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Romance, Romance, the song of France,
The gestes of fair Britaine,
The legends of the sword and the lance,
That grew in Alemaine,
Pale in thy rich inheritance,
Thou splendor of old Spain!


IF, spent with journeying, a stranger should seat himself in some garden in old Granada, and from beneath a tenting of citron and mulberry leaves open his ears to the melody of the waters of the City of Pomegranates and his spirit to the sorcery of its atmosphere, he will gladly believe that in the days when its colours were less mellow and its delicious air perhaps less reposeful the harps of its poets were the looms upon which the webs of romance were woven.  Almost instinctively he will form the impression that the Spaniard, having regained this paradise after centuries of exile, and stirred by the enchanted echoes of Moorish music which still lingered there, was roused into passionate song in praise of those heroes of his race who had warred so ceaselessly and sacrificed so much to redeem it.  But If he should climb the Siera del Sol and pass through the enchanted chambers of the Alhambra as a child passes through the courts of dream, he will say in his heart that the men who builded these rooms from the rainbow and painted these walls from the palette of the sunset raised also the invisible but not less gorgeous palace of Spanish Romance.

Or if one, walking in the carven shadows of Cordova,

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think on the mosque Maspura, whose doors of Andalusian brass opened to generations of poets and astrologers, or on the palace of Azzahra, built of rose and sea-colored marbles rifled from the Byzantine churches of Ifrikia, will he not believe that in this city of shattered splendours and irretrievable spells the passion-flower of Romance burst forth full-blown?

But we cannot trace the first notes of the forgotten musics nor piece together the mosaic of broken harmonies in the warm and sounding cities of the Saracens, neither in "the mine of silk and silver," old Granada, nor among the marble memories of Cordova, whose market-place overflowed with the painted parchments of Moorish song and science. We must turn our backs on the scarlet southern land and ascend to the bare heights of Castile and Asturias, where Christian Spain, prisoned for half a thousand years upon a harsh and arid plateau, and wrought to a high passion of sacrifice and patriotism, burst into a glory of mortal song, the echoes of which resound among its mountains like ghostly clarions on a field of old encounter.

Isolation and devotion to a national cause are more powerful an incentive to the making of romance than an atmosphere of Eastern luxuriance. The breasts of these stern sierras were to give forth milk sweeter than the wine of Almohaden, and song more moving if less fantastic in Burgos and Carrión than ever inspired the guitars of Granada. But the unending conflict of Arab and Spaniard brought with it many interchanges between the sensuous spirit of the South and the more rugged manliness of the North, so that at last Saracen gold damascened the steel of Spanish song, and the nets of Eastern phantasy wound themselves about the[paragraph continues]

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Spanish soul. In a later day an openly avowed admiration for the art and culture of the Moslem leavened the ancient hate, and the Moorish cavalier imitated the chivalry, if not the verse, of the Castilian knight.  1


The Cradle of Spanish Song

The homeland of Spanish tradition was indeed a fitting nursery for the race which for centuries contested every acre of the Peninsula with an enemy greatly more advanced in the art of warfare, if inferior in resolution and the spirit of unity. Among the flinty wastes of the north of Spain, which are now regarded as rich in mineral resources, are situated at intervals luxuriant and fertile valleys sunk deep between the knees of volcanic ridges, the lower slopes of which are covered with thick forests of oak, chestnut, and pine. These depressions, sheltered from the sword-like winds which sweep down from the Pyrenees, reproduce in a measure the pleasant conditions of the southern land. Although their distance one from another tended to isolation, it was in these valleys that Christian Spain received the respite which enabled her to collect her strength and school her spirit for the great struggle against the Saracen.

In this age-long contest she was undoubtedly inspired by that subtle sense of nationhood and the possession of a common tongue which have proved the salvation of many races no less desperately situated, and perhaps her determination to redeem the lost Eden of the South is the best measure of the theory that, prior to the era of Saracen conquest, the Castilian tongue was a mere

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jargon, composed of the elements of the Roman lingua rustica and the rude Gothic, and, according to some authorities, still lacking in grammatical arrangement and fixity of idiom.  2 It is certainly clear that the final phases in the evolution of the Castilian took place subsequently to the Arabic invasion, but it is a straining of such scanty evidence as we possess to impute to the form of Castilian speech current immediately before that time the character of an undisciplined patois.


Roman and Visigoth

When in the early part of the fifth century the Visigoths, following in the wake of the Vandal folk, entered Romanized Spain, they did not build upon the ruins of its civilization, but retained the habits of their northern homeland and for some generations seem to have been little impressed with Roman culture. Nor did the Latin speech of the people they had conquered at first find favour among them, although dwelling as they had done on the very flanks of the Empire, they were certainly not ignorant of it. They found the people of the Peninsula as little inclined to relinquish the cultivated language in which their compatriots Martila, Lucuan and Seneca had contributed to the triumph of Roman letters. A military autocracy is not usually successful in imposing its language upon a subject people unless it possesses the dual advantages

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of ascendancy in arms and literary capacity, and the Visigoths, unable to compete in this latter respect with the highly civilized colonists of Hispania, fell, with the passing of the generations, into the easy acceptance of the Roman tongue. Their illiteracy, however, was not the sole reason for their partial defeat in the give-and-take of linguistic strife, for, though powerful in military combination, they were greatly outmatched in numbers. As invaders they had brought few women with them, and had perforce to intermarry with native wives, who taught their children the Roman tongue. The necessary intercourse between conqueror and conquered in time produced a sort of pidgin-Latin, which stood in much the same relation to the classic speech of Rome as the trade language of the Pacific did to English.  3

The use of Latin as a literary tongue in that part of Spain where the Castilian speech was evolved considerably retarded its development from the condition of a patois to a language proper. Nevertheless it continued to advance. The processes by which it did so are surprisingly obscure, but the circumstance of its literary fixity in the early eleventh century is proof that it must have achieved colloquial perfection at least before the era of the Moorish invasion. The Saracen conquest, by forcing it into the bleak north-west, did it small disservice, for there it had to contend with other dialects of the Roman tongue, which enriched its vocabulary, and over which, ultimately, it gained almost complete ascendancy as a literary language.

