« AnteriorContinuar »
to travel from Bayonne to St. Jean de Luz on horseback. At the gate of Bayonne he will find a steed ready caparisoned for him, with a dark-eyed Basque girl for his companion and guide, who is to sit beside him upon the same horse. This style of travelling is, I believe, peculiar to the Basque provinces; at all events, I have seen it nowhere else. The saddle is constructed with a large frame-work extending on each side, and covered with cushions; and the traveller and his guide, being placed on the opposite extremities, serve as a balance to each other. We overtook many travellers mounted in this way, and I could not help thinking it a mode of travelling far preferable to being cooped up in a diligence. The Basque girls are generally beautiful; and there was one of these merry guides we met upon the road to Bidart whose image haunts me still. She had large and expressive black eyes, teeth like pearls, a rich and sunburnt complexion, and hair of a glossy blackness, parted on the forehead, and falling down behind in a large braid, so long as almost to touch the ground with the little ribbon that confined it at the end. She wore the common dress of the peasantry of the South of France, and a large gypsy straw hat was thrown back over her shoulder, and tied by a ribbon about her neck. There was hardly a dusty traveller in the coach who did not envy her companion the seat he occupied beside her.
Just at nightfall we entered the town of St. Jean de Luz, and dashed down its narrow streets at full gallop. The little madcap postilion cracked his knotted whip incessantly, and the sound echoed back from the high dingy walls like the report of a pistol. The coachwheels nearly touched the houses on each side of us; the idlers in the street jumped right and left to save themselves; window-shutters flew open in all directions; a thousand heads popped out from cellar and upper story; “Sacrr-ré mâtin!” shouted the postilion, — and we ratled on like an earthquake.
St. Jean de Luz is a smoky little fishingtown, situated on the low grounds at the mouth of the Nivelle, and a bridge connects it with the faubourg of Sibourne, which stands on the opposite bank of the river. I had no time,
however, to note the peculiarities of the place, for I was whirled out of it with the same speed and confusion with which I had been whirled in, and I can only recollect the sweep of the road across the Nivelle, the church of Sibourne by the water's edge, — the narrow streets, the smoky-looking houses with red window-shutters, and “a very ancient and fish-like smell.”
I passed by moonlight the little river Bidasoa, which forms the boundary between France and Spain ; and when the morning broke, found myself far up among the mountains of San Salvador, the most westerly links of the great Pyrenean chain. The mountains around me were neither rugged nor precipitous, but they rose one above another in a long, majestic swell, and the trace of the ploughshare was occasionally visible to their summits. They seemed entirely destitute of trees; and as the season of vegetation had not yet commenced, their huge outlines lay black, and barren, and desolate against the sky. But it was a glorious morning, and the sun rose up into a cloudless heaven, and poured a flood of gorgeous splendor over the mountain landscape, as if proud of the realm he shone upon. The scene was enlivened by the dashing of a swollen mountain-brook, whose course we followed for miles down the valley, as it leaped onward to its journey's end, now breaking into a white cascade, and now foaming and chafing beneath a rustic bridge. Now and then we drove through a dilapidated town, with a group of idlers at every corner, wrapped in tattered brown cloaks, and smoking their little paper cigars in the sun; then would succeed a desolate tract of country, cheered only by the tinkle of a mule-bell, or the song of a muleteer; then we would meet a solitary traveller mounted on horseback, and wrapped in the ample folds of his cloak, with a gun hanging at the pommel of his saddle. Occasionally, too, among the bleak, inhospitable hills, we passed a rude little chapel, with a cluster of ruined cottages around it; and whenever our carriage stopped at the relay, or loitered slowly up the hillside, a crowd of children would gather around us, with little images and crucifixes for sale, curiously ornamented with ribbons and bits of tawdry finery.
