« AnteriorContinuar »
ished his song, we invited him to the remnant of a Vich sausage, a bottle of Valdepeñas, bread at his own discretion, and a pure Havana cigar. The stranger made a leg, and accepted these signs of good company with the easy air of a man who is accustomed to earn his livelihood by hook or by crook; and as the wine was of that stark and generous kind which readily “ascends one into the brain," our gentleman with the half-moon hat grew garrulous and full of anecdote, and soon told us his own story, beginning with his birth and parentage, like the people in Gil Blas.
“I am the son of a barber,” quoth he ; " and first saw the light some twenty years ago, in the great city of Madrid. At a very early age, I was taught to do something for myself, and began my career of gain by carrying a slowmatch in the Prado, for the gentlemen to light their cigars with, and catching the wax that dropped from the friars' tapers at funerals and other religious processions.
“At school I was noisy and unruly ; and was finally expelled for hooking the master's son with a pair of ox-horns, which I had tied to my head, in order to personate the bull in a mock bull-fight. Soon after this my father died, and I went to live with
maternal cle, a curate in Fuencarral. He was a man of learning, and resolved that I should be like him. He set his heart upon making a physician of me; and to this end taught me Latin and Greek.
“ In due time I was sent to the University of Alcalá. Here a new world opened before
What novelty, — what variety, — what excitement! But, alas! three months were hardly gone, when news came that my worthy uncle had passed to a better world. I was now left to shift for myself. I was penniless, and lived as I could, not as I would. I became a sopista, a soup-eater, — a knight of the wooden spoon.
I see you do not understand me. In other words, then, I became one of that respectable body of charity scholars who go armed with their wooden spoons to eat the allowance of eleemosynary soup which is daily served out to them at the gate of the convents. I had no longer house nor home. But necessity is the mother of inven
tion. I became a hanger-on of those who were more fortunate than myself; studied in other people's books, slept in other people's beds, and breakfasted at other people's expense. This course of life has been demoralizing, but it has quickened my wits to a wonderful degree.
"Did you ever read the life of the Gran Tacaño, by Quevedo ? In the first book you have a faithful picture of life in a Spanish University. What was true in his day is true in ours.
O Alcalá! Alcalá ! if your walls had tongues as well as ears, what tales could they repeat! what midnight frolics! what madcap revelries! what scenes of merriment and mischief! How merry is a student's life, and yet how changeable! Alternate feasting and fasting, — alternate Lent and Carnival,- alternate want and extravagance! Care given to the winds, — no thought beyond the passing hour; yesterday, forgotten, -to-morrow, a word in an unknown tongue !
“Did you ever hear of raising the dead? not literally, - but such as the student raised, when he dug for the soul of the licentiate Pedro Garcias, at the fountain between Peñafiel and Salamanca, — money? No? Well, it is done after this wise. Gambling, you know, is our great national vice; and then gamblers are so dishonest! Now, our game is to cheat the cheater. We go at night to some noted gaming-house, - five or six of us in a body. We stand around the table, watch those that are at play, and occasionally put in a trifle ourselves to avoid suspicion. At length the favorable moment arrives. Some eager player ventures a large stake. I stand behind his chair. He wins. As quick as thought, I stretch my arm over his shoulder and seize the glittering prize, saying very coolly, “I have won at last. My gentleman turns round in a passion, and I meet his indignant glance with a look of surprise. He storms, and I expostulate; he menaces, — I heed his menaces no more than the buzzing of a fly that has burnt his wings in my lamp. He calls the whole table to witness; but the whole table is busy, each with his own gain or loss, and there stand my comrades, all loudly asserting that the stake was mine. What can he do? there was a mistake; he swallows the affront as best
he may, and we bear away the booty. This we call raising the dead. You say it is disgraceful, - dishonest. Our maxim is, that all is fair among sharpers ; Baylar al son que se toca, Dance to any tune that is fiddled. Besides, as I said before, poverty is demoralizing. One loses the nice distinctions of right and wrong, of meum and tuum.
