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wonderful ballad of Sir Patrick Spence, wherein the mariner sees “ the new moon with the old moon in her arm,” or the more modern one of the Battle of Agincourt, by Michael Drayton, beginning,
“Fair stood the wind for France,
Longer will tarry;
Landed King Harry."
of modern Rome through the lines of silent and unknown tombs that border the Appian Way.”
Before closing this essay, I must allude to the unfavorable opinion which the learned Dr. Southey has expressed concerning the merit of these old Spanish ballads. In his preface to the Chronicle of the Cid, he says : “ The heroic ballads of the Spaniards have been overrated in this country; they are infinitely and every way inferior to our own. There are some spirited ones in the Guerras Civiles de Granada, from which the rest have been estimated; but, excepting these, I know none of any value among the many hundred which I have perused.” On this field I am willing to do battle, though it be with a veteran knight who bears enchanted arms, and whose sword, like that of Martin Antolinez, “illumines all the field.” That the old Spanish ballads may have been overrated, and that as a whole they are inferior to the English, I concede; that many of the hundred ballads of the Cid are wanting in interest, and that many of those of the Twelve Peers of France are languid, and drawn out beyond the patience of the most patient reader, I concede; I willingly confess, also, that among them all I have found none that can rival in graphic power the short but
All this I readily concede : but that the old Spanish ballads are infinitely and every way inferior to the English, and that among them all there are none of any value, save a few which celebrate the civil wars of Granada, this I deny. The March of Bernardo del Carpio is hardly inferior to Chevy Chase; and the ballad of the Conde Alarcos, in simplicity and pathos, has hardly a peer in all English balladry, — it is superior to Edem o' Gordon.
But a truce to criticism. Already, methinks, I hear the voice of a drowsy and prosaic herald proclaiming, in the language of Don Quixote to the puppet-player, “ Make an end, Master Peter, for it grows toward supper-time, and I have some symptoms of hunger upon me."
THE VILLAGE OF EL PARDILLO.
When the lawyer is swallowed up with business, and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams we now see glide so quietly by us.
“ Your voiceless lips, O flowers, are living preachers,
Each cup a pulpit, every leaf a book,
From loneliest nook.
In that delicious season when the coy and capricious maidenhood of spring is swelling into the warmer, riper, and more voluptuous womanhood of summer, I left Madrid for the village of El Pardillo. I had already seen enough of the villages of the North of Spain to know that for the most part they have few charms to entice one from the city ; but I was curious to see the peasantry of the land in their native homes, — to see how far the shepherds of Castile resemble those who sigh and sing in the pastoral romances of Montemayor and Gas
“ 'Neath cloistered boughs each floral bell that swingeth,
And tolls its perfume on the passing air,
A call to prayer;
“Not to the domes where crumbling arch and column
Attest the feebleness of mortal hand,
Which God hath planned;
par Gil Polo.
“ To that cathedral, boundless as our wonder,
Whose quenchless lamps the sun and moon supply, – Its choir the winds and waves, its organ thunder,
Its dome the sky.
There, amid solitude and shade, I wander
Through the green aisles, and, stretched upon the sod, Awed by the silence, reverently ponder
The ways of God."
I love the city and its busy hum; I love that glad excitement of the crowd which makes the pulse beat quick, the freedom from restraint, the absence of those curious eyes and idle tongues which persecute one in villages and provincial towns. I love the country, too, in its season; and there is no scene over which my eye roves with more delight than the face of a summer landscape dimpled with soft sunny hollows, and smiling in all the freshness and luxuriance of June. There is no book in which I read sweeter lessons of virtue, or find the beauty of a quiet life more legibly recorded. My heart drinks in the tranquillity of the scene; and I never hear the sweet warble of a bird from its native wood, without a silent wish that such a cheerful voice and peaceful shade were mine. There is a beautiful moral feeling connected with everything in rural life, which is not dreamed of in the philosophy of the city. The voice of the brook and the language of the winds and woods are no poetic fiction. What an impressive lesson is there in the opening bud of spring! what an eloquent homily in the fall of the autumnal leaf! How well does the song of a passing bird represent the glad but transitory days of youth! and in the hollow tree and hooting owl what a melancholy image of the decay and imbecility of old age ! In the beautiful language of an English poet,
But the traveller who journeys through the northern provinces of Spain will look in vain for the charms of rural scenery in the villages he passes. Instead of trim cottages, and gardens, and the grateful shade of trees, he will see a cluster of stone hovels roofed with red tiles, and basking in the hot sun, without a single tree to lend him shade or shelter; and instead of green meadows and woodlands vocal with the song of birds, he will find bleak and rugged mountains, and vast extended plains, that stretch away beyond his ken.
It was my good fortune, however, to find, not many leagues from the metropolis, a village which could boast the shadow of a few trees. El Pardillo is situated on the southern slope of the Guadarrama Mountains, just where the last broken spurs of the sierra stretch forward into the vast table-land of New Castile. The village itself, like most other Castilian villages, is only a cluster of weather-stained and dilapidated houses, huddled together without beauty
or regularity ; but the scenery around it is picturesque, - a mingling of hill and dale, sprinkled with patches of cultivated land and clumps of forest-trees; and in the background the blue, vapory outline of the Guadarrama Mountains melting into the sky.