A day's journey from the frontier brought us to Vitoria, where the diligence stopped for the night. I spent the scanty remnant of daylight in rambling about the streets of the city, with no other guide than the whim of the moment. Now I plunged down a dark and narrow alley, now emerged into a wide street or a spacious market-place, and now aroused the drowsy echoes of a church or cloister with the sound of my intruding footsteps. But descriptions of churches and public squares are dull and tedious matters for those readers who are in search of amusement and not of instruction ; and if any one has accompanied me thus far on my fatiguing journey towards the Spanish capital, I will readily excuse him from the toil of an evening ramble through the streets of Vitoria.
On the following morning we left the town, long before daybreak, and during our forenoon's journey the postilion drew up at an inn, on the southern slope of the Sierra de San Lorenzo, in the province of Old Castile. The house was an old, dilapidated tenement, built of rough stone, and coarsely plastered upon the outside. The tiled roof had long been the sport of wind and rain, the motley coat of plaster was broken and time-worn, and the whole building sadly out of repair; though the fanciful mouldings under the eaves, and the curiously carved wood - work that supported the little balcony over the principal entrance, spoke of better days gone by. The whole building reminded me of a dilapidated Spanish Don, down at the heel and out at elbows, but with here and there a remnant of former magnificence peeping through the loopholes of his tattered cloak.
A wide gateway ushered the traveller into the interior of the building, and conducted him to a low-roofed apartment, paved with round stones, and serving both as a court-yard and a stable. It seemed to be a neutral ground for man and beast, a little republic, where horse and rider had common privileges, and mule and muleteer lay cheek by jowl. In one corner a poor jackass was patiently devouring a bundle of musty straw,
in another, its master lay sound asleep with his saddle-cloth for a pillow ; here a group of muleteers were quar
relling over a pack of dirty cards, — and there the village barber, with a self-important air, stood laving the Alcalde's chin from the helmet of Mambrino. On the wall, a little taper glimmered feebly before an image of St. Anthony; directly opposite these a leathern winebottle hung by the neck from a pair of oxhorns; and the pavement below was covered with a curious medley of boxes, and bags, and cloaks, and pack-saddles, and sacks of grain, and skins of wine, and all kinds of lumber.
A small door upon the right led us into the inn-kitchen. It was a room about ten feet square, and literally all chimney; for the hearth was in the centre of the floor, and the walls sloped upward in the form of a long, narrow pyramid, with an opening at the top for the escape of the smoke. Quite round this little room ran a row of benches, upon which sat one or two grave personages smoking paper cigars. Upon the hearth blazed a handful of fagots, whose bright flame danced merrily among a motley congregation of pots and kettles, and a long wreath of smoke wound lazily up through the huge tunnel of the roof above. The walls were black with soot, and ornamented with sundry legs of bacon and festoons of sausages ; and as there were no windows in this dingy abode, the only light which cheered the darkness within, came flickering from the fire upon the hearth, and the smoky sunbeams that peeped down the long-necked chimney.
I had not been long seated by the fire, when the tinkling of mule-bells, the clatter of hoofs, and the hoarse voice of a muleteer in the outer apartment, announced the arrival of new guests. A few moments afterward the kitchen-door opened, and a person entered, whose appearance strongly arrested my attention. It was a tall, athletic figure, with the majestic carriage of a grandee, and a dark, sunburnt countenance, that indicated an age of about fifty years. His dress was singular, and such as I had not before seen.
a round hat with wide, flapping brim, from beneath which his long, black hair hung in curls upon his shoulders; a leather jerkin, with cloth sleeves, descended to his hips; around his waist was closely buckled a leather belt, with a cartouch-box on one side; a pair of loose
trousers of black serge hung in ample folds to the knees, around which they were closely gathered by embroidered garters of blue silk ; and black broadcloth leggins, buttoned close to the calves, and strapped over a pair of brown leather shoes, completed the singular dress of the stranger. He doffed his hat as he entered, and, saluting the company with a “ Dios guarde á Ustedes, caballeros” (God guard you, gentlemen), took a seat by the fire, and entered into conversation with those around him. As my curiosity was not a little excited by the peculiar dress of this person, I inquired of a travelling companion, who sat at my elbow, who and what this new-comer was. From him I learned that he was a muleteer of the Maragatería, - a name given to a cluster of small towns which lie in the mountainous country between Astorga and Villafranca, in the western corner of the kingdom of Leon.
