A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Social and Political Conditions during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. Books.books Aragon in English. Spain.

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Social and Political Conditions during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. Books. books History Aragon Aragon

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Social and Political Conditions during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

[261] Universities. Italian influence. Ramón Lull. Francesc Eximeniç. The chroniclers. Poetry arid Provençal influence. Translations. The Consistori de la Gaya Sciensa. Ansias March. Jordi de Sant Jordi. Jnfluence of Dante and Petrarch. French influence. Decadence.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a steadily increasing interest in literature and learning can be clearly seen. There were universities at Gerona, Barcelona, Tarragona, Vich, Tortosa, and especially at Lérida, which last was refounded by James II in 1300 and produced such men as St. Vincent Ferrer and Pope Calixtus III. The majority of these institutions were under municipal government, a fact indicative of the general interest felt in education. There were also schools and colleges, such as the Lullian foundations at Barcelona and Mallorca, the College of the Assumption at Lérida, where a chair of Provençal was instituted, and the episcopal school at Vich, which enjoyed a high reputation and was visited by Gerbert, afterwards Pope Sylvester II. The encouragement of literature and learning had become a tradition in the Aragonese court; Martin, the last of the Barcelona dynasty, delivered a speech in 1406 at Perpignan before the Estates of Catalonia, praising the national capacities and achievements, in which he quoted Horace, Ovid, Livy, Casar, Sallust, Lucan and other later Latin writers in a manner which showed a close acquaintance with their works. A powerful stimulus was given by the influence of Italy; young Catalans, like young Spaniards, studied humane letters in Padua, law in Bologna, medicine in Salerno, and brought back a knowledge not only of ancient literature, but of Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. The number of translations made in the fourteenth century is further evidence of literary interest; the Consolatio Philosophiæ of [262] Boethius, the tragedies of Seneca, the works of Valerius Maximus were translated in the fourteenth century, and Antonio Canals, who also translated some of Seneca's prose, became the forerunner of others who worked in this field after 1400.

The great and dominating figure in the thought and literature of this period is Ramón Lull, who was born about 1285. His father had taken a prominent part in the conquest of Mallorca and James had given him a valuable estate in the island. It was thus natural that the young Ramón should enter the royal service; the luxury and profligacy of court life absorbed his energies until his conversion; the story is well known of the lady whom he pursued with his attentions, until she showed him a fearful ulcer devouring her breast, a shock which turned his thoughts towards religion. He studied at Rome and Paris, learned Arabic to fit himself for missionary work among the infidels, founded the missionary seminary of Miramar in Mallorca, travelled over the greater part of the Mediterranean and Western Europe and poured forth a continual stream of works, philosophical, theological, scientific, mystical, poetical, meeting a martyr's death in the pursuit of his missionary work in 1315, when more than eighty years of age. All knowledge was his province, for all could be regarded as part of theology, the mistress of the sciences; but he was eminently practical and for him the contemplative life had no overpowering attraction; whether as poet, philosopher or scientist, one purpose was ever before him, the conversion of unbelievers to Christianity. He is known to have written four hundred and eighty-six treatises and has been credited with many more. Two points only need concern us here; Ramón Lull, though living in the period of the crusades, declined to believe that conversion could be accomplished only by fire and sword; the crusade should be supported or replaced by the mission and the spiritual weapons of the missionary could be effective only when he knew the language of the people whom he wished to convert. This principle guided his vast schemes for the conversion of Islam and for missionary activity in Asia; his college at Miramar was the first institution of the kind for the study of Oriental languages; it was possibly due to his influence that the Council of Vienne, at which he was present in 1311, [263] resolved to create chairs of Oriental languages at the Universities of Paris, Louvain and Salamanca. If little came of his endeavours in this direction, the new principle which he had asserted gained an increasing number of adherents after his death. His misgivings concerning the popular methods of conversion are expressed in his "Desconort que Mestre Ramón Lull feu en sa vellesa, com viu que lo papa ne los altres senyors del mon no volgueren metre orde en convertir los infaels, segons que éll los requerí moltes e diverses vegades."

