Imagens das páginas

the court of Morocco, asking for help in men and money from the king of that country.

In it he speaks of his sad and fallen state. His prelates, instead of making peace, have fomented discord. Since those of his own country fail him, none can take it ill that he applies to those of Benatnarin. lie therefore entreats Guzman to obtain help and money for him from Aben Jusef, who is allied and at peace with him. If fate allows, Alfonso will amply recompense Guzman for his good offices; if not, urges the philosopher-king, loyalty and charity are their own reward.

"Therefore, my cousin, Alonzo Perez de Guzman, so treat with your master and my friend that he may lend me on my richest crown, and on the jewels in it, as much as shall seem good to him; and if you should be able to obtain his help for me, do not deprive me of it, which I think you will not do; rather I hold that all the good offices which my master may do me, by your hand they will come, and may the hand of God be with you. Given in my only loyal city of Seville, the thirtieth year of my reign, and the first of my misfortunes. '• The Kino."

At last the Pope excommunicated Sancho and his adherents, and popular sympathy turned a little towards the aged and forsaken king. But Alfonso, shut up in his '-only loyal city," received the submission of various towns and vassals, which the excommunication brought about, with a certain apathy and hopelessness. There is nothing more dreary than the history of his last days, as the old chronicle of his life relates them.- A false report gains ground of the death of Sancho, and the news reaches Seville.

"It cauie to Don Alvaro," says the chronicle, "and so to the king Don Alfonso. And he saw that it was said in the letter that the Infante Don Sancho, his son, was dead. And he was much troubled, insomuch that he would not show it before those who were there, and withdrew into a room by himself, so that no man dared go iu to him. And he began to weep for him very bitterly; and so great was his sorrow, that at last he said concerning him many grievous words, declaring that the be^t man of his liueage was dead."

His attendants, indignant at his grief, break in upon him, reproaching him with the indulgence of such weak lamentation over the death of a rebel and a perjurer. It in Joab and David over again. And Alfonso, broken in mind and body, seeks

to pacify them and to hide his own emotion.

"Master Nicholas," he said, addressing their spokesman, "I am not weeping for the death of the Infante Don Sancho, but I weep for my miserable old age." Sancho. however, recovers from the fever which bad attacked him, and journeys to Avila as healthy and as pugnacious as before. Alfonso is told of the mistake, nnd '• it pleast'd him." For he had entered upon that border-land where neither pleasure nor paiu have any life or keenness, but are shadowa like all else. "lie fell ill in Seville, so that he drew nigh unto death. . . . And when the sickness had run its course, he said before them all that he pardoned the Infante Don Sancho, his heir, all that out of malice he had done against him, and to his subjects the wrong they had wrought towards him, ordering that letters confirming the same should be written — sealed with his golden seal, so that all his subjects should be certain that he had put away his quarrel with them, and desired that no blame whatever should rest upon them. And when he had said this, he received the body of God with great devotion, and in a little while gave up his soul to God."

So died Alfonso of Castile, having, as it seemed, made a failure of his life. Never upon the face of it was any man more unsuited to his position, or more incapable of doing the work assigned him. We fancy him perhaps under other circumstances — a student in some monastery, like Berceo; a professor of law at Salamanca; a great troubadour, free to catcli and revel in every passing nuance of emotion. To what a roundness and completeness we imagine might have grown the nature which fate appears to have so stunted and mutilated. But as we pass beyond his life, through hi3 writings into the later life of Spain, we are gradually persuaded that our first impression was wrong, as was the first impression of his countrymen. During those twenty years, which'appear at first sight one long contemptible hankering after a doubtful gain, Alfonso created Spanish law, endowed and enlarged the Universities, regulated j the unwieldy growth of municipal priviI lege and custom throughout Spain, and by his banishment of the hitherto omnipotent Latin from all public acts, and his great prose works in the vulgar tongue, produced effects, both upon the language aud literature, which among other Romance peoples had been the fruits of the united efforts of several generations, and g;ive such an impulse to the mind of Spain as Chaucer gave to England a century later. All this was done in a curious, loitering, unevident way. These works were not the offshoots of an illustrious life; they came into the world stamped with an unfavourable birthmark, with no glitter, no prestige, shrouded like their author in a cloud of mean and harassing circumstances. They had to win their way upwards from the rank and file of human efforts by their own intrinsic merit. And it was not until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when Spaniards, conscious for the first time of the riches and capabilities of the national life, sought to trace its developments to their several sources, that Alfonso's labours were at last approached, sifted, and understood by men in whom the political temper of the Spain of his day was altogether dead.

