Two of the dramas contained in this volume are the most celebrated of all Calderon`s writings. The first, "La Vida es Sueno", has been translated into many languages and performed with success on almost every stage in Europe but that of England. So late as the winter of 1866-7, in a Russian version, it drew crowded houses to the great theatre of Moscow; while a few years earlier, as if to give a signal proof of the reality of its title, and that Life was indeed a Dream, the Queen of Sweden expired in the theatre of Stockholm during the performance of "La Vida es Sueno". In England the play has been much studied for its literary value and the exceeding beauty and lyrical sweetness of some passages; but with the exception of a version by John Oxenford published in "The Monthly Magazine" for 1842, which being in blank verse does not represent the form of the original, no complete translation into English has been attempted. Some scenes translated with considerable elegance in the metre of the original were published by Archbishop Trench in 1856; but these comprised only a portion of the graver division of the drama. The present version of the entire play has been made with the advantages which the author`s long experience in the study and interpretation of Calderon has enabled him to apply to this master-piece of the great Spanish poet. All the forms of verse have been preserved; while the closeness of the translation may be inferred from the fact, that not only the whole play but every speech and fragment of a speech are represented in English in the exact number of lines of the original, without the sacrifice, it is to be hoped, of one important idea.
A note by Hartzenbusch in the last edition of the drama published at Madrid (1872), tells that "La Vida es Sueno", is founded on a story which turns out to be substantially the same as that with which English students are familiar as the foundation of the famous Induction to the "Taming of the Shrew". Calderon found it however in a different work from that in which Shakespeare met with it, or rather his predecessor, the anonymous author of "The Taming of a Shrew", whose work supplied to Shakespeare the materials of his own comedy.
On this subject Malone thus writes. "The circumstance on which the Induction to the anonymous play, as well as to the present Comedy [Shakespeare`s "Taming of the Shrew"], is founded, is related (as Langbaine has observed) by Heuterus, "Rerum Burgund." lib. iv. The earliest English original of this story in prose that I have met with is the following, which is found in Goulart`s "Admirable and Memorable Histories", translated by E. Grimstone, quarto, 1607; but this tale (which Goulart translated from Heuterus) had undoubtedly appeared in English, in some other shape, before 1594:
"Philip called the good Duke of Burgundy, in the memory of our ancestors, being at Bruxelles with his Court, and walking one night after supper through the streets, accompanied by some of his favourites, he found lying upon the stones a certaine artisan that was very dronke, and that slept soundly. It pleased the prince in this artisan to make trial of the vanity of our life, whereof he had before discoursed with his familiar friends. He therefore caused this sleeper to be taken up, and carried into his palace; he commands him to be layed in one of the richest beds; a riche night cap to be given him; his foule shirt to be taken off, and to have another put on him of fine holland. When as this dronkard had digested his wine, and began to awake, behold there comes about his bed Pages and Groomes of the Duke`s Chamber, who drawe the curteines, make many courtesies, and being bare-headed, aske him if it please him to rise, and what apparell it would please him to put on that day. They bring him rich apparell. This new Monsieur amazed at such courtesie, and doubting whether he dreamt or waked, suffered himselfe to be drest, and led out of the chamber. There came noblemen which saluted him with all honour, and conduct him to the Masse, where with great ceremonie they give him the booke of the Gospell, and the Pixe to kisse, as they did usually to the Duke. From the Masse they bring him back unto the pallace; he washes his hands, and sittes down at the table well furnished. After dinner, the Great Chamberlain commands cards to be brought with a great summe of money. This Duke in imagination playes with the chief of the Court. Then they carry him to walke in the gardein, and to hunt the hare, and to hawke. They bring him back into the pallace, where he sups in state. Candles being light the musitions begin to play; and the tables taken away, the gentlemen and gentlewomen fell to dancing. Then they played a pleasant comedie, after which followed a Banket, whereat they had presently store of Ipocras and pretious wine, with all sorts of confitures, to this prince of the new impression; so as he was dronke, and fell soundlie asleepe. Hereupon the Duke commanded that he should be disrobed of all his riche attire. He was put into his old ragges, and carried into the same place, where he had been found the night before; where he spent that night. Being awake in the morning, he began to remember what had happened before; he knewe not whether it were true indeede, or a dream that had troubled his braine. But in the end, after many discourses, he concludes that ALL WAS BUT A DREAME that had happened unto him; and so entertained his wife, his children, and his neighbours, without any other apprehension."
