Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

well chosen; and the management of Mr. MARETZEK faultless. It is a physical and a spiritual treat to visit the opera at Castle-Garden. - A Testimonial to Mr. E. A. Marshall, the able director of the Broadway Theatre, will soon come off' at Castle-Garden and at his own thea:re. Let it be a 'testimonial' indeed, to the first

American manager who has received that honor in this city. It is richly mer: 'ited.... A LITERARY RECORD,' containing notices, more or less at large, of some dozen new works, although placed in type, is necessarily omitted until next month. The same is true of four additional pages of Gossip,' which were capable of postponement. ... CORRESPONDENTS must exercise patience. We have twenty-four poetical articles standing in type, awaiting insertion. Several new articles, in prose and verse, await examination or are on file for insertion. A charming * Serenade, accompanied by a modest note, has been mislaid. Will the writer please furnish another copy? ... The postage on our work, by the new law, is a mere trifle. “Fall in the ranks!' therefore, friends, and put down your names on

Old Knick’s' list. And send on your journals, contemporaries, every where. They now reach us free of postage; and we shall be 'glad to hear from you.'

*** The few brief notices which ensue are strung upon the longest thread we can at present command : Jenny Lind in America,' is the title of a small, neat volume, from the press of Messrs. STRINGER AND TOWNSEND. The author, C. G. ROSENBERG, Esq., has given us, in detail, all the various entertaining and amusing incidents of the fair Swede's journeyings and concerts since her first arrival in New York. The work is written in an easy, flowing style, and we doubt not will have a wide circulation. We were sorry to encounter this passage in the description of JENNY's departure for Boston: As the steamer passed BLACKWELL's Island, the prisoners had been drawn out in line to greet her as she passed. It might, however, be considered as proof of very questionable taste, either on the part of the keeper or of themselves, and JENNY very evidently thought so; for, after inquiring of Mr. BARNUM who were those enthusiastic admirers of music, and hearing his answer, she turned rapidly toward the other side of the boat. It was obvious that between herself and then there could be no tie of the slightest sympathy. Do you think so, Mr. RosENBERG ? Did JENNY Lind have no sympathy with the poor prisoners and captives' for whom she prays in the service of her church? We think better of her heart than to believe it. She may even have turned away from the sight through an excess of syirpathy. — ANOTHER new edition of Poems by J. G. Sare' will soon be issued in superb style. The volume has had a very large sale, and will continue to have, for it possesses the true elements of life. Mr. Saxe's poem, recently delivered at the collegiate exercises of the New-York l'niversity, is one of his very best productions. Its humor, spirit and epigrammatic point were applauded to the very echo that did applaud again.' Dr. BETHUNE's admirable address upon

Oratory' and Saxe's poem were not only worthy of their authors, but their union on the same evening was a rare treat, and abundantly enjoyed. If the reader would know what is the character, and what the cost and condition, of the great public works of the Empire State, we commend to his perusal the. Report of the Chief Engineer of the State of Nero-York,' Hon. H. C. SEYMOUR, just published by order of the Legislature. It is a very able document, embody. ing, beside the special report of the Chief,' the collateral reports of all the officers in his 'bailiwick.' It is illustrated by several well-engraved maps and sketches. Certain important and gratifying facts set forth in this "Report' may claim a notice at our hands hereafter. Evening Mirror,' under the able supervision of its proprietor and editor, Hiram FULLER, Esq., is flourishing · like a green baize tree,' as Mrs. PARTINGTON would say. It has been obliged to

ontemporaries of the Tribune' and 'Heraldin the frequent issue of a capacious double-sheet, in order to make room for interesting matter which would otherwise be crowded out by its numerous advertisements. This success is well deserved, for the Mirror' is conducted with energy and talent. - HARPERS') and the INTERNATIONAL' Magazines are experiencing the favor of the public in no ordinary degree The former, especially, has an immense circulation. The opening article of the July number was a very able one. It was from the patriotic pen and pencil of Mr. B. J. Lossing, and was a most timely paper for July, coming so near the Glorious Fourth. It contained numerous other articles of great merit, including many well-judged and carefully discriminated Literary Notices. The INTERNATIONAL' favored its readers with good portraits and biographies of Fitz-GREEN HALLECK, and Dr. Mayo, author of • Kalloolah. A running Salmagundi, containing notices of men and books, published or forthcoming at home and abroad, with brief literary and artistical an-dits, forms one of the prominent attractions of the INTERNATIONAL,' It proceeds from the prolifio pen of the EDITOR.

THE KNICKERBOCKER.

Vol. XXXVIII. SEPTEMBER, 1851.

No. 3.

THE DON QUIXOTE OF CERVANTES.

BY R. J. DE CORDOVA.