Quant pris a consirar del mon son estament,
Com son pauchs christians e molts li descresent,
Adonchs en mon coratage haych tal conçebiment
Que anés a prelats e a reys examen
E a religioses, ab tal ordenament
Que s'en seguís passatje e tal preycament,
Que ab ferre e fust e ab ver ergument
Se des a nostra fe tan gran exalçament,
Que.ls infaels venguessen a ver convertiment.
Et en hay ço tractat trenta anys, e verament
No.n hay res obtengut, perqu'eu n'estaig dolent
Tant, que.n plore sovén e.n suy en languiment.
[The lament which Master Ramón Lull made in his old age, as he saw that the Pope and the other secular lords would not arrange for the conversion of the infidels, as he urged them many and divers times.
When I began to consider the state of the world, how few are the Christians and how many the unbelievers, then in my heart I conceived the idea of going to prelates, also to kings and religious, showing them that they should advance and preach in such wise that with fire and sword and true argument our faith should be so high exalted that the infidels would come to true conversion. And in this way I have been busy for thirty years and indeed I have achieved nought, for which reason I am so grieved that I often weep and am in despondency.]

The second point concerns Lull's influence upon literature. It may be said at once that his extraordinary mastery of Catalan prose first showed the possibilities of the language as a means of expression. He did for the Catalan what Dante did for the Italian language. James the Conqueror had opened the way, but it was Lull who showed subsequent [264] writers how splendid an instrument they had at hand. Of his prose writings, the best known and the most characteristic is his mystical religious romance, Blanquerna, possibly suggested by some of the contes dévots which he must have heard in France. The story begins with the marriage of Evast, gallant and wealthy, and Aloma, beautiful and virtuous, and the eventful birth of their son, Blanquerna, who decides, when he is of age, to consecrate himself to a life of religion and cannot be shaken in his resolution even by the attractions of a beautiful maiden, Cana, whom he persuades to follow his own example. Cana becomes the abbess of a monastery and Blanquerna attains a similar dignity, after a series of adventures in which his faith and constancy are tried ; he meets, for instance, the inevitable knight in a forest, carrying off a captured maiden who implores his help; Blanquerna is unarmed, but shows that spiritual are more powerful than worldly weapons; he preaches the knight into a state of collapse and conducts the maiden to her home, resisting all the temptations that naturally attack him in the course of the journey. Strengthened by these and similar trials, he rises from the stage of hermit to that of abbot, when a picture of his daily life is given which must be that of Lull himself in his monastery of Miramar. "At midnight he rose, opened his window and after contemplating the starry heaven, betook himself to prayer and meditation and then entered the church to say matins with his deacon. At dawn he said mass and talked with the deacon upon the things of God. The deacon then went to work in the garden, while Blanquerna read his Bible, meditated, said terce, sext and nones in due course, when the deacon prepared certain herbs and vegetables, while Blanquerna went to the garden and occupied his brief leisure in the cultivation of the ground, after which he went alone to the church to give thanks to God. He went early to rest to gain strength for the exercises of the night; on waking washed his face and hands and said vespers with the deacon, afterwards remaining alone, preparing himself by meditation for prayer. When night had come, he went up to the terrace and remained there in profound meditation, his mind uplifted and his eyes fixed upon the heaven and the stars, considering the greatness of God and the aberrations of mankind." An account of [265] the mission school of Miramar follows shortly afterwards. Blanquerna then appears as a bishop and an archbishop and is finally elected Pope, in which position he does his utmost to encourage missionary work. He is attended by a court fool, under whose form Lull describes himself and is thus enabled to speak his mind upon subjects which move him deeply. Eventually Blanquerna resigns his office to enter a hermitage and devote himself to prayer, and in this connection were produced the Book of the Lover and the Beloved and the Art of Contemplation, in which Lull's mystical teaching reaches its height. "Digues, foll, ¿que es aquest món? Respos: Presó dels amadors, servidors de mon amat. ¿E qui.ls met en presó? Respos: Consciencia, amor, temor, renunciament e contriccio e companyia d'auol gent: e es treball sens guaardó, hon es puniment. ¿E qui.ls deliura? Misericordia, pietat, justicia. ¿E on los conloga? En la eternal benenança, on de vertaders amadors es alegra companyia, loant degudament sens fi, benehint e gloriejant l'amat, al qual sin donada tots temps laor, honor e gloria per tot lo mon."

