THE ROMANCEROS OR BALLADS
Iliads without a Homer.
LOPE DE VEGA
THE word romancero in modern Spanish is more or less strictly applied to a special form of verse composition, a narrative poem written in lines of sixteen syllables which adhere to one single assonance throughout. Originally the term was applied to those dialects or languages which were the offspring of the Roman or Latin tongue-the spoken language of old Rome in its modernized forms. Later it came to imply only the written forms of those vernaculars, and lastly the poetic lyrico-narrative form alone, as above indicated. The romancero therefore differs from the romance in that it is written in verse, and it is plain from what has just been said that the name romance was the product of the transition period when the term was intended to describe the written output of the more modern forms of Latin-Castilian, Portuguese, French, and Provençal, whether couched in prose or verse. We have seen that practically all the romances proper, as apart from the cantares de gestathat is, such compositions as Amadis, Palmerin, and Partenopexwere written in prose. But the romancero was first and last a narrative in verse. Indeed, the three tales recounted in the last chapter are of the romancero typea form, as we shall see, which gained quite as strong a hold upon the lower classes of the Peninsula as the romance proper did upon the affections of the hidalgo and the caballero. In a word, the romancero is the popular ballad of Spain.
In a previous chapter I attempted to outline the several types of the Spanish ballad, or romancero, as follows:
(1) Those of spontaneous popular origin and early date.
(2) Those based upon passages in the chronicles or cantares de gesta.
(3) Folk-ballads of a relatively late date.
(4) Those later ballads which were the production of conscious art.
We can thus class Spanish ballads more broadly into:
(5) Those of popular origin.
(6) Those which have their rise in literary sources.
As regard class (1) of the first quaternion, like Sancho Panza I have no intention of indicating how old these may be. The fiercest controversy has raged round this question, but, as I have already indicated, it would be strange indeed if no vestiges of early Castilian folk-song had come down to us in an altered form. Folk-song, in my view, has as great a chance of survival as custom or legend, and we know how persistent these are in undisturbed areas, so I see no reason to doubt that a certain number of the original ballads of Spain have come down to us in such an altered form as would, perhaps, render them unrecognizable to their makers, just as the ancient Scottish romance of Thomas the Rhymer would not have been recognized in its later form by the singer who composed it.
All the arguments, archeological and philological, erected and advanced by mere erudition will not convince me to the contrary. To some people antiquity is a living
thing, a warm and glowing environment, a world with the paths and manners of which they are better acquainted than with the streets of every day. To others it isa museum. I have no quarrel with the curators of that museum, and I enjoy reading their books-records of a land which few of then have visited. But when they insist upon controverting the evidence supplied by senses which they do not possess they become merely tiresome. Like art, archeology has also its inspirations, its higher vision. Alas that those who do not share it should attempt to justify their conclusions by lifeless logic alone!
Therefore I shall say no more concerning the age of the ballads of Old Spain, but will only remark with Sancho that "they are too old to lie." I have clearly shown, too, that a number of them were based on passages in the chronicles and cantares, a circumstance which in itself vouches for their relative antiquity. With the later artificial imitations of Góngora and Lope de Vega, and others of similar stamp, we are not concerned here. After all, we can only take the ballads of Spain as we find them in the cancioneros. It is much too late in the day now to do anything else. Like the ballads of Scotland and Denmark, those of Spain have been collected and published for centuries, and in the pages of the cancioneros old and new, popular and literary, are mingled together in almost inextricable confusion. Let us glance, then, at the history of these cancioneros, these treasure-houses of a people's poetry, and attempt to realize their plan and scope as perhaps the best method by which to approach the subject of the Spanish ballad generally. Having done this, we can then discuss matters of origin with critics of insight and sympathy.
The "Cancionero General"
If we except the fragmentary collection of Juan Fernandez de Constantina, the Cancionero General, or "Universal Song-book," as it might be translated, was originally brought together and published at the beginning of the sixteenth century by a certain Fernando del Castillo. The arrangement of the ballads it contains is neither chronological nor thoroughly systematic, although the productions of each author are kept distinct. Later editions of this work quickly multiplied, and as the collection extended the additions were always inserted at the end of the book. The collection consists for the most part of the ballads of authors of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, such as Tallante, Nicolas Nuñez, Juan de Mena, Porticarrero, and the still earlier Marquis de Santillana.