Four rears after his accession, on the eve of the Feast of St. John, the code of the Side Partidas was begun. This great work, which forms to this day the groundwork of all Spanish law, and which, creeping in from Florida, has found its way into the law-courts of the United States, was undertaken in obedience toadying injunction of St. Ferdinand, who had himself begun upon it. It was finished in ten years, but did not receive full authority as law till after Alfonso's death.

It is not, however, as a code of laws that we are concerned with the Siete Partidax. Its foundation, general tendency, and completeness as such — these are not literary questions, and must be judged of by those qualified to consider them. It is in the wide and general culture which the book reveals, in the many influences that we discover to have been at work upon it, in the curious historical evidence afforded by its pages, and in the thousand-and-one points which throw light upon the character of its author, that the ordinary reader finds legitimate working-ground. When we think of how few literary Spaniards consider the knowledge of Arabic essential to the study of the past history of their country; when we remember the stir created quite recently in Spain by the publication of a series of mere extracts from Arabic MSS. — MSS. chosen from hundreds of others which remain to this day uncatalogued and unknown in the depths of the Escurial—does it not at least appear remarkable that at a time when, as a Spanish king victorious over but not yet rid of the ancient oppressors of his race, he might have justifiably neglected and repelled the genius and skill of a people whom he still feared. Alfonso should have drawn his principal work equally from

Christian and Arabic sources, and should have considered no part of it complete I without illustration from, or reference to, 'the learning of the East? In the " Chronica General de Espafla" Arabic literature has left still more definite traces. It is a little startling to find in the fourth part of this chronicle the objections of modern critics to the history of the Cid, anticipated and justified by a king of Caatile born about 120 years after the hero's death. But M. Oozy has explained the puzzle. We know now that nearly the whole of the fourth part is nothing more than a translation from an Arabic history of the Cid, which has been lost, and which very naturally places the conquerors of Valencia in by no means the most favourable of lights, and we do not need M. Dozy's help in restoring for ourselves the Arabic lament over Valencia, which Alfonso has handed down to us in token of an unusual sympathy with a hostile literature.

The following passage is taken from the third part of the Siete Partition which relates to the duties and privileges of the king : —

"Vicars of God are the kings, each one in his kingdom, placed over the people to maintain them in justice and in truth. They have been called the heart and soul of the people. For as the soul liea in the heart of man nnd by it the body lives and is maintained, so in the king lies justice, which is the life and maintenance of the people of his lordship. And as the heart is one, and from it all the other members receive dignity and worthiness so that they may become one with it, so those of the kingdom, though they be many, because the king is one, must be one with him, to serve and aid him in all those things which he has to do.

"Thought is the manner in which men consider tilings past, present, and to come. It is born in the minds of men and ought to be engendered without anger, without great sadness or much desire or with violence, but with reason and concerning things which breed honour and avert ill. And let the king guard the thoughts of his heart in three manners : firstly let him not desire nor greatly care to have superfluous and worthless honours."

It is _curious to compare what follows with the facts of the writer's life :—

"Superfluous and worthless honors the king ought not to desire. For that which is beyond necessity cannot last, and being lost and come short of turns to dishonor. Moreover the wise men have said that it is no less a virtue for a man to keep that which he has than to gain that which he has not; because keeping comes of judgment, but gain of good fortune. And the king who keeps his honour in such n manner that every d;iy and by all means it is increased lacking nothing, and does not lose that which he has for taut which he desires to have, — he is held for a man of right judgment, who loves his own anil desires to lead tham to all good. And Qod will i.'vp him in this world from the dishonouring of men, and in the next from the dishonour of the wicked in hell."

