Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

In writing the history of the literature of any nation, one of the niost difficult things is, to arrange the mass of materials in a natural order so that the whole may be viewed as a single natural product of the national mind. For, in order to do this, there are needed, a comprehensive knowledge which shall easily grasp the whole, and a sagacious philosophy which shall distinctly separate the causes from their effects—the elementary principles from the products to which they give birth. Mr. Ticknor, we think, has been uncommonly successful in this respect; and, it is from their connection with the division of this history into periods, that we referred to the above mentioned elements of the Spanish character.

Saragossa was recovered from the Moors in 1118, and the fatal battle of Tolosa was fought in 1212. It was between these two dates that the oldest document in the Spanish language is supposed to have been written, and the oldest national poem, “ The Poem of the Cid,” to have been composed. But the overthrow of the Moorish power was not completed till the conquest of Granada in 1491. Nearly contemporaneous with this, was the discovery of America. These two events, together with the accession of Charles the Fifth, mark an important era in Spanish history. -Mr. Ticknor has done well in making this era the boundary of his first period, which extends from the first appearance of the present written language to the earliest part of the reign of the Emperor, Charles the Fifth, or from the end of the twelfth to the begin. ning of the sixteenth century.

This first period is the forming period of Spanish character and literature. Within this period, the influences of which we spoke, were originated and matured; the language received its final shape; the intellectual powers of the nation were developed and tried ; and thus a sure preparation was made for the full-blown literature of the second period. The second period embraces the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, extending from the accession of the Austrian family to its extinction.

This second period opened with the most brilliant prospects for Spain. America had been discovered. The Indies were made accessible to commercial enterprise. Granada was taken. And in less than thirty years from this latter event, “Charles the Fifth," to use the words of Mr. Ticknor, “who had inherited, not only Spain, but Naples, Sicily, and the Low Countries, and into whose treasury the untold wealth of the Indies was already beginning to pour, was elected Emperor of Germany, and undertook a career of foreign conquest such as had not been imagined since the days of Charlemagne. Success and glory seemed to wait for him as he advanced. In Europe, he extended his empire, till it checked the hated power of Islamism in Turkey ;-in Africa, he governed Tunis and overawed the whole coast of Barbary ; in America, Cortez and Pizarro were his bloody lieutenants, and achieved for him conquests more vast than were conceived in the dreams of Alexander; while, beyond the wastes of the Pacific, he stretched his discoveries to the Philippines and so completed the circuit of the globe.” The prospects for a corresponding development of literature were equally brilliant. The first fruits, in the productions of Cervantes, De Vega and Calderon, were equally glorious. But this hope of a universal empire of arms and of letters was not destined to be fulfilled. These first triumphs were unexpectedly checked. “The monk Luther was already become a counterpoise to the military master of so many kingdoms." The Inquisition was already beginning to exert its baneful intluence over the freedom of the mind. This second period, therefore, which in its opening exhibits the fairest productions of the national literature, closes with its decline.

The third period extends from the accession of the Bourbon family, in the beginning of the eighteenth century to the invasion of Bonaparte, in the earlier part of the present century. This period marks the degeneracy of Spanish literature, though the author seems unwilling to finish the history of a favorite literature, without catching at some faint hopes of its revival.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

66

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

Having thus given the general division of the subject, which will point out its extent, we return to a more particular account of the first period. After referring to the oldest document in the Spanish language with an ascertained date-a confirmation by Alfonso the Seventh, in the year 1155, of a charter of regulations and privileges granted to the city of Avilés in Asturias--the author gives an account of the earliest Spanish poem, “ The Poem of the Cid," which is followed by an account of three other poems, “The Book of Apolloniús," “ The Life of our Lady, Saint Mary of Egypt,” and “The Adoration of the Three Holy kings." These poems are all anonymous. The author next treats in their order of the earliest known writers. These are, Gonzalo, a secular priest belonging to the monastery of Saint Emilianus, and commonly called Berceo, from the place of his birth-Aourished between 1220–1246, Alfonso, the Wise—born 1221, died 1281-Juan Lorenzo Segura-flourished in the latter part of the thirteenth century-Don Juan Manuel-born 1282, died 1347–Juan Ruiz, commonly called the Archpriest of Hita, contemporary with the last mentioned poet; and Rabbi Don Santob of the same period. Several anonymous poeins are then enumerated and an account given of them, as belonging to this part of the fourteenth century, of which we will mention but one, " The Dance of Death”—a favorite subject for both painting and poetry in the Middle Ages. The last poet mentioned in this part of the work is Pedro Lopez de Ayala, who was born in 1332 and died in 1407.