The first portion of the work is confined to the spiritual songs (obras de devoción). These are monotonous and informed with a rigid fanaticism. Nor are the "Moral Poems" which follow any more attractive, allegorizing virtues and vices according to the definitions of scholastic philosophy. The amatory verses in the collection are more ingenious than truly poetic; they lack true feeling, and appear stiff and artificial in their reiteration of burning passion and the overwhelming woes of unrequited love, mingled with pseudo-philosophical appeals to reason. But gay and graceful love songs are not lacking, as, for example, the "Muy mas clara que de luna" of Juan de Meux or the "Pensamienti, pues mostrays" of Diego Lopez de Haro. But these trail off into philosophical disquisition, and the tender sentiment in which they were conceived and commenced is lost in the shallows of paltry argument.
Much more promising are the canciones, or lyrical poems of a semi-conventional cast, which have a character and metrical form all their own. They usually consist of twelve lines, divided into two parts. The first four lines comprehend the idea on which the song is founded, and this is developed or applied in the eight succeeding lines. The Cancionero General contains one hundred and fifty-six of these little songs, some of which are the best poems contained in it, and perhaps they owe their excellence to the verbal restraint which their form compels. An allied form is the villancico, or conceit, usually of three or four lines, a fugitive piece, enshrining some fleeting emotion, and often packed with the matter of poesy.
The "Romancero General"
The title Romancero General was applied to many collections of Spanish songs and narrative romances in verse published during the seventeenth century and later. Of these only the older require illustration here. The first in point of date was the collection of Miguel de Madrigal, published in 1604, although another work containing upward of a thousand romances and songs was produced in the same year, and bears the same title. Another collection of primary importance is that of Pedro de Flores (1614). This is obviously a bookseller's compilation, but is none the worse for that, save that it pretends to embrace the entire sum of Spanish romanceros, whereas it contains not one of those appearing in the Cancionero General. All of these works contain numerous amatory poems of the kind so liberally exemplified in the Cancionero General, but with these we have little concern, and our attention
may be better employed in examining the romancero proper which it contains. These for the most part would seem to belong to the fifteenth century, an relate to the civil wars of Granada, the last Moons principality in Spain, and the heroic and gallant adventures of Moorish knights. It is, indeed, in this work that we first perceive the trend toward a literary fashion in things Moorish to which we have referred in previous chapter, but, as has been indicated, this is very far from saying that these poems owe their origin t Moorish models. But there are not wanting Castilian themes and stories, such as those relating to Roderic, Bernaldo de Carpio, Fernán Gonzalez, the Infantes of Lara, and the Cid. Most of these were written by men of humble station, the true poets of the people, the latter representatives of those juglares who had sung or recited the cantares de gesta.
Mr. James Fitzmaurice Kelly is at once the best informed and most sympathetic of modern critics on the subject of the romancero. In his admirable Chapters on Spanish Literature, a delightful series of excursions into several of the most interesting provinces of Spanish letters, he reviews the romancero in some forty vivid pages, remarkable alike for critical insight and the sanity of the conclusions to which they point. Taking Lockhart's Spanish Ballads as a basis for comment, he addresses
Besides the collection of romances alluded to, which may be said to represent the standard sources of the subject, collections were published at Antwerp and Saragossa, in the middle of the sixteenth century, by Martin Nucio and Esteban de Ntjera respectively. The reader may also consult the Primavera y Fior de Romance, by Wolf and Hofman, in the reprint published by Senor Menéndez y Pelayo, the collection of Lepping (two vols., Leipzig, 1844), and the English translations of Lockhart and Bowring.
himself to the racy criticism of the collection of the Scottish translator. A better plan for the initiation of the English-speaking reader into the mysteries of the romancero could scarcely be conceived, for there are few who possess no acquaintance with Lockhart's work, one of the most persistent of the drawing-room books of Victorian days. Following Mr. Kelly's admirable lead1 then, though not in the spirit of base imitation, let us take Lockhart as our 'document' and examine the more interesting of his translations, not only as regards their subject-matter, but their excellences and shortcomings, comparing them also with those of Bowring and others. Following Depping, Lockhart divides his volume of ballads into three sections: Historical, Moorish, and Romantic. With the first two groups of poems, or rather with their subject-matter-those relating to King Roderic and Bernaldo de Carpio-we have dealt elsewhere.
