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Two of the dramas contained in this volume are the most celebrated of
all Calderon's writings. The first, "La Vida es Sueno", has been
translated into many languages and performed with success on almost
every stage in Europe but that of England. So late as the winter of
1866-7, in a Russian version, it drew crowded houses to the great
theatre of Moscow; while a few years earlier, as if to give a signal
proof of the reality of its title, and that Life was indeed a Dream,
the Queen of Sweden expired in the theatre of Stockholm during the
performance of "La Vida es Sueno". In England the play has been much
studied for its literary value and the exceeding beauty and lyrical
sweetness of some passages; but with the exception of a version by
John Oxenford published in "The Monthly Magazine" for 1842, which
being in blank verse does not represent the form of the original, no
complete translation into English has been attempted. Some scenes
translated with considerable elegance in the metre of the original
were published by Archbishop Trench in 1856; but these comprised only
a portion of the graver division of the drama. The present version
of the entire play has been made with the advantages which the
author's long experience in the study and interpretation of Calderon
has enabled him to apply to this master-piece of the great Spanish
poet. All the forms of verse have been preserved; while the
closeness of the translation may be inferred from the fact, that not
only the whole play but every speech and fragment of a speech are
represented in English in the exact number of lines of the original,
without the sacrifice, it is to be hoped, of one important idea.

A note by Hartzenbusch in the last edition of the drama published at
Madrid (1872), tells that "La Vida es Sueno", is founded on a story
which turns out to be substantially the same as that with which
English students are familiar as the foundation of the famous
Induction to the "Taming of the Shrew". Calderon found it however in
a different work from that in which Shakespeare met with it, or
rather his predecessor, the anonymous author of "The Taming of a
Shrew", whose work supplied to Shakespeare the materials of his own

On this subject Malone thus writes. "The circumstance on which the
Induction to the anonymous play, as well as to the present Comedy
[Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew"], is founded, is related (as
Langbaine has observed) by Heuterus, "Rerum Burgund." lib. iv. The
earliest English original of this story in prose that I have met with
is the following, which is found in Goulart's "Admirable and
Memorable Histories", translated by E. Grimstone, quarto, 1607; but
this tale (which Goulart translated from Heuterus) had undoubtedly
appeared in English, in some other shape, before 1594:

"Philip called the good Duke of Burgundy, in the memory of our
ancestors, being at Bruxelles with his Court, and walking one night
after supper through the streets, accompanied by some of his
favourites, he found lying upon the stones a certaine artisan that
was very dronke, and that slept soundly. It pleased the prince in
this artisan to make trial of the vanity of our life, whereof he had
before discoursed with his familiar friends. He therefore caused
this sleeper to be taken up, and carried into his palace; he commands
him to be layed in one of the richest beds; a riche night cap to be
given him; his foule shirt to be taken off, and to have another put
on him of fine holland. When as this dronkard had digested his wine,
and began to awake, behold there comes about his bed Pages and
Groomes of the Duke's Chamber, who drawe the curteines, make many
courtesies, and being bare-headed, aske him if it please him to rise,
and what apparell it would please him to put on that day. They bring
him rich apparell. This new Monsieur amazed at such courtesie, and
doubting whether he dreamt or waked, suffered himselfe to be drest,
and led out of the chamber. There came noblemen which saluted him
with all honour, and conduct him to the Masse, where with great
ceremonie they give him the booke of the Gospell, and the Pixe to
kisse, as they did usually to the Duke. From the Masse they bring
him back unto the pallace; he washes his hands, and sittes down at
the table well furnished. After dinner, the Great Chamberlain
commands cards to be brought with a great summe of money. This Duke
in imagination playes with the chief of the Court. Then they carry
him to walke in the gardein, and to hunt the hare, and to hawke.
They bring him back into the pallace, where he sups in state.
Candles being light the musitions begin to play; and the tables taken
away, the gentlemen and gentlewomen fell to dancing. Then they
played a pleasant comedie, after which followed a Banket, whereat
they had presently store of Ipocras and pretious wine, with all sorts
of confitures, to this prince of the new impression; so as he was
dronke, and fell soundlie asleepe. Hereupon the Duke commanded that
he should be disrobed of all his riche attire. He was put into his
old ragges, and carried into the same place, where he had been found
the night before; where he spent that night. Being awake in the
morning, he began to remember what had happened before; he knewe not
whether it were true indeede, or a dream that had troubled his
braine. But in the end, after many discourses, he concludes that ALL
WAS BUT A DREAME that had happened unto him; and so entertained his
wife, his children, and his neighbours, without any other

