THE ROMANCEROS OR BALLADS
There was crying in Granada as the sun was going clown,
Some calling on the Trinity, some calling on Mahoun
Here passed away the Koran, there in the Cross was borne,
And here was heard the Christian bell, and there the Moorish horn.
IN this vivid verse, the first two lines of which seem to me especially successful, Lockhart, with a stroke or two of his pen, provides us with a moving sketch of the confusion and turmoil attending the Moorish flight from Granada, the last stronghold of the Moons in Spain, which fell to the victorious arms of Ferdinand and Isabella on the 6th of January, 1492, the year of the discovery of America. The remainder of the ballad is no better than Lorenzo de Sepúlveda's rather unmusical original. It is pity that a ballad beginning with such a spirited couplet should be lost in the shallows and the miseries of such stuff as
Unhappy King, whose craven soul can brook "(she 'gan reply)
"To leave behind Granadawho hast not heart to die
Now for the love I bore thy youth thee gladly eo~d I slay,
For what is life to leave when such a crown is cast away?"
Here the spirit of the metre has deserted the body of the verse, which is now merely galvanized into life by an artificial current of pedantry. The striking inequalities in the work of Lockhart are surely eloquent of the tragedy of the half-talent.
Don Alonso de Aguilar
Upon the fall of Granada the Catholic zeal of Ferdinand and Isabella insisted upon the conversion of the Moors of that province. Most of the defeated pagans
concurred, outwardly at least, with the royal decree, but in the Sierra of Alpuxarra there remained a leaven of the infidel blood who refused baptism at the hands of the priests who were sent to seal them of the faith. A royal order at length went forth to carry out the ceremony by force of arms. For a season the Moors resisted with the stubborn courage of their race, but at length they were subdued and almost extirpated. But their ruin was not accomplished without severe losses on the side of their would-be proselytizers, one of the most notable of whom was Don Alonzo de Aguilar, brother of that Gonzalvo Hernandez de Cordova of Aguilar who gained widespread renown as 'the Great Captain.' But the ballad does not seem to square with the facts of history. Indeed it places Aguilar's death before the surrender of Granada, whereas in reality it took place as late as 1501. Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly thinks that "this points to the conclusion that the romance was not written till long after the event, when the exact details had been forgotten." But why blame an entire people for what may have been a lapsus memoriæ on the part of a single balladeer? On the other hand, Mr. Kelly might justly ask one to indicate any ballad springing from folk-sources the details of which square with the circumstances as known to history or ascertained by research.
Lockhart, as usual upon first mounting his destrier, dashes the spurs in its sides with a flourish:
Fernando, King of Arragon, before Granada lies,
With dukes and barons many a one, and champions of emprise;
With all the captains of Castile that serve his lady's crown
He drives Boabdil from his gates, and plucks the crescent down.
So far good. Now for the conclusion:
The Moorish maidens, while she spoke, around her silence kept,
But her master dragged the dame away-then loud and long they wept:
They wash'd the blood, with many a tear, from dint of dart and arrow,
And buried him near the waters clear of the bank of Alpuxarra.
It will not serve to point out that this is just what one might expect in a ballad, for it bears not the shadow of resemblance to the original.
Que de chiquito en la cuna
A sus pechos le criara.
A las palabras que dice,
Cualquiera Mora lloraba:
"Don Alonso, Don Alonso,
Dios perdone la tu alma,
Pues te mataron los Moros,
Los Moros de el Alpujarra."
I am sometimes tempted to think that the weary giant at Abbotsford wrote all Lockhart's first verses, as one heads a copy-book for a child!
Lockhart omits from his collection the very fine ballad beginning:
Río verde, Río verde,
Tinto vas en sangre viva;
Entre ti y Sierra Bermeja
Murió gran caballerla
Murieron duques y condes,
Sen ores de gran valia;
Alli muriera Urdiales,
Hombre de valor y estima,
which was rather inaccurately rendered by Bishop Percy as follows
Gentle river, gentle river,
Lo, thy streams are stained with gore;
Many a brave and noble captain
Floats along thy willow'd shore.
All beside thy limpid waters,
All beside thy sands so bright,
Moorish chiefs and Christian warriors
Joined in fierce and mortal fight.
Perhaps a more accurate though less finished rendering of these opening verses might be:
Emerald river, emerald river,
Stained with slaughter's evil cheer,
'Twixt Bermeja and thy meadows
Perished many a cavalier.
Duke and count and valiant esquire
Fell upon thy fatal shore;
There died noble Urdiales
Who the stainless title bore.