Nearly every province in Spain,” said he, " has its peculiar costume, as you will see,
have advanced farther into our country. For instance, the Catalonians wear crimson caps, hanging down upon the shoulder like a sack; wide pantaloons of green velvet, long enough in the waistband to cover the whole breast; and a little strip of a jacket, made of the same material, and so short as to bring the pocket directly under the armpit. The Valencians, on the contrary, go almost naked: a linen shirt, white linen trousers, reaching no lower than the knees, and a pair of coarse leather sandals complete their simple garb; it is only in mid-winter that they indulge in the luxury of a jacket. The most beautiful and expensive costume, however, is that of Andalusia ; it consists of a velvet jacket,
faced with rich and various-colored embroidery, and covered with tassels and silken cord; a waistcoat of some gay color ; a silken handkerchief round the neck, and a crimson sash round the waist ; breeches that button down each side; gaiters and shoes of white leather; and a handkerchief of bright-colored silk wound about the head like a turban, and surmounted by a velvet cap or a little round hat, with a wide band, and an abundance of silken loops and tassels. The Old Castilians are more grave in their attire : they wear a leather breastplate instead of a jacket, breeches and leggins, and a montera cap. This fellow is a Maragato; and in the villages of the Maragatería the costume varies a little from the rest of Leon and Castile."
“ If he is indeed a Maragato,” said I jestingly, “ who knows but he may be a descendant of the muleteer who behaved so naughtily at Cacabelos, as related in the second chapter of the veracious history of Gil Blas de Santillana ?”
"¿ Quien sabe ? ” was the reply. “Notwithstanding the pride which even the meanest Castilian feels in counting over a long line of good-for-nothing ancestors, the science of genealogy has become of late a very intricate study in Spain.”
Here our conversation was cut short by the Mayoral of the diligence, who came to tell us that the mules were waiting; and before many hours had elapsed we were scrambling through the square of the ancient city of Burgos. On the morrow we crossed the river Duero and the Guadarrama Mountains, and early in the afternoon entered the “ Heróica Villa," of Madrid, by the Puerta de Fuencarral.
Santiago y cierra España !
It is a beautiful morning in June; - so beautiful, that I almost fancy myself in Spain. The tesselated shadows of the honeysuckle lies motionless upon the floor, as if it were a figure in the carpet; and through the open window comes the fragrance of the wild-brier and the mock-orange, reminding me of that soft, sunny clime where the very air is laden, like the bee, with sweetness, and the south wind
“Comes over gardens, and the flowers That kissed it are betrayed.”
The birds are carolling in the trees, and their shadows flit across the window as they dart to and fro in the sunshine ; while the murmur of the bee, the cooing of doves from the eaves, and the whirring of a little humming-bird that has its nest in the honeysuckle, send up a sound of joy to meet the rising sun. How like the climate of the South ! How like a summer morning in Spain!
My recollections of Spain are of the most lively and delightful kind. The character of the soil and of its inhabitants, -- the stormy mountains and free spirits of the North, — the prodigal luxuriance and gay voluptuousness of the South, — the history and traditions of the past, resembling more the fables of romance than the solemn chronicle of events, -- a soft and yet majestic language that falls like martial music on the ear, and a literature rich in the attractive lore of poetry and fiction, — these, but not these alone, are my reminiscences of Spain. With these I recall the thousand little circumstances and enjoyments which always give a coloring to our recollections of the past; the clear sky, — the pure, balmy air, — the delicious fruits and flowers, — the wild-fig and the aloe, and the olive by the wayside, all, all that makes existence so joyous, and renders the sons and daughters of that clime the children of impulse and sensation.
As I write these words, a shade of sadness
steals over me. When I think what that glorious land might be, and what it is, — what nature intended it should be, and what man has made it, my very heart sinks within me. My mind instinctively reverts from the degradation of the present to the glory of the past ; or, looking forward with strong misgivings, but with yet stronger hopes, interrogates the future.
