CUBAN LITERATURE. "In Cuba every body versifies," says the eminent critic 1len5ndez y Pelayo. It. is certainly true that. in her composi tions in verse Cuba has made her most important contribution to literature in the tongue. The earliest poem known to have been writ ten on the island is the Espejo de pacieneia (1608) of Silvestre de Balboa. a native of the Canaries, but neither the seventeenth nor the first half of the eighteenth century produced any Cuban poet of great merit. Mention may, however, be made of the names of Jos5 Surly Avila (1696-1762), who wrote some religious loas; Mariano the Alva and Lorenzo Martinez he Avileira, authors of ylosas and eoplas; an unknown poetess of Havana, iv 110 a little poem on the English invasion of 1762; and the cleric Diego de Campos, who coinmentorated the same event in his ddcimas. To another cleric of the eighteenth century, Fray Jost, Rodriguez (Capacho), who likewise wrote dr'cimas- on various subjects, has been attributed the earliest dramatic work com posed in Cuba, Ei prinripe ja•dinero y fiWgido Cloridano, but the bibliophile Barrera as, riles the play to one Santiago de Pita. The University of Havana was established in 1721. and at an early date in the century the first printing press was set up. In 1790 the first newspaper. El papal periodic°, made its appearanee, and bad among its most active collaborators such men of force as the teacher of philosophy Jos5 Agustin Caballero, the physician Tomfis Ilomay, and, above all, the poet Manuel de Zequcira. Quite a number of epigrams are due to the pen of Manuel del Socarro Rodriguez, a journalist who founded several papers elsewhere in Spanish America. The epic was attempted with little success by Count Colombini in his Oforias de la Habana. All thus far produced was rafter verse than poetry; the first real poets of Cuba are Manuel de Zequeira (1760-1540) and Manuel .lusto the Rubaleava (1769-1805). Zequeira• per haps the most attractive Cuban poet anterior to lleredia, echoed in the colonies the note of patri otic fervor called forth in Spain by the stirring events of 1808; in the heroic strains of his Batalla mum! de Cort('s, of Ids Dos de Mayo, and his sit io de Zuragow, be is as much a Spaniard as Qnintana and Gallego in their heroic odes (cf. his Poesiu.s, New York, 1829). Itnbal cava, who was bucolic in temperament, trans lated the Eclogues of Vergil, and composed some original idyls and descriptive poems (ef. the Poe sins de M. J. Rubaleara, Santiago de Cuha,1S48).
But towering above the countless poetasters of the time, the greatest of all the poets that Cuba has yet produced was Jost, Marfa the Heredia (180:3-39). A patriotic poet. who was exiled
from Cuba because of his opposition to Spanish government. Heredia is held in high esteem not only for his political poems like the !limn° del desterrado, but also for his descriptive poems like the Sidgera, the Tcocalli de Cholulu, and the Tempested, pervaded by a melancholy sentiment, and full of most noble imagery. Among Here dia's works are many translations and imitations of the poems of English, French, and Italian writers, such as Young, Campbell, the pseudo Ossian, Lamartine, Delavigne, Millevoye, Ar nault, Foscolo, and Pindemonte (cf. the edition of Heredia's poems and his translations and imi tations of foreign dramas, published at New York. 1875; his prose Lceciones de historic uni rcrsal, Toluca, 1831, and other prose works; and consult: ViRemain. •ssai sur lc gl-nic de Pindarc et stir la. pasie lyrique, Paris, 1859; J. Kennedy. Modern Poets and Poetry of Spain, London, 1852). Among the lesser lights must he counted Domingo del Monte, a Venezuelan, who, residing in Cuba, there composed pleasing romances, played the part of a generous patron of other poets, and strove energetically to have purity of idiom maintained in the Cuban use of the Castilian speech; Ignacio Valdes Machnea, who imitated Melendez Valdes in his Ocios pootieos (1819), and also translated and imitated Jean Jacques Rousseau; Manuel Gonzalez del Valle, a teacher of philosophy, and the author of a Diccionario de /as Mesas (1827), etc. A protege of del Monte's was the romantic spirit Jose Jacinto Milanes (1814-63), a man of superior powers, whose lyrics are now gently sentimental, and again madly socialistic. Mi lan& is also deemed one of the best playwrights that the island has had so far. His pieces in clude El Condo Alarcos, El pocta en la carte, Por el cute o por el rio. and A buena humbre no hay pan duro. Pictures of manners in dia logue form arc to be seen in his MirOn cubano (cf. the first ed. of his Obras, Havana, 1846; second ed., New York, 1865). Another true poet u as Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes. best known by his pseudonym Placido (1809-44). He was a mulatto and a foundling. and had but slight training, yet few Cuban lyrics will live longer than his romance entitled Xicotencal, and his sonnets, La muerte de Gessler. Falalidad, and Plegaria (cf. the eds. of his verse, New York, 1856; and Havana. 1886). Of undisputed excel lence is the work of the poetess Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-73). She was eminently successful as a lyric poet and as a dramatist, less so as a novelist (cf. an edition of her works, \ladrid, 1860).