I have translated these two verses chiefly for the purpose of showing how very freely those English authors who have attempted to render verse from the Castilian have dealt with the originals. And, as I have said before, I suspect that the principal reason for this looseness is a lack of idiomatic grasp. Indeed, it is obvious from most English translations that the sense of the original has been gathered rather than fully apprehended.
We can pass over "The Departure of King Sebastian," with its daring rhythm of
It was a Lusitanian lady, and she was lofty in degree,
recalling in some measure the irregular lilt of the old Scots ballads, and enter the division entitled by Lockhart "Moorish Ballads."
We have already discussed the question of the 'Moorishness'(or otherwise) of these ballads. Let us now discuss them as ballads and as nothing more. The first, "The Bull-fight of Ganzul," is not only a famous piece, but in translating it Lockhart has risen to the occasion. It describes the dexterity of Ganzul, a noble Moor, in the bull-ring, and is certainly not without its quota of Moresque colour.
King Almanzor of Granada, he hath bid the trumpet sound,
He hath summoned all the Moorish lords, from the hills and plains
From Vega and Sierra, from Betis and Xenil,
They have come with helm and cuirass of gold and twisted steel.
Eight Moorish lords of valour tried, with stalwart arm and true
The onset of the beasts abide, as they come rushing through.
The deeds they've done, the spoils they've won, fill all with hope
Yet ere high in heaven appears the sun they all have bit the dust.
Then sounds the trumpet clearly, then clangs the loud tambour;
Make room, make room for Ganzul, throw wide, throw wide the
Blow, blow the trumpet clearer still, more loudly strike the drum,
The Alcayde' of Agalva to fight the bull has come.
He defeats the bulls sent against him with the exception of one Harpado, a furious yet sagacious beast. The quatrain which describes him is well forged:
Dark is his hide on either side, but the blood within doth boil,
And the dim hide glows as if on fire, as he paws to the turmoil.
His eyes are jet and they are set in crystal rings of snow;
But now they stare with one red glare of brass upon the foe.
But it is not surpassingly like the original:
Vayo en color encendido,
Y los ojos como brasa,
Arrugada frente y cuello,
La frente vellosa y ancha.
But proud as is Harpado, he must give way to the knightly Moor, regarding whom many other tales are told, especially with reference to his love affairs with a fair lady of his own race.
The Zegris Bride
"The Zegris' Bride" tells in ballad form of the lierce feud between the two Moorish parties in Granada, the Zegris and the Abencerrages, the Montagues and Capulets of the last of the Moorish strongholds, when factious strife certainly accelerated the fall of their city. The ballad is well turned, and attractive in rhythm:
Of all the blood of Zegri, the chief is Lisaro,
To wield rejon like him is none, or javelin to throw;
From the place of his dominion, he ere the dawn doth go,
From Alcala de Henares, he rides in weeds of woe.
Such a phrase as "the place of his dominion" is not suited to ballad composition, nor is the four-line rhyming grateful to the ear, although the measure is all that could be desired. Once more I think I see the hand of Scott in this translation, his 'equestrian ' rhythm, his fondness for introducing words intended to assist local colour, as
Of gold-wrought robe or turban-nor jewelled tahali,
which he must, perforce, explain in a note as 'scimitar.' The young Zegri, we are told, is attired for action, not for the cavalcade or procession. Indeed, his armour and even his horse are camouflaged to assist his passage through an enemy 5 country without observation.
The belt is black, the hilt is dim, but the sheathed blade is bright;
They have housen'd his barb in a murky garb, but yet her hoofs
In darkness and in swiftness rides every armed knight,
The foam on the rein ye may see it plain, but nothing else is white.
Lisaro wears on his bonnet a sprig of bay given him by Zayda, his lady.
And ever as they rode, he looked upon his lady's boon.
"God knows," quoth he, "what fate may be-I may be slaughtered soon."
But he lives to win his bride, as we are told in the curt final verse:
Young Lisaro was musing so, when onwards on the path
He well could see them riding slow; then prick'd he in his wrath.
The raging sire, the kinsmen of Zayda's hateful house,
Fought well that day, yet in the fray the Zegri won his spouse.
The Bridal of Andella
"The Bridal of Andella" is brilliant with Oneutal colouring:
Rise up, rise up, Xarifa, lay the golden cushion down;
Rise up, come to the window, and gaze with all the town.