"Say, O fool, what is this world? He answered, it is the prison of the lovers, servants of my Beloved. And who puts them in prison ? He answered, conscience, love, fear, contrition and the companionship of evil men; and it is toil without reward, wherein is punishment. And who delivers them? Mercy, pity and justice. And where are they placed? In the eternal blessedness, where is a joyous company of true lovers, duly praising, blessing and glorifying the Beloved without end, to whom be ever given praise, honour and glory throughout all the world."

Such is the conclusion of the three hundred and sixty-five sentences of moral mysticism, one to serve for each day in the year, which make up the Libre de Amic e Amat. Blanquerna became a popular work and was translated into Latin, Arabic and Castilian; it is difficult to say that any work is characteristic of a writer whose interests covered the whole field of human knowledge; but its limpidity of style and diction show what heights Catalan prose could attain in the hands of a master. Ramón Lull left a school behind him; in 1369 Pedro the Ceremonious licensed one Berenguer de Fluvià to lecture in Barcelona upon the Lullian system and doctrine. [266] Teachers were similarly authorised by Juan I, Martin, Alfonso IV and Ferdinand; Ximenes encouraged the study of his works at the University of Alcalá and his doctrine was expounded at Paris and Bologna.

If Ramón Lull had not existed, his place would have been taken as an encyclopædist, if not as a stylist by Francese Eximeniç (Ximenes), who lived from about 1340 to 1409. His mind as compared with the generalizing tendencies of Lull's, was more analytic and critical: next to Lull, he is the most voluminous of Catalan authors. He wrote in a delightfully clear and unemphatic style, with a quaint originality of thought apparent in the numerous moral fables strewn throughout his works. His most monumental work is El Crestià o del Regimen dels Princeps y de la cosa Publica, an encyclopædia of Christian moral philosophy, which can take its place beside such great compilations as the Speculum Historiale of Vincent de Beauvais or the Tesoro of Brunetto Latini (of which latter a Catalan translation was made). Posterity regards the thirteen books of this work with awe, and prefers to read the Libre de les Dones, in which Eximeniç dealt with the virtues and failings of women (a subject treated at a later date by Jaume Roig), and attempted to counteract Boccaccio's Corvaccio, which scandalous work appeared about 1355.

Catalonia has been fortunate in its chroniclers. James the Conqueror, Desciot, Muntaner and Pedro IV, "els quatre Evangelis de la Historia de Catalunya," will bear comparison with Villehardouin, Joinville, Froissart or any similar company of contemporary historiographers in Western Europe. Of James's Chronicle mention has been already made; he set an example which encouraged secular writers to use their own vernacular, and the Latin Chronicle of the monk ceases to monopolize the field of historical writing. It has been stated that Catalan is exceptional among Romance literatures, in that its beginnings are in prose and not in verse; but the field of poetry was occupied by troubadour productions; the Provençal examples were continually imitated by writers south of the Pyrenees, and community of language was so close that it is sometimes difficult to say where Catalan begins and Provençal ends. The four annalists were either themselves observers of the facts which they [267] record or were able to consult eye-witnesses and do not attempt to go far beyond the range of their own experience; they do not belong to the school of writers which considered that any contribution to the history of the Spanish peninsula must begin with the creation of the world and be rather panoramic than detailed. Nor were they restrained by those limitations which inhibited the freedom of other chroniclers; two of them were rulers who could say what they liked; Desclot records the failures as well as the virtues of the Crown; Muntaner is inspired by a romantic loyalty towards Catalonia, its language and its royal house, and is certainly biased by his preference for his patron, James II of Mallorca, the younger brother of Pedro III; he attempts to maintain the reputation of James by omitting incidents which did not redound to his credit; but if he suppresses truth, he does not usually supply its place with fiction. Thus these writers are not mere annalists, recording the yearly sequence of notable events; nor do they pretend to be scientific historians; the thread of their narratives is provided by their own experiences, which are told with some pretensions to literary style, more intimate and less sophisticated in manner and matter than the work of the professional historian.