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The Romance Tongues of Spain

Three Romance or Roman languages were spoken in that portion of Spain which remained in Christian hands: in Catalonia and Aragon the Provençal, Catalan, or Limousin; in Asturias, Old Castile, and Leon the Castilian; and in Galicia the Gallego, whence the Portuguese had its origin. The Catalan was almost entirely similar to the Provençal or langue d’oc of Southern France, and the accession of Raymond Berenger, Count of Barcelona, to the throne of Provence in 1092 united the Catalonian and Provençal peoples under one common rule. Provençal, the language of the Troubadours, was of French origin, and bears evidence of its evolution from the Latin of Provincial Gaul. It appears to have been brought into Catalonia by those Hispani who had fled the Provence from Moorish rule, and who gradually drifted southward again as the more northerly portions of Spain were freed from Arab aggression. The political connexion of Catalonia with Provence naturally brought about a similarity of custom as well as of speech, and indeed we find the people of the Catalan coast and the province of Aragon deeply imbued with the chivalry and gallantry of the more northerly home of the Gai Saber .

Throughout the whole Provençal-Catalan  4 tract were held those romantic courts of love in which the erotic subtleties of its men and women of song were debated with a seriousness which shows that the art of love had entered into competition with the forces of law and

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religion, and had, indeed, become the real business of life with the upper classes of the country. Out of this glorification of the relations of the sexes arose the allied science of chivalry, no less punctilious or extravagant in its code and spirit. This spirit of Provençal chivalry gradually found its way into Castile, heightened and quickened the imagination of its people, and prepared the Spanish mind for the acceptance and appreciation of Romantic literature. But at no time was Castilian imagination passively receptive. It subjected every literary force which invaded it to such a powerful alchemy of transmutation that in time all foreign elements lost their alien character and emerged from the crucible of Spanish thought as things almost wholly Castilian.

The perfection of rhyming verse was undoubtedly accomplished by the Troubadour poets of Provence and Catalonia, and opened the way for a lyric poetry which, if it never attained any loftiness of flight or marked originality of expression, has seldom been surpassed in melody and finish. But it is remarkable that this extensive body of verse, if a few political satires be excepted, has but one constant theme—the exaltation of love. A perusal of the poetry of the pleasant Provençal tongue pleases the ear and appeals to the musical sense. The melody is never at fault, and we can count upon the constancy of a pavane-like stateliness, which proceeds, perhaps, as much from the genius of the language as from the metrical excellences of its singers. But the monotonous repetition of amatory sentiment, for the expression of which the same conceptions and even the same phrases are again and again compelled to do duty, the artificial spirit which inspires these uniform cadences, and the lack of real human

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warmth soon weary and disappoint the reader, who will gladly resign the entire poetical kingdom of Provence to the specialist in prosody or the literary antiquary in exchange for the freer and less formal beauties of a music better suited to human needs and less obviously designed for the uses of a literary caste. The poetry of Provence reminds us of those tapestries in which the scheme is wholly decorative, where still, brocaded flowers occupy regular intervals in the pattern and a monotonous sameness of colour is the distinctive note. No episode of the chase nor pastoral scene charms us by its liveliness or reality, nor do we find the silken hues distributed in a natural and pleasing manner.  5

The Provençal and Catalan troubadours had, indeed, a certain influence upon the fortunes of Castilian poetry and romance, and proofs of their early intercourse with Castile are numerous. The thirteenth-century Book of Apollonius, an anonymous poem, is full of Provençalisms, as is the rather later History of the Crusades. During the persecution they suffered at the period of the Albigensian wars numbers of them fled into Spain where they found a refuge from their intolerant enemies. Thus Aimeric de Bellinai fled to the Court of Alfonso IX,  6 and was later at the Court of Alfonso X, as were Montagnagunt and Folquet de Lunel, as well as Raimon de Tours and Bertrand Carbunel, who, with[paragraph continues]

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Riquier, either dedicated their works to that monarch or composed elegies on the occasion of his death. King Alfonso himself wrote verses of a decidedly Provençal cast, and even as late as 1433 the Marquis de Villena, a kinsman of the famous Marquis de Santillana, whom we shall encounter later, wrote a treatise upon the art of the Troubadours,  7 which, following the instinct of a pedant, he desired to see resuscitated in Castile.  8

The Galician, a Romance language which sprang from the same root as the Portuguese, is nearly allied to the Castilian. But it is not as rich in guttural sounds, from which we may be correct in surmising that it has less of the Teutonic in its composition than the sister tongue. Like Portuguese, it possesses an abundance of hissing sounds, and a nasal pronunciation not unlike the French, which was in all probability introduced by the early establishment of a Burgundian dynasty upon the throne. But Galician influence upon the Castilian literature ceased at an early period, although the reverse was by no means the case.


The Rise of Castilian

The evolution of Castilian from the original Latin spoken by the Roman colonists in Spain was complicated by many local circumstances. Thus in constructing the vocables of the Roman tongue it did not omit the same syllables as the Italian, nor did it give such brevity to

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them as Provençal or Galician. Probably because of the greater admixture of Gothic blood among those who spoke it, it is rich in aspirates, and has a stronger framework than almost any of the Romance tongues. Thus the Latin f is in Castilian frequently altered to h, as hablar = fabulari, ‘to speak.’ The letter j, which is strongly aspirated, is frequently substituted for the liquid l, so that filius, ‘a son,’ becomes hijo . Liquid ll in its turn takes the place of Latin pl, and we find Latin planus, ‘smooth,’ appearing in Castilian as llano (pron. lyáh-no). The Spanish ch supplies the place of the Latin ct, as facto = hecho, dictu = dicho, and so on.

Other proofs of Teutonic association are not lacking. Thus, the g before c and i, which in Gothic and German is guttural, has the same character in Castilian. The Spanish conversion of o into ue also resembles the similar change in German, if, for example, we compare the Castilian cuerpo and pueblo with the German Körper and Pöbel.


Southward Spread of Castilian

The rise of Castilian as a colloquial and literary tongue was achieved by the ceaseless struggle of the hardy race who spoke it against the Saracen occupation of their native land. As the Castilian warriors by generations of hard fighting gradually regained city after city and district by district rather than province by province, their language encroached by degrees upon the area of that of their Arab enemies,  9 until at length the stronghold of the Moors fell and left them not a foothold in the Peninsula. "It was indeed a rude training

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which our forefathers, mighty and hardy, had as a prelude to so many glories and to the conquest of the world," says Martinez in his novel Isabel de Solis.  10 "Weighed down by their harness and with sword in hand, they slept at ease for no single night for eight centuries."