“Thus merrily pass the hours of term-time. When the summer vacations come round, I sling my guitar over my shoulder, and with a light heart, and a lighter pocket, scour the country, like a strolling piper or a mendicant friar. Like the industrious ant, in summer I provide for winter; for in vacation we have time for reflection, and make the great discovery, that there is a portion of time called the future. I pick up a trifle here and a trifle there, in all the towns and villages through which I pass, and before the end of my tour I find myself quite rich - for the son of a barber. This we call the vida tunantesca, rag-tag-and-bobtail sort of life. And yet the vocation is as honest as that of a begging Franciscan. Why not?
“ And now, gentlemen, having dined at your expense, with your leave I will put this loaf of bread and the remains of this excellent Vich sausage into my pocket, and, thanking you for your kind hospitality, bid you a good afternoon. God be with you, gentlemen!”
From Valdepeñas southward the country wears a more lively and picturesque aspect. The landscape breaks into hill and valley, covered with vineyards and olive-fields; and before you rise the dark ridges of the Sierra Morena, lifting their sullen fronts into a heaven all gladness and sunshine. Ere long you enter the wild mountain-pass of Despeña-Perros. A sudden turn in the road brings you to a stone column, surmounted by an iron cross, marking the boundary line between La Mancha and Andalusia. Upon one side of this column is carved a sorry-looking face, not unlike the death's-heads on the tombstones of a country church-yard. Over it is written this inscription : 6 EL VERDADERO RETRATO DE LA SANTA CARA DEL DIOS DE XAEN," The true portrait of the holy countenance of the God of Xaen! I was so much struck with this strange superscription that I stopped to
In general, the aspect of La Mancha is desolate and sad. Around you lies a parched and sunburnt plain, which, like the ocean, has no limits but the sky; and straight before you, for many a weary league, runs the dusty and level road, without the shade of a single tree. The villages you pass through are povertystricken and half-depopulated ; and the squalid inhabitants wear a look of misery that makes the heart ache. Every league or two, the ruins of a post-house, or a roofless cottage with shattered windows and blackened walls, tells a sad tale of the last war. It was there that a little band of peasantry made a desperate stand against the French, and perished by the bullet, the sword, or the bayonet. The lapse of many years has not changed the scene, nor repaired
“Do you really believe that this is what it pretends to be ? ” said I to a muleteer, who was watching my movements.
“I don't know,” replied he, shrugging his brawny shoulders; “ they say it is.”
“ Who says it is ? "
And how was this portrait taken ?”
He could not tell. The Padre Cura knew all about it.
When I joined my companions, who were a little in advance of me with the carriage, I got the mystery explained. The Catholic Church boasts of three portraits of our Saviour, miraculously preserved upon the folds of a handkerchief, with which St. Veronica wiped the sweat from his brow, on the day of the crucifixion. One of these is at Toledo, another in the kingdom of Xaen, and the third at Rome.
The impression which this monument of superstition made upon my mind was soon efsprinkled with little white hermitages, looked forth towards the rising sun; and on the left, in a long, graceful curve, swept the bright waters of the Guadalquiver, pursuing their silent journey through a verdant reach of soft lowland landscape. There, amid all the luxuriance of this sunny clime, arises the ancient city of Córdova, though stripped, alas ! of its former magnificence. All that reminds you of the past is the crumbling wall of the city, and a Saracen mosque, now changed to a Christian cathedral. The stranger, who is familiar with the history of the Moorish dominion in Spain, pauses with a sigh, and asks himself, Is this the imperial city of Alhakam the Just, and Abdoulrahman the Magnificent ?
faced by the magnificent scene which now burst upon me. The road winds
the mountain-side with gradual ascent; wild, shapeless, gigantic crags overhang it upon the right, and upon the left the wary foot starts back from the brink of a fearful chasm hundreds of feet in depth. Its sides are black with ragged pines, and rocks that have toppled down from above ; and at the bottom, scarcely visible, wind the silvery waters of a little stream, a tributary of the Gaudalquiver. The road skirts the ravine for miles, - now climbing the barren rock, and now sliding gently downward into shadowy hollows, and crossing some rustic bridge thrown over a wild mountain-brook.