The author has now passed over somewhat more than two centuries, from a little before 1200 to a little after 1400, and in so doing has examined a considerable portion of the earliest Castilian literature. He has given an analysis of the most important works sufficiently minute for his purpose, and presented specimens of them in both prose and verse.

But this literature sprang up at the Court. The authors of it were sovereigns, or dignitaries nearly connected with them. But contemporaneous with this courtly literature, there was a popular literature, which at about this period began to appear more prominent in the country. The author, therefore, enters at this point upon an examination of this literature, which he treats of under four different classes: Ballads, Chronicles, Romances of Chivalry, and the Drama. These four classes compose what was generally most valued in Spanish literature during the latter part of the fourteenth, the whole of the fifteenth and much of the sixteenth century. The account of this popular literature, which takes up nearly one half of the pages devoted to this period, is very interesting.

We have already spoken of the peculiarities of the Spanish character as appearing in Spanish literature. The literature which we have thus far considered is of purely native growth. But contemporaneous with this native literature, was a literature of foreign growth, and derived froin two different sources, from Provence and from Italy.

The two chapters in which the author treats of Provençal literature, have a peculiar charm. With brevity but entire perspicuity, he describes the origin and fate of this literature in Provence; thence follows it to its new home in Catalonia and Arragon; then with a not unnatural regret, laments its decay and final extinction.

But the influence of Italian literature was much deeper and more lasting. This influence first became distinctly perceptible in the beginning of the fifteenth century, in the early part of the reign of John the Second. At the Court of this prince there grew up a literature, modified by these foreign infiuences, and which the author designates as the courtly literature in Castile. This literature continued to flourish throughout the fifteenth century during the reign of John the Second, and his children Henry the Fourth and Ísabella, the Catholic-but in this period for a time exhausted itself. The account of this school of literature brings the author to the end of his first period. It is obvious from this rapid survey that the author is not less happy in the subordinate than in the grand divisions of his work; that having gone over the

[ocr errors]

whole ground, and critically distinguishing the various influences which were at work in this period, he has made the best possible arrangement of his materials.

The survey which the author takes of the second period, fills nearly two thirds of the work, since it embraces an account of the most distinguished writers in the language. He first describes the contest which about this time sprang up between the foreign and native schools of literature, and traces it down to the triumph of the latter. This may be regarded as forming a subordinate division, and the consideration of it brings him to the most brilliant era of Spanish literature, the era of Cervantes, De Vega, and Calderon. While the author follows a chronological order in speaking of the different writers, he also makes a division of the subject according to the forms in which the literature appears. The principal forms are Dramatic Poetry, Narrative Poetry, and Lyric Poetry. The whole of the second volume is taken up with these topics, the greater part of it, however, with a very complete survey of the Spanish drama. The Spanish drama, as it is here presented, is certainly a phenomenon in literature, remarkable not less for the form which it assumed, than for the action and reaction constantly going on between the church and the theater. In the remaining chapters of this period, the author treats of Satirical Poetry, Epistolary, Elegiac, Pastoral, Epigrammatic, Didactic and Descriptive; of Ballad poetry; of Romantic fiction; of Eloquence and Epistolary correspondence; of Historical composition and of Didactic prose.

It will not be necessary for us to speak minutely of the third period.

To the body of the work is added an Appendix containing much that is valuable; among other things, a philological essay upon the origin of the Spanish language, a bibliographical account of the various editions, translations, and imitations of Don Quixote, and several poems now first printed from the original manuscripts. In addition to all this, the work is furnished with a good index. We may also mention in this connection, that the volumes are well printed and on good paper.

