Juan Nicasio Gallego
Priest and poet; b. at Zamora, Spain, Dec. 14, 1777; d. at Madrid, Jan. 9, 1853
Gallego, JUAN NICASIO, priest and poet; b. at Zamora, Spain, December 14, 1777; d. at Madrid, January 9, 1853; received his training at Salamanca; entering into Holy orders, he soon went to Madrid, where he was given a post in the royal palace, being made director of the royal pages. His feelings as a patriot and his love for pseudo-classicism very naturally led him to associate himself with the coterie about the poet Quintana. Imitating the latter’s metres, he surpassed him in perfection of form, but remains somewhat his inferior in respect of inspiration. It is by virtue of only seven odes and elegies that Gallego attained the high rank which he certainly occupies among Spanish poets. Of these the first was the ode, “Ala defensa de Buenos Ayres” (1807), directed against the English, who, taking advantage of Spain‘s naval weakness, and the uneasiness in the colonies, had seized for the moment the capital of the Argentine region. With intensified liberal tendencies, Gallego presented himself for election, and was returned a deputy to the Cortes. He had consistently opposed the French invaders of the Spanish soil, with both pen and voice, yet the despotic Ferdinand VII, after his return in 1814, imprisoned him because of his liberalism. During the second constitutional period, now free again, he was appointed Archdeacon of Valencia. The Royal Spanish Academy took him into its membership, and made him its perpetual secretary. The most famous of the few compositions left by Gallego is the elegy “El Dos de Mayo”, which commemorates the events of May 2, 1808, when the heroic and devoted opposition presented to the French troops by three Spanish artillerymen, Ruiz, Daoiz and Velarte, led to the rising of the whole land against the Napoleonic usurper. The effect of Gallego’s stirring strains upon his countrymen, urging them to resist unto the death, can hardly be exaggerated. Excellence of form characterizes this poem, as it does his elegy on the death of the Duchess of Frias.
J. D. M. FORD