It is curious to find that the same anecdote which formed the
Induction to the original "Taming of a Shrew", and which, from a
comic point of view, Shakespeare so wonderfully developed in his own
comedy, Calderon invested with such solemn and sublime dignity in "La
Vida es Sueno". He found it, as Senor Hartzenbusch points out in the
edition of 1872 already quoted, in the very amusing "Viage
Entretenido" of Augustin de Rojas, which was first published in 1603.
Hartzenbusch refers to the modern edition of Rojas, Madrid, 1793,
tomo I, pp. 261, 262, 263, but in a copy of the Lerida edition of
1615, in my own possession, I find the anecdote at folios 118, 119,
120. There are some slight differences between the version of Rojas
and that of Goulart, but the incidents and the persons are the same.
The conclusion to which the artizan arrived at, in the version of
Goulart, that all had been a dream, is expressed more strongly by the
Duke himself in the story as told by Rojas.

"Y dijo entonces el Duque: 'veis aqui, amigos, "Lo que es el Mundo:
Todo es un Sueno", pues esto verdaderamente ha pasado por este, como
habeis visto, y le parece que lo ha sonado.'" -

The story in all probability came originally from the East. Mr. Lane
in his translation of the Thousand and One Nights gives a very
interesting narrative which he believes to be founded on an
historical fact in which Haroun Al Raschid plays the part of the good
Duke of Burgundy, and Abu-l-Hasan the original of Christopher Sly.
The gravity of the treatment and certain incidents in this Oriental
story recall more strongly Calderon's drama than the Induction to the
"Taming of the Shrew". "La Vida es Sueno" was first published either
at the end of 1635 or beginning of 1636.

The "Aprobacion" for its publication along with eleven other dramas
(not nine as Archbishop Trench has stated), was signed on the 6th of
November in the former year by the official licenser, Juan Bautista
de Sossa. The volume was edited by the poet's brother, Don Joseph
Calderon. So scarce has this first authorised collection of any of
Calderon's dramas become, that a Spanish writer Don Vicente Garcia de
la Huerta, in his "Teatro Espanol" (Parte Segunda, tomo 3o), denies
the existence of this volume of 1635, and states that it did not
appear until 1640. As if to corroborate this view, Barrera in his
"Catalogo del Teatro antiguo Espanol" gives the date 1640 to the
"Primera parte de comedias de Calderon" edited by his brother Joseph.

There can be no doubt, however, that the volume appeared in 1635 or
1636 as stated. In 1637 Don Joseph Calderon published the "Second
Part" of his brother's dramas containing like the former volume
twelve plays.* In his dedication of this volume to D. Rodrigo de
Mendoza, Joseph Calderon expressly alludes to the First Part of his
brother's comedies which he had "printed." "En la primera Parte,
Excellentissimo Senor, de las comedias que imprimi de Don Pedro
Calderon de La Barca, mi hermano," etc. This of course settles the
fact of the prior publication of the first Part. It is singular,
however, to find that the most famous of all Calderon's dramas should
have been frequently ascribed to Lope de Vega. So late as 1857 it is
given in an Italian version by Giovanni La Cecilia, under the title
of "La Vita e un Sogno", as a drama of Lope de Vega, with the date
1628. This of course is a mistake, but Senor Hartzenbusch, who makes
no allusion to this circumstance, admits that two dramas of Lope de
Vega, which it is presumed preceded the composition of Calderon's
play turn on very nearly the same incidents as those of "La Vida es
Sueno". These are "Lo que ha de ser", and "Barlan y Josafa". He
gives a passage from each of these dramas which seem to be the germ
of the fine lament of Sigismund, which the reader will find
translated in the present volume.

[footnote] *In the library of the British Museum there is a fine copy
of this "Segunda Parte de Comedias de Don Pedro Calderon de la Barca"
Madrid, 1637. Mr. Ticknor mentions (1863) that he too had a copy of
this interesting volume.