The Maiden Tribute
The next in order, "The Maiden Tribute," deals with a demand of the Moorish monarch Abderahman that a hundred Christian virgins should annually be delivered into his hands. King Ramíro refused to comply with such a shameful custom, and marched to meet the Moor. A two days' battle was fought near Alveida, and at the conclusion of the first day's hostilities the superior discipline of the Saracens had told heavily against the Castilians. During the night, St lago, the patron saint of Spain, appeared to the King in a vision and promised his aid in the field next day. With morning the battle was joined once more, the Saint, true to his word, led the Spanish charge, and the Saracens were cast into headlong rout. The maiden tribute was never afterward paid.
Lockhart's ballad, or rather translation, certainly does not enhance the original.
If the Moslem must have tribute, make men your tribute-money,
Send idle drones to tease them within their hives of honey,
is the commonest of crambo, and
Must go, like all the others, the proud Moor's bed to sleep in
In all the rest they're useless, and nowise worth the keeping,
is reminiscent of the pantomime days of our youth. Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly contents himself by remarking about this ballad that it scarcely calls for comment.
Count Fernán Gonzalez
The Escape of the Count Fernán Gonzalez, which is based on the old Estoria del noble caballero Fernán González," a popular arrangement of the Crónica General (1 344), is later than two other ballads which Mr. Kelly and others believe represent a lost epic which was worked into the Crónica in question. A wealth of legend certainly clustered round the name of this cavalier, and be has a string of romanceros to his credit. But are we to believe that in every case where ballads crystallize round a great name these are the broken lights of a disintegrated epic, worn down by attrition into popular songs? Is there, indeed, irrefragable proof that such a process ever took place anywhere? Or its reverse, for that matter? Practical writers of verse (if a writer of verse can be practical) do not take kindly to the hypothesis. They recognize the generic differences between the spirit of epic and that of folk-poetry, and prefer to believe that when both have fixed upon the same subject the choice was fortuitous and not necessarily evolutionary.
Fernán Gonzalez of Castile owed not a little of his
romantic reputation to his wife, who delivered him from captivity on at least two occasions. On that celebrated in the ballad she played the part of a faithful lover and a true heroine. Gonzalez, taken by his enemies, had been carried to a stronghold in Navarre. A Norman knight passing through that country requested the governor of the castle for an audience with the captive, and as he offered a suitable bribe the official gladly conceded the request. The interview over, the knight departed and sought the palace of King Garcia of Navarre, who held Gonzalez in bondage. One of the counts against the prisoner seems to have been that he had asked Garcia for the hand of his daughter, and to this princess, who secretly loved the captive, the knight now addressed himself:
The Moors may well be joyful, but great should be our grief,
For Spain has lost her guardian when Castile has lost her chief.
The Moorish host is pouring like a river o'er the land:
Curse on the Christian fetters that bind Gonzalez/ hand!
At 'mirk of night' the Infanta rose, and, proceeding alone to the castle where Gonzalez was confined, proffered such a heavy bribe to the governor to set him at liberty that he permitted his prisoner to go free. But the hero was still hampered by his chains, and when the pair were stopped by a hunter-priest who threatened to reveal their whereabouts to the King's foresters unless the Infanta paid him a shameful ransom, Gonzalez was unable to punish him as he deserved. But as the wretch embraced the princess she seized him by the throat, and Gonzalez grasped the spear which he had let fall and drove it through his body. Shortly afterward they encountered a band of Gonzalez' own men-at-arms, with which incident their night of adventure came to a close.
