When Buckingham came down to Spain with Charles of England, the Conde-Duque of Olivares was shocked and scandalized at the relation of confidential friendship that existed between the prince and the duke. The world never saw a prouder man than Olivares. His picture by Velazquez hangs side by side with that of his royal master in Madrid. You see at a glance that the count-duke is the better man physically, mentally, morally. But he never dreamed it. He thought in his inmost heart that the best thing about him was the favor of the worthless fribble whom he governed.
Through all the vicissitudes of Spanish history the force of these married superstitions—reverence for the Church as distinguished from the fear of God, and reverence for the king as distinguished from respect for law—have been the ruling characteristics of the Spanish mind. Among the fatal effects of this has been the extinction of rational piety and rational patriotism. If a man was not a good Catholic he was pretty sure to be an atheist. If he did not honor the king he was an outlaw. The wretched story of Spanish dissensions beyond seas, and the loss of the vast American empire, is distinctly traceable to the exaggerated sentiment of personal honor, unrestrained by the absolute authority of the crown. It seems impossible for the Spaniard of history and tradition to obey anything out of his sight. The American provinces have been lost one by one through petty quarrels and colonial rivalries. At the first word of dispute their notion of honor obliges them to fly to arms, and when blood has been shed reconciliation is impossible. So weak is the principle of territorial loyalty, that whenever the Peninsula government finds it necessary to overrule some violence of its own soldiers, these find no difficulty in marching over to the insurrection, or raising a fresh rebellion of their own. So little progress has there been in Spain from the middle ages to to-day in true political science, that we see such butchers as Caballero and Valmaseda repeating to-day the crimes and follies of Cortes and Pamfilo Narvaez, of Pizarro and Almagro, and the revolt of the bloodthirsty volunteers of the Havana is only a question of time.
It is true that in later years there has been the beginning of a better system of thought and discussion in Spain. But the old tradition still holds its own gallantly in Church and state. Nowhere in the world are the forms of religion so rigidly observed, and the precepts of Christian morality less regarded. The most facile beauties in Madrid are severe as Minervas on Holy Thursday. I have seen a dozen fast men at the door of a gambling-house fall on their knees in the dust as the Host passed by in the street. Yet the fair were no less frail and the senoritos were no less profligate for this unfeigned reverence for the outside of the cup and platter.
In the domain of politics there is still the lamentable disproportion between honor and honesty. A high functionary cares nothing if the whole Salon del Prado talks of his pilferings, but he will risk his life in an instant if you call him no gentleman. The word "honor" is still used in all legislative assemblies, even in England and America. But the idea has gone by the board in all democracies, and the word means no more than the chamberlain's sword or the speaker's mace. The only criterion which the statesman of the nineteenth century applies to public acts is that of expediency and legality. The first question is, "Is it lawful?" the second, "Does it pay?" Both of these are questions of fact, and as such susceptible of discussion and proof. The question of honor and religion carries us at once into the realm of sentiment where no demonstration is possible. But this is where every question is planted from the beginning in Spanish politics. Every public matter presents itself under this form: "Is it consistent with Spanish honor?" and "Will it be to the advantage of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church?" Now, nothing is consistent with Spanish honor which does not recognize the Spain of to-day as identical with the Spain of the sixteenth century, and the bankrupt government of Madrid as equal in authority to the world-wide autocracy of Charles V. And nothing is thought to be to the advantage of the Church which does not tend to the concubinage of the spiritual and temporal power, and to the muzzling of speech and the drugging of the mind to sleep.
Let any proposition be made which touches this traditional susceptibility of race, no matter how sensible or profitable it may be, and you hear in the Cortes and the press, and, louder than all, among the idle cavaliers of the cafes, the wildest denunciations of the treason that would consent to look at things as they are. The men who have ventured to support the common-sense view are speedily stormed into silence or timid self-defence. The sword of Guzman is brandished in the Chambers, the name of Pelayo is invoked, the memory of the Cid is awakened, and the proposition goes out in a blaze of patriotic pyrotechnics, to the intense satisfaction of the unthinking and the grief of the judicious. The senoritos go back to the serious business of their lives—coffee and cigarettes—with a genuine glow of pride in a country which is capable of the noble self-sacrifice of cutting off its nose to spite somebody else's face.
But I repeat, the most favorable sign of the times is that this tyranny of tradition is losing its power. A great deal was done by the single act of driving out the queen. This was a blow at superstition which gave to the whole body politic a most salutary shock. Never before in Spain had a revolution been directed at the throne. Before it was always an obnoxious ministry that was to be driven out. The monarch remained; and the exiled outlaw of to-day might be premier to-morrow. But the fall of Novaliches at the Bridge of Alcolea decided the fate not only of the ministry but of the dynasty; and while General Concha was waiting for the train to leave Madrid, Isabel of Bourbon and Divine Right were passing the Pyrenees.
Although the moral power of the Church is still so great, the incorporation of freedom of worship in the constitution of 1869 has been followed by a really remarkable development of freedom of thought. The proposition was regarded by some with horror and by others with contempt. One of the most enlightened statesmen in Spain once said to me, "The provision for freedom of worship in the constitution is a mere abstract proposition,—it can never have any practical value except for foreigners. I cannot conceive of a Spaniard being anything but a Catholic." And so powerful was this impression in the minds of the deputies that the article only accords freedom of worship to foreigners in Spain, and adds, hypothetically, that if any Spaniards should profess any other religion than the Catholic, they are entitled to the same liberty as foreigners. The Inquisition has been dead half a century, but you can see how its ghost still haunts the official mind of Spain. It is touching to see how the broken links of the chain of superstition still hang about even those who imagine they are defying it. As in their Christian burials, following unwittingly the example of the hated Moors, they bear the corpse with uncovered face to the grave, and follow it with the funeral torch of the Romans, so the formula of the Church clings even to the mummery of the atheists. Not long ago in Madrid a man and woman who belonged to some fantastic order which rejected religion and law had a child born to them in the course of things, and determined that it should begin life free from the taint of superstition. It should not be christened, it should be named, in the Name of Reason. But they could not break loose from the idea of baptism. They poured a bottle of water on the shivering nape of the poor little neophyte, and its frail life went out in its first wheezing week.
But in spite of all this a spirit of religious inquiry is growing up in Spain, and the Church sees it and cannot prevent it. It watches the liberal newspapers and the Protestant prayer-meetings much as the old giant in Bunyan's dream glared at the passing pilgrims, mumbling and muttering toothless curses. It looks as if the dead sleep of uniformity of thought were to be broken at last, and Spain were to enter the healthful and vivifying atmosphere of controversy.
Symptoms of a similar change may be seen in the world of politics. The Republican party is only a year or two old, but what a vigorous and noisy infant it is! With all its faults and errors, it seems to have the promise of a sturdy and wholesome future. It refuses to be bound by the memories of the past, but keeps its eyes fixed on the brighter possibilities to come. Its journals, undeterred by the sword of Guzman or the honor of all the Caballeros,—the men on horseback,—are advocating such sensible measures as justice to the Antilles, and the sale of outlying property, which costs more than it produces. Emilio Castelar, casting behind him all the restraints of tradition, announces as his idea of liberty "the right of all citizens to obey nothing but the law." There is no sounder doctrine than this preached in Manchester or Boston. If the Spanish people can be brought to see that God is greater than the Church, and that the law is above the king, the day of final deliverance is at hand.
The bull-fight is the national festival of Spain. The rigid Britons have had their fling at it for many years. The effeminate badaud of Paris has declaimed against its barbarity. Even the aristocracy of Spain has begun to suspect it of vulgarity and to withdraw from the arena the light of its noble countenance. But the Spanish people still hold it to their hearts and refuse to be weaned from it.
"As Panem et Circenses was the cry Among the Roman populace of old, So Pan y Toros is the cry in Spain."
It is a tradition which has passed into their national existence. They received it from nowhere. They have transmitted it nowhither except to their own colonies. In late years an effort has been made to transplant it, but with small success. There were a few bull-fights four years ago at Havre. There was a sensation of curiosity which soon died away. This year in London the experiment was tried, but was hooted out of existence, to the great displeasure of the Spanish journals, who said the ferocious Islanders would doubtless greatly prefer baiting to death a half dozen Irish serfs from the estate of Lord Fritters,—a gentle diversion in which we are led to believe the British peers pass their leisure hours.
It is this monopoly of the bull-fight which so endears it to the Spanish heart. It is to them conclusive proof of the vast superiority of both the human and taurine species in Spain. The eminent torero, Pepe Illo, said: "The love of bulls is inherent in man, especially in the Spaniard, among which glorious people there have been bull-fights ever since bulls were, because," adds Pepe, with that modesty which forms so charming a trait of the Iberian character, "the Spanish men are as much more brave than all other men, as the Spanish bull is more savage and valiant than all other bulls."