In this quiet place I sojourned for a season, accompanied by the publican Don Valentin and his fair daughter Florencia. We took up our abode in the cottage of a peasant named Lucas, an honest tiller of the soil, simple and good-natured ; or, in the more emphatic language of Don Valentin, “ un hombre muy infeliz, y sin malicia ninguna.” Not so his wife Matina ; she was a Tartar, and so meddlesome withal, that poor Lucas skulked doggedly about his own premises, with his head down and his tail between his legs.
In this little village my occupations were few and simple. My morning's walk was to the Cross of Espalmado, a large wooden crucifix in the fields ; the day was passed with books, or with any idle companion I was lucky enough to catch by the button, and bribe with a cigar into a long story, or a little village gossip; and I whiled away the evening in peeping round among the cottagers, studying the beautiful landscape that spread before me, and watching the occasional gathering of a storm about the blue peaks of the Guadarrama Mountains. My favorite haunt was a secluded spot in a little woodland valley, through which a crystal brook ran brawling along its pebbly channel. There, stretched in the shadow of a tree, I often passed the hours of noontide heat, now reading the magic numbers of Garcilaso, and anon listening to the song of the nightingale overhead; or watching the toil of a patient ant, as he rolled his stone, like Sisyphus, up hill, or the flight of a bee darting from flower to flower, and " hiding his murmurs in the rose."
Blame me not, thou studious moralist, blame me not unheard for this idle dreaming ; such moments are not wholly thrown away. In the language of Goethe, “I lie down in the grass near a falling brook, and close to the earth a thousand varieties of grasses become perceptible. When I listen to the hum of the little world between the stubble, and see the
countless indescribable forms of insects, I feel the presence of the Almighty who has created us, the breath of the All - benevolent who supports us in perpetual enjoyment.”
The village church, too, was a spot around which I occasionally lingered of an evening, when in pensive or melancholy mood. And here, gentle reader, thy imagination will straightway conjure up a scene of ideal beauty, - a village church with decent white-washed walls, and modest spire just peeping forth from a clump of trees! No; I will not deceive
the church of El Pardillo resembles not this picture of thy well-tutored fancy. It is a gloomy little edifice, standing upon the outskirts of the village, and built of dark and unhewn stone, with a spire like a sugar-loaf. There is no grass-plot in front, but a little esplanade beaten hard by the footsteps of the church - going peasantry.
The tombstone of one of the patriarchs of the village serves as a doorstep, and a single solitary tree throws its friendly shade upon the portals of the little sanctuary.
One evening, as I loitered around this spot, the sound of an organ and the chant of youthful voices from within struck
my ear; the church door was ajar, and I entered. There stood the priest, surrounded by a group of children, who were singing a hymn to the Virgin :
Ave, Regina cælorum,
There is something exceedingly thrilling in the voices of children singing. Though their music be unskilful, yet it finds its way to the heart with wonderful celerity.
Voices of cherubs are they, for they breathe of paradise ; clear, liquid tones, that flow from pure lips and innocent hearts, like the sweetest notes of a flute, or the falling of water from a fountain ! When the chant was finished, the priest opened a little book which he held in his hand and began, with a voice as solemn as a funeral bell, to question this class of roguish catechumens, whom he was initiating into the mysterious doctrines of the mother church. Some of the questions and answers were so curious that I cannot refrain from repeating them here; and “ As in a heated bar of iron upon which water is thrown, the heat only is affected and not the iron, so the Son of God suffered in his human nature and not in his divine."
“ And when the spirit was separated from his most precious body, whither did the spirit
should any one doubt their authenticity, he will find them in the Spanish catechisms.
“ In what consists the mystery of the Holy Trinity ?”
“ In one God, who is three persons ; and three persons,
who are but one God.” 6 But tell me,
three human persons, are they not three men ?”
“ Then why are not three divine persons three Gods?"
“ Because three human persons have three human natures; but the three divine persons have only one divine nature.”
you explain this by an example ? " “Yes, father; so a tree which has three branches is still but one tree, since all the three branches spring from one trunk, so the three divine persons are but one God, because they all have the same divine nature.”
“ Where were these three divine persons before the heavens and the earth were created ?"
“ In themselves.”
“ And after the Son was made man, was he still God?"
“ Yes, father; for in becoming man he did not cease to be God, any more than a man when he becomes a monk ceases to be a man.”
“ How was the Son of God made flesh ?”
“ He was born of the most holy Virgin Mary.”
“ And can we still call her a virgin ?”
** Yes, father; for as a ray of the sun may pass through a pane of glass, and the glass remain unbroken, so the Virgin Mary, after the birth of her son, was a pure and holy virgin as before.” 1
6 Who died to save and redeem us?" “ The Son of God: as man, and not as God."
“ How could he suffer and die as man only, being both God and man, and yet but one
To limbo, to glorify the souls of the holy fathers."