The Infantes of Lara
Few Spanish romanceros celebrate incidents more tragic or memorable than those which cluster round the massacre of the unfortunate Infantes or Princes of Lara by their treacherous uncle, Ruy or Roderigo Velasquez. Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly thinks that one of these originated from a lost epic written between 1268 and 1344, "or perhaps from a lost recast of this lost epic." Strange that such epics should all be lost! He pleads that Lockhart might have utilized other more 'energetic' ballads to illustrate this legend, but I think in this does some despite to the very fine and spirited translation entitled "The Vengeance of Mudara ":
Oh, in vain have I slaughter'd the Infants of Lara;
As I read these lines I recall a big drawing-room, the narrow casements of which look upon. a wilderness of garden woodland made magical by the yellow shadows of the hour when it is neither evening nor afternoon. Upon a table of mottled rosewood lies a copy of the Spanish Ballads in the embossed and fretted binding of the days when such books were given as presents and intended for exhibition. A child of ten, I had stolen into this Elysium redolent of rose-leaves and potpourri, and, opening the book at random, came upon the lines just quoted. For the first time I tasted the delights of rhythm, of music in words. The verses photographed themselves on my brain. Searching through the book until darkness fell, it seemed to me that I could find nothing so good, nothing that swung along with such a gallop. But the cup had been held to my lips, and my
days and nights became a quest for words wedded to music. I had to look for some time before I encountered anything better than, or equal to, the haunting rhythm of "The Vengeance of Mudara." The years have brought discoveries beside which the first pales into insignificance, adventures in books of a spirit more noble, carrying the thrill if a keener amazement; but none came with the force of such revelation as was vouchsafed by that page in an unforgotten book in an unforgotten room.
The first of the ballads in which Lockhart deals with the subject of the Infantes of Larafor the one we have been discussing follows it is entitled "The Seven Heads and details the circumstance of the massacre of the unhappy princes. From the Historia de España of Juan de Marinia (1537-1624) we learn that in the year 986 Ruy Velásquez, lord of Villaren, celebrated his marriage with Donna Lombra, a lady of high birth, at Burgos. The festivities were on a scale of great splendour, and among the guests were Gustio Gonzalez, lord of Salas of Lara, and his seven sons. These young men, of the blood of the Counts of Castile, were celebrated for their chivalric prowess, and had all been knighted on the self. same day.
As evil chance would have it, a quarrel arose between Gonzalez, the youngest of the seven brothers, and one Alvar Sanchez, a relation of the bride. Donna Lombra thought herself insulted, and in order to avenge herself, when the young knights rode in her train as she took her way to her lord's castle, she ordered one of her slaves to throw at Gonzalez a wild cucumber soaked in blood, "a heavy insult and outrage, according to the then existing customs and opinions of Spain." What this I
recondite insult signified does not matter. But surely, whatever its meaning, and making all allowance for the rudeness of the age of which she was an ornament, the lady did greater despite to herself than to her enemy by the perpetration of such an act of crude vulgarity. The slave, having done as he was bid, fled for protection to his mistress's side. But that availed him nothing, for the outraged Infantes slew him "within the very folds of her garment."
Ruy Velásquez, burning with Latin anger at what he deemed an insult to his bride, and therefore to himself, was determined upon a dreadful vengeance. But he studiously concealed his intention from the young noblemen, and behaved to them as if nothing of moment had occurred. Some time after these events he sent Gustio Gonzalez, the father of the seven young champions, on a mission to Cordova, the ostensible object of which was to receive on his behalf a tribute of money from the Moorish king of that city. He made Gustio the bearer of a letter in Arabic, which he could not read, the purport of which was a request to the Saracen chieftain to have him executed. But the infidel displayed more humanity than the Christian, and contented himself with imprison mg the unsuspecting envoy.