The sport permeates the national life. I have seen it woven into the tapestry of palaces, and rudely stamped on the handkerchief of the peasant. It is the favorite game of children in the street. Loyal Spain was thrilled with joy recently on reading in its Paris correspondence that when the exiled Prince of Asturias went for a half-holiday to visit his imperial comrade at the Tuileries, the urchins had a game of "toro" on the terrace, admirably conducted by the little Bourbon and followed up with great spirit by the little Montijo-Bonaparte.
The bull-fight has not always enjoyed the royal favor. Isabel the Catholic would fain have abolished bathing and bull-fighting together. The Spaniards, who willingly gave up their ablutions, stood stoutly by their bulls, and the energetic queen was baffled. Again when the Bourbons came in with Philip V., the courtiers turned up their thin noses at the coarse diversion, and induced the king to abolish it. It would not stay abolished, however, and Philip's successor built the present coliseum in expiation. The spectacle has, nevertheless, lost much of its early splendor by the hammering of time. Formerly the gayest and bravest gentlemen of the court, mounted on the best horses in the kingdom, went into the arena and defied the bull in the names of their lady-loves. Now the bull is baited and slain by hired artists, and the horses they mount are the sorriest hacks that ever went to the knacker.
One of the most brilliant shows of the kind that was ever put upon the scene was the Festival of Bulls given by Philip IV. in honor of Charles I.,
"When the Stuart came from far, Led by his love's sweet pain, To Mary, the guiding star That shone in the heaven of Spain."
And the memory of that dazzling occasion was renewed by Ferdinand VII. in the year of his death, when he called upon his subjects to swear allegiance to his baby Isabel. This festival took place in the Plaza Mayor. The king and court occupied the same balconies which Charles and his royal friend and model had filled two centuries before. The champions were poor nobles, of good blood but scanty substance, who fought for glory and pensions, and had quadrilles of well-trained bull-fighters at their stirrups to prevent the farce from becoming tragedy. The royal life of Isabel of Bourbon was inaugurated by the spilled blood of one hundred bulls save one. The gory prophecy of that day has been well sustained. Not one year has passed since then free from blood shed in her cause.
But these extraordinary attractions are not necessary to make a festival of bulls the most seductive of all pleasures to a Spaniard. On any pleasant Sunday afternoon, from Easter to All Souls, you have only to go into the street to see that there is some great excitement fusing the populace into one living mass of sympathy. All faces are turned one way, all minds are filled with one purpose. From the Puerta del Sol down the wide Alcala a vast crowd winds, solid as a glacier and bright as a kaleidoscope. From the grandee in his blazoned carriage to the manola in her calico gown, there is no class unrepresented. Many a red hand grasps the magic ticket which is to open the realm of enchantment to-day, and which represents short commons for a week before. The pawnbrokers' shops have been very animated for the few preceding days. There is nothing too precious to be parted with for the sake of the bulls. Many of these smart girls have made the ultimate sacrifice for that coveted scrap of paper. They would leave one their mother's cross with the children of Israel rather than not go. It is no cheap entertainment. The worst places in the broiling sun cost twenty cents, four reals; and the boxes are sold usually at fifteen dollars. These prices are necessary to cover the heavy expenses of bulls, horses, and gladiators.
The way to the bull-ring is one of indescribable animation. The cabmen drive furiously this day their broken-kneed nags, who will soon be found on the horns of the bulls, for this is the natural death of the Madrid cab-horse; the omnibus teams dash gayly along with their shrill chime of bells; there are the rude jests of clowns and the high voices of excited girls; the water-venders droning their tempting cry, "Cool as the snow!" the sellers of fans and the merchants of gingerbread picking up their harvests in the hot and hungry crowd.
The Plaza de Toros stands just outside the monumental gate of the Alcala. It is a low, squat, prison-like circus of stone, stuccoed and whitewashed, with no pretence of ornament or architectural effect. There is no nonsense whatever about it. It is built for the killing of bulls and for no other purpose. Around it, on a day of battle, you will find encamped great armies of the lower class of Madrilenos, who, being at financial ebb-tide, cannot pay to go in. But they come all the same, to be in the enchanted neighborhood, to hear the shouts and roars of the favored ones within, and to seize any possible occasion for getting in. Who knows? A caballero may come out and give them his check. An English lady may become disgusted and go home, taking away numerous lords whose places will be vacant. The sky may fall, and they may catch four reals' worth of larks. It is worth taking the chances.
One does not soon forget the first sight of the full coliseum. In the centre is the sanded arena, surrounded by a high barrier. Around this rises the graded succession of stone benches for the people; then numbered seats for the connoisseurs; and above a row of boxes extending around the circle. The building holds, when full, some fourteen thousand persons; and there is rarely any vacant space. For myself I can say that what I vainly strove to imagine in the coliseum at Rome, and in the more solemn solitude of the amphitheatres of Capua and Pompeii, came up before me with the vividness of life on entering the bull-ring of Madrid. This, and none other, was the classic arena. This was the crowd that sat expectant, under the blue sky, in the hot glare of the South, while the doomed captives of Dacia or the sectaries of Judea commended their souls to the gods of the Danube, or the Crucified of Galilee. Half the sand lay in the blinding sun. Half the seats were illuminated by the fierce light. The other half was in shadow, and the dark crescent crept slowly all the afternoon across the arena as the sun declined in the west.
It is hard to conceive a more brilliant scene. The women put on their gayest finery for this occasion. In the warm light, every bit of color flashes out, every combination falls naturally into its place. I am afraid the luxuriance of hues in the dress of the fair Iberians would be considered shocking in Broadway, but in the vast frame and broad light of the Plaza the effect was very brilliant. Thousands of party-colored paper fans are sold at the ring. The favorite colors are the national red and yellow, and the fluttering of these broad, bright disks of color is dazzlingly attractive. There is a gayety of conversation, a quick fire of repartee, shouts of recognition and salutation, which altogether make up a bewildering confusion.
The weary young water-men scream their snow-cold refreshment. The orange-men walk with their gold-freighted baskets along the barrier, and throw their oranges with the most marvellous skill and certainty to people in distant boxes or benches. They never miss their mark. They will throw over the heads of a thousand people a dozen oranges into the outstretched hands of customers, so swiftly that it seems like one line of gold from the dealer to the buyer.
At length the blast of a trumpet announces the clearing of the ring. The idlers who have been lounging in the arena are swept out by the alguaciles, and the hum of conversation gives way to an expectant silence. When the last loafer has reluctantly retired, the great gate is thrown open, and the procession of the toreros enters. They advance in a glittering line: first the marshals of the day, then the picadors on horseback, then the matadors on foot surrounded each by his quadrille of chulos. They walk towards the box which holds the city fathers, under whose patronage the show is given, and formally salute the authority. This is all very classic, also, recalling the Ave Caesar, morituri, etc., of the gladiators. It lacks, however, the solemnity of the Roman salute, from those splendid fellows who would never all leave the arena alive. A bullfighter is sometimes killed, it is true, but the percentage of deadly danger is scarcely enough to make a spectator's heart beat as the bedizened procession comes flashing by in the sun.
The municipal authority throws the bowing alguacil a key, which he catches in his hat, or is hissed if he misses it. With this he unlocks the door through which the bull is to enter, and then scampers off with undignified haste through the opposite entrance. There is a bugle flourish, the door flies open, and the bull rushes out, blind with the staring light, furious with rage, trembling in every limb. This is the most intense moment of the day. The glorious brute is the target of twelve thousand pairs of eyes. There is a silence as of death, while every one waits to see his first movement. He is doomed from the beginning; the curtain has risen on a three-act tragedy, which will surely end with his death, but the incidents which are to fill the interval are all unknown. The minds and eyes of all that vast assembly know nothing for the time but the movements of that brute. He stands for an instant recovering his senses. He has been shot suddenly out of the darkness into that dazzling light. He sees around him a sight such as he never confronted before,—a wall of living faces lit up by thousands of staring eyes. He does not dwell long upon this, however; in his pride and anger he sees a nearer enemy. The horsemen have taken position near the gate, where they sit motionless as burlesque statues, their long ashen spears, iron-tipped, in rest, their wretched nags standing blindfolded, with trembling knees, and necks like dromedaries, not dreaming of their near fate. The bull rushes, with a snort, at the nearest one. The picador holds firmly, planting his spear-point in the shoulder of the brute. Sometimes the bull flinches at this sharp and sudden punishment, and the picador, by a sudden turn to the left, gets away unhurt. Then there is applause for the torero and hisses for the bull. Some indignant amateurs go so far as to call him cow, and to inform him that he is the son of his mother. But oftener he rushes in, not caring for the spear, and with one toss of his sharp horns tumbles horse and rider in one heap against the barrier and upon the sand. The capeadores, the cloak-bearers, come fluttering around and divert the bull from his prostrate victims. The picador is lifted to his feet,—his iron armor not permitting him to rise without help,—and the horse is rapidly scanned to see if his wounds are immediately mortal. If not, the picador mounts again, and provokes the bull to another rush. A horse will usually endure two or three attacks before dying. Sometimes a single blow from in front pierces the heart, and the blood spouts forth in a cataract. In this case the picador hastily dismounts, and the bridle and saddle are stripped in an instant from the dying brute. If a bull is energetic and rapid in execution, he will clear the arena in a few moments. He rushes at one horse after another, tears them open with his terrible "spears" ("horns" is a word never used in the ring), and sends them madly galloping over the arena, trampling out their gushing bowels as they fly. The assistants watch their opportunity, from time to time, to take the wounded horses out of the ring, plug up their gaping rents with tow, and sew them roughly up for another sally. It is incredible to see what these poor creatures will endure,—carrying their riders at a lumbering gallop over the ring, when their thin sides seem empty of entrails.