All that is known of Bernat Desclot is gathered from his Chronicle itself, and so impersonal is his narrative that little can be said of him. He seems to have been a nobleman in the household of Pedro III and to have been in personal attendance upon this King during his momentous struggle against Philip III of France. He had access to state documents and made careful use of them, as Aman has shown in his Guerra dal Vespro Siciliano, confirming the credence accorded to Desclot by Zurita, the first of historians to recognize the value of his Chronicle. Desclot's object was to write an account of the reign of Pedro III; the early part of his work, as introductory to this subject, deals with the early history of the Counts of Barcelona and the connection of Aragon with Provence: here he introduced stories and traditions which had won their way to the fabulous, and the historical part of the Chronicle begins with his account of James the Conqueror. His rapid narrative of events, his insertion of speeches and the curt sobriety of his manner recall the style of Xenophon's Anabasis. Far more readable, [268] if not always so reliable, is Ramón Muntaner who stands high above every Spanish chronicler of his age. He was born in the same year as Dante, 1265, at Peralada in the County of Ampurias; in 1285 his estate was ravaged by a French invasion, and about 1300 he joined the famous admiral, Roger de Flor, and began the long and adventurous career which saw thirty-two battles by land and sea, until he settled in Valencia where he died in 1336. On May 15, 1325, he was moved by a vision to begin his famous Chronicle.

"Un dia stant yo en una mia alqueria per nom Xiluella qui es en la horta de Valencia, e durmint en mon llit, a mi vench en visio un prohom vell, vestit de blanch, qui.m dix: Muntaner, lleva sus e pensa de fer un libre de les grans rnarauelles que has vistes que Deus ha feytes en les guerres hon tu es estat; corn a Deus plau, que per tu sia manifestat. E vull que sapies que per quatre coses asenyaladement t'a Deus allongada la vida, e t'a portat en bon estament, e portara a bona fi. De les quales quatre coses es la una: primerament com tu has tengudes moltes senyories, axi en mar, com en terra, hon pogres haver mes de mal feyt, que no lo has. La segona cosa es, perço com james no has volgut guardar a nengun qui en ton poder fos ne sia vengut mal per mal; ans molts homens de grans affers son venguts en ton poder, qui t'avien molt de mal feyt, qui cuydauen esser morts, com venien en ta ma, e tu lauors feyes ne gracies a Deus nostre senyor de la merce qui.t feya, e lla hon ells se tenien per pus morts e pus perduts, tu.ls reties a nostre senyor ver Deus propriarnent, e.ls deslliuraues de la tua preso, e.ls trameties en liur terra saluament e segura, vestits e aparellats, segons que a cascu pertanyia. La terço raho es, que a Deus plau que recomptes aquestes auentures e maruelles; car altre no es huy al mon viu, qui ho pogues axi ab veritat dir. E la quarta; perço que qual que sia Rey d'Arago que s'esforç de be affer e dir, entenent les gracies de Dens que ha feytes en aquests affers que tu recomptaras a ells e a les sues gents:... e que vejan e conegan, que a la dretura ajuda tosterns nostre senyor; e qui a dretura quarreja e va, Dens lo exalça e li dona victoria."
"One day when I was on a farm of mine which is called Xiluella, which is in the garden of Valencia (i.e. the district irrigated by the Moors), and asleep in my bed, there came to me in a vision an old man dressed in white who said to me: Muntaner, rise and prepare to make a book of the great marvels which you have seen that God has wrought in the wars in which you have been; for it pleases God that these things should be manifested by you. And [269] I would have you know that for four reasons in particular God has prolonged your life and has kept you in good estate and will bring you to a good end. Of these four things this is the first; that whereas you have held many high positions both by sea and land, where you could have done evil, you have not done it. The second reason is that you have never wished to keep anyone who was in your power nor have requited evil with evil; on the contrary, many of high rank have fallen into your power who had done you much evil, and who thought themselves dead when they came into your hands, and you offered praise and thanks to God our Lord for the mercy which he showed you, and then, when they considered themselves as dead and lost, you duly restored them to our Lord the true God and delivered them from your bondage, and sent them to their land safe and sound, clothed and equipped, as was each one's due. The third reason is, that it has pleased God that you should relate those adventures and marvels, for there is none other living in the world who could do this with such truth. And the fourth reason; that whatever kings of Aragon may strive to speak and do right, they may learn the grace that God has granted in those matters which you will relate to them and to their people... and may see and know that our Lord ever helps the right, and that if a man follow the right path, God exalts him and gives him victory."