AMONG the brightest names in literature is that of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, commonly called Cervantes. Although a voluminous and distinguished writer, it is as the author of Don Quixote alone that he is known to the world, and by this effort of his genius he has attained an imperishable fame ; for time will only add to the number of the admirers of a work whose wit and humor are derived from the closest study of nature, and whose descriptions will find their counterpart in every corner of the world.

Notwithstanding that the manners of the era in which the history of Don Quixote saw the light, admitted, if they did not encourage, a certain broadness and laxity of expression, which would shock the more refined instincts of the modern reader, there cannot be found in all its pages one doctrine, one opinion, one inference, which is not in the last degree inimical to immorality, as to its fuller development -confirmed vice. Nor is the object of the work confined alone to the inculcation of virtue; though this were all-sufficient to entitle an author to the greatest measure of our esteem. Cervantes aim took a much wider range. Priestcraft and tyranny were not of too great importance to prevent his attacking, also, hypocrisy, false pride, and a long accompaniment of lesser failings ; all of which were, however, so delicately and carefully, yet so firmly assailed, that nothing served more ably to enforce the wholesome strictures of the writer than his wise moderation. The History of Don Quixote needs no encomiums at our hands; neither would we presume to become its interpreter or its eulogist. Still, if our remarks serve to recall to the mind of the reader - jaded, perhaps, by the political turmoil of the day or by the cares of business — the excellences of Don Quixote de la Mancha, and of the renowned Sancho, his squire, we shall have fulfilled all that we designed. VOL., XXXVIII.

13

Properly to appreciate this master-piece of Cervantes, it should be read in the noble, sonorous language of the gods, as the Spanish has been imaginatively termed; and next to this, with a view to arrive with some degree of correctness at the moral intention of the author, and of the peculiar wit of the phraseology which he employs, we should endeavor to understand the genius of the style which he affects. To render into a foreign tongue a language which abounds in idiomatic expressions, is at all times a difficult undertaking, because few nations assimilate in their selection of phrases for idiomization, and fewer use the same style of idiom, when they happen to be so selected. To illustrate : Suppose a foreigner desired to translate into his own language the American phrase, Go ahead. Literally, the Spaniard would render it, “Ir a cabeza,' which would be sheer nonsense. The Frenchman would say, 'Aller à tête,' an expression equally absurd ; while the Italian would write, 'Andare a testa,' which, if possible, sounds still more ridiculous.

There is, however, a way out of the difficulty, and it is to be regretted that some such plan has not been adopted, in order that American and English readers might be afforded an opportunity of forming a closer acquaintance than has yet been attained with this delightful work. Let us follow out this branch of the question with the same example. A Spaniard might render the national expression, 'Go ahead,' by the Spanish phrase, 'Avanzar, or adelantar la proa ;' literally, to advance the bow' (of a ship or vessel); and the affinity which exists in our minds between the steam-boat and this common adjuration might be told in a short marginal annotation-a means by which the Spanish reader would be made acquainted at once with the idioms of our language, and their origin, construction, and object. This is the kind of translation which is wanted of Don Quixote, in order that those who do not read the Spanish language may look on the melancholy knight as something more than a mere madman, and on his doughty squire as better than a drôle,' or miserable dolt.

The style of Dickens has often been compared with that of Cervantes, from whom it is highly probable that the former, as well as Fielding, adopted the principles of their peculiar writing. Judging of the productions of Cervantes and Dickens, we must perhaps accord to Dickens the greater merit, on account of the greater amount of good which, politically speaking, has rewarded some of his works. Cervantes wrote to satirize the follies of the age, and to correct among his fellow-countrymen certain growing evils, the existence of which he discovered in their character. Dickens, on the other hand, appeals rather to the domestic feelings of his readers, and endeavors to show vice in its worst colors, while he strives to supply virtue with the most lovely tints, in order that he may inculcate morality by rendering the one disgusting and the other attractive. The only work of Dickens which may be said to be without this claim to praise is ‘Pickwick,' which is merely a recital of ludicrous adventures ironically expressed. But it would be only proper to say, that if the works of Cervantes are not so highly marked as those of Dickens with the benevolent desire to extend happiness by extending virtue, it is only because Cervantes lived in an age when the rights of man were only vaguely understood and partially recognized. That straining of the cord of Power which is called Tyranny, had not yet roused suffering humanity to successful rebellion, nor had Education so far extended her influence as to teach men who bent submissively in chains at the feet of those who bound them, that great moral truth which it was left for America to pass into an axiom, that “All men are born free and equal. In the time of Cervantes, the Poor had not been sufficiently educated, nor had the Noble been sufficiently taught the value of the Poor, to appreciate the lessons or the uses of the ennobling study of Freedom.