Sometimes the bull comes upon the dead body of a horse he has killed. The smell of blood and the unmoving helplessness of the victim excite him to the highest pitch. He gores and tramples the carcass, and tosses it in the air with evident enjoyment, until diverted by some living tormentor. You will occasionally see a picador nervous and anxious about his personal safety. They are ignorant and superstitious, and subject to presentiments; they often go into the ring with the impression that their last hour has come. If one takes counsel of his fears and avoids the shock of combat, the hard-hearted crowd immediately discover it and rain maledictions on his head. I saw a picador once enter the ring as pale as death. He kept carefully out of the way of the bull for a few minutes. The sharp-eyed Spaniards noticed it, and commenced shouting, "Craven! He wants to live forever!" They threw orange-skins at him, and at last, their rage vanquishing their economy, they pelted him with oranges. His pallor gave way to a flush of shame and anger. He attacked the bull so awkwardly that the animal, killing his horse, threw him also with great violence. His hat flew off, his bald head struck the hard soil. He lay there as one dead, and was borne away lifeless. This mollified the indignant people, and they desisted from their abuse.
A cowardly bull is much more dangerous than a courageous one, who lowers his head, shuts his eyes, and goes blindly at everything he sees. The last refuge of a bull in trouble is to leap the barrier, where he produces a lively moment among the water-carriers and orange-boys and stage-carpenters. I once saw a bull, who had done very little execution in the arena, leap the barrier suddenly and toss an unfortunate carpenter from the gangway sheer into the ring. He picked himself up, laughed, saluted his friends, ran a little distance and fell, and was carried out dying. Fatal accidents are rarely mentioned in the newspapers, and it is considered not quite good form to talk about them.
When the bull has killed enough horses, the first act of the play terminates. But this is an exceedingly delicate matter for the authorities to decide. The audience will not endure any economy in this respect. If the bull is enterprising and "voluntary," he must have as many horses as he can dispose of. One day in Madrid the bulls operated with such activity that the supply of horses was exhausted before the close of the show, and the contractors rushed out in a panic and bought a half dozen screws from the nearest cab-stand. If the president orders out the horses before their time, he will hear remarks by no means complimentary from the austere groundlings.
The second act is the play of the banderilleros, the flag-men. They are beautifully dressed and superbly built fellows, principally from Andalusia, got up precisely like Figaro in the opera. Theirs is the most delicate and graceful operation of the bull-fight. They take a pair of barbed darts, with little banners fluttering at their ends, and provoke the bull to rush at them. At the instant he reaches them, when it seems nothing can save them, they step aside and plant the banderillas in the neck of the bull. If the bull has been cowardly and sluggish, and the spectators have called for "fire," darts are used filled with detonating powder at the base, which explode in the flesh of the bull. He dances and skips like a kid or a colt in his agony, which is very diverting to the Spanish mind. A prettier conceit is that of confining small birds in paper cages, which come apart when the banderilla is planted, and set the little fluttering captives free.
Decking the bull with these torturing ornaments is the last stage in the apprenticeship of the chulo, before he rises to the dignity of matador, or killer. The matadors themselves on special occasions think it no derogation from their dignity to act as banderilleros. But they usually accompany the act with some exaggeration of difficulty that reaps for them a harvest of applause. Frascuelo sits in a chair and plants the irritating bannerets. Lagartijo lays his handkerchief on the ground and stands upon it while he coifs the bull. A performance which never fails to bring down the house is for the torero to await the rush of the bull, and when the bellowing monster comes at him with winking eyes and lowered head, to put his slippered foot between the horns, and vault lightly over his back.
These chulos exhibit the most wonderful skill and address in evading the assault of the bull. They can almost always trick him by waving their cloaks a little out of the line of their flight. Sometimes, however, the bull runs straight at the man, disregarding the flag, and if the distance is great to the barrier the danger is imminent; for swift as these men are, the bulls are swifter. Once I saw the bull strike the torero at the instant he vaulted over the barrier. He fell sprawling some distance the other side, safe, but terribly bruised and stunned. As soon as he could collect himself he sprang into the arena again, looking very seedy; and the crowd roared, "Saved by miracle." I could but think of Basilio, who, when the many cried, "A miracle," answered, "Industria! Industria!" But these bullfighters are all very pious, and glad to curry favor with the saints by attributing every success to their intervention. The famous matador, Paco Montes, fervently believed in an amulet he carried, and in the invocation of Our Lord of the True Cross. He called upon this special name in every tight place, and while other people talked of his luck he stoutly affirmed it was his faith that saved him; often he said he saw the veritable picture of the Passion coming down between him and the bull, in answer to his prayers. At every bull-ring there is a little chapel in the refreshment-room where these devout ruffians can toss off a prayer or two in the intervals of work. A priest is always at hand with a consecrated wafer, to visa the torero's passport who has to start suddenly for Paradise. It is not exactly regular, but the ring has built many churches and endowed many chapels, and must not be too rigidly regarded. In many places the chief boxes are reserved for the clergy, and prayers are hurried through an hour earlier on the day of combat.
The final act is the death of the bull. It must come at last. His exploits in the early part of his career afford to the amateur some indication of the manner in which he will meet his end. If he is a generous, courageous brute, with more heart than brains, he will die gallantly and be easily killed. But if he has shown reflection, forethought, and that saving quality of the oppressed, suspicion, the matador has a serious work before him. The bull is always regarded from this objective standpoint. The more power of reason the brute has, the worse opinion the Spaniard has of him. A stupid creature who rushes blindly on the sword of the matador is an animal after his own heart. But if there be one into whose brute brain some glimmer of the awful truth has come,—and this sometimes happens,—if he feels the solemn question at issue between him and his enemy, if he eyes the man and not the flag, if he refuses to be fooled by the waving lure, but keeps all his strength and all his faculties for his own defence, the soul of the Spaniard rises up in hate and loathing. He calls on the matador to kill him any way. If he will not rush at the flag, the crowd shouts for the demi-lune; and the noble brute is houghed from behind, and your soul grows sick with shame of human nature, at the hellish glee with which they watch him hobbling on his severed legs.
This seldom happens. The final act is usually an admirable study of coolness and skill against brute force. When the banderillas are all planted, and the bugles sound for the third time, the matador, the espada, the sword, steps forward with a modest consciousness of distinguished merit, and makes a brief speech to the corregidor, offering in honor of the good city of Madrid to kill the bull. He turns on his heel, throws his hat by a dexterous back-handed movement over the barrier, and advances, sword and cape in hand, to where his noble enemy awaits him. The bull appears to recognize a more serious foe than any he has encountered. He stops short and eyes the newcomer curiously. It is always an impressive picture: the tortured, maddened animal, whose thin flanks are palpitating with his hot breath, his coat one shining mass of blood from the darts and the spear-thrusts, his massive neck still decked as in mockery with the fluttering flags, his fine head and muzzle seeming sharpened by the hour's terrible experience, his formidable horns crimsoned with onset; in front of this fiery bulk of force and courage, the slight, sinewy frame of the killer, whose only reliance is on his coolness and his intellect. I never saw a matador come carelessly to his work. He is usually pale and alert. He studies the bull for a moment with all his eyes. He waves the blood-red engano, or lure, before his face. If the bull rushes at it with his eyes shut, the work is easy. He has only to select his own stroke and make it. But if the bull is jealous and sly, it requires the most careful management to kill him. The disposition of the bull is developed by a few rapid passes of the red flag. This must not be continued too long: the tension of the nerves of the auditory will not bear trifling. I remember one day the crowd was aroused to fury by a bugler from the adjoining barracks playing retreat at the moment of decision. All at once the matador seizes the favorable instant. He poises his sword as the bull rushes upon him. The point enters just between the left shoulder and the spine; the long blade glides in up to the hilt. The bull reels and staggers and dies. Sometimes the matador severs the vertebrae. The effect is like magic. He lays the point of his sword between the bull's horns, as lightly as a lady who touches her cavalier with her fan, and he falls dead as a stone.