Senor Hartzenbusch, in the edition of Calderon's "La Vida es Sueno",
already referred to (Madrid, 1872), prints the passages from Lope de
Vega's two dramas, but in neither of them, he justly remarks, can we
find anything that at all corresponds to this "grandioso caracter de

The second drama in this volume, "The Wonderful Magician", is perhaps
better known to poetical students in England than even the first,
from the spirited fragment Shelley has left us in his "Scenes from
Calderon." The preoccupation of a subject by a great master throws
immense difficulties in the way of any one who ventures to follow in
the same path: but as Shelley allowed himself great licence in his
versification, and either from carelessness or an imperfect knowledge
of Spanish is occasionally unfaithful to the meaning of his author,
it may be hoped in my own version that strict fidelity both as to the
form as well as substance of the original may be some compensation
for the absence of those higher poetical harmonies to which many of
my readers will have been accustomed.

"El Magico Prodigioso" appeared for the first time in the same volume
as "La Vida es Sueno", prepared for publication in 1635 by Don Joseph
Calderon. The translation is comprised in the same number of lines
as the original, and all the preceding remarks on "Life is a Dream",
whether in reference to the period of the first publication of the
drama in Spain, or the principles I kept in view while attempting
this version may be applied to it. As in the Case of "Life is a
Dream", "The Wonderful Magician" has previously been translated
entire by an English writer, ("Justina", by J.H. 1848); but as
Archbishop Trench truly observes, "the writer did not possess that
command of the resources of the English language, which none more
than Calderon requires."

The Legend on which Calderon founded "El Magico Prodigioso" will be
found in Surius, "De probatis Sanctorum historiis", t. V. (Col. Agr.
1574), p. 351: "Vita et Martyrium SS. Cypriani et Justinae, autore
Simeone Metaphraste", and in Chapter cxlii, of the "Legenda Aurea" of
Jacobus de Voragine "De Sancta Justina virgine".

The martyrdom of the Saints took place in the year 290, and their
festival is celebrated by the Church on the 26th of September.

Mr. Ticknor in his History of Spanish Literature, 1863, volume ii. p.
369, says that the Wonder-working Magician is founded on "the same
legend on which Milman has founded his 'Martyr of Antioch.'" This is
a mistake of the learned writer. "The Martyr of Antioch" is founded
not on the history of St. Justina but of Saint Margaret, as Milman
himself expressly states. Chapter xciii., "De Sancta Margareta", in
the "Legenda Aurea" of Jacobus de Voragine contains her story.

The third translation in this volume is that of "The Purgatory of St.
Patrick". This, though perhaps not so famous as the two preceding
dramas, is intended to be given by Don P. De la Escosura, in a
selection of Calderon's finest "comedias", now being edited by him
for the Spanish Academy, as the representative piece of its class -
namely, the mystical drama founded on the lives of Saints. Mr.
Ticknor prefers it to the more celebrated "Devotion of the Cross,"
and says that it "is commonly ranked among the best religious plays
of the Spanish theatre in the seventeenth century."

In all that relates to the famous cave known through the middle ages
as the "Purgatory of Saint Patrick", as well as the Story of Luis
Enius - the Owain Miles of Ancient English poetry - Calderon was
entirely indebted to the little volume published at Madrid, in 1627,
by Juan Perez de Montalvan, entitled "Vida y Purgatorio de San
Patricio". This singular work met with immense success. It went
through innumerable editions, and continues to be reprinted in Spain
as a chap-book, down to the present day. I have the fifth impression
"improved and enlarged by the author himself," Madrid, 1628, the year
after its first appearance: also a later edition, Madrid, 1664. As
early as 1637 a French translation appeared at Brussels by "F. A. S.
Chartreux, a Bruxelles." In 1642 a second French translation was
published at Troyes, by "R. P. Francois Bouillon, de l'Ordre de S.
Francois, et Bachelier de Theologie." Mr. Thomas Wright in his
"Essay on St. Patrick's Purgatory," London, 1844, makes the singular
mistake of supposing that Bouillon's "Histoire de la Vie et
Purgatoire de S. Patrice" was founded on the drama of Calderon, it
being simply a translation of Montalvan's "Vida y Purgatorio," from
which, like itself, Calderon's play was derived. Among other
translations of Montalvan's work may be mentioned one in Dutch
(Brussels, 1668) and one in Portuguese (Lisbon, 1738). It was also
translated into German and Italian, but I find no mention of an
English version. For this reason I have thought that a few extracts
might be interesting, as showing how closely Calderon adhered even to
the language of his predecessor.

