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CHAPTER XIV LITERATURE AND ART
As in most young countries, the Muses have in Argentina and Uruguay had to be content chiefly with the imported offerings of foreign writers, artists and composers; while native science has principally been confined to medicine and surgery and various branches of rural productiveness. Still the River Plate Territories have always had their historians and poets, and recent generations have produced some painters, sculptors and composers.

The Histories of Mitre and Araújo are admirable literary monuments to the glory of the River Plate Territories and the memory of their authors. The poetry of the lately deceased Guido y Spano and of the still living Zorrilla de San Martin occupies a deservedly high place in modern literature; while the names of Juan Cruz Varela, José Mármol and José Hernandez (the author of the Lyrics of Gaucho life published under the title of “Martin Fierro”) will ever remain household words on the River Plate.

Godofredo Daireaux and Leopoldo Lugones are typical and delightful writers whose sketches are faithful vignettes of the manners and customs, landscapes and sentiment of a century and half a century ago, of times of heroic battles and early peaceful progress. For the rest, one must, with the Muses, wait with such patience as one may for the appearance of National types of literature and art; types probably only to be formed when the National types of men and women have reached their fully distinct development out of existing cosmopolitan chaos.[300] At present Argentine and Uruguayan Art and Literature[47] are chiefly imitative; music, painting and novels being mostly exaggerations of, often not the best, ephemeral European taste and fashions, while architecture usually alternates fidelity to stucco with trivially fantastic French “Villa” and “Chateau” styles.

Novelists seek to make one’s flesh creep; Painters to outvie either incomprehensibility or banality; Architects achieve futility and Musicians are reminiscent of everything except the sad charm of melody which is their natural inheritance, through the Payadores, from Moorish Spain. The old intervals and harmonies are carefully eschewed in favour of anything, no matter what, which may seem to have a piquant flavour of “art nouveau.”

Nevertheless, nature sometimes will out and the old-time moods now and again penetrate the covering of pseudo-Viennese melody and modern Italian harmonies under which the composer has sought to hide his natural gifts and atavistic inspiration.

It is only in the theatre that the true native genius is allowed full play. Some of the real Argentine dramas and comedies are refreshingly delightful in their truth of characterization, sentiment and humour. All is of the soil, true to type and racy. But such things are only played at minor houses and in rural districts. Fashion knows them not, nor desires to know them, while Italian and French operatic and dramatic companies hold the boards of the leading theatres at prices which make it quite obligatory for all the best people to be seen frequently in their boxes or stalls. Still the minor theatre is the casket of the one true jewel in Argentine Art which shines with its inherent native brilliance.

Unless, perhaps, florid oratory may be termed an Art. If so, it is one which has a wide vogue throughout South America. Few events are there allowed to pass without[301] lengt............
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