If the blow is a clean, well-delivered one, the enthusiasm of the people is unbounded. Their approval comes up in a thunderous shout of "Well done! Valiente! Viva!" A brown shower of cigars rains on the sand. The victor gathers them up: they fill his hands, his pockets, his hat. He gives them to his friends, and the aromatic shower continues. Hundreds of hats are flung into the ring. He picks them up and shies them back to their shouting owners. Sometimes a dollar is mingled with the flying compliments; but the enthusiasm of the Spaniard rarely carries him so far as that. For ten minutes after a good estocada, the matador is the most popular man in Spain.
But the trumpets sound again, the door of the Toril flies open, another bull comes rushing out, and the present interest quenches the past. The play begins again, with its sameness of purpose and its infinite variety of incident.
It is not quite accurate to say, as is often said, that the bull-fighter runs no risk. El Tato, the first sword of Spain, lost his leg in 1869, and his life was saved by the coolness and courage of Lagartijo, who succeeded him in the championship, and who was terribly wounded in the foot the next summer. Arjona killed a bull in the same year, which tossed and ruptured him after receiving his death-blow. Pepe Illo died in harness, on the sand. Every year picadors, chulos, and such small deer are killed, without gossip. I must copy the inscription on the sword which Tato presented to Lagartijo, as a specimen of tauromachian literature:—
"If, as philosophers say, gratitude is the tribute of noble souls, accept, dear Lagartijo, this present; preserve it as a sacred relic, for it symbolizes the memory of my glories, and is at the same time the mute witness of my misfortune. With it I killed my last bull named Peregrino, bred by D. Vicente Martinez, fourth of the fight of the 7th June, 1869, in which act I received the wound which has caused the amputation of my right leg. The will of man can do nothing against the designs of Providence. Nothing but resignation is left to thy affectionate friend, Antonio Sanchez [Tato]."
It is in consideration of the mingled skill and danger of the trade, that such enormous fees are paid the principal performers. The leading swordsmen receive about three hundred dollars for each performance, and they are eagerly disputed by the direction of all the arenas of Spain. In spite of these large wages, they are rarely rich. They are as wasteful and improvident as gamblers. Tato, when he lost his leg, lost his means of subsistence, and his comrades organized one or two benefits to keep him from want. Cuchares died in the Havana, and left no provision for his family.
There is a curious naivete in the play-bill of a bull-fight, the only conscientious public document I have seen in Spain. You know how we of Northern blood exaggerate the attractions of all sorts of shows, trusting to the magnanimity of the audience. "He warn't nothing like so little as that," confesses Mr. Magsman, "but where's your dwarf what is?" There are few who have the moral courage to demand their money back because they counted but thirty-nine thieves when the bills promised forty. But the management of the Madrid bull-ring knows its public too well to promise more than it is sure of performing. It announces six bulls, and positively no more. It says there will be no use of bloodhounds. It promises two picadors, with three others in reserve, and warns the public that if all five become inutilized in the combat, no more will be issued. With so fair a preliminary statement, what crowd, however inflammable, could mob the management?
Some industrious and ascetic statistician has visited Spain and interested himself in the bullring. Here are some of the results of his researches. In 1864 the number of places in all the taurine establishments of Spain was 509,283, of which 246,813 belonged to the cities, and 262,470 to the country.
In the year 1864, there were 427 bull-fights, of which 294 took place in the cities, and 13 3 in the country towns. The receipts of ninety-eight bullrings in 1864 reached the enormous sum of two hundred and seventeen and a half millions of reals (nearly $11,000,000). The 427 bull-fights which took place in Spain during the year 1864 caused the death of 2989 of these fine animals, and about 7473 horses,—something more than half the number of the cavalry of Spain. These wasted victims could have ploughed three hundred thousand hectares of land, which would have produced a million and a half hectolitres of grain, worth eighty millions of reals; all this without counting the cost of the slaughtered cattle, worth say seven or eight millions, at a moderate calculation.
Thus far the Arithmetic Man; to whom responds the tauromachian aficionado: That the bulk of this income goes to purposes of charity; that were there no bull-fights, bulls of good race would cease to be bred; that nobody ever saw a horse in a bull-ring that could plough a furrow of a hundred yards without giving up the ghost; that the nerve, dexterity, and knowledge of brute nature gained in the arena is a good thing to have in the country; that, in short, it is our way of amusing ourselves, and if you don't like it you can go home and cultivate prize-fighters, or kill two-year-old colts on the racecourse, or murder jockeys in hurdle-races, or break your own necks in steeple-chases, or in search of wilder excitement thicken your blood with beer or burn your souls out with whiskey.
And this is all we get by our well-meant effort to convince Spaniards of the brutality of bullfights. Must Chicago be virtuous before I can object to Madrid ale, and say that its cakes are unduly gingered?
Yet even those who most stoutly defend the bull-fight feel that its glory has departed and that it has entered into the era of full decadence. I was talking one evening with a Castilian gentleman, one of those who cling with most persistence to the national traditions, and he confessed that the noble art was wounded to death. "I do not refer, as many do, to the change from the old times, when gentlemen fought on their own horses in the ring. That was nonsense, and could not survive the time of Cervantes. Life is too short to learn bull-fighting. A grandee of Spain, if he knows anything else, would make a sorry torero. The good times of the art are more modern. I saw the short day of the glory of the ring when I was a boy. There was a race of gladiators then, such as the world will never see again,—mighty fighters before the king. Pepe Illo and Costillares, Romero and Paco Montes,—the world does not contain the stuff to make their counterparts. They were serious, earnest men. They would have let their right arms wither before they would have courted the applause of the mob by killing a bull outside of the severe traditions. Compare them with the men of to-day, with your Rafael Molina, who allows himself to be gored, playing with a heifer; with your frivolous boys like Frascuelo. I have seen the ring convulsed with laughter as that buffoon strutted across the arena, flirting his muleta as a manola does her skirts, the bewildered bull not knowing what to make of it. It was enough to make Illo turn in his bloody grave.
"Why, my young friend, I remember when bulls were a dignified and serious matter; when we kept account of their progress from their pasture to the capital. We had accounts of their condition by couriers and carrier-pigeons. On the day when they appeared it was a high festival in the court. All the sombreros in Spain were there, the ladies in national dress with white mantillas. The young queen always in her palco (may God guard her). The fighters of that day were high priests of art; there was something of veneration in the regard that was paid them. Duchesses threw them bouquets with billets-doux. Gossip and newspapers have destroyed the romance of common life.
"The only pleasure I take in the Plaza de Toros now is at night. The custodians know me and let me moon about in the dark. When all that is ignoble and mean has faded away with the daylight, it seems to me the ghosts of the old time come back upon the sands. I can fancy the patter of light hoofs, the glancing of spectral horns. I can imagine the agile tread of Romero, the deadly thrust of Montes, the whisper of long-vanished applause, and the clapping of ghostly hands. I am growing too old for such skylarking, and I sometimes come away with a cold in my head. But you will never see a bull-fight you can enjoy as I do these visionary festivals, where memory is the corregidor, and where the only spectators are the stars and I."
No people embrace more readily than the Spaniards the opportunity of spending a day without work. Their frequent holidays are a relic of the days when the Church stood between the people and their taskmasters, and fastened more firmly its hold upon the hearts of the ignorant and overworked masses, by becoming at once the fountain of salvation in the next world, and of rest in this. The government rather encouraged this growth of play-days, as the Italian Bourbons used to foster mendicancy, by way of keeping the people as unthrifty as possible. Lazzaroni are so much more easily managed than burghers!
It is only the holy days that are successfully celebrated in Spain. The state has tried of late years to consecrate to idle parade a few revolutionary dates, but they have no vigorous national life. They grow feebler and more colorless year by year, because they have no depth of earth.
The most considerable of these national festivals is the 2d of May, which commemorates the slaughter of patriots in the streets of Madrid by Murat. This is a political holiday which appeals more strongly to the national character of the Spaniards than any other. The mingled pride of race and ignorant hate of everything foreign which constitutes that singular passion called Spanish patriotism, or Espanolismo, is fully called into play by the recollections of the terrible scenes of their war of independence, which drove out a foreign king, and brought back into Spain a native despot infinitely meaner and more injurious. It is an impressive study in national character and thought, this self-satisfaction of even liberal Spaniards at the reflection that, by a vast and supreme effort of the nation, after countless sacrifices and with the aid of coalesced Europe, they exchanged Joseph Bonaparte for Ferdinand VII. and the Inquisition. But the victims of the Dos de Mayo fell fighting. Daoiz, Velarde, and Ruiz were bayoneted at their guns, scorning surrender. The alcalde of Mostoles, a petty village of Castile, called on Spain to rise against the tyrant. And Spain obeyed the summons of this cross-roads justice. The contempt of probabilities, the Quixotism of these successive demonstrations, endear them to the Spanish heart.