It is curious to find that the same anecdote which formed the Induction to the original "Taming of a Shrew", and which, from a comic point of view, Shakespeare so wonderfully developed in his own comedy, Calderon invested with such solemn and sublime dignity in "La Vida es Sueno". He found it, as Senor Hartzenbusch points out in the edition of 1872 already quoted, in the very amusing "Viage Entretenido" of Augustin de Rojas, which was first published in 1603. Hartzenbusch refers to the modern edition of Rojas, Madrid, 1793, tomo I, pp. 261, 262, 263, but in a copy of the Lerida edition of 1615, in my own possession, I find the anecdote at folios 118, 119, 120. There are some slight differences between the version of Rojas and that of Goulart, but the incidents and the persons are the same. The conclusion to which the artizan arrived at, in the version of Goulart, that all had been a dream, is expressed more strongly by the Duke himself in the story as told by Rojas.
"Y dijo entonces el Duque: `veis aqui, amigos, "Lo que es el Mundo: Todo es un Sueno", pues esto verdaderamente ha pasado por este, como habeis visto, y le parece que lo ha sonado.`" --
The story in all probability came originally from the East. Mr. Lane in his translation of the Thousand and One Nights gives a very interesting narrative which he believes to be founded on an historical fact in which Haroun Al Raschid plays the part of the good Duke of Burgundy, and Abu-l-Hasan the original of Christopher Sly. The gravity of the treatment and certain incidents in this Oriental story recall more strongly Calderon`s drama than the Induction to the "Taming of the Shrew". "La Vida es Sueno" was first published either at the end of 1635 or beginning of 1636.
The "Aprobacion" for its publication along with eleven other dramas (not nine as Archbishop Trench has stated), was signed on the 6th of November in the former year by the official licenser, Juan Bautista de Sossa. The volume was edited by the poet`s brother, Don Joseph Calderon. So scarce has this first authorised collection of any of Calderon`s dramas become, that a Spanish writer Don Vicente Garcia de la Huerta, in his "Teatro Espanol" (Parte Segunda, tomo 3o), denies the existence of this volume of 1635, and states that it did not appear until 1640. As if to corroborate this view, Barrera in his "Catalogo del Teatro antiguo Espanol" gives the date 1640 to the "Primera parte de comedias de Calderon" edited by his brother Joseph.
There can be no doubt, however, that the volume appeared in 1635 or 1636 as stated. In 1637 Don Joseph Calderon published the "Second Part" of his brother`s dramas containing like the former volume twelve plays.* In his dedication of this volume to D. Rodrigo de Mendoza, Joseph Calderon expressly alludes to the First Part of his brother`s comedies which he had "printed." "En la primera Parte, Excellentissimo Senor, de las comedias que imprimi de Don Pedro Calderon de La Barca, mi hermano," etc. This of course settles the fact of the prior publication of the first Part. It is singular, however, to find that the most famous of all Calderon`s dramas should have been frequently ascribed to Lope de Vega. So late as 1857 it is given in an Italian version by Giovanni La Cecilia, under the title of "La Vita e un Sogno", as a drama of Lope de Vega, with the date 1628. This of course is a mistake, but Senor Hartzenbusch, who makes no allusion to this circumstance, admits that two dramas of Lope de Vega, which it is presumed preceded the composition of Calderon`s play turn on very nearly the same incidents as those of "La Vida es Sueno". These are "Lo que ha de ser", and "Barlan y Josafa". He gives a passage from each of these dramas which seem to be the germ of the fine lament of Sigismund, which the reader will find translated in the present volume.
[footnote] *In the library of the British Museum there is a fine copy of this "Segunda Parte de Comedias de Don Pedro Calderon de la Barca" Madrid, 1637. Mr. Ticknor mentions (1863) that he too had a copy of this interesting volume.
Senor Hartzenbusch, in the edition of Calderon`s "La Vida es Sueno", already referred to (Madrid, 1872), prints the passages from Lope de Vega`s two dramas, but in neither of them, he justly remarks, can we find anything that at all corresponds to this "grandioso caracter de Segismundo."
The second drama in this volume, "The Wonderful Magician", is perhaps better known to poetical students in England than even the first, from the spirited fragment Shelley has left us in his "Scenes from Calderon." The preoccupation of a subject by a great master throws immense difficulties in the way of any one who ventures to follow in the same path: but as Shelley allowed himself great licence in his versification, and either from carelessness or an imperfect knowledge of Spanish is occasionally unfaithful to the meaning of his author, it may be hoped in my own version that strict fidelity both as to the form as well as substance of the original may be some compensation for the absence of those higher poetical harmonies to which many of my readers will have been accustomed.
"El Magico Prodigioso" appeared for the first time in the same volume as "La Vida es Sueno", prepared for publication in 1635 by Don Joseph Calderon. The translation is comprised in the same number of lines as the original, and all the preceding remarks on "Life is a Dream", whether in reference to the period of the first publication of the drama in Spain, or the principles I kept in view while attempting this version may be applied to it. As in the Case of "Life is a Dream", "The Wonderful Magician" has previously been translated entire by an English writer, ("Justina", by J.H. 1848); but as Archbishop Trench truly observes, "the writer did not possess that command of the resources of the English language, which none more than Calderon requires."
