Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer was a nineteenth century Spanish author. Bécquer himself wrote poetry, so it is fitting that Manrique, a poet, is the principal character in his legend entitled “El rayo de la luna” (“The Moonbeam”).
Although he was a nobleman, Manrique liked solitude. He often sought out some lonely spot and counted the stars or watched the clouds. He was intrigued when will-o-the wisps danced over the face of a lagoon.
Since he was a poet, he had a vivid imagination. He believed that sylphs and undines lived in the river. He imagined that the fireplace was peopled with spirits. When he contemplated a cliff, a forest, or some clouds, he imagined that he heard supernatural beings speaking words in a mysterious language that he could not understand.
Like a true poet, he was interested in love. He instantly loved every woman that he saw because they all had some physical quality that appealed to him, such as the way they walked or the redness of their lips. However, Manrique did not actively court the girls that he loved. He only dreamed about them.
Sometimes, as he spent the evening admiring the moon and stars, he considered the possibility that people might live on the moon. He thought that the lunar woman must be very beautiful, and it saddened him that he could never see them nor love them.
One night Manrique walked across a bridge that traversed the Duero River outside the city of Soria. Across the bridge was an abandoned convent that used to be inhabited by the Templars. Vines and other vegetation grew profusely in the gardens and orchards that used to supply food for the convent.
It was midnight, and the moon was at its zenith. As Manrique was walking in a poplar grove, he noticed a wispy white object flitting around for an instant and disappearing into the darkness. He thought it was the fringe of a woman’s dress, and fell hopelessly in love with her. He ran to the spot where he thought that she had been, but no one was there. He frantically searched but found no one.
Finally he noticed a boat crossing the Duero to return to the city of Soria. He ran to the bridge as fast as he could, hoping that he could cross the river before the boat reached the shore; but he was too late.
He entered the city of Soria and searched for her among its crooked streets. He eventually saw a light in a window. He was convinced that his beloved was in the illuminated room, and waited outside the house all night.
In the morning, a squire came out of the house. Manrique asked about the woman who lived in the house. To his surprise, no woman was living there. It was the residence of Alonso de Valdecuellos, the chief huntsman of the king.
Manrique did not give up. For many days, he searched the streets of Soria, hoping to meet her by chance. Endowed with a vivid imagination, he formed definite convictions concerning her appearance, even though he had never seen her face.
After two months, he returned to the scene where he had first viewed the fleeting wisp of white. When he saw the phenomenon once more, he was filled with joy and immediately rushed to the spot. When he arrived, his ecstasy was supplanted by bitter disappointment. He had been seeing moonbeams that occasionally penetrated the foliage of the trees when the wind moved their leaves.
Manrique suffered permanent depression. Even after several years had passed, he was not interested in love, fame, or anything else. He believed that love and fame were illusory moonbeams.
Anilítica: Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Leyendas