No one can read this work without perceiving the extensive and accurate scholarship of the writer. He has gone over the whole tield: he has collected all the materials and made himself familiar with them. We must presume that there are not many native scholars, if there be any, who have a more complete acquaintance with Spanish literature. This eomplete knowledge of every part of the subject has kept the author froin a fault which has been found with Hallam's History of Literature, that the latter has given an undue prominence to those authors and to those eras with which he was best acquainted. Mr. Ticknor, on the contrary, has with true artistic skill assigned to each part its proper place, and thus given a beautitul unity to the whole. Another very great excellence in the composition of the work, is, that every part of it is equally well finished. There is nothing neglected, nothing slightingly done. The shortest note seems to be prepared as well as the author could do it. From beginning to end, every thing even the most minute, has received proper attention. The author has taken his own time to write the work and to print it; and this will appear to be no small merit, when we consider the incomplete state in which many valuable works are given to the publie. The criticism of particular works is always fair and manly. There is no affectation of profundity, nor any aim at philosoplizings too attenuated to have a real existence. A high moral tone pervades the work. Spanish literature is in portions of it free and licentious, but the author has wisely judged that it was not needful to reproduce its licentiousness in another language. In treating of a literature which grew up under the influence and auspices of the Papal church, the author has come into contact with much that he could not do otherwise than condemn, but he has always condemned with eandor and philosophic calmness. The remarks on the reformation, the inquisition, and the interference of the church with the drama, are the more impressive from the very caution which has been taken that they should be strictly just. We have only to add, that the work is written throughout in a pure and classical style-in a style befitting a work that is to take and to hold permanently a high rank in English literature.

This work makes a real addition to the stores of knowledge contained in the English language. It is not a rival of any existing work, for there is no other on the subject. It gives knowledge which the mere English scholar can not get elsewhere. Indeed, we do not believe there is to be found so complete a history of Spanish literature in any language. And it should be remarked that this knowledge is of great value. For, the history of the literature of a nation is a reflection of its political history; and with respect to Spain, its history and its literature are peculiarly interesting and important, as developing the influences of the Papal religion under circumstances the most favorable. No library of any considerable size can honorably be without this work.

can.

The Monuments of Egypt; or, Egypt a Witness for the Bible. By Francis L. Hawks, D.D., LL.D. ; with Notes of a Voyage up the Nile, by an Ameri

New York: Geo. P. Putnam, 155 Broadway. London: Jólin Murray. 1850. Svo, pp. 418.

This yolume treats upon a subject of great and very general interest. The recovery of the ancient Egyptian alphabet, which had been for so many ages lost to the world, is one of the most wonderful discoveries of human sagacity. The knowledge, which has also been recovered in consequence of this discovery, is not less remarkable. The history of several ancient nations had been more or less connected with the history of Egypt. Men of letters, therefore, were eager to learn whether that which is now about to be read for the first time within the historic period from the records and monuments of Egypt, will recognize this connection and refer to the events which grew out of it. The Hebrew nation in particular had had early intercourse with Egypt, and the christian scholar waited with impatient curiosity to see whether any of the circumstances of this intercourse which are mentioned in Scripture, are also recorded in this volume of contemporaneous history, which, after being locked up for ages, and therefore placed beyond the possibility of being corrupted, at last to be unsealed. The time has not yet arrived to satisfy this curiosity in full, but still some things have been established. The monuments of Egypt do in several particulars speak a language, now that they can speak at all, the sime with the language of Scripture. Events and customs which are recorded in Scripture, are also recorded in the Monuments. This coincidence furnishes a kind of evidence to the historic verity of the Scriptures, which is as satisfactory as the discovery of it was unexpected.

It is the object of the present volume to point out some of the more important and best established of these coincidences. Such a book was much needed, for the works of original authority on this subject are too expensive to be accessible to the community in general. It is of course a compilation, as Dr. Hawks chooses to call it, but a compilation in which the materials have been well digested in the author's own mind, and which therefore reappear in the work as its original production--and we know not what more can be asked for in a compilation.