The Legend on which Calderon founded "El Magico Prodigioso" will be found in Surius, "De probatis Sanctorum historiis", t. V. (Col. Agr. 1574), p. 351: "Vita et Martyrium SS. Cypriani et Justinae, autore Simeone Metaphraste", and in Chapter cxlii, of the "Legenda Aurea" of Jacobus de Voragine "De Sancta Justina virgine".
The martyrdom of the Saints took place in the year 290, and their festival is celebrated by the Church on the 26th of September.
Mr. Ticknor in his History of Spanish Literature, 1863, volume ii. p. 369, says that the Wonder-working Magician is founded on "the same legend on which Milman has founded his `Martyr of Antioch.`" This is a mistake of the learned writer. "The Martyr of Antioch" is founded not on the history of St. Justina but of Saint Margaret, as Milman himself expressly states. Chapter xciii., "De Sancta Margareta", in the "Legenda Aurea" of Jacobus de Voragine contains her story.
The third translation in this volume is that of "The Purgatory of St. Patrick". This, though perhaps not so famous as the two preceding dramas, is intended to be given by Don P. De la Escosura, in a selection of Calderon`s finest "comedias", now being edited by him for the Spanish Academy, as the representative piece of its class -- namely, the mystical drama founded on the lives of Saints. Mr. Ticknor prefers it to the more celebrated "Devotion of the Cross," and says that it "is commonly ranked among the best religious plays of the Spanish theatre in the seventeenth century."
In all that relates to the famous cave known through the middle ages as the "Purgatory of Saint Patrick", as well as the Story of Luis Enius -- the Owain Miles of Ancient English poetry -- Calderon was entirely indebted to the little volume published at Madrid, in 1627, by Juan Perez de Montalvan, entitled "Vida y Purgatorio de San Patricio". This singular work met with immense success. It went through innumerable editions, and continues to be reprinted in Spain as a chap-book, down to the present day. I have the fifth impression "improved and enlarged by the author himself," Madrid, 1628, the year after its first appearance: also a later edition, Madrid, 1664. As early as 1637 a French translation appeared at Brussels by "F. A. S. Chartreux, a Bruxelles." In 1642 a second French translation was published at Troyes, by "R. P. Francois Bouillon, de l`Ordre de S. Francois, et Bachelier de Theologie." Mr. Thomas Wright in his "Essay on St. Patrick`s Purgatory," London, 1844, makes the singular mistake of supposing that Bouillon`s "Histoire de la Vie et Purgatoire de S. Patrice" was founded on the drama of Calderon, it being simply a translation of Montalvan`s "Vida y Purgatorio," from which, like itself, Calderon`s play was derived. Among other translations of Montalvan`s work may be mentioned one in Dutch (Brussels, 1668) and one in Portuguese (Lisbon, 1738). It was also translated into German and Italian, but I find no mention of an English version. For this reason I have thought that a few extracts might be interesting, as showing how closely Calderon adhered even to the language of his predecessor.
In all that relates to the Purgatory, Montalvan`s work is itself chiefly compiled from the "Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum, seu vitae et Actae sanctorum Hiberniae," Paris, 1624, fol. This work, which has now become scarce, was written by Thomas Messingham an Irish priest, the Superior of the Irish Seminary in Paris. No complete English version appears to have been made of it, but a small tract in English containing everything in the original work that referred to St. Patrick`s Purgatory was published at Paris in 1718. As this tract is perhaps more scarce than even the Florilegium itself, the account of the Purgatory as given by Messingham from the MS. of Henry of Saltrey is reprinted in the notes to this drama in the quaint language of the anonymous translator. Of this tract, "printed at Paris in 1718" without the name of author, publisher or printer, I have not been able to trace another copy. In other points of interest connected with Calderon`s drama, particularly to the clearing up of the difficulty hitherto felt as to the confused list of authorities at the end, the reader is also referred to the notes.
The present version of "The Purgatory of Saint Patrick" is, with the exception of a few unimportant lines, an entirely new translation. It is made with the utmost care, imitating all the measures and contained, like the two preceding dramas, in the exact number of lines of the original. One passage of the translation which I published in 1853 is retained in the notes, as a tribute of respect to the memory of the late John Rutter Chorley, it having been mentioned with praise by that eminent Spanish scholar in an elaborate review of my earlier translations from Calderon, which appeared in the "Athenaeum", Nov. 19 and Nov. 26, 1853.
It only remains to add that the text I have followed is that of Hartzenbusch in his edition of Calderon`s Comedias, Madrid, 1856 ("Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles"). His arrangement of the scenes has been followed throughout, thus enabling the reader in a moment to verify for himself the exactness of the translation by a reference to the original, a crucial test which I rather invite than decline.
CLAPHAM PARK, Easter, 1873.