In furtherance of his plans Velásquez pretended to make an incursion into the Moorish country, in which he was accompanied by the Infantes of Lara with two hundred of their followers. With fiendish ingenuity he succeeded in leading them into an ambuscade. Surrounded on all sides by the Saracen host, they resolved to sell their lives at the highest possible price rather than surrender. Back to back they stood, taking a terrible toll of Moorish lives, and one by one they fell, slain but
unconquered. Their heads were dispatched to Velásquez as an earnest of a neighbourly deed by the Moorish king, and were paraded before him and in front of their stricken father, who had been released in order that Velásquez might gloat over his grief. When he had satisfied his vengeance the lord of Villaren permitted the stricken father to return to his empty home.
But Ruy Velásquez was not destined to go unpunished. While Gustio Gonzalez had been imprisoned in the dungeons of the Moorish King of Cordova he had contracted an alliance with that monarch's sister, by whom he had a son, Mudarra. When this young man had1 attained the age of fourteen years his mother prevailed upon him to go in search of his father, and when he had found his now aged parent he learned of the act of treachery by which his brothers had been slain. Determined to avenge the cowardly deed, he bided his time, and, encountering Ruy Velásquez when on a hunting expedition, slew him Out of hand. Gathering, around him a band of resolute men, he attacked the castle of Villaren, and executed a fearful vengeance upon the haughty Donna Lombra, whom he stoned and burnt at the stake. In course of time he was adopted by his father's wife, Donna Sancha, who acknowledged him as heir to the estates of his father.
We have already indicated the stirring nature of the ballad in which Mudarra takes vengeance upon the slayers of his brethren. Its predecessor in Lockhart's collection, that in which the agonized father beholds the seven heads of his murdered sons, falls far short of it in power.
"My gallant boys," quoth Lara, "it is a heavy sight
Seven gentler boys, nor braver, were never nursed in Spain,
* * * * * * * * *
He took their heads up one by one,-he kiss'd them o'er and o'er,
The Wedding of the Lady Theresa
"The Wedding of the Lady Theresa " is a semi-historical ballad which tells of the forced alliance of a Christian maiden to a noble worshipper of Mahoun. Alfonso, King of Leon, desirous of strengthening his alliance with the infidel, intended to sacrifice his sister, Donna Theresa, to his political necessities. He paved the way for this betrayal by pretending that Abdalla, King of the Moors, had become a Christian, and by indicating to her the benefits of a union with the pagan prince. Totally deceived by these representations, the lady consented to the match, was taken to Toledo, and wed to the Moor with much splendour. But on the day of the marriage she learned of her brother's perfidy, and when she found herself alone with the Moorish lord she repulsed him, telling him that she would never be a wife to him in aught but name until he and his people embraced the Christian faith. But Abdalla ridiculed her scruples, and took advantage of her unprotected state. As she had prophesied, a scourge fell upon him as the consequence of his wicked act. Terrified, he
sent Theresa back to her brother, with an abundance of treasure, and she entered the monastery of St Pelagius in Leon, where she passed the remainder of her days in pious labours and devotions.
Sad heart had fair Theresa when she their paction knew;
This ballad is no earlier than the sixteenth century, a seems to be based upon historic fact, and, as Mr.. Fitzmaurice Kelly points out, it confuses Almanzor and the Toledan governor Abdalla on the one hand and Alfonso V of Leon with his father, Bermudo II, on the other, and introduces chronological difficulties. Passing by the ballads of the Cid, to the subject-matter of which we have already done ample justice, we come to that of
Garcia Pérez de Vargas
This Mr.. Fitzmaurice Kelly dismisses in a word although it seems to me to merit some attention. De Vargas distinguished himself greatly at the siege Seville in the year 1248. One day, while riding by the banks of the river, accompanied only by a single companion, he was attacked by a party of seven mounted Moors. His comrade rode off, but Pérez, closing his visor, and setting his lance in rest, faced the paynim warriors. They, seeing who awaited them, made speed back to their own lines. As he made his way back to camp Pérez noticed that he had dropped his scarf, and immediately returned to seek for it. But
although he rode far into the danger zone ere he found it, the Moors still avoided him, and he returned to the Spanish camp in safety. The ballad makes Pérez recover the scarf from the Moors, who had found it and "looped it on a spear."
