In modern times no poetry has sprung so directly from the popular feelings, or exercised so great an influence on the national character, as that of the Peninsula, beyond the Pyrenees. This rich and admirable country, standing in some measure between Europe and Africa, served, for above seven centuries, as the advanced guard of Christendom against the attacks of the Arabs, who then threatened to overrun Europe, as they had already overrun the half of Asia. In these conflicts—where, during four hundred years, the Spaniards were uniformly beaten, without ever shrinking—a national character was gradually formed, in which chivalry and religion were mingled and confounded by the cause in which they were alike engaged; while, at the same time, the bitterness of an hereditary animosity, that tolerated neither compromise nor hesitation, was admirably softened down into a splendid gallantry and heroic emulation of excellence, by the generous virtues and higher refinement of their Moorish enemies. This spirit,—which the histories of Zaragoza and Girona prove to be still burning in the veins of the lower classes of the people of Spain, as it was in the days of Cordova and Granada,— this spirit has always been apparent in their poetry. From the first outpourings of its rude admiration for heroes whom it has almost made fabulous, down to the death of Cadahalso before Gibraltar, and the self-sacrifice of Jovellanos, it has never had but one tone; and that tone has been purely and exclusively Spanish, nourished by a high moral feeling, and a proud and prevalent sense of honor, loyalty, and religion. It breaks upon us with the dawn of their modern history, in their unrivalled ballads; the earliest breathings at once of poetical and popular feeling among them, whose echoes, like the sweet voice of Ariel amidst the tumults of the tempest, come to us in the pauses of that tremendous warfare which seems, alternately, one merciless and interminable battle
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