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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Galician Portuguese lyric poetry


The triumph of Castilian in polite literature.]

[Sidenote: External influences upon Castilian literature.]

The same factors which affected the literary history of the preceding period continued to exist in this, although occupying different positions, and in addition competing with the Classical Renaissance and Italian elements, which almost overwhelmed the others. Just as in the scientific works, so in literature, these factors were assimilated and made over to produce the original Castilian product of succeeding centuries. Castilian became the language of poetry and of didactic works, routing its Galician and Latin rivals. Latin works were translated to Castilian, and from the middle of the thirteenth century the latter began to be used instead of the former in public documents. Galician-Portuguese lyric poetry, half erudite, half popular, born of the Proven?al, which it had assimilated and transformed, advanced to its highest point, and seemed to have won a victory over Castilian. About the middle of the fourteenth century it commenced to decline, and by the end of that century Castilian lyric poetry was already predominant; in the fifteenth century Galician ceased to be a literary language, and even Portuguese writers frequently used Castilian. Besides satire and even more sensuality than its Proven?al prototype the Galician literature often included ethical and religious sentiments in the same poem. The

Proven?al influences proper also affected Castile, but did not take root as in Catalonia, because of the difference in language. When Galician poetry lost its place it was the Castilian which became its successor, manifesting in one of its forms the same curious mixture of ethics and satire. At length a satirical element of a free and sensual type prevailed, and brought about a degeneration of this kind of literature. With the fourteenth century the powerful Classical and Italian Renaissance influences made themselves felt in Castile both in poetry and in prose. Works of the classical poets (Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Lucan) and writers of prose (Livy, Sallust, C?sar, Plutarch, and others) were translated, and served to enrich Castilian literature both in form and in content. The Italian influence proper (Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio) was by far the greatest, however, especially that of Dante, which vanquished the former French influence in poetry, and in part the Galician, and banished the earlier Castilian literary forms. The Italian influence was most deeply felt in its effects on lyric poetry. Epic poetry and prose were not altogether uncultivated, however, and in this field French influence continued to exist. Many of the older unwritten poems were reduced to writing, and French poems of chivalry and French novels of adventure, telling of the fantastic deeds of King Arthur, Charlemagne, the magician Merlin, and others, were repeated or reconstructed in Castilian. The fabulous element became predominant, leading to the books of _caballer?a_, or chivalry, based on the extraordinary adventures of wandering knights (_caballeros andantes_), full of the extravagant exaggeration of unbridled imagination. The first great work of this sort in the peninsula, and the best of its kind, was a novel by Vasco de Lobeira called _Amad?s de Gaula_, written originally in Portuguese, but already known in Castile in the later fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century amatory novels began to appear.

[Sidenote: Historical literature.]

[Sidenote: The drama.]

The advance of the preceding period in historical literature was continued in this. One of the principal names was that of Alfonso X, who was also a writer of note in other branches of literature and learning. His principal work was a history of Spain, compiled probably by a number of men under his direction, just as the _Partidas_ was. Various sources were employed, Spanish, French, Latin, and Arabic, and a certain spirit of criticism, superior to that of the earlier histories, was displayed. On the other hand the work was defective from the historiographical standpoint because of its lack of proportion, its inclusion of epic poems in the body of the narrative, and its manifestation of an ardent patriotism. Perhaps the best historian of the era was the many-sided chancellor and litterateur, L?pez de Ayala, author among other historical works of a chronicle of the reigns of Pedro I, Henry II, Juan I, and part of that of Henry III. L?pez de Ayala wrote in direct imitation of classical writers, especially Livy. P?rez de Guzm?n, as author of a collection of biographies reaching down to the fifteenth century, made use of a psychological interpretation of human events. Dramatic literature did not change from the religious dramas and popular representations of jugglers of the preceding era, but progress was made in both of these forms, and each attained to greater favor, preparing the way for the rapidly approaching inauguration of the national theatre.

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