From the period of the defeat of Roderic, "last of the Visigoths," at the battle of Xerez de la Frontera in 711 until the fall of Granada in 1492, Spain was indeed a land of battles. Almost immediately after their first defeat by Arab arms the armies of the Visigoths were pursued to the north-western limits of the Peninsula, where they found a rallying-place in the mountains of Biscay and Asturias. There, like the Welsh after the Saxon invasion of Britain, they might have been reconciled to the comparatively low area left to them, but the circumstances of their virtual imprisonment served only to unite them more closely in common nationality and a common resolve to win back their original possessions.

For many generations their efforts were confined to border forays and guerilla fighting, for the fiery courage of the Saracens would permit of no mere defensive policy, and nearly every victory of which the Castilians could boast were counterbalanced by reverses and losses which their inferior numbers could ill sustain. But by degrees their valorous obstinacy was rewarded, and ere a century had passed they had regained the greater part of Old Castile. The very name of this province, meaning as it does "the Land of the Castles," shows even when regained it was held only by fortifying its every hill-top with strongholds, so that at last this

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castellated tract gave its name to the race which held it so dearly. Before another twenty years had passed the Castilian warriors had established a footing in New Castile, and from this time onward seem to have been assured of ultimate success.

The fall of Toledo in 1085, after three centuries and a half of Saracen occupation, marked a further epoch in the southern advance of the Castilians, and by the taking of Saragossa in 1117 the tables were turned upon the Arab invaders, who were now driven into a more confined part of the country, to the south and south-west. This circumstance, however, seems to have consolidated rather than weakened their powers, and they had yet to be reckoned with for nearly four centuries ere, with the fall of Granada, the Boabdil, or Abu-Abdallah, the last of the Moorish kings, gave up its keys to Ferdinand of Castile, looked his last upon the city, and crossed to Africa to fling away his life in battle.

In these circumstances of constant strife and unrest the Romantic literature of Spain was born. It is by no means remarkable that its development coincided with the clash of arms. Trumpets re-echo in its every close. As it expresses the spirit of a martial race, it was also the nursling of necessity, for from the songs and fables of mighty heroes the knights of Castile drew a new courage and experienced an emulous exhilaration which nerved them on the day of battle. Well might the wandering knight of Castile chant, as in the old ballad:

Oh, the harness is my only wear,
The battle is my play:
My pallet is the desert hare,
My lamp yon planet’s ray.  11

[paragraph continues]

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Border warfare, with its frequent change of scene and constant alarms, was a fitting introduction to errantry.


The Literal Development of Castilian

Castilian, although more than alien influence impinged upon it, evolved a literary shape peculiarly its own, especially as regards its verse, as will be seen when we come to deal separately with its several Romantic forms. Thus it owed nothing to the literary methods of Provençal or Catalan, though much to their spirit and outward manners. When the courtly and rather pedantic poetic systems of the Troubadours encountered the grave and vigorous Castilian, it was ill fitted to make any prolonged resistance. As political causes had hastened their encounter, so they quickened the victory of the Castilian. The ruling power in Aragon had from an early period been connected with Castilian royalty, and Ferdinand the Just, who came to the throne of Aragon in 1412, was a Castilian prince. The courts of Valencia and Burgos were, therefore, practically open to the same political influences. If our conclusions are correct, it was during the reigns of Ferdinand the Just and Alfonso V (1412-58) that the influence of Castilian first invaded the sphere of Catalan. We find it definitely recognized as a poetic tongue on the occasion of a contest of song in honour of the Madonna held at Valencia in 1474, the forty poems sung at which were afterwards collected in the first book printed in Spain. Four of these are in the Castilian tongue, which was thus evidently regarded as a literary medium efficiently developed to be represented in such a contest. Valencia, indeed, at first wholly Catalan in speech and art, seems to have possessed a school of Castilian poets of its own

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from 1470 to 1550, who did much to popularize their native tongue. But the Catalonians were not minded that their language should lose the literary hegemony of Spain so easily, and they made every endeavor to sustain it by instituting colleges of professional troubadours and vaunting its beauties at their great public contests of song. It was in vain. They had encountered a language more vigorous, more ample in vocabulary, more rich in idiomatic construction, and backed by a stronger political power than their own.


The Poetical Courts of Castile

The evolution of Castilian as a literary language was also assiduously fostered by the scholarly character of many of the rulers of Castile. Alfonso the Wise was himself a poet, and cultivated his native tongue with judiciousness and care, affording it purity and precision of expression. Under his supervision the Scriptures were translated into Castilian, and a General Chronicle of Spain as well as a history of the first Crusade were undertaken at his instance. He made it the language of the law courts, and attempted to infuse into its verse a more exact spirit and poetical phraseology by the imitation of Provençal models.

Alfonso XI composed a General Chronicle in the easy, flowing rhyme of the native redondillas, instead of the stiff, monkish Alexandrines then current in literary circles, and caused books to be written in Castilian prose on the art of hunting and the genealogy of the nobility. 12 His relative Don Juan Manuel did much to discipline Spanish imagination and give fixity to Spanish prose in

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his Conde Lucanor,  13 a volume of ethical and political maxims, the morals of which are well pointed by tales and fables drawn from history and historical literature. Juan II,  14 although a weak and idle monarch, was a great patron of letters, wrote letters, associated with poets, and caused a large collection of the best existing Spanish verse to be made in 1449. But the spirit of his Court was a pedantic one; it strayed after Italian models, and he himself affected the Provençal manner. Despite such artificial barriers, however, Castilian speech continued to advance upon its conquering way. It had definitely become the language of Romance, and Romance, within a generation of this period, was to become the most powerful literary form in the Peninsula.


The Rise of Romance

The development of Romance in Spain, its evolution and the phases through which it passed, has not, as a theme, met with the painstaking treatment at the hands of English writers on Spanish literature that might have been expected at this late day, when the literary specialist has to search diligently into the remotest corners of the earth if he seek new treasures to assay. Its several phases are rather hinted at than definitely laid down, not because of the poverty or dubiety of the evidential material so much as through the laxity and want of thoroughness which characterizes most Britannic efforts at epochal fixation or attempts to elucidate the connexion between successive literary phases. I can scarcely hope to succeed in a task which other and better equipped authorities have neglected, perhaps for sound reasons. But I had rather fail in an attempt to reduce the details

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of the evolution of Spanish to orderly sequence than place before the reader an array of unrelated facts and isolated tags which, however interesting, present no definite picture, permit of no reasonable deduction, and are usually accompanied peradventure or so by way of dubious enlightenment.

