When we turn to the literature of the western peninsula during the early years of the sixteenth century, we find it characterized by a temporary but very complete subjection to Italian models. This phenomenon, which is particularly marked in pastoral, is readily explained by the fact that the similarity of the dialects made the transference of poetic forms from Italian to Spanish an easy matter. Thus when among the nations of Europe Italy awoke to her great task of recovering an old and discovering a new world of arts and letters, it was upon Spanish verse that she was able to exercise the most immediate and overpowering influence. Under these circumstances it was impossible but that she should drag the literature of that country, for a while at least, in her train, away from its own proper genius and natural course of development. Other countries were saved from servitude by the very failure of their attempts to imitate the new Italian style; and Spain herself, it must be remembered, was not long in recovering her individuality and in endowing Europe with one of the richest national literatures of the world.
It is important, however, to distinguish from the pastoral work produced under this dominating Italian influence certain other work in the kind, which, while to some extent dependent for its form upon foreign models, bears at the same time strong marks of native inspiration. In this earlier and more popular tradition the tendencies of the national literature, the pastoral possibilites of which appear at times in the ballads, mingle more or less with elements of convention and allegory drawn from Vergil or his humanistic followers. Little influence of this popular tradition can as a rule be traced in the later pastoral work, but it acquires a certain incidental interest in connexion with another branch of literature. It is, namely, the remarkable part it played in the evolution of the national drama that makes it worth while mentioning a few of its more important examples in this place.
An isolated composition, in which lay not so much the germ of the future drama as the index of its possibility, is the Coplas de Mingo Revulgo, the composition of an unknown author. It is an eclogue in which two shepherds, representing respectively the upper and lower orders of Spanish society, discourse together on the causes of national discontent and political corruption prevalent about 1472, at the latter end of the weak reign of Enrique IV. In this poem we find the king’s infatuation for his Portuguese mistress treated much as Petrarch had treated the relations of Clement VI with the allegorical Epi, except for the striking difference that the Latin of the Italian poet is replaced by straightforward and vigorous vernacular. Of far greater importance in the history of literature are certain poems—Eclogas they are for the most part styled—of Juan del Encina,