« PredošláPokračovať »
ART. I.-Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish; by Robert Southey. 410. pp. 468. 17. 15s. bds. Longman. 1803.
IN his preface to this very curious, and in many respects very interesting work, Mr. Southey has given his readers ample information respecting the sources from which he has derived his materials for it since it is not, as the title would seem to import, the, translation of one entire piece of Spanish history. It must be an object of great importance to all lovers of antiquity to ascertain how far the actions ascribed to an individual, warrior, whose sword controuled the fate of one of the greatest nations in Europe during more than half a century, are to be set down to the account of fiction and eredulity, or taken with just allowances for the extravagances and exaggerations of a romantic age, or admitted as facts and placed on a footing with the general mass of received history. An investigation of this nature into the authenticity of the life of our Cid Ruydiez the Campeador" cannot, we fear, at the present day be made with any expec tation of an accurate result. Of those amongst us who are the least versed in the mysteries of old romance, or romantic history, few will have forgotten that the cool-headed and shrewd Cervantes has placed our Cid on the same shelf with Ber nardo del Carpio and the twelve Paladins of France; and some will perhaps remark in the true history of the Cid Hamet Benegeli,' who recounted in Arabic the famous exploits of the knight of La Mancha, something like a covert allusion to the Moor Abenalfarar,' who is quoted as autho rity for all the wonderful deeds of Ruydiez On the other hand we ought to remember that the gravest and most judicious of Spanish historians, have not scrupled to build on so seemingly doubtful a foundation; and we must admit CRIT. REV. Vol. 16. January, 1809. B
that Cervantes, is hardly to be consulted as an impartial judge respecting matters that wear in any degree the air and semblance of romance. Where it is so difficult, or rather impossible, to find a decisive basis on which to rest our judgments, it becomes the more desirable to resort to every mode of evidence that can throw the greater weight of probability into the one or the other scale of the balance; and the most satisfactory testimony to be obtained in a case of this nature must, it seems to us, be that of the dates, either positive or to be collected from circumstances of the original documents; for if these can be traced with any tolerable certainty to the age of the events recorded, or to the following, or any other period not very far remote from it, it will be made to appear highly credible that the history is true, at least in fundamental points. The romances of . Arthur had no existence before the time of our Norman ancestors, and those of Charlemague and his Dousiperes* were probably unknown till long after the extinction of the Carlovingian dynasty.
The principal body of this work is composed of the Chronica del famoso Cavallero Cid Ruydiez Campeador,' the earliest printed copy of which bears date 1552; and it is stated to have been then published by command of Ferdinand, the brother of the emperor Charles V. from an ancient MS. which had been preserved from time memorial in the royal-monastery of Cardena, the .depositary of the bones of its illustrious hero. Mr. Southey compares together the various opinions which have been maintained concerning its author and the date of its composition. The latter he fixes with apparent confidence, at the latest, before the close of the 18th century, i. e within about 150 years of the Cid's death. The honours of authorship he refuses, on the strength of the internal testimony, to Abenalfarax, (whose name it bears, and who was the son of Gil Diaz, a converted Moor and one of the most celebrated of the Cid's companions,) and thinks they rather belong to some Spaniard who perhaps made use of Arabic documents in its composition. The printed copies of this chronicle, Mr. S. informs us, are very imperfect; and he has therefore endea voured to supply its deficiences and connect the history of its hero by blending with it so much of the substance of two other works, (also of high antiquity) as he judged necessary for the purpose.
Of these supplemental authorities, the first is the Chronica general de Espuana,' of which the Editio princeps bears date Zamora 1541. It was printed under the direction of
Florian de Ocampo, chronicler to the emperor Charles the fifth, king of Castile and Arragon, from a MS. then in the possession of the licentiate Martin de Aguilar. Several other MSS. are said to have existed of it at the same time, and Master Ocampo is severely blamed for having neglected to compare them together previous to publication, by which he would have avoided many gross defects and inaccuracies. Mr. Southey also takes him to task for using in his title-page the expression, que mando componer el serenissimo Rey Don Alonso,' instead of que fizo el muy noble Rey Don Alonso,' which is borne by all the other MSS. It seems that common tradition, on the authority of Don John Manuel, nephew to king Alonso the Wise, has assigned that celebrated monarch as the real author of the chronicle in question; and the words adopted by Ocampo, contrary, as Mr. S. insists, to the faith of all the MSS, would seem to make it, not the king's own work, but that of some other person at his express command. It may be said, however, that such expressions as made or caused to be made, did' or ordered to be done' are very often confounded, especially in speaking of the actions or works of princes; and we do not feel certain that either the words que fizo in the title-page, or the positive assertions said to be contained in the preface, are sufficiently convincing to fix the actual authorship on so great and illustrious a personage. The fact has certainly been doubted by some learned Spaniards; but it is of little importance to the present question. All we are interested in is the public nature, and the date of the document which, whether composed by Don Alonso himself or only by his order, seems to be placed beyond doubt at some period between the middle and end of the thirteenth century.