The burnished armor of the Cid stands in the archives of the royal museum of Madrid, and there, too, is seen the armor of Ferdinand and of Isabel, of Guzman the Good and of Gonzalo de Córdova, and other early champions of Spain; but what hand shall now wield the sword of the Campeador, or lift up the banner of Leon and Castile? The ruins of Christian castle and Moorish alcazar still look forth from the hills of Spain; but where, oh where is the spirit of freedom that once fired the children of the Goth? Where is the spirit of Bernardo del Carpio, and Perez de Vargas, and Alonzo de Aguilar? Shall it forever sleep? Shall it never again beat high in the hearts of their sons ? Shall the descendants of Pelayo bow forever beneath an iron yoke,“ like cattle whose despair is dumb?”
The dust of the Cid lies mingling with the dust of Old Castile; but his spirit is not buried with his ashes. It sleeps, but is not dead. The day will come, when the foot of the tyrant shall be shaken from the neck of Spain; when a brave and generous people, though now ignorant, degraded, and much abused, shall “ know their rights, and knowing dare maintain."
Of the national character of Spain I have brought away this impression ; that its prominent traits are a generous pride of birth, a superstitious devotion to the dogmas of the Church, and an innate dignity, which exhibits itself even in the common and every-day employments of life. Castilian pride is proverbial. A beggar wraps his tattered cloak around him with all the dignity of a Roman senator ;
and a muleteer bestrides his beast of burden with the air of a grandee.
I have thought, too, that there was a tinge of sadness in the Spanish character. The national music of the land is remarkable for its melancholy tone; and at times the voice of a peasant, singing amid the silence and solitude of the mountains, falls upon the ear like a funeral chant. Even a Spanish holiday wears a look of sadness, — a circumstance which some writers attribute to the cruel and overbearing spirit of the municipal laws. “On the greatest festivals,” says Jovellanos, “ instead of that boisterous merriment and noise which should bespeak the joy of the inhabitants, there reigns throughout the streets and market-places a
ful a phenomenon ? This is not, indeed, the place to expose the errors which conspire to produce it; but, whatever those errors may be, one point is clear, — that they are all to be found in the laws !”1
Of the same serious, sombre character is the favorite national sport, — the bull-fight. It is a barbarous amusement, but of all others the most exciting, the most spirit-stirring ; and in Spain, the most popular. “If Rome lived content with bread and arms,” says the author I have just quoted, in a spirited little discourse entitled Pan y Toros, “ Madrid lives content with bread and bulls."
Shall I describe a Spanish bull-fight? No. It has been so often and so well described by
slothful inactivity, a gloomy stillness, which cannot be remarked without mingled emotions of surprise and pity. The few persons who leave their houses seem to be driven from them by listlessness, and dragged as far as the threshold, the market, or the church-door; there, muffled in their cloaks, leaning against a corner, seated on a bench, or lounging to and fro, without object, aim, or purpose, they pass their hours, their whole evenings, without mirth, recreation, or amusement. When you add to this picture the dreariness and filth of the villages, the poor and slovenly dress of the inhabitants, the gloominess and silence of their air, the laziness, the want of concert and union so striking everywhere, who but would be astonished, who but would be afflicted by so mourn
other pens that mine shall not undertake it, though it is a tempting theme. I cannot, however, refuse myself the pleasure of quoting here a few lines from one of the old Spanish ballads upon this subject. It is entitled “ The Bull-fight of Ganzul.” The description of the bull, which is contained in the passage I here extract, is drawn with a master's hand. It is rather a paraphrase than a translation, by Mr. Lockhart.
“ From Guadiana comes he not, he comes not from Xenil,
From Guadalarif of the plain, nor Barves of the hill ; But where from out the forest burst Xarama's waters
clear, Beneath the oak-trees was he nursed, this proud and
stately steer. 1 Informe dado á la Real Academia de Historia sobre Juegos, Espectáculos, y Diversiones Públicas.