Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/289

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
275
SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

imitation, and decoration, which are claimed to be the motives of human art. The acquirement of power through play develops a feeling of freedom, and this the artist likewise seeks to realize in the world of ideals.

Artists will not probably acknowledge that "life is earnest, art is playful," nor moralists agree that "man is only human when he plays, for there is no real freedom in the sphere of experience," yet both may find food for thought in Professor Groos's analysis of play.

 

In the spasm of unreasoning hostility to Spain which has come over the people of the United States, succeeding a period of effusive admiration, the public are apt to forget that that nation has done anything creditable for the promotion of civilization. Yet, leaving out other fields of culture for the present, it has produced two painters who rank among the great masters, besides numerous secondary artists, rivals of any of that grade in the world, and a voluminous literature which George Ticknor thought it worth while to make the study of his life, and which inspired the pens of Irving, Longfellow and Lockhart. One of the works of this literature ranks among the world's greatest classics, and has been, perhaps, after the Bible and Shakespeare more universally read than any other book; and numerous other works—chiefly romances—have furnished patterns or themes for the poets, novelists, and dramatists of other nations. Mr. Fitz Maurice Kelly's excellent and convenient History of Spanish Literature[1] therefore comes in good time to refresh our memories concerning these facts. One does not have to go very far in the history to find that of the great Latin writers of the age of the Cæsars, the two Senecas, Lucan the poet of Pharsalia, Martial the epigrammatist, and Quintilian the rhetorician—still an authority—and many minor writers, "were Spaniards as well as Romans." It also appears that of what Gibbon declared to have been the happiest epoch of man's history—from the death of Domitian to the accession of Cornmodus, seventy of the eighty years, if we take the liberty, as Mr. Kelly does, of counting Marcus Aurelius as a Cordovan, were passed beneath the scepter of the Spanish Cæsars. Prudentius, a distinguished Latin Christian writer of a succeeding age, was also a Spaniard. Although there were "archaic" works of trovadors before that time, traditionally preserved by juglars, Spanish literature proper began in the twelfth century. It owed much to French and Italian, and in course of time gave much back to them. Among its earliest signs was the development of the romance (ballad), while Arab writers (whose work Mr. Kelly considers of doubtful value) and Jews, who are better spoken of, were early contributors to it. The earliest works of importance were the Mystery of the Magian Kings, one of the first plays in any modern language, and the great heroic poem of the Cid, both anonymous. The first Castilian poet whose name has reached us was Gonzalo de Berceo, 1198 to 1264, who wrote much, and was, "if not an inventor, the chief of a school." Permanent form was given to Spanish prose by King Alfonso the Learned, 1226 to 1284, who, "like Bacon, took all knowledge for his province, and in every department shone pre-eminent." He had numerous collaborators, and "his example in so many fields was followed"—among others (in some of them) by his son and successor, Sancho IV. The Infanta, Juan Manuel, nephew of Alfonso, in one


  1. A History of Spanish Literature. By James Fitz Maurice-Kelly. New York: D. Appleton and Company. (Literature of the World Series. Edited by Edmund Gosse.) Pp. 433. Price, $1.50.