Muntaner's estimate of his own character is not lacking in exactitude, whatever may be thought of his modesty. His share in the Catalan expedition to the East showed him as a man of affairs, competent and energetic, with the power of securing the confidence and respect of those about him. He was a patriot with a great admiration for the Kings of Aragon whose reign he relates, and a belief that Catalonia was the best of countries, and he possessed an unusual power of descriptive writing. The spirit of medievalism can be learned better from Muntaner than from any other chronicler of his age; Froissart and his school tell us of feasts, jousts and processions, the pomp of chivalry and the exploits of knighthood; but Muntaner goes behind this outward show and enables us to understand how men thought and why they acted as they did in his restless and hazardous times.
The fourth Chronicle is generally known as that of Pedro IV, the Ceremonious. The actual work was composed by Bernat Dezcoli, of whom little is known except that he was a councillor under Juan I and died in Mallorca between 1388 [270] and 1391, and there were other collaborators selected from the court historians whom Pedro kept in his employment; the King provided the material and, as one of his letters shows, directed the space and attention which was to be given to particular transactions and exercised an editorial control over the work, which forms a kind of continuation to Muntaner's Chronicle. It begins with a brief account of James II and Alfonso IV, the grandfather and father of Pedro, and continues the history of his own reign to 1380, seven years before his death. The style is clear, cold and unemotional, relieved at times by the rhetoric of which Pedro was fond; the reputation of the work for accuracy and reliability is better than might have been expected, and the character of its editor is more clearly reflected in the omissions made in his narrative than in its positive statements. In fact, the record of the movements of troops is detailed with the elaborate accuracy of a diarist. Pedro seems to have had a genuine interest in history. He paid a hundred forms to Nicolau Capellà for making a Catalan translation of the Croniques de Aragon e de Sicilia; he commissioned the Inquisitor of Mallorca, Jaime Domenech, to translate parts of the Speculum Historiale of Vincent de Beauvais. His Libre de les Ordinacions de la real casa de Arago was a code compiled upon the model of the Leyes Palatinas of James III of Mallorca, and the minute regulations there laid down for the conduct of court ceremonial gave Pedro his customary title; he also devoted much time and money to alchemy and astrology.

Prose preceded poetry in the development of Catalan literature, for the reason, as has been already pointed out, that the Provençal troubadour lyric dominated the field of poetry for some two hundred years. Similarity of language, political connections and the tastes of Aragonese princes and of their courts combined to secure for Provençal almost an official status as the language of regular poetry. Decadence became apparent about the middle of the thirteenth century. Cerveri de Gerona may be regarded as the last representative of the Provençal school, and the numerous Catalanisms in his work show how far the poetical tongue had been modified by the vernacular. One characteristic clearly marks the Catalan troubadours of the classical period, their objection [271] to the trobar clus, the obscure, involved and complicated style expressing sublimated thought in tortuous stanza schemes and far-fetched rhymes. It was a style which appealed only to the cultivated and aristocratic class, and prided itself upon having no message for the people; a style not without resemblance to the gongorism which infected Spanish literature in later years. Catalan poets preferred the trobar plan or leugier, the style of clarity and simplicity. Ramón Lull, pre-eminent as a prose writer, was one of the first to show the possibilities of native Catalan poetry. It was inevitable that both the form and expression of his poetry should show strong traces of Provençal influence, but this is overshadowed by the intensity of his purpose. His poetry is didactic, and, if certain poems are little more than rhymed and metrical prose, there are many occasions upon which his moral fervour and burning enthusiasm raise him to the height of true poetical inspiration. Such are the Plant de nostra Dona Sancta Maria or the Cant de Ramon. Other court poets of the period clung more closely to the form and spirit of the classical troubadour poetry. Lorenz Mallol shows the beginnings of Petrarchism, and his Escondit suggests both the influence of Bertran de Born and of Petrarch's fifteenth Canzone. Poems by such aristocratic authors as Constance, who married James II of Mallorca, or by Pedro el Ceremonioso, owe their preservation as much to the social position of their authors as to their inherent merits, and are doubtless typical of a mass of occasional verse that has perished. The fourteenth century also saw the growth of a taste for the didactic moralizing of the literature known as ensenyaments, and for narrative poetry, in which the borrowings from the Arthurian cycle show the workings of French influence. The Faula d'en Torrella by Guillem Torella, who wrote before 1380, carries the reader to the country:

