281. Robert Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, [January 1798] 

281. Robert Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, [January 1798] ⁠* 

SIR,

Permit me to correct some errors in my account of Lupercio and Bartolome Leonardo. [1]  I asserted, from the Parnaso Espanol, that no edition of their works had been printed since that of Zaragosa, 1634: [2]  I have now procured one published since the Parnaso. Don Ramon Fernandez, the editor, has prefixed a sensible preface: “One of the principal causes,” he says, “of the bad taste observable in the greater part of the poetry of the present day, is the scarceness of good authors, who might serve as models to our youth; while the multiplied editions of the corruptors of our poetry are in the hands of all, maintaining and perpetuating a bad taste.” [3]  He remarks the vague eulogies lavished upon the Spanish poets by their editors, applying to them indiscriminately the phrases of purity, elegance, enthusiasm, beauty, &c. and proceeds to point out the characteristic and peculiar merit of the two Argensolas. In this preface there is a very curious trait of the national vanity. After mentioning the rich and harmonious versification of these authors, he adds, this has at all times been an endowment peculiar to the Spanish poets, for if we consider well, we shall find that they gave a harmony and ease to the Latin metres which is not to be met with in the poets anterior to Lucan and Seneca. [4]  The chorusses of the three genuine tragedies of this great tragedian, [5]  incomparably exceed those of Horace in their flowingness and harmony; and the excellent hexameters of Lucan, have, in these points, a great advantage over those of Virgil. And even what Cicero [6]  says of the Cordovan poets confirms this, though some, from wrongly understanding the passage, interpret it as a reproach: for Tully, in this place, speaks only of their pronunciation and accent, which to Roman ears, accustomed only to sweetness, might appear strange and harsh; this by no means proves that their verses were bad or deficient in harmony; instead of this I presume, that the too great swell and fullness of the Spanish poets, that loquiore rotundo, [7]  that os magna sonaturum, [8]  which Horace so much recommends, and which since the Greeks none have executed better than the Spaniards; this I conceive to be what appeared unpleasant to Cicero, whose ears were accustomed to verse little more harmonious than those of Ennius. [9] 

The epistle from which an extract was printed in your Magazine, is given by the present editor to Francisco de Rioje. [10]  I know not whether the reasons he assigns are sufficient to ascertain the author, but they certainly prove that it could not have been written by Bartolome Leonardo:

I have selected three sonnets as characteristic of these authors, the two first are by Lupercio:

Thou art determined to be beautiful,
Lyris! and, Lyris, either thou art mad,
Or hast no looking-glass; dost thou not know
Thy paint-beplaster’d forehead, broad and bare,
With not a grey lock left, thy mouth so black,
And that invincible breath? We rightly deem
That with a random hand blind Fortune deals
The lots of life, to thee she gave a boon
That crowds so anxiously and vainly wish,
Old age, and left in thee no trace of youth
Save all its folly and its ignorance. [11] 

———

Content with what I am; the foundling names
Of glory tempt not me; nor is there ought
In glittering grandeur that provokes one wish
Beyond my peaceful state. What tho’ I boast
No trapping that the multitude adores
In common with the great; enough for me
That naked, like the mighty of the earth,
I came into the world, and that like them
I must descend into the grave, the house
For all appointed; for the space between,
What more of happiness have I to seek
Than that dear woman’s love, whose truth I know,
And whose fond heart is satisfied with me? [12] 

———

From Bartolome Leonardo

Fabius, to think that God hath in the lines
Of the right hand disclosed the things to come,
And in the wrinkles of the skin pourtrayed,
As in a map, the way of human life,
This is to follow with the multitude
Error or ignorance, their common guides;
Yet surely I allow that God has placed
Our fate in our own hands, or evil or good
Even as we make it: tell me, Fabius,
Ar’t not a king thyself? — when envying not
The lot of kings, no idle wish disturbs
Thy quiet life; when, a self-govern’d man,
No laws exist to thee; and when no change
With which the will of Heaven may visit thee,
Can break the even calmness of thy soul? [13] 

T.Y.


Notes

* MS: MS has not survived
Previously published: Monthly Magazine, 5 (January 1798), 11–12 [from where the text is taken] under the pseudonym ‘T. Y.’ For attribution to Southey, see Kenneth Curry, ‘Southey’s contributions to The Monthly Magazine and The Athenaeum’, The Wordsworth Circle, 11 (1980), 216. BACK

[1] The Spanish poets Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola (1559–1613) and Bartolomè Leonardo de Argensola (1561–1631). BACK

[2] Juan José Lopez de Sedano (1729–1801), El Parnaso Español, 9 vols (Madrid, 1768–1778), III, p. xvii. BACK

[3] Ramon Fernandez [pseud. Pedro Mariano de los Ángeles Estala Ribera] (1757–1815), Rimas del Doctor Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola, 3 vols (Madrid, 1786), I, p. [4]. The translation is probably Southey’s own. BACK

[4] Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (AD 39–65) and Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC–AD 65). BACK

[5] Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola wrote three tragedies, Filis, Isabela and Alejandra. The first was lost, the latter two were modelled on Seneca and remained unpublished until 1772. BACK

[6] Southey adds footnote: ‘Cordubae natis poetis pingue quiddam cantibus atque peregrinum. Cicer. pro Archia.’ [Editorial note: The Latin translates as ‘to poets born at Cordova who sound a bit coarse and foreign’, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC), Pro Archia Poeta, 26.] BACK

[7] Horace (65–8 BC), Ars Poetica, line 323. The Latin translates as ‘with full-voice’. BACK

[8] Horace, Satires, Book 1, no. 4, lines 43–44. The Latin translates as ‘a grand and lofty style’. BACK

[9] Quintus Ennius (239–c. 169 BC), Roman poet. The previous paragraph derives from Ramon Fernandez, Rimas del Doctor Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola, 3 vols (Madrid, 1786), I, pp. 17–18. The translation is probably Southey’s own. BACK

[10] The ‘Epistola’ (‘Fabio, las esperanzas cortesanas’) had been attributed to Bartolomè Leonardo de Argensola by Juan José Lopez de Sedano, El Parnaso Español, 9 vols (Madrid, 1768–1778), I, pp. 226–233. Southey had included a translated extract from the poem in a letter published in the Monthly Magazine in July 1797 (see The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 1, Letter 230). The poem was reattributed to Francisco de Rioja (1583–1659) by Ramon Fernandez, Rimas del Doctor Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola, 3 vols (Madrid, 1786), III, p. 10. BACK

[11] Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola, ‘Por fuerza quieres, Lice, ser hermosa’, in Ramon Fernandez, Rimas del Doctor Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola, 3 vols (Madrid, 1786), I, p. 73. The translation is probably Southey’s own, and a copy in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 272, dated 2 January 1798, suggests it was a very recent one. BACK

[12] Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola, ‘Dentro quiero vivir de mi fortuna’, in Ramon Fernandez, Rimas del Doctor Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola, 3 vols (Madrid, 1786), I, p. 18. The translation is probably Southey’s own, and a copy in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 272, dated 1 January 1798, suggests it was a very recent one. BACK

[13] Bartolomè Leonardo de Argensola (1561–1631), ‘Fabio, pensar que el Padre soberano’, in Ramon Fernandez, Rimas del Doctor Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola, 3 vols (Madrid, 1786), II, p. 187. The translation is probably Southey’s own, and a copy in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 272–273, dated 31 December 1797, suggests it was a very recent one. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2011