If we regard the literary map of Europe from the eleventh to the thirteenth century we behold the light shining from two quarters—Jewish-Arabic Spain and France. With the first we have, at the moment, no concern. Its literature was at the time alien and inimical to Christian Spain, which, as we shall see later, did not regard anything Saracen with complacence until its sword no longer crossed with the scimetar. But in France Castile had an illustrious exemplar, whose lessons it construed in its own manner—a manner dictated both by national pride and political necessity.

With the influence of Southern France we have already dealt. At the era alluded to, Northern France, the country of the langue d’oil, although in a measure disturbed by unrest, was yet in a much better case to produce great literature than Castile, whose constant vendetta with the Moslem left her best minds only a margin of leisure for the production of pure literature—a margin, however, of which the fullest advantage was taken. The rise of a caste of itinerary poets in France supplied the popular demand for story-telling, and the trouvères of the twelfth century recognized in the glorious era of Charlemagne a fitting and abundant source of heroic fiction such as would appeal to medieval audiences. The poems, or rather epics, which they based upon the history of the Carlovingian

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period were known as chansons de gestes, ‘songs of the deeds’ of the great Frankish emperor and his invincible paladins, or, to the trouvères themselves, as matière de France, as the Arthurian tales were designated matière de Bretagne, and those based upon classical history matière de Rome.

Until comparatively recent times these immense works, many of which comprise six or seven thousand lines of verse, were practically unknown, even to the generality of literary authorities.  15 As we now possess them they are comparatively late in form, and have undergone much revisal, probably for the worse. But they are the oldest examples of elaborate verse in any modern language, with the exception of English and Norse, and undoubtedly stand in an ancestral relation to all modern English literature.

These chansons were intended to be sung in the common halls of feudal dwellings by the itinerant trouvères, who composed or passed them on to one another. Their subject-matter deals more with the clash of arms than the human emotions, though these are at intervals depicted in a masterly manner. The older examples of them are written in batches of lines, varying from one to several score, each of which derives unity from an assonant vowel-rhyme, and known as laisses or tirades. Later, however, rhyme crept into the chansons, the entire laisse, or batch, ending in a single rhyme-sound.

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Castilian Opposition to the Chansons de Gestes

In these poems, which probably originated in the north of France, the genre spreading southward as time progressed, Charlemagne is represented as the great bulwark of Christianity against the Saracens of Spain. Surrounded by his peers, Roland, Oliver, Naymes, Ogier, and William of Orange, he wages constant warfare against the Moors or the ‘Saracens’ (pagans) of Saxony. Of these poems Gautier has published a list of an hundred and ten, a moiety of which dates from the twelfth century. A number of the later chansons are in Provençal, but all attempts to refer the entire cycle in its original condition to that literature have signally failed.

That this immense body of romantic material found its way into Castile is positively certain. Whether it did so by way of Provence and Catalonia is not clear, but it is not impossible that such was the case. It might be thought that Christian Spain, in the throes of her struggle with the Moors, took kindly to a literature so constant in its reference to the discomfiture of her hereditary foes. At first she did so, and accepted the chanson form. But two barriers to her undivided appreciation of it presently appeared. In the first place, the Castilian of the twelfth century seems to have been aware that if Charlemagne invaded Spain at all, he encountered not only the Moor but the Spaniard as well. This is not borne out, as some authorities imply, by a piece in the popular poetry of the Basques known as the Altobiskarko Cantar, or Song of Altobiskar, which tacitly asserts that the defeat of Charlemagne’s rearguard at Roncesvalles was due not to Saracens, but to Basques,

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who resented the passage of the Frankish army through their mountain passes. The whole piece is an effusion written in Basque by a Basque student named Duhalde, who translated it from the French of François Goray de Montglave (c. 1833).  16 A second battle of Roncesvalles took place in the reign of Louis le Debonair in 824, when two Frankish counts returning from Spain were again surprised and defeated by the Pyrenean mountaineers. But there appears to have been a still earlier battle between Franks and Basques in the Pyrenees in the reign of Dagobert I (631-638). The folk-memory of these contests seems to have been kept alive, so that the Spaniard felt that the Frank was somewhat of a traditional enemy. Archbishop Roderic of Toledo inveighed against those Spanish juglares who sang the battles of Charlemagne in Spain, and Alfonso the Learned belittles the mythical successes of the Frankish emperor.

But this was not all. The idea that Charlemagne had entered Spain as a conqueror, carrying all before him, was offensive to the highly wrought pride and patriotism of the Castilians, who chose to interpret the spirit of the chansons de gestes in their own way, and, instead of copying them slavishly, raised an opposing body of song to their detriment. Accepting as the national hero of the Carlovingian era an imaginary knight, Bernaldo de Carpio, they hailed him as the champion of Castile, and invented songs of their own in which he is spoken of as slaying and defeating Roland at Roncesvalles at the head of a victorious army composed not of Arabs or Basques, but Castilians.

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The Cantares de Gesta

But if the Castilians did not accept the manner of the chansons , they assuredly adopted their form. Their revolt against the alien spirit and politics of the chansons seems to have taken place at some time soon after the diffusion of these throughout Spain. A Spanish priest of the early twelfth century wrote the fabulus chronicle of Archbishop Turpin of Rheims, which purported to be the work of that warlike cleric, but in reality was intended to popularize the pilgrimage to Compostella to which it had reference. Many Franks traveled to the shrine, among them trouvères, who in all likelihood passed on to the Castilian singers the spirit and metrical system of the chansons , so that later we hear of Spanish cantares de gesta, most of which, however, unlike their French models, are lost to us. The famous Poema del Cid, dealing with the exploits of a great Castilian hero, is nothing but a cantar de gesta in form and spirit, and we possess good evidence that many of the late romanceros or ballads upon such heroes as Bernaldo de Carpio, Gonzalvo de Cordova, and Gayferos are but ancient cantares ‘rubbed down’ or in a state of atrition.