On repaira Morgan la fea
E missire lo reys Artus.
The growing taste for foreign literature is also shown by the Catalan translations of Matfre Ermengau's Breviari d'Amor and of the Roman des Sept Savis. Mention has been made of the foundation of the Consistori de la Gaya Sciensa in Barcelona by Juan I in 1393. His [272] successor, Martin, supported the institution, but the political disturbances which broke out after his death obliged the Consistori to move from Barcelona to Tortosa, and its activities were not renewed until 1412, when Ferdinand I came to the throne. Arrangements were then made that poetical contests should be held annually at Easter or Whitsuntide, and four judges or mantenedors were provided. This work of revival was largely fostered by Enrique de Villena, more properly called Enrique de Aragon, whose fragmentary Arte de Trobar gives an account of the work and ceremonial of the Consistori.

"On the appointed day the mantenedors and the troubadours assembled in the royal palace where I was staying, whence we proceeded in order, with the apparitors at the head, bearing the books of art and the minute book in front of the mantenedors to the main hall, which was already prepared for the occasion, the walls being hung with tapestry. Don Enrique sat upon a seat raised upon steps with the mantenedors on either side of him. The secretaries of the Consistori stood at our feet, and the apparitors beyond them. The floor was carpeted, and the troubadours sat upon two rows of seats in a semicircle, while upon a platform in the middle, as high as an altar and covered with cloth of gold, lay the books of art and the prizes. To the right of this was a seat for the king who often attended the meetings, together with a numerous audience. When silence had been proclaimed the Doctor of Theology, who was one of the mantenedors, arose and made an introductory speech, with quotations and eulogies upon the gay science, explaining the purposes for which the Consistori had met, after which he sat down again. One of the apparitors then proclaimed that the troubadours there present might present and publish the works which they had composed upon the subject assigned to them. Each poet then rose and read in a clear voice, his composition, which was written upon Damascus paper in different colours in gold and silver letters, with such illumination as each could provide. After all the works had thus been published, each composition was handed in to the Clerk of the Consistori.
Two sessions were then held, one in secret and one public. At the secret session all the members swore to judge impartially and in accordance with the laws of the art, in deciding which of the works thus published was the best. Every one pointed out the mistakes that he had observed, which were noted in the margin, after which all the compositions were compared, and the [273] one which was without mistakes, or had the fewest of them, was awarded the prize by the decision of the Consistori. For the public meeting the mantenedors and the troubadours assembled in the palace. Don Enrique then proceeded with them to the chapter-house of the preaching monks. When all had taken their places, and silence had been secured, I made a speech and praised the works that had been produced, with special reference to that which had gained a prize. The Clerk of the Consistori then brought this composition forward upon finely illuminated parchment. Upon the top was painted the golden crown, and beneath were the signatures of Don Enrique and of the mantenedors, while the Clerk sealed it with the appended seal of the Consistori. The composer was summoned, and received the prize and his composition, which was then included in the register of the Consistori, permission being thus granted for its public performance. After this, we returned in procession to the palace, the prize-winner walking between the mantenedors, while a page, accompanied by minstrels and trumpeters, carried the prize before him. Sweets and wine were then served in the palace, after which the mantenedors and troubadours, with the minstrels, withdrew and escorted the prize-winner to his house. By this means was made clear the distinction which God and nature has set between the talented and the ordinary members of mankind, and thus ignorance learned to respect the accomplishments of genius."