And the body?”
“Did the divinity remain united with the spirit or with the body?”
" With both. As a soldier, when he unsheathes his sword, remains united both with the sword and the sheath, though these are separated from each other, so did the divinity remain united both with the spirit and the body of Christ, though the spirit was separated and removed from the body.”
I did not quarrel with the priest for having been born and educated in a different faith from mine; but as I left the church and sauntered slowly homeward, I could not help asking myself, in a whisper, “Why perplex the spirit of a child with these metaphysical subtilties, these dark, mysterious speculations, which man in all his pride of intellect cannot fathom or explain?”
I must not forget, in this place, to make honorable mention of the little great men of El Pardillo. And first in order comes the priest. He was a short, portly man, serious in manner, and of grave and reverend presence ; though at the same time there was a dash of the jolly-fat-friar about him ; and on hearing a good joke or a sly innuendo, a smile would gleam in his eye, and play over his round face, like the light of a glowworm. His housekeeper was a brisk, smiling little woman, on the shady side of thirty, and a cousin of his to boot. Whenever she was mentioned, Don Valentin looked wise, as if this cousinship were apocryphal; but he said nothing, — not he;
1 This illustration was also made use of during the dark ages. Pierre de Corbiac, a Troubadour of the thirteenth century, thus introduces it in a poem entitled “ Prayer to the Virgin ” :
“ Domna, verges pur' e fina
Ans que fos l'enfantamens,
Et apres tot eissamens,
solelha Per la fenestra veirina."
A group gathered before the cottage door ; the signal was given, and away whirled the merry dancers to the wild music of voice and guitar, and the measured beat of castanet and tambourine.
I love these rural dances, — from my heart I love them. This world, at best, is so full of care and sorrow, the life of a poor man is so stained with the sweat of his brow, — there is so much toil, and struggling, and anguish, and disappointment here below, that I gaze with delight on scene where all these are laid aside and forgotten, and the heart of the toilworn peasant seems to throw off its load, and to leap to the sound of music, when merrily,
“ Beneath soft eve's consenting star, Fandango twirls his jocund castanet.”
what right had he to be peeping into other people's business, when he had only one eye to look after his own withal ? Next in rank to the dominie was the alcalde, justice of the peace and quorum ; a most potent, grave, and reverend personage, with a long beak of a nose, and a pouch under his chin, like a pelican. He was a man of few words, but great in authority; and his importance was vastly increased in the village by a pair of double-barrelled spectacles, so contrived, that, when bent over his desk and deeply buried in his musty papers, he could look up and see what was going on around him without moving his head, whereby he got the reputation of seeing twice as much as other people. There was the village surgeon, too, a tall man with a varnished hat and a starved dog; he had studied at the University of Salamanca, and was pompous and pedantic, ever and anon quoting some threadbare maxim from the Greek philosophers, and embellishing it with a commentary of his own. Then there was the gray-headed sacristan, who rang the church-bell, played on the organ, and was learned in tombstone lore; a politician, who talked me to death about taxes, liberty, and the days of the constitution ; and a notary public, a poor man with a large family, who would make a paper cigar last half an hour, and who kept up his respectability in the village by keeping a horse.
Beneath the protecting shade of these great men full many an inhabitant of El Pardillo was born and buried. The village continued to flourish, a quiet, happy place, though all unknown to fame. The inhabitants were orderly and industrious, went regularly to mass and confession, kept every saint's day in the calendar, and devoutly hung Judas once a year in effigy. On Sundays and all other holidays, when mass was over, the time was devoted to sports and recreation; and the day passed off in social visiting, and athletic exercises, such as running, leaping, wrestling, pitching quoits, and heaving the bar. When evening came, the merry sound of the guitar summoned to the dance; then every nook and alley poured forth its youthful company, - light of heart and heel, and decked out in all the holiday finery of flowers, and ribbons, and crimson sashes.
Not many miles from the village of El Pardillo stands the ruined castle of Villafranca, an ancient stronghold of the Moors of the fifteenth century. It is built upon the summit of a hill, of easy ascent upon one side, but precipitous and inaccessible on the other. The front presents a large square tower, constituting the main part of the castle ; on one side of which an arched gateway leads to a spacious court-yard within, surrounded by battlements. The corner towers are circular, with beetling turrets; and here and there, apart from the main body of the castle, stand several circular basements, whose towers have fallen and mouldered into dust. From the balcony in the square tower, the eye embraces the level landscape for leagues and leagues around ; and beneath, in the depth of the valley, lies a beautiful grove, alive with the song of the nightingale. The whole castle is in ruin, and occupied only as a hunting-lodge, being inhabited by a solitary tenant, who has charge of the adjacent domain.
One holiday, when mass was said and the whole village was let loose to play, we made a pilgrimage to the ruins of this old Moorish al
Our cavalcade was as motley as that of old, — the pilgrims " that toward Canterbury wolden ride;" for we had the priest, and the doctor of physic, and the man of laws, and a wife of Bath, and many more whom I must leave unsung. Merrily flew the hours and fast;