Every 2d of May the city of Madrid gives up the day to funeral honors to the dead of 1808. The city government, attended by its Maceros, in their gorgeous robes of gold and scarlet, with silver maces and long white plumes; the public institutions of all grades, with invalids and veterans and charity children; a large detachment of the army and navy,—form a vast procession at the Town Hall, and, headed by the Supreme Government, march to slow music through the Puerta del Sol and the spacious Alcala street to the granite obelisk in the Prado which marks the resting-place of the patriot dead. I saw the regent of the kingdom, surrounded by his cabinet, sauntering all a summer's afternoon under a blazing sun over the dusty mile that separates the monument from the Ayuntamiento. The Spaniards are hopelessly inefficient in these matters. The people always fill the line of march, and a rivulet of procession meanders feebly through a wilderness of mob. It is fortunate that the crowd is more entertaining than the show.
The Church has a very indifferent part in this ceremonial. It does nothing more than celebrate a mass in the shade of the dark cypresses in the Place of Loyalty, and then leaves the field clear to the secular power. But this is the only purely civic ceremony I ever saw in Spain. The Church is lord of the holidays for the rest of the year.
In the middle of May comes the feast of the ploughboy patron of Madrid,—San Isidro. He was a true Madrileno in tastes, and spent his time lying in the summer shade or basking in the winter sunshine, seeing visions, while angels came down from heaven and did his farm chores for him. The angels are less amiable nowadays, but every true child of Madrid reveres the example and envies the success of the San Isidro method of doing business. In the process of years this lazy lout has become a great saint, and his bones have done more extensive and remarkable miracle-work than any equal amount of phosphate in existence. In desperate cases of sufficient rank the doctors throw up the sponge and send for Isidro's urn, and the drugging having ceased, the noble patient frequently recovers, and much honor and profit comes thereby to the shrine of the saint. There is something of the toady in Isidro's composition. You never hear of his curing any one of less than princely rank. I read in an old chronicle of Madrid, that once when Queen Isabel the Catholic was hunting in the hills that overlook the Manzanares, near what is now the oldest and quaintest quarter of the capital, she killed a bear of great size and ferocity; and doubtless thinking it might not be considered lady-like to have done it unassisted, she gave San Isidro the credit of the lucky blow and built him a nice new chapel for it near the Church of San Andres. If there are any doubters, let them go and see the chapel, as I did. When the allied armies of the Christian kings of Spain were seeking for a passage through the hills to the Plains of Tolosa, a shepherd appeared and led them straight to victory and endless fame. After the battle, which broke the Moorish power forever in Central Spain, instead of looking for the shepherd and paying him handsomely for his timely scout-service, they found it more pious and economical to say it was San Isidro in person who had kindly made himself flesh for this occasion. By the great altar in the Cathedral of Toledo stand side by side the statues of Alonso VIIL, the Christian commander, and San Isidro brazenly swelling in the shepherd garb of that unknown guide who led Alonso and his chivalry through the tangled defiles of the Sierra Morena.
His fete is the Derby Day of Madrid. The whole town goes out to his Hermitage on the further banks of the Manzanares, and spends a day or two of the soft spring weather in noisy frolic. The little church stands on a bare brown hill, and all about it is an improvised village consisting half of restaurants and the other half of toyshops. The principal traffic is in a pretty sort of glass whistle which forms the stem of an artificial rose, worn in the button-hole in the intervals of tooting, and little earthen pig-bells, whose ringing scares away the lightning. There is but one duty of the day to flavor all its pleasures. The faithful must go into the oratory, pay a penny, and kiss a glass-covered relic of the saint which the attendant ecclesiastic holds in his hand. The bells are rung violently until the church is full; then the doors are shut and the kissing begins. They are very expeditious about it. The worshippers drop on their knees by platoons before the railing. The long-robed relic-keeper puts the precious trinket rapidly to their lips; an acolyte follows with a saucer for the cash. The glass grows humid with many breaths. The priest wipes it with a dirty napkin from time to time. The multitude advances, kisses, pays, and retires, till all have their blessing; then the doors are opened and they all pass out,—the bells ringing furiously for another detachment. The pleasures of the day are like those of all fairs and public merrymaking. Working-people come to be idle, and idle people come to have something to do. There is much eating and little drinking. The milk-stalls are busier than the wine-shops. The people are gay and jolly, but very decent and clean and orderly. To the east of the Hermitage, over and beyond the green cool valley, the city rises on its rocky hills, its spires shining in the cloudless blue. Below on the emerald meadows there are the tents and wagons of those who have come from a distance to the Romeria. The sound of guitars and the drone of peasant songs come up the hill, and groups of men are leaping in the wild barbaric dances of Iberia. The scene is of another day and time. The Celt is here, lord of the land. You can see these same faces at Donnybrook Fair. These large-mouthed, short-nosed, rosy-cheeked peasant-girls are called Dolores and Catalina, but they might be called Bridget and Kathleen. These strapping fellows, with long simian upper lips, with brown leggings and patched, mud-colored overcoats, who are leaping and swinging their cudgels in that Pyrrhic round are as good Tipperary boys as ever mobbed an agent or pounded, twenty to one, a landlord to death. The same unquestioning, fervent faith, the same superficial good-nature, the same facility to be amused, and at bottom the same cowardly and cruel blood-thirst. What is this mysterious law of race which is stronger than time, or varying climates, or changing institutions? Which is cause, and which is effect, race or religion?
The great Church holiday of the year is Corpus Christi. On this day the Host is carried in solemn procession through the principal streets, attended by the high officers of state, several battalions of each arm of the service in fresh bright uniforms, and a vast array of ecclesiastics in the most gorgeous stoles and chasubles their vestiary contains. The windows along the line of march are gayly decked with flags and tapestry. Work is absolutely suspended, and the entire population dons its holiday garb. The Puerta del Sol—at this season blazing with relentless light—is crowded with patient Madrilenos in their best clothes, the brown-cheeked maidens with flowing silks as in a ball-room, and with no protection against the ardent sky but the fluttering fan they hold in their ungloved hands. As everything is behind time in this easy-going land, there are two or three hours of broiling gossip on the glowing pavement before the Sacred Presence is announced by the ringing of silver bells. As the superb structure of filigree gold goes by, a movement of reverent worship vibrates through the crowd. Forgetful of silks and broadcloth and gossip, they fall on their knees in one party-colored mass, and, bowing their heads and beating their breasts, they mutter their mechanical prayers. There are thinking men who say these shows are necessary; that the Latin mind must see with bodily eyes the thing it worships, or the worship will fade away from its heart. If there were no cathedrals and masses, they say, there would be no religion; if there were no king, there would be no law. But we should not accept too hurriedly this ethnological theory of necessity, which would reject all principles of progress and positive good, and condemn half the human race to perpetual childhood. There was a time when we Anglo-Saxons built cathedrals and worshipped the king. Look at Salisbury and Lincoln and Ely; read the history of the growth of parliaments. There is nothing more beautifully sensuous than the religious spirit that presided over those master works of English Gothic; there is nothing in life more abject than the relics of the English love and fear of princes. But the steady growth of centuries has left nothing but the outworn shell of the old religion and the old loyalty. The churches and the castles still exist. The name of the king still is extant in the constitution. They remain as objects of taste and tradition, hallowed by a thousand memories of earlier days, but, thanks be to God who has given us the victory, the English race is now incapable of making a new cathedral or a new king.
Let us not in our safe egotism deny to others the possibility of a like improvement.
This summery month of June is rich in saints. The great apostles, John, Peter, and Paul, have their anniversaries on its closing days, and the shortest nights of the year are given up to the riotous eating of fritters in their honor. I am afraid that the progress of luxury and love of ease has wrought a change in the observance of these festivals. The feast of midsummer night is called the Verbena of St. John, which indicates that it was formerly a morning solemnity, as the vervain could not be hunted by the youths and maidens of Spain with any success or decorum at midnight. But of late years it may be that this useful and fragrant herb has disappeared from the tawny hills of Castile. It is sure that midsummer has grown too warm for any field work. So that the Madrilenos may be pardoned for spending the day napping, and swarming into the breezy Prado in the light of moon and stars and gas. The Prado is ordinarily the promenade of the better classes, but every Spanish family has its John, Paul, and Peter, and the crowded barrios of Toledo and the Penue-las pour out their ragged hordes to the popular festival. The scene has a strange gypsy wildness. From the round point of Atocha to where Cybele, throned among spouting waters, drives southward her spanking team of marble lions, the park is filled with the merry roysterers. At short intervals are the busy groups of fritter merchants; over the crackling fire a great caldron of boiling oil; beside it a mighty bowl of dough. The bunolero, with the swift precision of machinery, dips his hand into the bowl and makes a delicate ring of the tough dough, which he throws into the bubbling caldron. It remains but a few seconds, and his grimy acolyte picks it out with a long wire and throws it on the tray for sale. They are eaten warm, the droning cry continually sounding, "Bunuelos! Calientitos!" There must be millions of these oily dainties consumed on every night of the Verbena. For the more genteel revellers, the Don Juans, Pedros, and Pablos of the better sort, there are improvised restaurants built of pine planks after sunset and gone before sunrise. But the greater number are bought and eaten by the loitering crowd from the tray of the fritterman. It is like a vast gitano-camp. The hurrying crowd which is going nowhere, the blazing fires, the cries of the venders, the songs of the majos under the great trees of the Paseo, the purposeless hurly-burly, and above, the steam of the boiling oil and the dust raised by the myriad feet, form together a striking and vivid picture. The city is more than usually quiet. The stir of life is localized in the Prado. The only busy men in town are those who stand by the seething oil-pots and manufacture the brittle forage of the browsing herds. It is a jealous business, and requires the undivided attention of its professors. The ne sutor ultra crepidam of Spanish proverb is "Bunolero haz tus bunuelos,"—Fritterman, mind thy fritters. With the long days and cooler airs of the autumn begin the different fairs. These are relics of the times of tyranny and exclusive privilege, when for a few days each year, by the intervention of the Church, or as a reward for civic service, full liberty of barter and sale was allowed to all citizens. This custom, more or less modified, may be found in most cities of Europe. The boulevards of Paris swarm with little booths at Christmas-time, which begin and end their lawless commercial life within the week. In Vienna, in Leipsic, and other cities, the same waste-weir of irregular trade is periodically opened. These fairs begin in Madrid with the autumnal equinox, and continue for some weeks in October. They disappear from the Alcala to break out with renewed virulence in the avenue of Atocha, and girdle the city at last with a belt of booths. While they last they give great animation and spirit to the street life of the town. You can scarcely make your way among the heaps of gaudy shawls and handkerchiefs, cheap laces and illegitimate jewels, that cumber the pavement. When the Jews were driven out of Spain, they left behind the true genius of bargaining.