Poetry produced under these conditions was inevitably artificial in character. Form was of more importance than thought, and ingenuity took the place of inspiration, but the movement was not without its importance. The Provençal-Catalan poetry found favour with Juan II of Castile (1407-1455), whose conjunction of literary aspirations and political incompetence reminds us of Juan I of Aragon. Poetry came to be regarded as a ciencia, a business of rules and technicalities which could be mastered with due diligence, and the typical poet was a learned man to whom these rules were familiar and not that rare and favoured person upon whom some divine inspiration had descended. Hence poets looked continually to Provençal models, and found their own admirable vernacular unsuited to the conceits of troubadour style. Even men like Muntaner, while writing their chronicles in good Catalanesc, declared that those who wished to write poetry should use Provençal. While Catalan poets [274] thus preferred Southern French language and form, their outlook upon life was not that of the Provençal troubadour. Catalan poetry is informed with moral seriousness, and religion or patriotism are its leading motives. The Leys d'Amors, the treatise upon grammar and poetical form drawn up by Guilhem Molinier for the Consistori of Toulouse (of which two versions are extant), was well-known to the Barcelona Consistori. Molinier's résumé in verse of this treatise, Las Flors del Gay Saber, has been preserved in a Catalan manuscript, and a Catalan version of the prose treatise is also in existence. With the Leys d'Amors are connected the treatises produced by the first founders of the Barcelona Consistori. Jacme March brought out a Diccionari, a work which the Toulouse Academy never undertook, and Luis Aversó compiled a so-called Torcimany, a work which included a dictionary and an Ars poetica. The doctrines of the Barcelona school spread into Spain, and the Marquis of Santillana was informed of them by his tutor, Enrique de Villena.
The fifteenth century may be regarded as the golden age of Catalan literature and, in particular, of its lyric poetry. Of the numerous poets who then flourished two obtained a reputation which gave them a definite place in the history of European literature. Ausias March was the most distinguished representative of a family of poets; he was the nephew of the Jacme above mentioned, his father, Père March, was the author of a didactic work, the Ames del Cavaller, and his cousin, Arnau, was held in esteem for his Cançò d'Amor. Ausias was a Valencian, born in 1393 at Gandía; he took part in the Sardinian expedition of 1420, in company with two other poets of renown, Jordi de Sant Jordi and Andreu Febrer. Like most literary men of his time, he was well known to Carlos of Viana. After his service in Sardinia, he lived upon his Valencian estate, taking some part in local affairs, and died in 1459. He was a typical product of the humanism of his age, learned in the classics and in scholastic philosophy, and well acquainted with the troubadours, whose influence upon his work is obvious, though he was an eminently original writer and thinker. Ausias is not easy reading; he was a psychologist and a philosopher and the difficulty of his poems is due [275] rather to subtlety of thought than to preciosity of expression. The greater part of his work consists of love poetry, but his religious and moral verse is not inferior to the rest of his compositions. His poems were translated into Spanish and Latin, and the Marquis of Santillana in his letter to the Constable of Portugal speaks of him as "grand trobador e hombre de assaz elevado espíritu." In the same paragraph of his letter the Marquis refers to Mossen Jordi de Sant Jordi, "cavallero prudente," in whose work Italian influence is more clearly marked. He also was a Valencian and held a Court post under Alfonso V in 1416. Eighteen of his poems have come down to us, a small number in comparison with the one hundred and twenty of Ausias March. He is remembered for his Cançò d'Opposits,