At length the scene changed. We stood upon the southern slope of the Sierra, and looked down upon the broad, luxuriant valleys of Andalusia, bathed in the gorgeous splendor of a southern sunset. The landscape had already assumed the “burnished livery” of autumn; but the air I breathed was the soft and balmy breath of spring, — the eternal spring of Andalusia.
If ever you should be fortunate enough to visit this part of Spain stop for the night at the village of La Carolina. It is indeed a model for all villages, — with its broad streets, its neat, white houses, its spacious marketplace surrounded with a colonnade, and its public walk ornamented with fountains and set out with luxuriant trees. I doubt whether all Spain can show a village more beautiful than this.
The approach to Córdova from the east is enchanting. The sun was just rising as we crossed the Gaudalquiver and drew near to the city; and, alighting from the carriage, I pursued my way on foot, the better to enjoy the scene and the pure morning air. The dew still glistened on every leaf and spray; for the burning sun had not yet climbed the tall hedge-row of wild figs and aloes which skirts the roadside. The highway wound along through gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and here and there above me towered the glorious palm in all its leafy magnificence. On my right, a swelling mountain-ridge, covered with verdure and
He who has not seen Seville has seen no marvel,
Andalusian gasconade. This, however, is the judgment of a traveller weary and wayworn with a journey of twelve successive days in a carriage drawn by mules; and I am well aware how much our opinions of men and things are colored by these trivial ills. A sad spirit is like a rainy day; its mists and shadows darken the brightest sky, and clothe the fairest landscape in gloom.
I am, likewise, a disappointed man in another respect. I have come all the way from Madrid to Seville without being robbed! And this, too, when I journeyed at a snail's pace, and had bought a watch large enough for the clock of a village church, for the express purpose of having it violently torn from me by a fierce-whiskered highwayman, with his blunderbuss and his " Boca abajo, ladrones!" If I print this in a book, I am undone. What! travel in Spain and not be robbed! To be sure, I came very near it more than once. Almost every village we passed through had its tale to tell of atrocities committed in the
neighborhood. In one place, the stage-coach had been stopped and plundered ; in another, a man had been murdered and thrown into the river; here and there a rude wooden cross and a shapeless pile of stones marked the spot where some unwary traveller had met his fate; and at night, seated around the blazing hearth of the inn-kitchen, my fellow-travellers would converse in a mysterious undertone of the dangers we were to pass through on the morrow But the morrow came and went, and, alas ! neither salteador, nor ratero moved a finger. At one place, we were a day too late; at another, a day too early.
I am now at the Fonda de los Americanos. My chamber-door opens upon a gallery, beneath which is a little court paved with marble, having a fountain in the centre. As I write, I can just distinguish the tinkling of its tiny jet, falling into the circular basin with a murmur so gentle that it scarcely breaks the silence of the night. At day-dawn I start for Cadiz, promising myself a pleasant sail down the Guadalquivir. All I shall be able to say of Seville is what I have written above, – that it is “ a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women.”
“ The veil, Thrown back a moment with the glancing hand, While the o’erpowering eye, that turns you pale, Flashes into the heart."
I am at length in Cadiz. I came across the bay yesterday morning in an open boat from Santa Maria, and have established myself in very pleasant rooms, which look out upon the Plaza de San Antonio, the public square of the city. The morning sun awakes me, and at evening the sea-breeze comes in at my window. At night the square is lighted by lamps suspended from the trees, and thronged with a brilliant crowd of the young and gay.
Cadiz is beautiful almost beyond imagination. The cities of our dreams are not more enchanting It lies like a delicate sea-shell upon the brink of the ocean, so wondrous fair that it seems not formed for man. In sooth, the Paphian queen, born of the feathery seafoam, dwells here. It is the city of beauty and of love.
The women of Cadiz are world-renowned for their loveliness. Surely earth has none more dazzling than a daughter of that bright, burning clime. What a faultless figure! what a
When I am grown old and gray, and sit by the fireside wrapped in flannels, if, in a listless moment, recalling what is now the present, but will then be the distant and almost forgotten past, I turn over the leaves of this journal till my watery eye falls upon the page I have just written, I shall smile at the enthusiasm with which I have sketched this portrait. And where will then be the bright forms that now glance before me, like the heavenly creations of a dream? All gone, --- all gone! Or, if perchance a few still linger upon earth, they will be bowed with age and sorrow, saying their paternosters with a tremulous voice.
