The 15th century shows the first effects in Spain of literary influence from Italy; it is the period of transition from the middle ages to the Renaissance. There was a growing sense of privacy, a craving for refinement on the part of a society still savage and blood-thirsty at heart and always on the verge of civil war. The artificiality and exaggerated good manners of the poetry of this epoch renders it dull and unattractive to mod ern readers; but it should never be forgotten that it was an attempt, on the part of the finer spirits among the great lords and the poets in their service, to soften the asperities and bar barities of daily life, and to provide collections of verse which could be recited or sung on festal occasions. Examples of such collections are the Cancionero de Baena made for Juan II. of Castile ca. 1445, and the Cancionero de Stitiiiga compiled for use at the Neapolitan court of Alfonso V. of Aragon while, after the invention of printing, the tradition was continued in the Cancionero general (I 5I 1) and the shameless Cancionero de obras de burlas Marques de Santillana.—Early in the 15th century, how ever, longer didactic poems began to be written under the influ ence of Dante. The Divina Commedia was introduced into Spain by Francisco Imperial, the son of a Genoese who had settled at Seville ; the works of Petrarch and Boccaccio began to be read, and the Greek and Latin classics to be translated. Juan de Mena was the author of a fantastic allegorical poem El Laberinto de Fortuna ; but the great name in the literary history of the century is that of Don Iiiigo Lopez de Mendoza, first Marques de Santillana (1398-1458). Santillana, like Don Juan Manuel, was not only a soldier and a statesman, but also a scholar and a gentleman, with a keen sense of public duty and of the responsi bilities placed upon him by his position in the world, both as a man and as a writer. The most illuminating of his works is the letter addressed to the Constable of Portugal, on the nature of poetry--the earliest piece of literary criticism in Spanish—in which the writer draws upon his reading in Italian, French, Provencal, Catalan, Galician and Portuguese, and upon such Greek and Latin classics as he had been able to obtain' in trans lation. He was a great collector of manuscripts (many of which are still to be found in the Biblioteca Nacional at Madrid), and his Florentine bookseller bore witness to his intimate knowledge of the Italian tongue. He was the first to introduce the Italian sonnet into Spain, and the first to paraphrase Horace. But he is best remembered for his shorter canciones and desires, and above all for his delightfully musical serranillas, which give the impression of having come into his mind in the first instance dur ing the long rides to which his active life as a great feudal lord led him. He also was the first to notice how rich in proverbial sayings the speech of the Spanish country-people can be, and he made a collection of "The wise saws (refranes) of old women who sit by the fire." In the confusion and decadence of the following reign, that of Enrique IV. literature found expression in biting satire or in resignation and the contemplation of death. This was the attitude which produced one of the most justly famous of all Spanish poems, the Cop/as of Jorge Manrique (d. 1478) on the death of his father.
In prose, the 15th century saw the first appearance of Spanish books of travel, as represented by the journey to Samarkand (14o3--o6) of an ambassador of Enrique III., Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo; and the travels in Europe (1435-39) of Pero Tafur. In biography, Fernan Perez de Guzman with his Generaciones y Setnblanzas (part of a larger work entitled, Mar de historias) and Hernando del Pulgar with his Claros varones de Castilla, left admirable portraits of eminent Castilians of their time.
The Spanish Humanists.—The Renaissance may be said to begin in Spain with the accession of Ferdinand and Isabella in the year in which the first Spanish printing press was set up at Valencia. The revival of learning led in two opposite directions; it brought a taste for the antiquities of classical tra dition and also for the antiquities of Spanish tradition, as pre served in the romances (ballads), refranes (proverbs), as well as in the chronicles and earlier prose works. New Spanish prose
in a classical mould was printed side by side with the stories of Don Juan Manuel (1575) and the travels of Gonzalez de Clavijo (1582) ; while in the poetry of the period, the new forms introduced from Italy by Boscan (d. 1542) and Garcilaso de la Vega (d. 1536) became acclimatized at the same time that the traditional Spanish forms of romance and villancico began to attract the attention of men of letters. The first Spanish human ists were also the first grammarians and lexicographers of the Spanish language; the Universal vocabulario en latin y romance of Alonso de Palencia (149o) and Nebrija's Arte de la lengua castellana (1492) are the first of their kind. Other Spanish human ists of distinction, who were also disciples of Erasmus, were Luis Vives, and Juan de Valdes (author of the admirable Dicilogo de la lengua) both belonging to the reign of Charles V. (1517 36) ; while Juan del Mal Lara, Arias Montano, Francisco Sanchez "el Brocense" and Luis de Leon lived under the increasing perse cution of thought in the reign of Philip II. (Recent attempts to belittle or justify the repressive zeal of the Inquisition should be received with caution.) Many of the best brains and noblest minds in Spain at the time were followers of Erasmus, who, by his personal example and the example of his writings (printed in Spanish from 152o until their suppression after his death in 1536), was the guiding light of the Spanish renaissance.