We can do no more than mention the "Septenario," a work which anticipates the "Tesoro" of Brunetto Latini; the "Book of Hunting;" the Treatise Ob Uhess (is there any kindred between this and the one printed by Caxton ?); the "Fuero Castellano," which was intended to regulate the curious and unequal growth of municipal privilege and custom in Spain; the " Gran Conquista d'Ultramar," of which there is a splendid copy in the British Museum, which belonged to Charles II.; and those other smaller works which, under the title of Opuxculos Ler/ale*, have been recently published by the Spanish Academy.

As we have said, the sixteenth-century editions of all these works have put Alfonso clearly before the world a man and author. Moreover, they have provided materials for foreign criticism, of which it has not been slow to avail itself. The Germans have gone to work upon Alfonso, and the result of their (/rilndlich investigations has been a little disheartening.

True, they say, the man did good work; that he strongly influenced for good both the social and political civilization of Spain cannot be denied; therefore, as the servant of human progress he claims our most serious attention: but as a man he is incur eyes undone by one fatal error,— as a philosopher and follower of truth, he is for ever discredited by the book of the "Tesoro."

What then ia this book of the " Tesoro," upon which Alfonso's reputation for honesty, and therefore for greatness, undoubtedly hangs? Among the MSS. of the National Library there may be seen a Email parchment folio consisting of about ten leaves, and closed with a curious double lock. Tlie character in which it is written appears to be that of the fourteenth century, and no less than sixty-two paragraphs of the book consist of unintelligible cyphers. It opens with a prose preface, from which we will quote a few lines : —

"Book I. of the «Tesoro.' Written by me, Don Alfonso, King of Spain, who have keen Emperor, since after many great mercies which the Lord God bath bestowed upon me —of

which the greater were the knowledge of His holy faith, of natural things, and the kingdom of my fathers, — the better to sustain this last. He hath of His own good pleasure given to me the high good and possession of the philosopher's stone, for I sought it not. This great treasure became known to me in my poverty, and I made it, and with it increased my wealth."

Then follow a series of verses, de arfe mayor, in which the author relates how he imported a sacant from Egypt who possessed the secret, how it had been imparted to him, and how zeal for the good of his countrymen had led him to open to the world this great and divine mystery. The receipt itself is given in cyphers, which have never yet been explained, and which, as Ticknor remarks, were probably never meant to be explained. In the opening verses it is said, that not wishing to give such great power as the knowledge of the secret would impart to an unlettered man, the author has imitated the Theban Sphinx, and has put forth truths under the guise of cyphers.

Tjie whole thing is a delectable compound of ignorance, superstition, and knavery. In neither thought nor expression is there a trace of dignity or cultivation, and we know that Alfonso of Castile possessed both. The evidence, external and internal, has been examined in detail by Los Rios and other critics. It was noticed by Sanchez as early as 1775 that the character of the MS. was suspicious; that it had the appearance of having been formed by detached strokes of the pen, as if in laboured imitation of a thirteenth or early fourteenth century hand. The M.S. has been carefully examined more than once since 1773, and, says Los Rios, there is no modern palaeographer who will not declare it to belong to the latter half of th« fifteenth century. The note upon it which fixes the ownership of it upon the famous Marques de Villena is written in the same suspicious character, and there can be no doubt that it saw the light long after his death, its author attaching to it the names of a king sufficiently famom and sufficiently far removed, and of a well-known patron of letters so universally credited with a knowledge of the black art. that after his death the greater portion of his price-loss library was handed over to the king and burnt by the common hangman.