A nut-brown maid is attracted by a brilliant red and yellow scarf. She asks the sleepy merchant nodding before his wares, "What is this rag worth?"
He answers with profound indifference, "Ten reals."
"Hombre! Are you dreaming or crazy?" She drops the coveted neck-gear, and moves on, apparently horror-stricken.
The chapman calls her back peremptorily. "Don't be rash! The scarf is worth twenty reals, but for the sake of Santisima Maria I offered it to you for half price. Very well! You are not suited. What will you give?"
"Caramba! Am I buyer and seller as well? The thing is worth three reals; more is a robbery."
"Jesus! Maria! Jose! and all the family! Go thou with God! We cannot trade. Sooner than sell for less than eight reals I will raise the cover of my brains! Go thou! It is eight of the morning, and still thou dreamest."
She lays down the scarf reluctantly, saying, "Five?"
But the outraged mercer snorts scornfully, "Eight is my last word! Go to!"
She moves away, thinking how well that scarf would look in the Apollo Gardens, and casts over her shoulder a Parthian glance and bid, "Six!"
"Take it! It is madness, but I cannot waste my time in bargaining."
Both congratulate themselves on the operation. He would have taken five, and she would have given seven. How trade would suffer if we had windows in our breasts!
The first days of November are consecrated to all the saints, and to the souls of all the blessed dead. They are observed in Spain with great solemnity; but as the cemeteries are generally of the dreariest character, bare, bleak, and most forbidding under the ashy sky of the late autumn, the days are deprived of that exquisite sentiment that pervades them in countries where the graves of the dead are beautiful. There is nothing more touching than these offerings of memory you see every year in Mont Parnasse and Pere-la-Chaise. Apart from all beliefs, there is a mysterious influence for good exerted upon the living by the memory of the beloved dead. On all hearts not utterly corrupt, the thoughts that come by the graves of the departed fall like dew from heaven, and quicken into life purer and higher resolves.
In Spain, where there is nothing but desolation in graveyards, the churches are crowded instead, and the bereaved survivors commend to God their departed friends and their own stricken hearts in the dim and perfumed aisles of temples made with hands. A taint of gloom thus rests upon the recollection and the prayer, far different from the consolation that comes with the free air and the sunshine, and the infinite blue vault, where Nature conspires with revelation to comfort and cherish and console.
Christmas apparently comes in Spain on no other mission than that referred to in the old English couplet, "bringing good cheer." The Spaniards are the most frugal of people, but during the days that precede their Noche Buena, their Good Night, they seem to be given up as completely to cares of the commissariat as the most eupeptic of Germans. Swarms of turkeys are driven in from the surrounding country, and taken about the streets by their rustic herdsmen, making the roads gay with their scarlet wattles, and waking rural memories by their vociferous gobbling. The great market-place of the season is the Plaza Mayor. The ever-fruitful provinces of the South are laid under contribution, and the result is a wasteful show of tropical luxuriance that seems most incongruous under the wintry sky. There are mountains of oranges and dates, brown hillocks of nuts of every kind, store of every product of this versatile soil. The air is filled with nutty and fruity fragrance. Under the ancient arcades are the stalls of the butchers, rich with the mutton of Castile, the hams of Estremadura, and the hero-nourishing bull-beef of Andalusian pastures.
At night the town is given up to harmless racket. Nowhere has the tradition of the Latin Saturnalia been fitted with less change into the Christian calendar. Men, women, and children of the proletariat—the unemancipated slaves of necessity—go out this night to cheat their misery with noisy frolic. The owner of a tambourine is the equal of a peer; the proprietor of a guitar is the captain of his hundred. They troop through the dim city with discordant revel and song. They have little idea of music. Every one sings and sings ill. Every one dances, without grace or measure. Their music is a modulated howl of the East. Their dancing is the savage leaping of barbarians. There is no lack of couplets, religious, political, or amatory. I heard one ragged woman with a brown baby at her breast go shrieking through the Street of the Magdalen,—
"This is the eve of Christmas, No sleep from now till morn, The Virgin is in travail, At twelve will the child be born!"
Behind her stumped a crippled beggar, who croaked in a voice rough with frost and aguardiente his deep disillusion and distrust of the great:—
"This is the eve of Christmas, But what is that to me? We are ruled by thieves and robbers, As it was and will always be."
Next comes a shouting band of the youth of Spain, strapping boys with bushy locks, crisp and black almost to blueness, and gay young girls with flexible forms and dark Arab eyes that shine with a phosphorescent light in the shadows. They troop on with clacking castinets. The challenge of the mozos rings out on the frosty air,—
"This is the eve of Christmas, Let us drink and love our fill!"
And the saucy antiphon of girlish voices responds,—
"A man may be bearded and gray, But a woman can fool him still!"
The Christmas and New-Year's holidays continue for a fortnight, ending with the Epiphany. On the eve of the Day of the Kings a curious farce is performed by bands of the lowest orders of the people, which demonstrates the apparently endless naivete of their class. In every coterie of water-carriers, or mozos de cordel, there will be one found innocent enough to believe that the Magi are coming to Madrid that night, and that a proper respect to their rank requires that they must be met at the city gate. To perceive the coming of their feet, beautiful upon the mountains, a ladder is necessary, and the poor victim of the comedy is loaded with this indispensable "property." He is dragged by his gay companions, who never tire of the exquisite wit of their jest, from one gate to another, until suspicion supplants faith in the mind of the neophyte, and the farce is over.
In the burgher society of Castile this night is devoted to a very different ceremony. Each little social circle comes together in a house agreed upon. They take mottoes of gilded paper and write on each the name of some one of the company. The names of the ladies are thrown into one urn, and those of the cavaliers into another, and they are drawn out by pairs. These couples are thus condemned by fortune to intimacy during the year. The gentleman is always to be at the orders of the dame and to serve her faithfully in every knightly fashion. He has all the duties and none of the privileges of a lover, unless it be the joy of those "who stand and wait." The relation is very like that which so astonished M. de Gramont in his visit to Piedmont, where the cavalier of service never left his mistress in public and never approached her in private.
The true Carnival survives in its naive purity only in Spain. It has faded in Rome into a romping day of clown's play. In Paris it is little more than a busier season for dreary and professional vice. Elsewhere all over the world the Carnival gayeties are confined to the salon. But in Madrid the whole city, from grandee to cordwainer, goes with childlike earnestness into the enjoyment of the hour. The Corso begins in the Prado on the last Sunday before Lent, and lasts four days. From noon to night the great drive is filled with a double line of carriages two miles long, and between them are the landaus of the favored hundreds who have the privilege of driving up and down free from the law of the road. This right is acquired by the payment of ten dollars a day to city charities, and produces some fifteen thousand dollars every Carnival. In these carriages all the society of Madrid may be seen; and on foot, darting in and out among the hoofs of the horses, are the young men of Castile in every conceivable variety of absurd and fantastic disguise. There are of course pirates and Indians and Turks, monks, prophets, and kings, but the favorite costumes seem to be the Devil and the Englishman. Sometimes the Yankee is attempted, with indifferent success. He wears a ribbon-wreathed Italian bandit's hat, an embroidered jacket, slashed buckskin trousers, and a wide crimson belt,—a dress you would at once recognize as universal in Boston.
