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solitary figure stealing along in the narrow strip of shade beneath the eaves! Silent, too, and deserted is the Puerta del Sol ; so silent, that even at this distance the splashing of its fountain is distinctly audible, — so deserted, that not a living thing is visible there, save the outstretched and athletic form of a Galician water-carrier, who lies asleep upon the pavement in the cool shadow of the fountain ! There is not air enough to stir the leaves of the jasmine upon the balcony, or break the thin column of smoke that issues from the cigar of Don Diego, master of the noble Spanish tongue, y hombre de muchos dingolondangos. He sits bolt upright between the window and the door, with the collar of his snuff-colored frock thrown back upon his shoulders, and his toes turned out like a dancing-master, poring over the “Diario de Madrid,” to learn how high the thermometer rose yesterday, - what patron saint has a festival to-day, — and at what hour to-morrow the “ King of Spain, Jerusalem, and the Canary Islands ” will take his departure for the gardens of Aranjuez.
You have a proverb in your language, Don Diego, which says, —
“Despues de comer
Ni un sobrescrito leer;” – after dinner read not even the superscription of a letter. I shall obey, and indulge in the exquisite luxury of a siesta. I confess that I love this after-dinner nap. If I have a gift, a vocation for anything, it is for sleeping ; and from my heart I can say with honest Sancho, “Blessed be the man that first invented sleep!" In a sultry clime, too, where the noontide heat unmans you, and the cool starry night seems made for anything but slumber, I am willing to barter an hour or two of intense daylight for an hour or two of tranquil, lovely, dewy night!
Therefore, Don Diego, hasta la vista !
It is evening; the day is gone ; fast gather and deepen the shades of twilight! In the words of a German allegory, “ The babbling day has touched the hem of night's garment, and, weary and still, drops asleep in her bo
The city awakens from its slumber. The convent-bells ring solemnly and slow. The
streets are thronged again. Once more I hear the shrill cry, the rattling wheel, the murmur of the crowd. The blast of a trumpet sounds from the Puerta del Sol, then the tap of a drum ; a mounted guard opens the way, — the crowd doff their hats, and the king sweeps by in a gilded coach drawn by six horses, and followed by a long train of uncouth, antiquated vehicles drawn by mules.
The living tide now sets towards the Prado, and the beautiful gardens of the Retiro. Beautiful are they at this magic hour! Beautiful, with the almond-tree in blossom, with the broad green leaves of the sycamore and the chestnut, with the fragrance of the orange and the lemon, with the beauty of a thousand flowers, with the soothing calm and the dewy freshness of evening!
and watch the moon as it rises over the
gardens of the Retiro, brighter than a northern
The beautiful scene lies half in shadow, half in light, - almost a fairy-land. Occasionally the sound of a guitar, or a distant voice, breaks in upon my revery. Then the form of a monk, from the neighboring convent, sweeps by me like a shadow, and disappears in the gloom of the leafy avenues; and far away from the streets of the city comes the voice of the watchman telling the midnight hour.
Lovely art thou, O Night, beneath the skies of Spain! Day, panting with heat, and laden with a thousand cares, toils onward like a beast of burden ; but Night, calm, silent, holy Night, is a ministering angel that cools with its dewy breath the toil-heated brow; and, like the Roman sisterhood, stoops down to bathe the pilgrim's feet. How grateful is the starry twilight! How grateful the gentle radiance of the moon! How grateful the delicious coolness of the omnipresent and deep-breathing air!” Lovely art thou, O Night, beneath the skies of Spain !
I love to linger on the Prado till the crowd is gone and the night far advanced. There musing and alone I sit, and listen to the lulling fall of waters in their marble fountains,
ANCIENT SPANISH BALLADS.
I love a ballad but even too well, if it be doleful matter merrily set down, or a very pleasant thing indeed, and sung lamentably.
How universal is the love of poetry! Every nation has its popular songs, the offspring of a credulous simplicity and an unschooled fancy. The peasant of the North, as he sits by the evening fire, sings the traditionary ballad to his children,
“Nor wants he gleeful tales, while round
The nut-brown bowl doth trot."