The second is the Poema del Cid' first published by Sanchez in his Collection de Poesias Castellanas anteriores al Siglo XV.' from a very ancient but imperfect MS. preserved at Bivar, the birth-place of the hero. At the foot of the MS. is an inscription on which the date En era de mil e CC...XLV. u os,' is distinguishable. Mr. Southey endeavours very ingeniously to account for the vacancy without supposing it to have been originally supplied by another C. The Era* 1345 corresponds with the year of our Lord 1207;
The Spanish mode of computing dates by the Era, which was in use ameng them till the end of the 14th century, is explained in a note to the Chronicle; but its origin, which is said to have formed the subject of many learned dissertations, does not seem to be at all clearly ascertained.
but Mr. Southey is of opinion that the language of the poem is considerably older than that of the works of Gonzalo de Berceo who flourished so early as 1220. Sanchez, he says, conjectures that it was composed within fifty years after the Cid's death.
'Be that as it may,' adds Mr. S. it is unquestionably the oldest poem in the Spanish language. In my judgment it is as decidedly and beyond all comparison the finest.'
In another place he says,
I have preferred it to the Chronicles sometimes in point of fact, and always in point of costume; for as the historian of manners, this poet, whose name unfortunately has perished, is the Homer of Spain.'
To the ancient romances (a word answering to our popu lar ballads) of the Cid, Mr. Southey acknowledges little obligation, and indeed estimates the worth of the Spanish. romances in general much lower than we have been accustomed to rate them. He says that, with the exception of those contained in the Guerras civiles de Granada, they are infinitely and every way inferior' to our own national ballads.
One thing more we shall observe before we enter more particularly into the contents of the work: whatever degree of credit may be thought due to the facts which it records, it must, supposing Mr. Southey's account of the MSS. to be correct, be admitted as a most authentic, valuable, and interesting document of the manners and sentiments of the age in which those MSS. were composed. It will be remarked that the highest date to which Mr. Southey has been able with any confidence to carry either of them, very nearly corresponds with that of Joinville's history; but that the events related are considerably more than a century antecedent. With this view, it would be an object of great curiosity to institute a comparison between the contemporary state of France and Spain, with respect to learning, religion, and, above all, to the influence of the singular institutions of chivalry on the character and opinions of the people. But whether considered abstractedly or comparatively, as a fountain of authentic information on historical facts, or merely a striking and faithful picture of manners, we feel no hesitation in pronouncing that the Chronicle of the Cid' is one of the most interesting pieces which of late years have been added by antiquarian research to the stock of modern literature.
Of the style adopted by Mr. Southey in his translation, we shall say little, but that it is, in our opinion, very judiciously chosen, with the exception, perhaps, of a few words and phrases which ought to have been avoided as obsolete, or not easily intelligible, and wearing an appearance of unseasonable affectation, e. g. orgullrus,' for the nonce,' Pagandom,' guidage' (for guidance,) to dispeed himself' hight' (for called, or named,) Alvar Fañez, you are Sib to the damsels,' he was their father's brother, and had been their Ayo,' and he downed with the dead man,'' to prink and prunk,' Arbalisters,' for cross-bow-men, &c. &c. &c.; but these are not of very frequent occurrence. Mr. Southey must not misunderstand us. We do not object to' him the offence of coining, but of using obsolete, unusual and harsh expressions when there is no reason for it, and when he actually goes out of his way to find them. In p. 31 on the word cilicio, translated sackcloth," Mr. Southey remarks in a note.
The cilicio was howeyer made sometimes of such materials, that to call it either hair-cloth or sack-cloth would be a contradiction in terms. In a future work, therefore, wherein it will frequently be necessary to mention it, I shall venture to anglicize the origi nal word, which in all probability has already been done by some of our Catholic writers. I believe there are few words in any European language for which a precise term may not be found in our own; but our dictionaries are miserably imperfect. The Re views have more than once censured me for having introduced new words, when not my English but their own ignorance was in' fault.*
We are in too good a humour with Mr. Southey for the high entertainment he has afforded us, to notice with any asperity this little instance of pettishness on his part, which we shall pass over by simply observing that there is but a slight shade of difference between coining words and employing words which have been so long disused as to bear the appearance of new coinage; nor does he at all shift the fault from his own shoulders by pretending to fix it on those of his monitors; since it is not a mark of very gross igno rance, even in the censors of modern literature, not to be aware of every word existing in Wickliff's Bible or Trevisa's Chronicle. Besides, to use an obsolete word without reference to any authority, and then to fall foul of an unlucky wight who has ventured to condemn it for Birmingham, wears too much the appearance of a trap to catch the knowing ones;' and we think too highly of Mr. Southey to suppose that he would triumph in the success of such an expedient.