In all that relates to the Purgatory, Montalvan's work is itself
chiefly compiled from the "Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum, seu vitae
et Actae sanctorum Hiberniae," Paris, 1624, fol. This work, which
has now become scarce, was written by Thomas Messingham an Irish
priest, the Superior of the Irish Seminary in Paris. No complete
English version appears to have been made of it, but a small tract in
English containing everything in the original work that referred to
St. Patrick's Purgatory was published at Paris in 1718. As this
tract is perhaps more scarce than even the Florilegium itself, the
account of the Purgatory as given by Messingham from the MS. of Henry
of Saltrey is reprinted in the notes to this drama in the quaint
language of the anonymous translator. Of this tract, "printed at
Paris in 1718" without the name of author, publisher or printer, I
have not been able to trace another copy. In other points of
interest connected with Calderon's drama, particularly to the
clearing up of the difficulty hitherto felt as to the confused list
of authorities at the end, the reader is also referred to the notes.

The present version of "The Purgatory of Saint Patrick" is, with the
exception of a few unimportant lines, an entirely new translation.
It is made with the utmost care, imitating all the measures and
contained, like the two preceding dramas, in the exact number of
lines of the original. One passage of the translation which I
published in 1853 is retained in the notes, as a tribute of respect
to the memory of the late John Rutter Chorley, it having been
mentioned with praise by that eminent Spanish scholar in an elaborate
review of my earlier translations from Calderon, which appeared in
the "Athenaeum", Nov. 19 and Nov. 26, 1853.

It only remains to add that the text I have followed is that of
Hartzenbusch in his edition of Calderon's Comedias, Madrid, 1856
("Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles"). His arrangement of the scenes
has been followed throughout, thus enabling the reader in a moment to
verify for himself the exactness of the translation by a reference to
the original, a crucial test which I rather invite than decline.

CLAPHAM PARK, Easter, 1873.








* * * * *

BASILIUS, King of Poland.
ASTOLFO, Duke of Muscovy.
CLOTALDO, a Nobleman.
ESTRELLA, a Princess.
ROSAURA, a Lady.
CLARIN, her Servant.

* * * * *

The Scene is in the Court of Poland, in a fortress at some distance,
and in the open field.


* * * * *


At one side a craggy mountain, at the other a tower, the lower part
of which serves as the prison of Sigismund. The door facing the
spectators is half open. The action commences at nightfall.



ROSAURA in man's attire appears on the rocky heights and descends to
the plain. She is followed by CLARIN.

ROSAURA. Wild hippogriff swift speeding,
Thou that dost run, the winged winds exceeding,
Bolt which no flash illumes,
Fish without scales, bird without shifting plumes,
And brute awhile bereft
Of natural instinct, why to this wild cleft,
This labyrinth of naked rocks, dost sweep
Unreined, uncurbed, to plunge thee down the steep?
Stay in this mountain wold,
And let the beasts their Phaeton behold.
For I, without a guide,
Save what the laws of destiny decide,
Benighted, desperate, blind.
Take any path whatever that doth wind
Down this rough mountain to its base,
Whose wrinkled brow in heaven frowns in the sun's bright face.
Ah, Poland! in ill mood
Hast thou received a stranger, since in blood
The name thou writest on thy sands
Of her who hardly here fares hardly at thy hands.
My fate may well say so: -
But where shall one poor wretch find pity in her woe?

CLARIN. Say two, if you please;
Don't leave me out when making plaints like these.
For if we are the two
Who left our native country with the view
Of seeking strange adventures, if we be
The two who, madly and in misery,
Have got so far as this, and if we still
Are the same two who tumbled down this hill,
Does it not plainly to a wrong amount,
To put me in the pain and not in the account?

ROSAURA. I do not wish to impart,
Clarin, to thee, the sorrows of my heart;
Mourning for thee would spoil the consolation
Of making for thyself thy lamentation;
For there is such a pleasure in complaining,
That a philosopher I've heard maintaining
One ought to seek a sorrow and be vain of it,
In order to be privileged to complain of it.

CLARIN. That same philosopher
Was an old drunken fool, unless I err:
Oh, that I could a thousand thumps present him,
In order for complaining to content him!
But what, my lady, say,
Are we to do, on foot, alone, our way
Lost in the shades of night?
For see, the sun descends another sphere to light.