The peasant of the South, as he lies at noon in the shade of the sycamore, or sits by his door in the evening twilight, sings his amorous lay, and listlessly,
hymn; the fisherman of Naples his boat-song ; the gondolier of Venice his midnight serenade. The goatherd of Switzerland and the Tyrol, - the Carpathian boor, — the Scotch Highlander, the English ploughboy, singing as he drives his team afield, -- peasant, — serf, - slave, - all, all have their ballads and traditionary songs. Music is the universal language of mankind, - poetry their universal pastime and delight.
The ancient ballads of Spain hold a prominent rank in her literary history. Their number is truly astonishing, and may well startle the most enthusiastic lover of popular song. The Romancero General 1 contains upwards of a thousand ; and though upon many of these may justly be bestowed the encomium which
1 Romancero General, en que se contiene todos los Romances que andan impresos. 4to. Madrid, 1604.
“On hollow quills of oaten straw, He pipeth melody."
The muleteer of Spain carols with the early lark, amid the stormy mountains of his native land. The vintager of Sicily has his evening
Both of Moors and eke of Christians,
Slain with swords most cruelly.
“And thy pure and crystal waters
Dappled are with crimson gore ; For between the Moors and Christians
Long has been the fight and sore.
“ Dukes and counts fell bleeding near thee,
Lords of high renown were slain, Perished many a brave hidalgo
Of the noblemen of Spain.”
honest Izaak Walton pronounces upon the old English ballad of the Passionate Shepherd, “ old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good," yet, as a whole, they are, perhaps, more markable for their number than for their beauty. Every great historic event, every marvellous tradition, has its popular ballad. Don Roderick, Bernardo del Carpio, and the Cid Campeador are not more the heroes of ancient chronicle than of ancient song; and the imaginary champions of Christendom, the twelve peers of Charlemagne, have found an historian in the wandering ballad - singer no less authentic than the good Archbishop Turpin.
Most of these ancient ballads had their origin during the dominion of the Moors in Spain. Many of them, doubtless, are nearly as old as the events they celebrate ; though in their present form the greater part belong to the fourteenth century. The language in which they are now preserved indicates no higher antiquity; but who shall say how long they had been handed down by tradition, ere they were taken from the lips of the wandering minstrel, and recorded in a more permanent form?
The seven centuries of the Moorish sovereignty in Spain are the heroic ages of her history and her poetry. What the warrior achieved with his sword the minstrel published in his song. The character of those ages is seen in the character of their literature. History casts its shadow far into the land of song. Indeed, the most prominent characteristic of the ancient Spanish ballads is their warlike spirit. They shadow forth the majestic lineaments of the warlike ages; and through every line breathes a high and peculiar tone of chivalrous feeling. It is not the piping sound of peace, but a blast, - a loud, long blast from the war-horn,
Another prominent characteristic of these ancient ballads is their energetic and beautiful simplicity. A great historic event is de, scribed in the fewest possible words; there is no ornament, no artifice. The poet's intention was to narrate, not to embellish. It is truly wonderful to observe what force, and beauty, and dramatic power are given to the old romances by this single circumstance. When Bernardo del Carpio leads forth his valiant Leonese against the host of Charlemagne, he animates their courage by alluding to their battles with the Moors, and exclaims, “Shall the lions that have bathed their paws in Libyan gore now crouch before the Frank ? " When he enters the palace of the treacherous Alfonso, to upbraid him for a broken promise, and the king orders him to be arrested for contumely, he lays his hand upon his sword and cries, “Let no one stir! I am Bernardo; and
my sword is not subject even to kings !” When the Count Alarcos prepares to put to death his own wife at the king's command, she submits patiently to her fate, asks time to say a prayer, and then exclaims, “ Now bring me my infant boy, that I may give him suck, as my last farewell !” Is there in Homer an incident more touching, or more true to nature ?
The ancient Spanish ballads naturally divide themselves into three classes: the Historic, the Romantic, and the Moorish. It must be confessed, however, that the line of demarcation between these three classes is not well defined; for many of the Moorish ballads are historic, and many others occupy a kind of debatable ground between the historic and the romantic. I have adopted this classification for the sake of its convenience, and shall now
A trump with a stern breath,
Which is cleped the trump of death.” And with this mingles the voice of lamentation, — the requiem for the slain, with a melancholy sweetness :
“Rio Verde, Rio Verde !
Many a corpse is bathed in thee,