Old age is a Pharisee; for he makes broad his phylacteries, and wears them upon his brow, inscribed with prayer, but in the “ crooked autograph ” of a palsied hand. “I see with pain,” says Madame de Pompadour, " that there is nothing durable upon the earth. We bring into the world a fair face, and lo! in less than thirty years it is covered with wrinkles; after which a woman is no longer good for anything."
Were I to translate these sombre reflections into choice Castilian, and read them to the bright-eyed maiden who is now leaning over the balcony opposite, she would laugh, and laughing say, “ Cuando el demonio es viejo, se mete frayle.”
The devotion paid at the shrine of the Virgin is one of the most prominent and characteristic features of the Catholic religion. In Thus commences one of the fine old Spanish ballads, commemorating the downfall of the city of Alhama, where we have stopped to rest our horses on their fatiguing march from Velez-Málaga to Granada.
Alhama was one of the last strongholds of the Moslem power in Spain. Its fall opened the way for the Chris
across the Sierra Nevada, and spread consternation and despair through the city of Granada. The description in the old ballad is highly graphic and beautiful ; and its beauty is well preserved in the spirited English translation by Lord Byron.
tolls to prayer.
Spain it is one of the most attractive features. In the southern provinces, in Granada and in Andalusia, which the inhabitants call “ La tierra de Maria Santísima," - the land of the most holy Mary, — this admiration is ardent and enthusiastic. There is one of its outward observances which struck me as peculiarly beautiful and impressive. I refer to the Ave Maria, an evening service of the Virgin. Just as the evening twilight commences, the bell
In a moment, throughout the crowded city, the hum of business is hushed, the thronged streets are still; the gay multitudes that crowd the public walks stand motionless; the angry dispute ceases ; the laugh of merriment dies away ; life seems for a moment to be arrested in its career, and to stand still. The multitude uncover their heads, and, with the sign of the cross, whisper their evening prayer to the Virgin. Then the bells ring a merrier peal; the crowds move again in the streets, and the rush and turmoil of business recommence. I have always listened with feelings of solemn pleasure to the bell that sounded forth the Ave Maria. As it announced the close of day, it seemed also to call the soul from its worldly occupations to repose and devotion. There is something beautiful in thus measuring the march of time. The hour, too, naturally brings the heart into unison with the feelings and sentiments of devotion. The close of the day, the shadows of evening, the calm of twilight, inspire a feeling of tranquillity; and though I may differ from the Catholic in regard to the object of his supplication, yet it seems to me a beautiful and appropriate solemnity, that, at the close of each daily epoch of life, — which, if it have not been fruitful in incidents to ourselves, has, nevertheless, been so to many of the great human family, — the voice of a whole people, and of the whole world, should go up to heaven in praise, and supplication, and thankfulness.
As we crossed the Sierra Nevada, the snowy mountains that look down upon the luxuriant Vega of Granada, we overtook a solitary rider, who was singing a wild national song, to cheer the loneliness of his journey. He was an athletic man, and rode a spirited horse of the Arab breed. A black bearskin jacket covered his broad shoulders, and around his waist was wound the crimson faja, so universally worn by the Spanish peasantry. His velvet breeches reached below his knee, just meeting a pair of leather gaiters of elegant workmanship. A gay silken handkerchief was tied around his head, and over this he wore the little round Andalusian hat, decked out with a profusion of tassels of silk and bugles of silver. The steed he mounted was dressed no less gayly than his rider. There was a silver star upon his forehead, and a bright-colored woollen tassel between his ears; a blanket striped with blue and red covered the saddle, and even the Moorish stirrups were ornamented with brass studs. This
personage a contrabandista, smuggler between Granada and the seaport of Velez-Málaga. The song he sung was one of the popular ballads of the country.
“ Worn with speed is my good steed,
And I march me hurried, worried;
Ay, jaleo! they cross our track!” 1 1 I here transcribe the original of which this is a single stanza. Its only merit is simplicity, and a certain grace