From gay guitar and violin the silver notes are flowing,
And the lovely lute doth speak between the trumpet's lordly blowing,
And banners bright from lattice light are waving everywhere,
And the tall, tall plume of our cousin's bridegroom floats proudly
in the air
Rise up, rise up, Xarifa, lay the golden cushion down;
Rise up, come to the window, and gaze with all the town.
Skilful weaving this. The lady would not look, however, because Andella, who was about to wed another, had been false to her. Ballad literature is scarcely a record of human constancy. In Ballad-land the percentage of
faithless swains, black or white, clown or knight, is a high one. Was the law regarding breach of promise first formulated by a student of ballad lore, I wonder? Whatever else it may have effected, it seems to have put an end to ballad-writing, perhaps because it ended the conditions and circumstances which went to the making of balladeering.
The intriguing ballad of "Zara's Earrings" bears upon it the stamp of natural folk-song. It may come from a Moorish original, but appearances are often deceptive. In any case it is worth quoting in part.
"My earrings, my earrings, they've dropt into the well,
And what to say to Muça, I cannot, cannot tell."
Twas thus Granada's fountain by, spoke Albuharez' daughter.
The well is deep, far down they lie, beneath the cold, blue water.
To me did Muça give them when he spake his sad farewell,
And what to say when he comes back, alas! I cannot tell."
The lady resolves in the end to do the best thing she can-that is, to tell the truth. There is a sequence of romances about this Mu~a, who seems to have been a Saracen of worth, and the same must be remarked about Celin or Selim, his successor in the collections of Lockhart and Depping. Had Lockhart been well advised, he would have substituted the ringing and patriotic " Las soberbias torres mira," which is certainly difficult of translation, for the very s6mbre "Lamentation for the Death of Celin," fine though it is. Anything in the nature of a ceremony or a procession seems to have attracted him like a child. But let us have a verse of the first poem. Even should we not know Spanish its music could not fail to haunt and hold us.
or coaxed into the acceptance of the faith of Mohammed and Termagaunt. Working himself up into one of those passions which seem to be the especial privilege of Oriental potentates, Marlotes commanded that Guarinos should be incarcerated in the lowest dungeon in his castle keep.
It was the Moorish custom to hale captives to the light of day three times in every year for the popular edification and amusement. On one of these occasions, the Feast of St John, the King raised a high target beneath which the Moorish knights rode in an attempt to pierce it with their spears. But so lofty was it that none of them might succeed in the task, and the King, annoyed at their want of skill, refused to permit the banquet to commence until the target was transfixed. Guarinos boasted that he could accomplish the feat. The royal permission was accorded him to try, and his grey charger and the armour he had not worn for seven long years were brought to him.
They have girded on his shirt of mail, his cuisses well they've clasp'd,
And they've barred the helm on his visage pale, and his hand the
lance hath grasped,
And they have caught the old grey horse, the horse he loved of
And he stands pawing at the gate-caparisoned once more.
Guarinos whispered in the old horse's ear, and it recalled the voice of its master.
Oh! lightly did Guarinos vault into the saddle-tree,
And slowly riding down made halt before Marlotes' knee;
Again the heathen laughed aloud-" All hail, sir knight," quoth he,
"Now do thy best, thou champion proud. Thy blood I look to
With that Guarinos, lance in rest, against the scoffer rode,
Pierced at one thrust his envious breast, and down his turban
Now ride, now ride, Guarinos-nor lance nor rowel spare-
Slay, slay, and gallop for thy life-the land of France lies there!
There would seem to be some connexion between this ballad and the French romance of "Ogier the Dane," and Erman tells us that it was sung in Russian in Siberia as late as 1828.
"The Lady of the Tree" tells how a princess was stolen by the fairies, and how a knight to whom she appealed for rescue turned a deaf ear to her request and was afterward scorned by her when she returned to her rightful station. "The False Queen" is a mere fragment, but "The Avenging Childe" is both complete and vivid. Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly declares that Gibson's version of this ballad is superior to that of Lockhart. Let us compare a verse of both.
Avoid that knife in battle strife, that weapon short and thin;
The dragon's gore hath bath'd it o'er, seven times 'twas steeped
Seven times the smith hath proved its pith, it cuts a coulter
In France the blade was fashioned, from Spain the shaft it drew.
Gibson renders this:
Tis a right good spear with a point so sharp, the toughest plough-share might pierce.
For seven times o'er it was tempered fine in the blood of a dragon fierce,
And seven times o'er it was whetted keen, till it shone with a deadly glance,
For its steel was wrought in the finest forge, in the realm of mighty France.
