In the earlier epic period the influences from abroad were predominantly French. The second period is one in which the chief foreign influence was Arabic. The gates of Oriental learn ing and story were opened to Spain and to the whole of Europe by the capture of Toledo (io85), which became a school of translation from oriental languages. As early as 1120 Petrus Alfonsi, a Spanish Jew who had become a convert to Chris tianity, introduced Indian fable into Spain with the famous col lection of stories written in Latin and known as Disciplina cleri calls. The Spanish translation of the "beast-fable" Kalila and Dimna, made directly from an Arabic text, dates from 1251; it is the first attempt at story-telling in the Spanish language. The romance of the Seven Sages (or Sendebar), under the title of Libro de los engannos a asayamientos de las mujeres (book of the wiles and deceptions of women), was translated in 1253, and other collections of Eastern stories followed.
Alfonso the Sage.—Alfonso X., el Sabio (the Sage), king of Castile and Leon (1252-84), may justly be called the father of Castilian prose. Under his patronage, and indeed under his editorship, a number of vast works were undertaken, including the great legal code, Las Siete partidas (a mine of curious informa tion on Spanish life and customs of the time) ; together with valuable compilations from Arabic sources, such as the Libro de saber de astronomia, the "Alfonsine Tables," the Lapidario and the Libro de los juegos—an illustrated book of games, including dice, draughts and several varieties of chess played on boards of different sizes. Alfonso X. was also the founder of Spanish his toriography in the vulgar tongue. The Cronica general, begun under his direction, gave rise to a whole series of chronicles in the vernacular. Alfonso X. was also responsible for one of the greatest collections of mediaeval poetry and music ; the illu minated mss. of the Cdntigas de Santa Maria, but as the language employed in them is Galician Portuguese, they have been con sidered under the literature of Portugal.
The period of translation and compilation from oriental and other sources represented by the school of Alfonso X. was suc ceeded by a brilliant period of original work, in the prose of the Infante Don Juan Manuel (1282-1349?) and the poetry of the archpriest of Hita (d. before 1351). Both had learnt from Eastern story not only how to employ fables for teaching moral lessons, but also how to set them in a suitable frame. In Don Juan Manuel's Conde Lucanor the count asks the advice of his councillor, Patronio, on certain questions of life and government, and Patronio replies in each case by telling a story to illustrate the point. Many of the 5o stories are admirably told, and are the first works of Spanish fiction which give evidence of an individual style. The moral tone is uniformly high, and the
author is clearly conscious that he has a public duty to perform by writing.
The Archpriest of Hita.—Juan Ruiz, archpriest of Hita, is a man of the people, with no sense of personal obligation to society and still less with any apparent religious vocation. Yet he is a true poet, and an artist to the tips of his fingers. His book of verse, generally known as Libro de buen amor ("the book of true love"—buen amor, as contrasted with earthly love, loco amor), is, in form, a satirical autobiography in which he tells with disarming candour the story of his love-affairs. There is no possible chance of an allegorical interpretation. The love that leads the archpriest is earthly love, though he protests in lyrics of passionate sincerity his devotion to the Virgin Mary. Not all his desires end in fulfilment; but some of the ladies, e.g., Dofia Endrina, are vividly and enchantingly portrayed, and the go-between, Trotaconventos (an ancestor of La Celestina), is the first great character in Spanish literature. Though the form of the work is to a certain extent oriental (a frame-work on which numerous apologues and fables are hung), the arch priest has also availed himself of forms and subjects from France. He employs every metre known to him in a masterly fashion.
Contemporary with the Libro de been amor, or perhaps, earlier, is the Poema de Yucuf, a version of the legend of Joseph written in Aragonese dialect in single-rhymed quatrains. Its peculiarity is that though the words are Spanish, they are written in Arabic ; and the entire poem is derived from the Koran and other Islamic sources. It shows how the Spanish Muslims clung to their handwriting, even after they had lost their language and their religion.
Arthurian Romance.-14th century Spain had already begun to be acquainted with the romances of chivalry; and the oldest known Spanish example, El Caballero Cifar, was probably com posed near the beginning of the 14th century. The "matter of Britain," also, was known to Spain even in the time of Don Juan Manuel (who, in a book on the chase, mentions the fact that hawks in his possession were called Lancelot and Gawaine), although the narratives now in existence belong almost exclu sively to the 15th and 16th centuries. In spite of the numerous versions and continuations of Amadis which followed printing, the romances of chivalry were always importations from abroad ; and nothing is further from the unromantic, realistic Spanish spirit than the two distinguishing features of the Round Table : senti mental devotion and supernatural adventure. The chivalry which Cervantes satirized was not Spanish at all.