"Stand, stand, ye thieves and robbers, lay down my lady's pledge
This last verse shows how strongly Lockhart was indebted to Scott for the spirit and style of his compositions. 2
Pedro the Cruel
We come now to those ballads which recount the vivid but sanguinary history of Don Pedro the Cruel. Many attempts have been made to prove that Pedro was by no means such an inhuman monster as the balladeers would have us believe. But probability seems to be on the side of the singers rather than on that of the modern historians, who have done their best to remove the stain of his ferocious acts from Pedro's abhorred name. His first act of atrocity was that celebrated in the ballad entitled "The Master of St lago," which refers to his illegitimate brother. On the death of that nobleman, his father, well aware of Pedro's vindictive temperament, fled to the city of Coimbra, in Portugal. But, believing
Pedro's asseverations that he had no intention of offering him violence, he accepted his invitation to the Court of Seville, where a gallant tournament was about to be held. No sooner had he arrived, however, than he was secretly put to death (1358), it is believed at the instance of the notorious Maria de Padilla, Pedro's mistress.
Stand off, stand off, thou traitor strong," 'twas thus he said to me.
The ballad recounts how Pedro, relenting somewhat, imprisoned the false Maria de Padilla, but there is no evidence that she either suggested the crime or suffered for it. Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly gives it as his opinion that the dramatic power of the romance is undeniable. Had he spoken of its melodramatic power I might feel inclined to agree with him.
"That Pedro was accessory to the violent death of the young and innocent princess whom he had married, and immediately afterward deserted for ever, there can be no doubt," says Lockhart, referring to the marriage of; Pedro with Blanche de Bourbon. But whether he murdered his queen or not, his paramour, Maria de Padilla, was innocent of all complicity in the affair,; although the ballad makes her the instigator of the; horrid deed, and it is plain that the poems which refer to her were written with a sinister political motive.
Mariana, who is sufficiently reliable, states that Pedro's conduct toward his queen had aroused the anger of many of his nobles, who presented him with a remonstrance
in writing. His fierce and homicidal temper aroused to fury at what he considered an unwarranted interference in his private concerns, he immediately gave the order that his unfortunate French consort should be put to death by poison in the prison where she was confined. The poem makes Pedro and his paramour plot upon the death of the unhappy Queen in the crude manner of the balladeer all the world over.
"Maria de Padilla, be no? thus of dismal mood,
may be good ballad-writing, but I confess the barbarous inversion in the second line appears to me to be unnecessary.
"But if upon Queen Blanche ye will that I some scorn should show,
With the example of many enchanted passages of allusion no less recondite occurring in the ballads of his own country-side, Lockhart might reasonably have been expected to have done much better than the last couplet.
Fause luve, ye've shapit a weed for me
But I question if folk-poetry ever captured a lilt more exquisite than that of the first four lines of" The Gardener"
or a sharper note of anguish than that of the last quatrain. 3 To me at least Old Scots must always remain the language of the ballad par excellence, by virtue of the subtlety, the finely wrought and divinely coloured wealth of expressive idiom which bursts from its treasure-chest in a profusion of begemmed enamelled richness, more various, more magical than any Spanish gold. Much of this Lockhart filched to give his Castilian bullion a replating. But in places he falls back most wretchedly upon the poetical trickeries of his day, falls to the level of Rogers and Southey, to the miserable devices and tinsel beggary of those bravely bound annuals beloved by the dames and damsels of the day before yesterday. In places, however, he out-ballads the ballad in pure gaucherie.
These words she spake, then down she knelt, and took the bowman's blow,
The next, and not the last of the series, as Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly has it, is obviously the handiwork of Walter Scott, than whom none could fail more miserably on occasion. We can picture him doling "The Death of Don Pedro" from out the great thesaurus of his brain (that sadly drained mint, ever at the service of a friend or a publisher), as a dinted and defaced coin. Only in the last verse does the old fire blaze up.