As in France, so in Spain, degeneration overtook the cantares de gesta . In course of time they were forced into the market-place and the scillions’ hall. Many of them were worked into the substance of chronicles and histories; but the juglares who now sang them altered them, when they passed out of fashion, into corrupt abridgements, or broke them up into ballads to suit the taste of a more popular audience. 17

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The Chronicles

But if the majority of the cantares de gesta are irreplaceable as regards their original form, we find fragments of them in the ancient chronicles of Spain. Thus the General Chronicle of Spain (c. 1252), which, according to the latest research, is believed to have undergone at least three specific alterations or rearrangements of its text, tells of the stories of Bernaldo de Carpio, Ferrán Gonzáles, and the seven children of Lara, and provides sketches of Charlemagne, while its latter portion recounts the history of the Cid, and at times even appeals to the cantares as its authority for such and such an episode. Many of the passages in the chronicles, too, are obviously copied in their entirety from certain cantares. So strongly, indeed, do they retain the assonant verse-formation typical of the cantares that many of the later balladeers seem easily to have cast them into verse again, especially those relating to Bernaldo de Carpio and the Infantes de Lara, and in this manner they appeared once more in the cancioneros, or collections of folk-songs.


The Ballads.

The immortal ballads of Spain have been the subject of the sharpest controversy, and their importance as Romantic material demands special treatment in a separate chapter. Regarding the period to which they belong, and their relations to the larger narrative poems and chronicles, we must deal briefly with them here. Some authorities ascribe them to an early age and insist upon their priority to such poems as the Poema del Cid and such chronicles as that of Alfonso the Learned, while

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others are equally assured of the late date of the greater number. It seems to me that the truth resides in both hypotheses, and that in this case, as frequently in literary navigation, it is wise to steer a middle course. In my view the ballads of Spain are of four fundamental types: those which arose spontaneously in Northern Spain at some time subsequent to the formation of the Castilian language, and which, if we possess any remains of them at all, have probably come down to us in such a form as would render them unrecognizable to those who first sang them; ballads which are based on passes in cantares de gesta as chronicles; folk-ballads of a later date, more or less altered; and, lastly, the more modern productions of conscious art.

I also believe that the ballads or romanceros are again of two broad classes: those of spontaneous folk-origin, owing nothing to literary sources, and those which are mainly cantares de gesta, or chronicle passages in a lyric state of attrition. With the great body of authorities upon ancient Spanish literature I do not believe that the cantares or chronicles owe anything to the ballads of any age, which seem to me wholly of popular origin. Of course the two classes lastly indicated do not include the more ‘poetic’ or sophisticated ballads written after the ballads became an accepted form for experiments in conscious versification, and it is plain that such efforts could belong to neither category.

No definite proof exists as to the degree of sophistication and alternation which the ballads underwent before their ultimate collection and publication. It would be strange, however, if no ballads of relatively early date had reached us, altered or otherwise, and it seems to me merely a piece of critical affectation to deny antiquity

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to a song solely because it found its way into print at a later period, or because it is not encountered in ancient MSS., just as it would be to throw doubt upon the antiquity of a legend or folk-custom current in our own day—unless, indeed, such should display obvious marks of recent manufacture. At the same time a few of those ballads seem to me to bear the stamp of an antiquity more hoary than, for example, those of Scotland or Denmark.

Few of the ballad systems of Europe are better worthy of study than that of Spain. But in this place we are considering it merely from the point of view of its bearings upon Romance. That it has a close affinity with the Romantic literature of the Peninsula is evident from the name given to these poems by the Spaniards, who call them romanceros.  18 Some of them are, indeed, romances or cantares de gesta in title, and in fact they deal with all the great subjects sung of in the cantares or prosed upon in the chronicles, such as the Cid, Bernaldo de Carpio, Count Alarcos and so forth. But they seem to have little in common with the later romances proper, such as Amadis, Palmerin or Felixmarte, for the good reason that by the time these were in fashion the ballad had become the sole property of the common people. As the Marquis de Santillana (1398-1458) himself a poet of note, remarks in a letter famous for the light it throws on the condition of Spanish literature in his day: "There are contemptible poets who, without order, rule or rhythm, make those songs and romances in which vulgar folk and menials

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take delight." So might Lovelace or Drummond of Hawthornden have written of our own balladeers.

The ballads thus relegated to the peasantry and lower classes, those of the upper classes who found time for reading were accordingly thrown back upon the chronicles and the few cantares de gesta which had been reduced to writing. But on the destruction of the Moorish states in Spain the increase in wealth and leisure among the upper classes, and the introduction of printing, aroused a demand for books which would provide amusement. A great spirit of invention was abroad. At first it resuscitated the Romantic matter lying embedded and almost fossilized in the chronicles. It is, indeed, but a step from some of these to the romances proper. But Spain hungrily craved novelty, and the eyes of romance-makers were once more turned to France, whose fictional wealth began to be exploited by Spanish writers about the beginning of the fifteenth century.


The Heyday of Romance

Perhaps the first literary notice we posses of the romance proper in Spain is that of Ayala, Chancellor of Castile (d. 1407), who, in his Rimado de Palacio, deplores the time he has wasted in reading such "lying stuff" as Amadis de Gaul. He might have been much worse occupied, but, be that as it may, in his dictum we scarcely have a forecast of the manner in which this especial type of romance was to seize so mightily upon the Castilian imagination, which, instead of being content with mere servile copying from French models, was to re-endow them with a spirit and genius peculiarly Spanish. Perhaps in no other European country did

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the seed of Romance find a soil so fitting for its germination and fruition, and certainly nowhere did it blossom and burgeon in such an almost tropical luxuriance of fruit and flower.

Amadis had for sequel a long line of similar tales, all of which the reader will encounter later in these pages. By general consent of critics, from Cervantes onward, it is the best and most distinct of the Spanish romances, and was translated into French, Italian, and indeed into most European languages,  19 a special translation, it is said, even being made for Jewish readers. At a stroke Peninsular romanticism had beaten French chivalric fiction upon its own ground. But Amadis was not, as Cervantes seems to think, the first book of chivalry printed in Spain, for this distinction belongs to Tirante the White (1490) which, according to Southey, is lacking in the spirit of chivalry. 20 Among other figures it introduces that of Warwick the King-maker, who successfully withstands an invasion of England by the King of the Canary Islands, and ultimately slays the invader single-handed and routs his forces. But if Cervantes errs in his bibliography, his barber’s summing-up of Amadis as "the best of all books of its kind that has been written" is not far from the truth.  21 Tasso thought of it "the most beautiful and perhaps the most profitable story of its kind that can be read." Did he merely follow the tonsorial critic’s opinion, as his language would tempt one to believe?