Most of the maskers know by name at least the occupants of the carriages. There is always room for a mask in a coach. They leap in, swarming over the back or the sides, and in their shrill monotonous scream they make the most startling revelations of the inmost secrets of your soul. There is always something impressive in the talk of an unknown voice, but especially is this so in Madrid, where every one scorns his own business, and devotes himself rigorously to his neighbor's. These shrieking young monks and devilkins often surprise a half-formed thought in the heart of a fair Castilian and drag it out into day and derision. No one has the right to be offended. Duchesses are called Tu! Isabel! by chin-dimpled school-boys, and the proudest beauties in Spain accept bonbons from plebeian hands. It is true, most of the maskers are of the better class. Some of the costumes are very rich and expensive, of satin and velvet heavy with gold. I have seen a distinguished diplomatist in the guise of a gigantic canary-bird, hopping briskly about in the mud with bedraggled tail-feathers, shrieking well-bred sarcasms with his yellow beak.
The charm of the Madrid Carnival is this, that it is respected and believed in. The best and fairest pass the day in the Corso, and gallant young gentlemen think it worth while to dress elaborately for a few hours of harmless and spirituelle intrigue. A society that enjoys a holiday so thoroughly has something in it better than the blase cynicism of more civilized capitals. These young fellows talk like the lovers of the old romances. I have never heard prettier periods of devotion than from some gentle savage, stretched out on the front seat of a landau under the peering eyes of his lady, safe in his disguise, if not self-betrayed, pouring out his young soul in passionate praise and prayer; around them the laughter and the cries, the cracking of whips, the roll of wheels, the presence of countless thousands, and yet these two young hearts alone under the pale winter sky. The rest of the Continent has outgrown the true Carnival. It is pleasant to see this gay relic of simpler times, when youth was young. No one here is too "swell" for it. You may find a duke in the disguise of a chimney-sweep, or a butcher-boy in the dress of a Crusader. There are none so great that their dignity would suffer by a day's reckless foolery, and there are none so poor that they cannot take the price of a dinner to buy a mask and cheat their misery by mingling for a time with their betters in the wild license of the Carnival.
The winter's gayety dies hard. Ash Wednesday is a day of loud merriment and is devoted to a popular ceremony called the Burial of the Sardine. A vast throng of workingmen carry with great pomp a link of sausage to the bank of the Manzanares and inter it there with great solemnity. On the following Saturday, after three days of death, the Carnival has a resurrection, and the maddest, wildest ball of the year takes place at the opera. Then the sackcloth and ashes of Lent come down in good earnest and the town mourns over its scarlet sins. It used to be very fashionable for the genteel Christians to repair during this season of mortification to the Church of San Gines, and scourge themselves lustily in its subterranean chambers. A still more striking demonstration was for gentlemen in love to lash themselves on the sidewalks where passed the ladies of their thoughts. If the blood from the scourges sprinkled them as they sailed by, it was thought an attention no female heart could withstand. But these wholesome customs have decayed of late unbelieving years.
The Lenten piety increases with the lengthening days. It reaches its climax on Holy Thursday. On this day all Spain goes to church: it is one of the obligatory days. The more you go, the better for you; so the good people spend the whole day from dawn to dusk roaming from one church to another, and investing an Ave and a Pater-Noster in each. This fills every street of the city with the pious crowd. No carriages are permitted. A silence like that of Venice falls on the rattling capital. With three hundred thousand people in the street, the town seems still. In 1870, a free-thinking cabman dared to drive up the Calle Alcala. He was dragged from his box and beaten half to death by the chastened mourners, who yelled as they kicked and cuffed him, "Que bruto! He will wake our Jesus."
On Good Friday the gloom deepens. No colors are worn that day by the orthodox. The senoras appear on the street in funeral garb. I saw a group of fast youths come out of the jockey club, black from hat to boots, with jet studs and sleeve-buttons. The gayest and prettiest ladies sit within the church doors and beg in the holy name of charity, and earn large sums for the poor. There are hourly services in the churches, passionate sermons from all the pulpits. The streets are free from the painted haunters of the pavement. The whole people taste the luxury of a sentimental sorrow.
Yet in these heavy days it is not the Redeemer whose sufferings and death most nearly touch the hearts of the faithful. It is Santisima Maria who is worshipped most. It is the Dolorous Mother who moves them to tears of tenderness. The presiding deity of these final days of meditation is Our Lady of Solitude.
But at last the days of mourning are accomplished. The expiation for sin is finished. The grave is vanquished, death is swallowed up in victory. Man can turn from the grief that is natural to the joy that is eternal. From every steeple the bells fling out their happy clangor in glad tidings of great joy. The streets are flooded once more with eager multitudes, gay as in wedding garments. Christ has arisen! The heathen myth of the awakening of nature blends the old tradition with the new gospel. The vernal breezes sweep the skies clean and blue. Birds are pairing in the budding trees. The streams leap down from the melting snow of the hills. The brown turf takes a tint of verdure. Through the vast frame of things runs a quick shudder of teeming power. In the heart of man love and will mingle into hope. Hail to the new life and the ever-new religion! Hail to the resurrection morning!
AN HOUR WITH THE PAINTERS
As a general thing it is well to distrust a Spaniard's superlatives. He will tell you that his people are the most amiable in the world, but you will do well to carry your revolver into the interior. He will say there are no wines worth drinking but the Spanish, but you will scarcely forswear Clicquot and Yquem on the mere faith of his assertion. A distinguished general once gravely assured me that there was no literature in the world at all to be compared with the productions of the Castilian mind. All others, he said, were but pale imitations of Spanish master-work.
Now, though you may be shocked at learning such unfavorable facts of 'Shakespeare and Goethe and Hugo, you will hardly condemn them to an Auto da fe, on the testimony even of a grandee of Spain.
But when a Spaniard assures you that the picture-gallery of Madrid is the finest in the world, you may believe him without reserve. He probably does not know what he is talking about. He may never have crossed the Pyrenees. He has no dream of the glories of Dresden, or Florence, or the Louvre. It is even possible that he has not seen the matchless collection he is boasting of. He crowns it with a sweeping superlative simply because it is Spanish. But the statement is nevertheless true.
The reason of this is found in that gigantic and overshadowing fact which seems to be an explanation of everything in Spain,—the power and the tyranny of the House of Austria. The period of the vast increase of Spanish dominion coincided with that of the meridian glory of Italian art. The conquest of Granada was finished as the divine child Raphael began to meddle with his father's brushes and pallets, and before his short life ended Charles, Burgess of Ghent, was emperor and king.
The dominions he governed and transmitted to his son embraced Spain, the Netherlands, Franche-Comte, the Milanese, Naples, and Sicily; that is to say, those regions where art in that age and the next attained its supreme development. He was also lord of the New World, whose inexhaustible mines poured into the lap of Europe a constant stream of gold. Hence came the riches and the leisure necessary to art.
Charles V., as well as his great contemporary and rival, Francis I., was a munificent protector of art. He brought from Italy and Antwerp some of the most perfect products of their immortal masters. He was the friend and patron of Titian, and when, weary of the world and its vanities, he retired to the lonely monastery of Yuste to spend in devout contemplation the evening of his days, the most precious solace of his solitude was that noble canvas of the great Venetian, where Charles and Philip are borne, in penitential guise and garb, on luminous clouds into the visible glory of the Most High.
These two great kings made a good use of their unbounded opportunities. Spain became illuminated with the glowing canvases of the incomparable Italians. The opening up of the New World beyond seas, the meteoric career of European and African conquest in which the emperor had won so much land and glory, had given an awakening shock to the intelligent youth of Spain, and sent them forth in every avenue of enterprise. This jealously patriotic race, which had remained locked up by the mountains and the seas for centuries, started suddenly out, seeking adventures over the earth. The mind of Spain seemed suddenly to have brightened and developed like that of her great king, who, in his first tourney at Valladolid, wrote with proud sluggishness Nondum—not yet—on his maiden shield, and a few years later in his young maturity adopted the legend of arrogant hope and promise,—Plus Ultra. There were seen two emigrations of the young men of Spain, eastward and westward. The latter went for gold and material conquest into the American wilds; and the former, led by the sacred love of art, to that land of beauty and wonder, then, now, and always the spiritual shrine of all peoples,—Italy.
A brilliant young army went out from Spain on this new crusade of the beautiful. From the plains of Castile and the hills of Navarre went, among others, Berruguete, Becerra, and the marvellous deaf-mute Navarrete. The luxurious city of Valentia sent Juan de Juanes and Ribalta. Luis de Vargas went out from Seville, and from Cordova the scholar, artist, and thinker, Paul of Cespedes. The schools of Rome and Venice and Florence were thronged with eager pilgrims, speaking an alien Latin and filled with a childlike wonder and appreciation.