My preference is for Lockhart's rendering. Gibson's
first line is extraordinarily clumsy and cacophonous, and the ugly inversions in the second line could scarcely be tolerated outside the boundaries of the nursery. The remaining lines are well enough, but no improvement, I think, upon those of Lockhart, only the whole has a better swing, a livelier lilt, even if in the first line this is roughened by the crudity occasioned by the juxtaposition of so many sibilants and explosives. The Avenging Childe duly accounts for his enemy.
Right soon that knife hath quenched his life-the head is sundered sheer,
Then gladsome smiled the Avenging Childe, and fix'd it on his spear.
Pity it is that a sense of humour seldom chimes with a sense of the romantic. An 'avenging childe' who could smile gladly when fixing the head of a foe on his spear seems more fitted for a Borstal institution than for the silken atmosphere of Courts. Yet he married the Infanta, and was knighted and honoured by the King. Possibly they found in him a kindred soul, if all we read in romance regarding kings and infantas be true.
This very beautiful ballad, which is given in the Cancionero of Antwerp (1555), tells how Count Arnaldos, wandering by the seashore one morning, hears the mystic song of a sailor in a passing galley.
Heart may beat and eye may glisten,
Faith is strong and Hope is free,
But mortal ear no more may listen
To the song that rules the sea.
When the grey-hair'd sailor chaunted,
Every wind was hushed to sleep
Like a virgin's bosom panted
All the wide reposing dee1).
Bright in beauty rose the star-fish
From her green cave down below,
Right above the eagle poiscd him-
Holy music charmed them so.
"For the sake of God, our Maker
(Count Arnaldos' cry was strong~,
"Old man, let me be partaker
In the secret of thy song."
"Count Arnaldos! Count Arnaldos
Hearts I read and thoughts I know
Wouldst thou learn the ocean secret
In our galley thou must go."
Longfellow wrote a rather an~mie ballad, "The Seaside and the Fireside," on the Arnaldos episode, incorporating several of the lines. Some years ago I published an adaptation of it, altering the environment and chang mg the metre, and this the reader may perhaps be complacent enough to accept as an illustration of the manner in which "this sort of thing is done."
When the fleet ships stand inward to the shore
As a white tempest, 'tis then I implore
The gods not treasure of red spic~ to spill
Upon the marble quays beneath the hill,
Nor scintillant dust from far Arabian streams,
Nor weaves more brilliant than the hue of dreams,
Nor feathers, pearls, or such things as belong
To Eastern waters, hut a wondrous song
To send perchance upon a seaman's lips
That once I heard when the departing ships
Swept from the arms of sea-bound Syracuse.
I know m~- evening vigil is in vain,
That never shall I hear that song again.
Some splendid sea-spell in the sailor's soul,
Swelling his heart, and bursting all control,
Some white sea-spirit chanting from his mouth
Sang the strange colours of a distant south.
Music deep-drowned within the siren sea
Art thou beyond the call of ecstasy?
The "Song for the Morning of the Day of St John the Baptist" has little to do with ballad, so we may pass it by, as we may do the "Julian" fragment, one of the Gayferos group. "The Song of the Galley," which Mr. Kelly regards as " too dulcet," seems to me poorly rendered:
Ye galleys fairly built,
Like castles on the sea,
Oh, great will be your guilt
If ye bring him not to me'
This seems to me facility run mad, and great would be my guilt did I quote more. To the very fine "Wandering Knight's Song" I have already made allusion. "Minguillo" enshrines a motif of almost world-wide usage:
Since for kissing thee, Minguillo,
My mother scolds me all the day,
Let me have it quickly, darling;
Give me back my kiss, I pray.
A conceit current from Caithness to Capo d'Istria. "Serenade," from the Romancero General of 1604, is certainly not peasant work. For his translation of this Lockhart deserves high praise. Its music is reminiscent of Shelley's "Skylark," though of course it lacks the almost intolerable keenness of that song most magical.
All the stars are glowing In the gorgeous sky,
In the stream scarce flowing Mimic lustres lie
Blow, gentle, gentle breeze,
But bring no cloud to hide
Their dear resplendencies;
Nor chase from Zara's side
Dreams bright and pure as these.
It is inspired by a chaste and natural music all its own, beyond the conscious artistry of the material man. To do Lockhart justice, he loved the art of letters for itself alone. His was that natural modesty which is content to sing in the shadow; nor can one recall the memory of that fine and upright spirit, his labour and his sacrifice, without praise and gratitude gladly bestowed. In this poem I seem to see the real Lockharta man with the heart of a child.