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Amadis was followed by a host of imitations. Its enormous success, from a popular point of view, brought into being a whole literature of similar stamp and intention, if not of equal quality. The first of such efforts, in consequence if not in chronology, is that of Palmerin de Oliva, the earliest known edition of which appeared at Seville in 1525, and was followed, like the Amadis, by similar continuations, Primaleón, Platir, and Palmerin of England, perhaps the best of the series.  22 Regarding the alleged Portuguese origin of Amadis and Palmerin I have more to say elsewhere, and will content myself here by observing that no Portuguese original printed or manuscript, exists, although the priority of such seems undoubted. But these romances became as Castilian as the Arthurian series became English despite the latter's Brythonic or other origin, and Spanish they have remained in the belief and imagination of all Europe, popular as well as critical.

The Palmerin series only fed and increased the passion for romantic fiction, so hungry was Spain for a literary diet which seemed so natural and acceptable to her appetite that those who sought to provide her with romantic reading could scarce cope with the call for it. The natural result ensued. A perfect torrent of hastily written and inferior fiction descended upon the public. Invention, at first bold, became shameless, and in such absurdities of distorted imagination as Belianis of Greece, Olivante de Laura, and Felixmarte of Hyrcania the summit of romantic extravagance was reached. But ridiculous and insulting to human intelligence and decent taste as most of these productions were, still they found countless thousands of readers, and there is

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every indication that publishing in the Spain of the late sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries must have been extremely lucrative. These preposterous and chimerical tales, lacking the beauty and true imaginative skill and simplicity of the older romances, stood in much the same relation to them as a host of imitative novels published in the early years of the nineteenth century did to the romances of Scott. Mexia, the sarcastic historian of Charles V, writing of romance in 1545, deplores the public credulity which battened on such feeble stuff "For," he says, "there be men who think all these things really happened, jus as they read or hear them, though the greater part of the things themselves are absurd." So might a critic of our own day descant upon the popular predilection for the cheap novel, or the whole desert of sensation-fodder which pours from the all too rapid machines of the Fiction Trusts.

Still another extravagant and more unpleasant manifestation of the popular craze for romance arose in such religious tales as The Celestial Chivalry, The Knight of the Bright Star, and others of little worth, in which Biblical characters are endowed with the attributes of chivalry and go on adventure bound. The time occupied by the appearance of these varying types, and indeed in the whole latter-day evolution of Spanish romance, was strikingly brief. But half a century elapsed between the publication of Amadis and the most extreme of its worthless imitations. But it is not difficult to account for the rapid manufacture and dissemination of such a mass of literature, good and bad, when we recall that Spain had been for ages the land of active knighthood, that her imagination had been wrought to a high pitch

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of fervour in her long struggle with her pagan enemies, and that in the tales of chivalry she now gazed upon with such admiration she saw the reflection of her own courtly and heroic spirit—the most sensitive and most fantastically chivalrous in Europe.


Possible Moorish Influence on Spanish Romance

There is indeed evidence—pressed down and flowing over—that the age-long death-grapple with the Saracen powerfully affected Spanish romantic fiction. But was this influence a direct one, arising out of the contiguity and constant perusal of the body of Moorish fiction, or did it proceed from the atmosphere of wonder which the Saracen left behind him in Spain, the illusions of which were mightily assisted by the marvels of his architecture and art? One can scarcely find a Spanish romance that is not rich in reference to the Moor, who is usually alluded to as a caballero and a worthy foe. But is it the real Moor whom we encounter in these tall folios, which beside our modern volumes seem as stately galleons might in the company of ocean-going tramps, or is it the Saracen of romance, an Oriental of fiction, like the Turk of Byronic literature? The question of the influence of Moorish literature upon Spanish romance has been shrouded by the most unfortunate popular misconceptions. Let us briefly examine the spirit of Arabic literary invention, and see in how far it was capable of influencing Castilian art and imagination.

The history of the development of the Arabic language from the dialect of a wandering desert people to a tongue the poetic possibilities and colloquial uses of which are perhaps unrivaled is in itself sufficient to furnish a whole volume of romantic episode. The form in which it was introduced into Spain in the early eighth century can scarcely fail to arouse the admiration of the lover of literary perfection. As a literary medium its development was rapid and effective. It is, indeed, as if the tones of a harsh trumpet had by degrees become merged into those of a silver clarion whose notes ring out ever more clearly, until at length they arrive at a keenness so intense as to become almost intolerably piercing. This eloquent language, the true speech of the literary aristocrat, has through the difficulty of its acquirement and the bewildering nature of its written characters remained almost unknown to the great mass of Europeans—unknown, too, because the process of translation is inadequate to the proper conveyance of its finer shades and subtler intimation. Even in the greater number of the Arabs of Spain the highly polished verse in which their literature was so rich was unknown. How much more, then, was it a force removed from the Castilian or the Catalan?


Arabic Poetry

The desert life of the Arabs while they were yet an uncultured people, although it did not permit of the development of a high standard of literary achievement, fostered the growth of a spirit of observation so keen as to result in the creation of a wealth of synonyms, by means of which the language became greatly enriched. Synonymous meaning and the discovery of beautiful and striking comparisons are the very pillars of poetry, and within a century of the era of Moslem ascendancy in the East we find the brilliant dynasty of

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the Abbassides (c. A.D. 750) the generous patrons of a poetic literature which the language was so well prepared to express. Story-telling had been a favourite amusement among the Arabs of the desert, and they now found the time-honoured, spontaneous exercise of the imaginative faculty stand them in good stead. The rapidity of the progress of Arabic literature at this period is, indeed, difficult of realization. Poetry, which we are now assured has ‘no market value,' was to the truly enlightened upper classes of this people an art of the first importance, more precious than those tales of the silks of Damascus, those gems of Samarkand, or those perfumes of Syria the frequent allusion to which in their legends encrust them, like the walls of the caverns of Ala-ed-din, with fairy jewels. But words were jewels to the Arab. When Al-Mamoun, the son of Haroun-al-Raschid, dictated terms of peace to the Greek emperor Michael the Stammerer, the tribute which he demanded from his conquered enemy was a collection of manuscripts of the most famous Greek authors. A fitting indemnity to be demanded by the prince of a nation of poets!

