of the rule of "counted syllables"in Spanish may have been due to one or more of severalcauses: to the influence of medieval Latin rhythmic songs;10 toFrench influence; or merely to the development in the Spanishpeople of a feeling for artistic symmetry.

Footnote 10: (return) Such as:

Stabat Mater dolorosa

Juxta crucem lachrymosa

Dum pendebat filius.

Other poets of to-day write verses in which the line containsa fixed number of syllables or any multiple of that number.Thus, Julio Sesto ( Blanco y Negro, Nov. 5, 1911):

¡Cómo desembarcan..., có