Minguela's Chiding" tells of the woe of a rustic maid who loved to her destruction. "The Captive Knight and the Blackbird" is the prison plaint of a warrior who knows not how the seasons pass, or the moons wax and wane:
Woe dwells with me in spite of thee, thou gladsome month of May;
I cannot see what tars there be, I know not night from day.
There was a bird whose voice I heard, oh, sweet my small bird
I heard its tune when night was gone, and up the morning sprung.
Some cruel hand had slain the blackbird which was wont to delight the poor prisoner's heart. But the King heard his plaint while passing beneath his dungeon window, and set him free.
We may pass over the rather sepulchral "Valladolid," which tells of the visit of a knight to the tomb of
his lady-love in that city. "The Ill-Married Lady" recounts the grief of a dame whose husband is faithless to her, and who consoles herself with another cavalier. They are surprised by her lord, and she artlessly asks:
"Must I, must I die to-day?" and requests to be buried in the orange garden. The romance does not tell us if her last wishes were complied with, or even if her life was forfeited, but to a Spanish public of the seventeenth century it was probably a supererogation even to allude to such a sequel.
Dragut" tells the story of a famous corsair whose ship was sunk by a vessel belonging to the Knights of Malta. Dragut saved himself by swimming ashore, but the Christian captives with whom his barque was laden were all drowned save one, to whom the Maltese threw a rope.
It was a Spanish knight, who had long been in Algiers,
From ladies high descended and noble cavaliers,
But forced for a season a false Moor's slave to be,
Upon the shore his gardener, and his galley-slave at sea.
We have already recounted the tale of the Count Alarcos, and with it Lockhart's collection comes to an end.
But it is not in the pages of Lockhart alone that we should look for good translations of the Spanish romanceros. John Bowring in his Ancient Poetry and Romances of Spain (1824) has undoubtedly done much to render some of the lesser lyrics of Castilian balladeers into successful English verse. His translation of the celebrated "Fonte Frida" is, perhaps, the best version of that much-discussed poem to be met with in our language. It is clear that Ticknor's rendition of this piece is practically a paraphrase of Bowring's translation, of which I give the first two verses
Fount of freshness, fount of freshness,
Fount of freshness and of love,
Where the little birds of spring-time
Seek for comfort as they rove;
All except the widow'd turtle,
Widow'd, sorrowing turtle-dove.
There the nightingale, the traitor,
Lingered on his giddy way;
And these words of hidden treachery
To the dove I heard him say:
"I will be thy servant, lady,
I will ne'er thy love betray."
But no English translation, however fine, can possibly do justice to this beautiful lyric:
Fonte frida, fonte frida,
Fonte frida, y con amor,
Do todas las avezicas
Van tomar consolacion,
Sino es la tortolica
Que esta viuda y con dolor,
Por ay fue a passar
El traydor del ruysenor
Las palabras que el dezia
lienas son de traicion
"Si tu quisiesses, Sefiora,
Vo seria tu servidor."
Ticknor speaks truly when he says of the Spanish ballads: "To feel their true value and power we must read large numbers of them, and read them, too, in their native language; for there is a winning freshness in the originals, as they lie embedded in the old romanceros, that escapes in translations, however free, or however strict."
The romancero entitled "Sale Ia estrella de Venus" recounts a tragic story. A Moorish warrior, flying from the city of Sidonia because of the cruelty of his lady,
who had taunted him with poverty and had bestow' her hand upon another, makes the rocks and hi] re-echo with his plaints. He pronounces a terrible at bitter curse upon the proud and wanton maiden wi has spurned him. Maddened, he seeks the palace the Alcalde to whom his faithless fair one is to espoused that night. The building is bright wi torches and gay with song.
And the crowds make way before him
While he pays his courtesies.
Ha! his bloody lance has traversed
The Alcalde's fluttering breast,
And his life-blood now is flowing,
Flowing through his purple vest.
O what horror! What confusion,
Desolation and dismay!
While the stern, unnoticed murderer,
To Medina takes his way.
We have examined every type of Spanish ballad poetry. The general note struck, we will observe, is a grave and romantic one, the fruit of the thoughts of a proud an' imaginative people. Nor can we fail to notice the national note which rings through these poems, the racial individuality which informs them. "Poor Spain! How often do we hear the expression employed by men of Anglo-Saxon race! Let these undeceive themselves. What can material poverty signify to people dowered with such treasures of the imagination; Poor Spain! Nay, opulent Spain; treasure-house of the minted coin of story, of the priceless jewels O romance, of drama, and of song!