The Arthurian Legend in the Literatures of the Spanish Peninsula

By William J. Entwistle | Go to book overview

IV
THE BRETON LAYS: "CIFAR"

THE Historia Regum Britonum took precedence above the other members of the Arthurian body in Spain, both by the antiquity of its composition and because the tongue in which it was expressed was more reverently received by librarians and bibliophiles; in the French romances a later distinction which can be made between prose and verse forms invests with especial interest any vestiges or survivors of the poetical state which can be discerned in the Peninsular literatures. Incidental lyrics can be found imbedded in Amadis de Gaula and in Don Tristan de Leonis, and the latter, though perhaps ancient, call for no comment here; but we are concerned to investigate reminiscences of the Breton lays as interpreted by the five lais de Bretanha of the Cancioneiro Colocci-Brancutti and in the fashioning of the novel of El Cavallero Cifar.

The former have been interpreted by the brilliant scholarship of Snra. D. Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcellos, the greatest name in Portuguese criticism.1 These five brief lyrics, which stand at the head of the Cancioneiro Colocci-Brancutti, one of three principal repositories of the Galaeco-Portuguese lyric of the fourteenth century, are singularly colourless little

____________________
1
C. M. de Vasconcellos, Lais de Bretanha, in Revista Lusitana, vi. ( 1900), pp. 1 ff.; reprinted in Cancioneiro da Ajuda ( Halle, 1904), ii. pp. 479-525; Cancioneiro Colocci-Brancutti, ed. Molteni, Nos. 1-5.

-64-

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