Notice also the expression in the Prologue, '• who have been Kmperor.'' At the close of the MS. belon-jrim; to the Blblioteca Nacional we find the following notice of date : —" M;\y God be praised. This book was written in the year of our Salvation, 1272." Now, although it is true that Ru- J dolph of Hapsburg was elected emperor in 1272, we know that it was not till 1270 that Alfonso relinquished his long-cherished dream, and gave up the style and title which all his efforts were unable to confirm and substantiate. But such an ex-1 pression would come naturally enough to the half-educated author of the fifteenth century; aware of one fact only, the fact of Rudolph's election, and in his anxiety to avoid anachronisms, stumbling into a fatal one. The date, too, " in the year of our Salvation," has an odd ring about it. Till the end of the fourteenth century Spain counted from the era of Caesar; when the year of Our Lord was mentioned at all, it was always placed after the year of the Era, and spokcu of as that of '• The Incarnation," the form "of our Salvation " being of much later date.

Add to this the penalties decreed against magic and alchemy in the Partidass the assertion that if a king desires the thing which may not be, and attempts to do by art what according to nature cannot .be done, " as does cl A Iqiiimia," he will be considered a man without understanding, and will waste both time and money; and the denunciation of those "who make alchemy ficieffn a/i'jiinia, deceiving men, and making them believe that which according to nature cannot be."

So far indeed from encouraging the popular superstitions of his time, Alfonso stood in a strangely advanced position towards them, and deserve* to be placed side by side with our own Bacon, as one of the first genuine and modest inquirers after scientific truth. Compare with the false "Tcsoro" the true " Tablas Alfonsinas." They are crude, no doubt. They have that curious element of mystery and fancifulness which enters universally into mediseval science; but they are what Roger Bacon was dreaming of, and their merit was attested by their rapid popularity. It is with a rare delight that the English student of Alfonso find* in the " Frankeleine's Tale'' of our own Chaucer a mention of the king's scientific work :—

"His tables Toletanes forth he brought,
Fal wel corrected that ther lacked nought"

This is an undoubted reference to the Alfonsine Tables, which, from the place of their compilation, were freqtiently called the " Tabula; Toletana1." Dorigen sets her lover, Aurelius, the task of clearing the coast of Brittany from rocks, Bo

"That they nc letten ship ne bote to gon."

Anrelius, in despair, applies to a clerk of Orleans, a noted magician and astrologist; and, with the aid of the '-Tables Tole- , tanes," the magician produces an illusion which frightens Dorigen out of her senses. It cannot be denied that the connection in which his great work is mentioned, is scarcely as complimentary to Alfonso as one might wish it to be; still it affords a curious proof of the wide-spread popularity to which it had attained within a hundred years of his death. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it was translated into Latin, and printed frequently in a mutilated form in France, Italy, and Germany. Our own days have seen a superb edition of it issued by the Spanish Academy. And the Tabula; well deserved their mediaeval fame, and their modern reprint, not only as the crude embodiment of patient Jabour and long research, but as the product of an almost premature enlightenment of mind. For the successors of Averrhoes and Avicenna, driven out of Seville and Cordova by the father, had returned to their old haunts at the invitation of the son. With them, too,had coine the famous Rabbis, depositaries of learning which had not been able to hold its own against the energy and splendour of Mohammedan science, and which had gradually sunk into a supplementary place. In Toledo, the conquest of Alfonso VI. and the most Christian of cities, Alfonso had gathered together a great council of the wise*men of all nations, composed principally of Arabs and Arabic Jews, but containing also representatives of the learning of France and Italy. Here for many years he maintained them at the public expense, while the necessary data for the compilation of the •• Tablas Alfonsinas " were being collected. A permanent meeting sat in Toledo, conducted, when Alfonso could not be present, by a famous Rabbi, while detachments of savants established themselves in different parts of the town and its neighbourhood for thu observation of theheavenly bodies, and the drawing up of tables. "This was the first time," says the Spanish Royal Academy of History, '• that in barbarous times the republic of letters was invited to contemplate an academy of learned men occupied through many years in rectifying the old astronomical calculations, in disputing about the most difficult details of this science, in constructing new instruments, in observing by means of them the course of the stars, their declinations, ascensions, eclipses, longitudes, and latitudes." ^