Tots jorns aprench e desaprench ensemps,
E visch e muyr, e fau d'enuig plaser,
Axi mateix fau de l'avol bon temps,
E veig sens ulls, e say menys de saber.
E no strench res e tot lo mon abraç;
Vol sobre.l cel e sol no.m moch do terra.
which is an adaptation of Petrarch's sonnet XC, though for some time various critics insisted that Petrarch was the imitator. The third of the trio who went to Sardinia, Andreu Febrer, the chief alguacil of Alfonso V, translated Dante's Divina Commedia into Catalan in 1428. The translation is literal, but Catalan cannot reproduce the terza-rima, as Boscán realized at a later date, and as even the first three tercets will show.
En lo mig del cami do nostra vida
me retrobé por una selva oscura,
que la dreta via era fallida.
Ay! quant a dir qual era, es cosa dura,
esta selva selvatge, aspera e fort,
quel pensament nova por me procura.
Tant amargant que poch es plus la mort!
Mes per tractar del be qu'eu hi trobé
diré l'als que hi descobri si.n record.
Among the Valencian poets mention should also be made of Jaume Roig, whose fame is based upon his Spill o Libre de les dones, a work of 12,000 verses, which contains the elements of [276] a picaresque novel and satirizes not only women, but other aspects of life as he knew it. Critics have compared him with Petronius and Boccaccio. His laconic mode of expression is full of vigour and energy, and his work is valuable for the sidelight which it throws upon the civilization of his age.
Foreign influence from other quarters was also strong. Fra Rocaberti's allegory, the Comedia de la Gloria d'Amor, which was finished shortly after 1461, certainly refers to Dante and to the classical troubadours, but is also inspired by the allegorical methods of the Roman de la Rose. Alain Chartier's La Dame sans Merci found a competent translator in Francesch Oliver, and at the close of the century Miguel Carbonell's Dança de la Mort reproduces the character of the Danse Macabre, even if it was not directly derived from a French original. In prose, Martorell's famous romance, Tirant lo Blanch, owes much to the English Guy of Warwick, if it also borrows from Bernard Metge and Muntaner; Curial y Guelfa, the other romance of the period which is much inferior to Tirant, is a product of Italian influence.

Catalan literature during this period produced no dramatic writing worthy of mention and the theatre remained in a wholly rudimentary state. In other respects, as has been seen, intellectual energy and interest was abundant and fertile in results, and foreign influences notwithstanding, the literature of the country has an originality of its own, apparent in capacity for thought, directness and clarity of statement and a profound and genuine sense of patriotism. After 1500 a period of decadence began, due, in the first instance, to the steady inroads of Castilian; in 1474 was held the famous poetical contest in Valencia, when forty people sent in songs in honour of the Virgin; these were published under the title, Obres e trobes, les quals tracten de lahors de la sacratissima Verge Maria, and formed the book generally supposed to have been the first book printed in Spain. It is significant that four of these poems were composed in Castilian. It was inevitable that the political union of Spain, and the discovery of America which diverted commerce from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and transferred the glories of Barcelona to Seville, apart from such measures as the decree of 1714 and 1716 which displaced Catalan as the official language, should have made Castilian paramount in Eastern Spain. Such [277] collections as the Cancionero, llamado Flor de Enamorados (por Juan de Linares, Barcelona, 1608), print Castilian and Catalan romances on successive pages in a fashion which suggests bilingualism; but by the end of the eighteenth century Catalan was in the same condition as Provençal, a spoken patois with a great history behind it, awaiting the renaissance of 1833.

This work was originally published by Methuan Publishing Ltd. in 1933.
Pagination of the original edition is indicated set off in brackets, as in [19].

Ample your information on Aragon

If you want to extend your information on Aragon you can begin crossing another interesting route is the Mudejar, Patrimony of the Humanity, also you can extend your cultural knowledge on Aragon examining its municipal and institutional heraldry without forgetting, of course, some of its emblematics figures as Saint George Pattern of Aragon also book of Aragon.

Also Aragon enjoys a diverse and varied Nature where passing by plants, animals or landscapes we can arrive at a fantastic bestiario that lives in its monuments.

The information will not be complete without a stroll by its three provinces: Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca and his shines, with shutdown in some of its spectacular landscapes like Ordesa, the Moncayo or by opposition the Ebro.

Also you can dedicarte to the intangible ones: from the legend compilation that also does to universal Aragon you can persecute the presence of del Santo Grial in Aragon.

Huesca | Teruel | Zaragoza | Aragon | Maps |
Fauna | Flora | Geology | Fungi |
Tourism | Mudejar | Goya | Alphabetical Index | Thematic

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Social and Political Conditions during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. Books.

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