But conquered Spain was more especially the seat and center of Arabian literature and learning. Cordova, Granada, Serville—indeed, all the cities of the Peninsula occupied by the Saracens—rivalled one another in the celebrity of their schools and colleges, their libraries, and other places of resort for the scholar and man of letters. The seventy libraries of Moorish Spain which flourished in the twelfth century put to shame the dark ignorance of Europe, which in time rather from the Arabic than from fallen Rome won back its enlightenment. Arabic became not only the literary but the

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colloquial tongue of thousands of Spaniards who dwelt in the south under Moorish rule. Even the canons of the Church were translated into Arabic, about the middle of the eighth century, for the use of those numerous Christians who knew no other language. The colleges and universities founded by Abderahman and his successors were frequented by crowds of European scholars. Thus the learning and the philosophy if not the poetry of the Saracens were enabled to lay their imprint deeply upon plastic Europe. If, however, we inquire more closely into the local origin of this surprising enlightenment, we shall find it owing even more to the native Jews of Spain than to the Moors themselves.

The phase of Arabian culture with which we are most nearly concerned is its poetic achievement, and the ultimate influence which it brought to bear upon Spanish literary composition. The poetry of this richly endowed and imaginative people had at the period of their entrance into Spain arrived, perhaps, at the apogee of splendour. Its warm and luxuriant genius was wholly antagonistic to the more restrained and disciplined verse of Greece and Rome, which it regarded as cold, formal, and quite unworthy of translation. It surpassed in bold and extravagant hyperbole, fantastic imagery, and emotional appeal. The Arab poet heaped metaphor upon metaphor. He was incapable of seeing that that which was intrinsically beautiful in itself might appear superfluous and lacking in taste when combined with equally graceful but discordant elements. Many critics hasten to reassure us regarding his judgment and discrimination. But even a slight acquaintance with Arabic literature will show that they have been carried

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away by their prejudice in favour of the subject on which they wrote. In the garden of the Arabian poet every flower is a jewel, every plot is a silken carpet, tapestried with the intricate patterns of the weavers of Persia, and every maiden is a houri, each of whose physical attributes becomes in turn the subject of a glowing quatrain. The constant employment of synonym and superlative, the extravagance of amorous emotion, and the frequent absence of message, of that large utterance in which the poets of the West have indicated to the generations they served how it might best grapple with problems of mind and soul—these were the weaknesses of the Arab singers. They made apophthegm take the place of message. They were unaware that the fabric of poetry is not only a palace of pleasure, but a great academy of the soul.

The true love of nature, too, seems to have been as much lacking in the Arab as well as in the Greek and Roman. He enamelled his theme with the meticulous care of a jeweller. Not content with painting the lily, he burnished it until it seemed a product of the goldsmith’s art. To him nature was a thing not only to be improved upon, but to be surpassed, a mine of gem in the rough, to be patiently polished.

But it would be wrong to refuse to the imaginative literature of the Arab a high place among the world’s achievements, and we must regret that, for causes into which we cannot enter here, opportunities for development and discipline were not vouchsafed it. As we read the history of the Arabian states with their highly developed civilization, their thronged academies, and their far-flung dominions, reaching from Central Asia to the western gates of the Mediterranean, and

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turn to-day to the scenes where such things flourished, we must indeed be unimaginative if we fail to be impressed by the universal wreck and ruin to which these regions have been exposed. The great, emulous, and spirited race which conquered and governed them gathered the world to its doors, and the rude peoples of Europe clustered about its knees to listen to the magical tales of unfolding science which fell from its lips. From the desert it came, and to the desert it has returned.

Djamshld, the palace is a lions’ lair
Where ye held festival with houris fair;
The desert ass bounds upon Barlaam’s tomb;
Where are the pomps of yesterday, ah, where?


Moorish "Fashion" in Spanish Romance

Of Moorish grandeur of thought and luxuriance of emotion we find little in Spanish literature, at least until the beginning of the fifteenth century. Its note is distinctively, nay almost aggressively, European , as will be readily understood from the circumstances of its origin.  23 But it would seem that with the Castilian occupation of the Moorish parts of Spain the atmosphere which the Saracen had left behind him powerfully affected the Spaniard, who appears to have cast a halo of romance round the character of the ancient foe, with whose civilization, as expressed in its outward manifestations of architecture and artifact, he could scarcely failed to be deeply impressed. If our conclusions are well founded it would appear that about the era alluded to a Moorish

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‘fashion’ set in in Spanish literature, just as did an Oriental craze in the England of Byron and Moore, where English people began to travel in the Levantine countries. But this fashion was in great measure pseudo-Saracenic, unaffected by literary models and derived indirectly more from atmosphere and art than directly from men or books. Long before the fifteenth century, however, with its rather artificial mania for everything Moresque, the Arab spirit had been at work upon Spanish literature, although in a feeble and unconscious manner. Spanish literary forms, whether in verse or prose, owe absolutely nothing to it, and especially is this the case in regard to the assonance which characterizes Castilian poetry, a prosodic device found in the verse of all Romance tongues at an early period. The Moors, however, seem to have sophisticated, if they did not write, the ballads of the Hispano-Moorish frontiers, especially those which have reference to the loss of Alhamia. In any case these are founded upon Moorish legends. Certain metrical pedants, like the Marquis de Santillana, toyed with Arabic verse-forms as Swinburne did with the French rondaeu or Dobson with the ballade, or as the dry-as-dusts of our universities with Greek hexameters, neglecting for the alien and recondite the infinite possibilities of their mother tongue. These preciosities, to which many men of letters of all ages have been addicted, had no more effect upon the main stream of Castilian literature than such attempts ever have upon the literary output of a country. Some of the popular coplas, or couplets, however, seem to be direct translations from the Arabic, which is not surprising when we remember the considerable number of half-breeds to be found in the Peninsula until the middle of the seventeenth century. There can be no

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doubt, too, that Arabic was the spoken language of thousands of Christians in Southern Spain. But that it had a determined opponent in the native Spanish is becoming more and more clear—an opponent which it found as merciless as the Moor found the Spaniard.  24

Perhaps the best measure of the decline of Arabic as a spoken language in Spain is the fact that the authors of many romances declare them to be mere translations of the Arabic—usually the writings of Moorish magicians or astrologers. These pretensions are easily refuted by means of internal evidence. But regarding the question broadly and sanely, Spanish literature could no more remain unaffected by Arab influence than could Spanish music, architecture and handicrafts. All such influences, however, were undoubtedly late, and, as regards the romances, were much more ‘spiritual’ than ‘material.’ Christian Spain had held off the Saracen for eight hundred years, and when at last she consented to drink out of the Saracen cup she filled it with her own wine. But the strange liquor which had brimmed it before left behind it the mysterious odours and scents of the Orient, faint, yet unmistakable.