ROSAURA. So strange a misadventure who has seen?
But if my sight deceives me not, between
These rugged rocks, half-lit by the moon's ray
And the declining day,
It seems, or is it fancy? that I see
A human dwelling?

CLARIN. So it seems to me,
Unless my wish the longed-for lodging mocks.

ROSAURA. A rustic little palace 'mid the rocks
Uplifts its lowly roof,
Scarce seen by the far sun that shines aloof.
Of such a rude device
Is the whole structure of this edifice,
That lying at the feet
Of these gigantic crags that rise to greet
The sun's first beams of gold,
It seems a rock that down the mountain rolled.

CLARIN. Let us approach more near,
For long enough we've looked at it from here;
Then better we shall see
If those who dwell therein will generously
A welcome give us.

ROSAURA. See an open door
(Funereal mouth 'twere best the name it bore),
From which as from a womb
The night is born, engendered in its gloom.

[The sound of chains is heard within.]

CLARIN. Heavens! what is this I hear?

ROSAURA. Half ice, half fire, I stand transfixed with fear.

CLARIN. A sound of chains, is it not?
Some galley-slave his sentence here hath got;
My fear may well suggest it so may be.

* * * * *



SIGISMUND [within]. Alas! Ah, wretched me! Ah, wretched me!

ROSAURA. Oh what a mournful wail!
Again my pains, again my fears prevail.

CLARIN. Again with fear I die.

ROSAURA. Clarin!

CLARIN. My lady!

ROSAURA. Let us turn and fly
The risks of this enchanted tower.

CLARIN. For one,
I scarce have strength to stand, much less to run.

ROSAURA. Is not that glimmer there afar -
That dying exhalation - that pale star -
A tiny taper, which, with trembling blaze
Flickering 'twixt struggling flames and dying rays,
With ineffectual spark
Makes the dark dwelling place appear more dark?
Yes, for its distant light,
Reflected dimly, brings before my sight
A dungeon's awful gloom,
Say rather of a living corse, a living tomb;
And to increase my terror and surprise,
Drest in the skins of beasts a man there lies:
A piteous sight,
Chained, and his sole companion this poor light.
Since then we cannot fly,
Let us attentive to his words draw nigh,
Whatever they may be.

[The doors of the tower open wide, and SIGISMUND is discovered in
chains and clad in the skins of beasts. The light in the tower

SIGISMUND. Alas! Ah, wretched me! Ah, wretched me!
Heaven, here lying all forlorn,
I desire from thee to know,
Since thou thus dost treat me so,
Why have I provoked thy scorn
By the crime of being born? -
Though for being born I feel
Heaven with me must harshly deal,
Since man's greatest crime on earth
Is the fatal fact of birth -
Sin supreme without appeal.
This alone I ponder o'er,
My strange mystery to pierce through;
Leaving wholly out of view
Germs my hapless birthday bore,
How have I offended more,
That the more you punish me?
Must not other creatures be
Born? If born, what privilege
Can they over me allege
Of which I should not be free?
Birds are born, the bird that sings,
Richly robed by Nature's dower,
Scarcely floats - a feathered flower,
Or a bunch of blooms with wings -
When to heaven's high halls it springs,
Cuts the blue air fast and free,
And no longer bound will be
By the nest's secure control: -
And with so much more of soul,
Must I have less liberty?
Beasts are born, the beast whose skin
Dappled o'er with beauteous spots,
As when the great pencil dots
Heaven with stars, doth scarce begin
From its impulses within -
Nature's stern necessity,
To be schooled in cruelty, -
Monster, waging ruthless war: -
And with instincts better far
Must I have less liberty?
Fish are born, the spawn that breeds
Where the oozy sea-weeds float,
Scarce perceives itself a boat,
Scaled and plated for its needs,
When from wave to wave it speeds,
Measuring all the mighty sea,
Testing its profundity
To its depths so dark and chill: -
And with so much freer will,
Must I have less liberty?
Streams are born, a coiled-up snake
When its path the streamlet finds,
Scarce a silver serpent winds
'Mong the flowers it must forsake,
But a song of praise doth wake,
Mournful though its music be,
To the plain that courteously
Opes a path through which it flies: -

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