The author in the first chapter enumerates the ancient writers who have written on Egypt- Manetho, Herodotus, Diodorus and Horapollo—and speaks of the earlier atteinpts made by the moderns, especially by Father Kircher, to decipher the hieroglyphics. In the next chapter he gives an account of the manner in which the hieroglyphics were discovered to be letters and the alphabet was made out. This account is written with great perspicuity, so that we are sure no reader will have any difficulty in understanding the explanation; and, also, with fairness, the author being caretul to award due merit to all concerned in the discovery. The next chapter contains illustrations of the alphabet itself, and is written with equal clearness. Having the alphabet, the

a

reader next wishes to know what there is to be read. In the following chapter, therefore, the author describes the general appearance of Egyptian ruins, and speaks of their arts of design as exhibited in painting and sculpture. This interesting portion of the work explains why it is that we have been able to learn so much of the Egyptians merely from what is written in their tombs and monuments. These chapters are preparatory to the main design. But before coming to this, the author very properly lays down the principles of evidence which should guide us in the investigation, and points out the nature of the conclusions which we are enabled to make by the application of them. This is one of the most important topics in the volume, and has been treated with sound judgment. Writers on the evidences of the Scriptures are apt to err in two opposite directions. Some are too hasty in attempting to explain away objections drawn from the supposed discoveries of some particular science, before the science itself has been fully established, while others catch at evidence in favor of the Scriptures from a new source, before it has been fully explored. If this has not been the case with the present subject, it is because it has fallen into the hands of judicious men. For this reason we are glad that Dr. Hawks has prepared this work, and in so doing, we doubt not he has performed a good service in the cause of truth.

The author in the remainder of his part of the volume, treats of the coincidences furnished by the monuments with events and circumstances in the History of Abraham, of Joseph, of the Bondage, of the Deliverance, and of the Wanderings, in as many consecutive chapters ; and in the last chapter, of a most remarkable confirmation of the Scripture history of the invasion of Judea by Shishak, the king of Egypt, in the reign of Rehoboam.

To give an example of the manner in which the author manages the subject, he first eliminates from the narrative concerning Abraham, the facts which are stated bearing on the points of his investigation, such as, that at the time Abraham went down into Egypt, it was a powerful nation, rich and civilized; that its kings were known by the name of Pharaoh; that domestic servitude then existed there; that Sarah was fair and used no covering or veil over her fice, and several others : and then inquires whether these facts are illustrated or incidentally confirmed by any evidence we possess relating to Egypt.

But as Joseph spent most of his life in Egypt, we should naturally expect the account concerning him to be the one, the most fully confirmed. If it is not an account of real transactions with which the writer was familiar, our present knowledge of Egyptian usages will enable us to detect the imposture ; but if it is what it professes to be, we can authenticate it. For instance, Joseph was sold by his brethren to Arabian merchants, traveling with their spices, &c. to Egypt. Were Arabian caravans accustomed to go at that time into Egypt with merchandise ? Joseph was made overseer of Pharaoh's house? Was such an officer a peculiar and characteristic feature of Egyptian life? Joseph in prison interprets the dream of the chief butler and baker. Were there officers of this kind and of high rank? These questions are easily answered in the affirınative. Pharaoh changes Joseph's name into an Egyptian one and it is given in the narrative. Is this a genuine Egyptian name Yes; Egyptian scholars recognize in it the Egyptian word, Psotomfeneh, the "Savior of the Age." Pharaoh, the narrative says, married Joseph to Asenath. Is that a genuine Egyptian name? Yes; Champollion read it on an Egyptian relic in the cabinet of the French king, Charles X.

But we can not follow the author farther. We remark in general, that the facts are cautiously adduced, the evidence carefully stated, and the conclusions judiciously drawn. We ought, however, to say, we think, that the portion of the volume not written by Dr. Hawks,—“Notes of a Voyage up the Nile, by an American"-very much mars the unity of the plan, and is so far inferior in point of literary excellence and even of precise and distinct intormation, as to be quite misplaced. We are glad to learn that in the second

66

« ZurückWeiter »