Few men have known more of human nature than did the author of 'Don Quixote. Cervantes saw and studied it in many of its phases and in almost all its positions in life. As a soldier, he had suffered the hardships of war in the struggle between the Venetians and the Turks, in 1570, when the former were aided by the arms of Spain. He had known privation on the field of battle, and had been wounded in naval engagements. He had suffered the horrors and hardships of captivity among barbarians, in countries where the religion of CHRIST was regarded as a stain and a degradation. He had basked in the sunshine of the Court of Spain; and it was while experiencing the miseries of a prison in his native country, that he commenced his world-famed Historia del Ingenioso Hidalgo, Don Quixote de la Mancha.'

It may be said that in this work Cervantes has received some assistance from the character of the language in which he wrote; for if there be any tongue in the world which can aid a pathetic story by its flowing beauty, or which can assist the relation of bold and adventurous heroism by its sonorous sweetness, it is the noble Castilian. Full, rich, and rounded, its every syllable expresses in its mere sound, and without perhaps the assistance of association, the meaning and force of the passion or feeling which it is intended to convey. But Cervantes has been accused of introducing an Italian construction into much of the language employed in this work. This can in a great measure be accounted for by his long residence in Italy, during which period the many attractions which that soft tongue possesses led him to acquire a fondness for it which never wholly deserted him, and induced him occasionally to take liberties with his own language wbich perhaps only render his style more piquant.

The character of Don Quixote is gleaned from the first few chapters of the history, and is soon related. A man of weak intellect, but of strong superstitious habits, and very excitable temperament, becomes imbued with the spirit of chivalry from reading those fabulous accounts of heroic knights with which Spain abounded at that period. The most marvellous tales were told of these worthies, among whom Amadis de Gaula stood prominently forward. These histories of dreadful encounters with many-headed giants, battles with fiery dragons, struggles with innumerable lions, and incessant opposition to powerful and wicked enchanters, formed the most attractive source of instruction to the worthy gentleman, who read and studied them so often that at last they turned his brain, and made a monomaniac of a man who, but for them, would perhaps have filled a respectable though quiet position in his native district all his life. But constantly dwelling on this darling subject, and always admiring actions which his limited education did not permit him to regard as fabulous, but which appeared most worthy of imitation, he determined

in his insanity to leave his house and wander up and down the world in search of wrongs which he might set right, cruelties which he might abolish, tyrants whom he might annihilate, distressed damsels whom he might console, aggrieved widows whom he might succor, and ruined orphans whom he might set up on the thrones of their fathers.

Satirical as is this exodus of Don Quixote from his comfortable home to establish a social millennium upon the earth, Cervantes had a great object in view when he imagined it. There was then in Spain, as there is now, but in a much greater degree, that adoration of noble birth so highly characteristic of the Castilian. This distinctive pride gave rise to much that was honorable and heroic in the Spanish character; but that in some measure it induced men to look down with contempt upon their fellow-beings, it is impossible to deny; and as the descendants of Spanish knights, who had been much renowned for deeds of chivalry, possessed the objectionable feeling in a more than ordinary degree, one object of Cervantes appears to have been to read a marked lesson on the profession of knight-errantry to those whose only glory was in the reflection of a false light, shining through the page of history, from the tombs of their ancestors.

The author would also appear to have desired to teach those who, like many in our own times, being dissatisfied with the bountiful present, are ever sighing after the unattainable past, that in wishing for the reëstablishment of an extinct folly, they sought after a vain thing, which was entirely without their reach, and which could not exist contemporaneously with the spirit of a later age.

Cervantes desired also to manifest that the so-called great and noble deeds and magnificent exploits recorded in the fables of chivalry were, in nine cases out of every ten, instances of the most unblushing interference with private liberty, the inost tyrannical attempts at a violation of human justice, and an unjustifiable gratification of vanity, pride, and conceit, at the expense of common sense, and of that religion which chivalry pretended to uphold, but which inculcates meekness, charity, and universal brotherhood.

Properly to estimate these great objects of a great author, we must remember the prevalent spirit of the age in which Cervantes attempted, entirely unaided, to stem the torrent of popular prejudice, to uphold the birth of the infant giant Democracy, and to attack with the keenest of weapons, (one indeed whose wounds few men are ever found to pardon,) ridicule; a principle which, how wrong and unwise soever in itself, the upper classes of the country had been taught to reverence with feelings of holy awe and superstitious respect. He undertook to combat the prejudices of the aristocracy, when he could not expect to receive the assistance of the people, who were too ignorant to understand his motives and too careless to appreciate them.

The manner in which Cervantes carried out his objects may be briefly expressed as follows. For the purpose of demonstrating the inapplicability of knight-errantry to the then present age, he introduces an imaginary knight riding up and down among the highi-roads and by-ways of his native province, seeking adventures which might redound to the honor of his own name and to the glory of that of his inamorata. In order to place his

« AnteriorContinuar »