Compare with this Roger Bacon's de- f,, spairin;; dream of what might be, us we have it in the "Opus Tertium" sent to Pope Clement IV. in 1207. Mathematicians,* instruments, tables, all are requisite, he says, and he despairs of all three. Good mathematicians are not to be had, except at vast expense, such as could only be borne by the Pope or some great prince: the same complaint applies to instruments, and to the compilation and certifying of tables. Such tables, perfectly done, would be worth a kind's ransom. He himself has often attempted their composition, but in vain. The work is too vast and costly for any but the great. Before it could be undertaken it would at least be necessary that

"Ten or twelve boys shoulJ be instructed in the ordinary canons and astronomical tables; and when they knew hovr to work at them, then for a year to discover the motions of each planet singly, for every day and every hour, according to all tUe variations of their motion."

What would he have said had he known of the council of savant* already assembled at Toledo," under a great prince," working not for one year, but for many at this very thing?

Yet, as we read the account not only of such public acts as these, but of Alfonso's private life, — of his maintenance in his palace at Burgos, of which twenty years ago remains were still to be traced, of Arabic savants, men who professed not only Avcrrhoes but the Koran, — we wonder no longer at the popular suspicion of his orthodoxy. '• Had God Almighty consulted me about the solar system, it would have been better done." he U reported to have said, and the authenticity of the speech has been a ground of contention for centuries. It is more than probable that he never made it. but it is very natural that Spain should have supposed him capable of it; for Alfonso's religion, deep and genuine as it was, was of an altogether different type I from that of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is ] not represented by the First Book of the Partilwt, to the compilation of which all sorts of political causes contributed; it is not to be judged of by the Prologue of the forged '• i'e.soro :" it runs into quite other moulds, and is preserved to us in quite other shapes. I: is in the "Cantigas li la Vergen Maria," mentioned in his will, and sung over his grave at Toledo for hun

* It must bo remembered that Bacon Included under tho general term of mathematics, geometry, arithmetic, astrouumy, and music.

dreds of years, that we get at the heart of Alfonso. These little pieces, some of them full of a sunny lyrical buoyancy, others fancifully sad and grave, and others simple narrative, which only the genius of the narrator saves from baldness and awkwardness, betray to u.s the real inner nature of the great author of the Partition and of the " Grande y General II storia." The language in which they are written is as it were a confidence in itself, and appeals to one. It is Gallician, and we are reminded by it of the writer's cbildhood in Leon, and of the early years among the Asturias, far away from Seville and Cordova, and the busy, disputant South. We have no details of this childhood of Alfonso, but from these Gallician cantigas we can well believe that it had memories for him which remained for ever sacred. It was tended and trained, no doubt, by the beautiful Beatrice of Suabia, his mother, whose statue stand* near that of her son in the cathedral of Toledo. Her form is full of grace and dignity; she averts her modest, tender face while she holds' her hand to receive her wedding-ring from her husband. There is a fanciful poetry about the conception of the mediseval sculptor which takes hold of the imagination. There in the cathedral of Toledo the three have stood for centuries — father, mother, and son — the parents for ever exchanging the symbol of their love, thus made immortal: the son standing a little apart, unnoticing, extreme youthfulness in faco and figure, the countenance slightly upraised, eyes and lip smooth and untroubled, almost smiling; one hand holding the fastening of the long upper mantle, which falls to the feet in large calm folds; the other grasping a sceptre, upon the top of which perches a dove.

One should read the Cantirjas with this statue in one's mind. With wars in Granada, rebellions, imperial elections, and treaties, they have nothing whatever to do. There are signs of warlike enthusiasm, it is true, traces of that natural and inevitable patriotism which was the birthright of every mediaeval Spaniard; still their general tone presupposes one of those happy elevated moods of the mind in which material confusions and distractions are lost sight of, and the delight of the soul in tho strength and purity of its own emotions expresses itself outwardly in a certain grace and serenity. Take, for instance, this welcome to May, the month of Mary, which we reproduce in a faint English copy, preserving the metre of the original: —

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