The Type of Spanish Romance

The type of Spanish romance at its best is that in which the spirit of wonder is mingled with the spirit of chivalry. Old Spain with her glorious ideas of honour,

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her finely wrought sense of chivalry, and her birthright of imagination, provided almost a natural crucible for the admixture of the elements of romance. Every circumstance of climate and environment assisted and fostered the illusions with which Spanish story teemed, and above all there was a more practical interest in the life chivalric in Spain than, perhaps, in any other country in Europe. The Spaniard carried the insignia of chivalry more properly than Frenchman or Englishman. It was his natural apparel, and he brought to its wearing a dignity, a gravity, and a consciousness of fitness unsurpassed. If he degenerated into a Quixote it was because of the whole-hearted seriousness with which he had embraced the knightly life. He was certainly the first to laugh when he found that his manners, like his mail, had become obsolete. But even the sound of that laughter is knightly, and the book which aroused it has surely won at least as many hearts for romanticism as ever it disillusioned.

The history of Spanish conquest is a chronicle of champions, of warriors almost superhuman in ambition and endurance, mighty carvers of kingdoms, great remodellers of the world’s chart, who, backed by a handful of lances, and whether in Valencia, Mexico, Italy, or Araucan, surpassed the fabulous deeds of Amadis or Palmerin. In a later day the iron land of Castile was to send forth iron men who were to carry her banners across an immensity of ocean to the uttermost parts of the earth. What inspired them to live and die in harness surrounded by dangers more formidable than the enchantments of malevolent sorcerers or than ever confronted knights-errant in the quest of mysterious castles? What heartened them in an

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existence of continuous strife, privation and menace? Can we doubt that the hero-tales of their native land magically moved and inspired them—that when going into battles the exploits of the heroes of romance rang in their ears like a fanfare from the trumpets of heralds at a tournament?

And as we gat us to the fight
Our armour and our hearts seemed light
Thinking on battle’s cheer,
Of fierce Orlando’s high prowess,
Of Felixmarte’s knightliness
And the death of Oliver. 25


13:1 The moro latinado, is a prominent figure in later Spanish story.

14:2 Bishop Odor’s will (747) shows the break-up of Hispanic Spain, and Charles the Bald in an edict in 844 alludes to the usitato vocabulo of the Spaniards—their "customary speech." On the Gothic period, see Peré Jules Taillham, in the fourth volume of Cahier and Martin’s Nouvaeux Mélanges d’ Archéologie, de Histoire, et de Littérature sur le Moyen Age (1877).

15:3 This jargon owed much more to the lingua rustica than to Gothic, which has left its mark more deeply upon the pronunciation and syntax of Spanish than on its vocabulary.

16:4 Catalan differed slightly in a dialectic sense from Provençal. It was divided into plá Catalá and Lemosé, the common speech and the literary tongue.

18:5 "On the whole," says Professor Saintsbury, "the ease, accomplishments, and, within certain strict limits, variety of form, are more remarkable than any intensity or volume of passion or of thought." (Flourishing of Romance and Rise of Allegory, pp. 368-369). He further states that the Provençal rule "is a rule of ‘minor poetry,’ accomplished, scholarly, agreeable, but rarely rising out of minority."

18:6 D. 1214.

19:7 It was entitled El Arte de Trobar, and is badly abridged in Mayan’s Origenes de la Lengua Española (Madrid, 1737).

19:8 On Provençal influence upon Castilian literature see Manuel Milá y Fontanal, Trovadores en España (Barcelona, 1887); and E. Baret, Espagne et Provence (1857), on a lesser scale.

20:9 Still they found many Spanish-speaking people in that area; and it was the Romance speech of these which finally prevailed in Spain.

21:10 Madrid, 1839.

22:11 In the Cancionero de Romances (Antwerp, 1555).

24:12 See the article on Alfonso XI in N. Antonio, Bibliotheca Hispana Vetus.

25:13 English translation by James York.

25:14 Reigned 1407-54.

27:15 Gaston Paris, La Littèrature Française au Moyen Age (Paris, 1888), and Lèon Gautier, Les Épopèes Française (Paris, 1878-92), are the leading authorities upon the chansons de gestes. Accounts of these in English can be found in Ludlow’s Popular Epics of the Middle Ages (1865) and in my Dictionary of Medieval Romance (1913).

29:16 See W. Wentworth Webster, in the Boletin of the Academia de Historia for 1883.

30:17 See Manuel Milá y Fontunal, Poesíá heróico-popular Castellana (Barcelona, 1874).

33:18 The term, first employed by Count William of Poitiers, the earliest troubadour, at first implied any work written in the vernacular Romance languages. Later in Spain it was used as an equivalent for cantar, and finally indiciated a lyrico-narrative poem in octosyllabic assonants.

35:19 In German it was known from 1583, and in English from 1619, Southey’s translation (London, 1803) is (happily) an abridgement, and has been reprinted in the "Library of Old Authors" (1872). I provide full bibliographical details when dealing with the romance more fully.

35:20 Omniana, t. ii, p. 219 (London, 1812).

35:21 Don Quixote, Part I, chap. vi.

36:22 English translation by Southey, 4 vols. (1807).

43:23 In the chapter entitled "Moorish Romances of Spain" the reader will find specimens of the romantic fictions of that people, from which he can judge for himself of their affinity or otherwise with the Spanish romances.

45:24 See Dozy, History of the Moors in Spain, Eng. Trans., and Recherches sur l’ Histoire politique et littéraire de l’ Espagne (1881); F.J. Simonet, Introduction to his Glosario de Voces iberias y latinas usadas entre los Muzdrabes (1888); Renan, Averroës et Averröisme (1866). Gayangos’ Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain (London, 1843) is somewhat obsolete, as is Condé’s Dominación de los Arabes.

47:25 "The Raid," an old Spanish poem.

Next: II. The "Cantares de Gesta" and the "Poema del Cid"