Thus with mortal gasp and quiver,
On such a subject the composer of "Bonnie Dundee" might well have felt the blood run faster, and the pen
quiver in his fingers like an arrow on a tightened bowstring. Two royal brothers strive with hateful poniards for each other's lives. Pedro, a prisoner in the hands of Henry of Trastamara, his natural brother, is wantonly insulted by the victorious noble, and replies by flying at his throat in an outburst of animal courage and kingly rage. Dumbfounded at the death-struggle of monarch and usurper, Henry's allies look on, among them the great Du Guesclin. Pedro pins the lord of Trastamara to the ground. His dagger flashes upward. Du Guesclm turns to Henry's squire. "Will ye let your lord die thus, you who eat his bread?" he scoffs. The esquire throws himself upon Pedro, clings to his arms and turns him over, and, thus aided, Henry rises, searches for a joint in the King's armour, and thrusts his dagger deep into that merciless heart. The murderer, the friend of Jew and Saracen, is slain. His head is hacked off, and his proud body trampled beneath mailed feet. Surely a subject for a picture painted in the lights of armour and the red 'shadows of blood
Down they go in deadly wrestle,
They had better have let the ballad alone, those two at Abbotsford. It does not seem to me " a very striking ballad," as Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly observes, but in its Castilian dress it is sufficiently dramatic and exciting.
Los fieros cuerpos revueltos
So run the first two verses, which I leave the reader to translate for himself, lest further damage be done them.
The proclamation of Don Henry takes up the story where the preceding ballad left it off. In the translation of this, it seems to me, Lockhart has been much more successful than his great father-in-law proved himself in that of its companion ballad. I do not think it possible, however, to render adequately by an English pen the dignified rhythm of the Castilian in which this romancero is dressed. But the second verse,
So dark and sullen is the glare of Pedro's lifeless eyes,
is really fine, expressive, and ascends a whole scale of terrible thought and realization. Are these awful eyes dead? Can the threat they hold be imaginary? My hands are wet with brother's blood, but it is only by virtue of a slender chance that his are not imbrued with mine. The verse is horribly eloquent of the death. cold atmosphere of the moment which follows murder-simple, appalling, desperately tragic. The mad grief of the slain King's paramour is drawn with a touch almost as successful.
In her hot cheek the blood mounts high, as she stands gazing down,
The Moor Reduan
We may pass by "The Lord of Butrayo" and "The King of Arragon "and come to the ballad of" The Moor Reduan," a piece based on the siege of Granada, last stronghold of the Moors, and the first of those in which Lockhart deals with the romanceros fronterizos, or romances of the frontier, which, as we have before remarked, may have been influenced by Moorish ideas, or may even represent borrowings or données of a kind more or less direct. In his critique of this romancero Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly says: " Lockhart is, of course, not to blame for translating the ballad precisely as he found it in the text before him. Any translator would be bound to do the same to-day if he attempted a new rendering of the poem; but he would doubtless think it advisable to state in a note the result of the critical analysis which had scarcely been begun when Lockhart wrote. It now seems fairly certain that Pérez de Hita ran two romanceros into one, and that the verses from the fourth stanza onward in Lockhart,
They passed the Elvira gate with banners all displayed,
are part of a ballad on Boabdil's expedition against Lucena in 1483." This is only partially correct. Lockhart knew perfectly well that the piece was not homogeneous. Indeed he says, "The following is a version of certain parts of two ballads," although he seems to have been unaware that one of them was that dealing with Boabdil's expedition. That portion,
They passed the Elvira gate with banners all displayed,
What caftans blue and scarlet, what turbans pleach'd of green;
Reduan had registered a rash vow to take the city of Jaen so that he might win the daughter of the Moorish king. The ninth verse is full of a grateful music, not too often found in the poetry of the Britain of 1823:
But since in hasty cheer I did my promise plight,
although, I confess, the internal rhyming of "paying" and "Jaen" detracts from the melody of the whole. And this is the besetting sin of Lockhart, that he mars his happiest efforts by crudities which he evidently confounded with the simplicity of the ballad form. In all British balladry, if memory serves me, there is no such vulgarism as this.
237:2 If Scott wrote this verse himself (as Lockhart admits), he wrote others.
240:3 take these two quatrains from two different versions.