In that stirring age the emigration was not all in one direction. Many distinguished foreigners came down to Spain, to profit by the new love of art in the Peninsula. It was Philip of Burgundy who carved, with Berruguete, those miracles of skill and patience we admire to-day in the choir of Toledo. Peter of Champagne painted at Seville the grand altar-piece that so comforted the eyes and the soul of Murillo. The wild Greek bedouin, George Theotocopouli, built the Mozarabic chapel and filled the walls of convents with his weird ghost-faces. Moor, or Moro, came from the Low Countries, and the Carducci brothers from Italy, to seek their fortunes in Madrid. Torrigiani, after breaking Michael Angelo's nose in Florence, fled to Granada, and died in a prison of the Inquisition for smashing the face of a Virgin which a grandee of Spain wanted to steal from him.
These immigrations, and the refluent tide of Spanish students from Italy, founded the various schools of Valentia, Toledo, Seville, and Madrid. Madrid soon absorbed the school of Toledo, and the attraction of Seville was too powerful for Valentia. The Andalusian school counts among its early illustrations Vargas, Roelas, the Castillos, Herrera, Pacheco, and Moya, and among its later glories Velazquez, Alonzo Cano, Zurbaran, and Murillo, last and greatest of the mighty line. The school of Madrid begins with Berruguete and Na-varrete, the Italians Caxes, Rizi, and others, who are followed by Sanchez Coello, Pantoja, Collantes. Then comes the great invader Velazquez, followed by his retainers Pareja and Carreno, and absorbs the whole life of the school. Claudio Coello makes a good fight against the rapid decadence. Luca Giordano comes rattling in from Naples with his whitewash-brush, painting a mile a minute, and classic art is ended in Spain with the brief and conscientious work of Raphael Mengs.
There is therefore little distinction of schools in Spain. Murillo, the glory of Seville, studied in Madrid, and the mighty Andalusian, Velazquez, performed his enormous life's work in the capital of Castile.
It now needs but one word to show how the Museum of Madrid became so rich in masterpieces. During the long and brilliant reigns of Charles V. and Philip II., when art had arrived at its apogee in Italy, and was just beginning its splendid career in Spain, these powerful monarchs had the lion's share of all the best work that was done in the world. There was no artist so great but he was honored by the commands of these lords of the two worlds. They thus formed in their various palaces, pleasure-houses, and cloisters a priceless collection of pictures produced in the dawn of the Spanish and the triumphant hey-day of Italian genius. Their frivolous successors lost provinces and kingdoms, honor and prestige, but they never lost their royal prerogative nor their taste for the arts. They consoled themselves for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by the delights of sensual life, and imagined they preserved some distant likeness to their great forerunners by encouraging and protecting Velazquez and Lope de Vega and other intellectual giants of that decaying age. So while, as the result of a vicious system of kingly and spiritual thraldom, the intellect of Spain was forced away from its legitimate channels of thought and action, under the shadow of the royal prerogative, which survived the genuine power of the older kings, art flourished and bloomed, unsuspected and unpersecuted by the coward jealousy of courtier and monk.
The palace and the convent divided the product of those marvellous days. Amid all the poverty of the failing state, it was still the king and clergy who were best able to appropriate the works of genius. This may have contributed to the decay of art. The immortal canvases passed into oblivion in the salons of palaces and the cells of monasteries. Had they been scattered over the land and seen by the people, they might have kept alive the spark that kindled their creators. But exclu-siveness is inevitably followed by barrenness. When the great race of Spanish artists ended, these matchless works were kept in the safe obscurity of palaces and religious establishments. History was working in the interests of this Museum. The pictures were held by the clenched dead hand of the Church and the throne. They could not be sold or distributed. They made the dark places luminous, patiently biding their time.
It was long enough coming, and it was a despicable hand that brought them into the light. Ferdinand VII. thought his palace would look fresher if the walls were covered with French paper, and so packed all the pictures off to the empty building on the Prado, which his grandfather had built for a museum. As soon as the glorious collection was exposed to the gaze of the world, its incontestable merit was at once recognized. Especially were the works of Velazquez, hitherto almost an unknown name in Europe, admired and appreciated. Ferdinand, finding he had done a clever thing unawares, began to put on airs and poser for a patron of art. The gallery was still further immensely enriched on the exclaustra-tion of the monasteries, by the hidden treasures of the Escorial, and other spoils of mortmain. And now, as a collection of masterpieces, it has no equal in the world.
A few figures will prove this. It contains more than two thousand pictures already catalogued,—all of them worth a place on the walls. Among these there are ten by Raphael, forty-three by Titian, thirty-four by Tintoret, twenty-five by Paul Veronese. Rubens has the enormous contingent of sixty-four. Of Teniers, whose works are sold for fabulous sums for the square inch, this extraordinary museum possesses no less than sixty finished pictures,—the Louvre considers itself rich with fourteen. So much for a few of the foreigners. Among the Spaniards the three greatest names could alone fill a gallery. There are sixty-five Velazquez, forty-six Murillos, and fifty-eight Riberas. Compare these figures with those of any other gallery in existence, and you will at once recognize the hopeless superiority of this collection. It is not only the greatest collection in the world, but the greatest that can ever be made until this is broken up.
But with all this mass of wealth it is not a complete, nor, properly speaking, a representative museum. You cannot trace upon its walls the slow, groping progress of art towards perfection. It contains few of what the book-lovers call incunabula. Spanish art sprang out full-armed from the mature brain of Rome. Juan de Juanes carne back from Italy a great artist. The schools of Spain were budded on a full-bearing tree. Charles and Philip bought masterpieces, and cared Jittle for the crude efforts of the awkward pencils of the necessary men who came before Raphael. There is not a Perugino in Madrid. There is nothing Byzantine, no trace of Renaissance; nothing of the patient work of the early Flemings,—the art of Flanders comes blazing in with the full splendor of Rubens and Van Dyck. And even among the masters, the representation is most unequal. Among the wilderness of Titians and Tintorets you find but two Domenichinos and two Correg-gios. Even in Spanish art the gallery is far from complete. There is almost nothing of such genuine painters as Zurbaran and Herrera.
But recognizing all this, there is, in this glorious temple, enough to fill the least enthusiastic lover of art with delight and adoration for weeks and months together. If one knew he was to be blind in a year, like the young musician in Auerbach's exquisite romance, I know of no place in the world where he could garner up so precious a store of memories for the days of darkness, memories that would haunt the soul with so divine a light of consolation, as in that graceful Palace of the Prado.
It would be a hopeless task to attempt to review with any detail the gems of this collection. My memory is filled with the countless canvases that adorn the ten great halls. If I refer to my notebook I am equally discouraged by the number I have marked for special notice. The masterpieces are simply innumerable. I will say a word of each room, and so give up the unequal contest.
As you enter the Museum from the north, you are in a wide sturdy-columned vestibule, hung with splashy pictures of Luca Giordano. To your right is the room devoted to the Spanish school; to the left, the Italian. In front is the grand gallery where the greatest works of both schools are collected. In the Spanish saloon there is an indefinable air of severity and gloom. It is less perfectly lighted than some others, and there is something forbidding in the general tone of the room. There are prim portraits of queens and princes, monks in contemplation, and holy people in antres vast and deserts idle. Most visitors come in from a sense of duty, look hurriedly about, and go out with a conscience at ease; in fact, there is a dim suggestion of the fagot and the rack about many of the Spanish masters. At one end of this gallery the Prometheus of Ribera agonizes chained to his rock. His gigantic limbs are flung about in the fury of immortal pain. A vulture, almost lost in the blackness of the shadows, is tugging at his vitals. His brow is convulsed with the pride and anguish of a demigod. It is a picture of horrible power. Opposite hangs one of the few Zurbarans of the gallery,—also a gloomy and terrible work. A monk kneels in shadows which, by the masterly chiaroscuro of this ascetic artist, are made to look darker than blackness. Before him in a luminous nimbus that burns its way through the dark, is the image of the crucified Saviour, head downwards. So remarkable is the vigor of the drawing and the power of light in this picture that you can imagine you see the resplendent crucifix suddenly thrust into the shadow by the strong hands of invisible spirits, and swayed for a moment only before the dazzled eyes of the ecstatic solitary.
But after you have made friends with this room it will put off its forbidding aspect, and you will find it hath a stern look but a gentle heart. It has two lovely little landscapes by Murillo, showing how universal was that wholesome genius. Also one of the largest landscapes of Velazquez, which, when you stand near it, seems a confused mass of brown daubs, but stepping back a few yards becomes a most perfect view of the entrance to a royal park. The wide gate swings on its pivot before your eyes. A court cortege moves in,—the long, dark alley stretches off for miles directly in front, without any trick of lines or curves; the artist has painted the shaded air. To the left a patch of still water reflects the dark wood, and above there is a distant and tranquil sky. Had Velazquez not done such vastly greater things, his few landscapes would alone have won him fame enough. He has in this room a large number of royal portraits,—one especially worth attention, of Philip III. The scene is by the shore,—a cool foreground of sandy beach,—a blue-gray stretch of rippled water, and beyond, a low promontory between the curling waves and the cirrus clouds. The king mounts a magnificent gray horse, with a mane and tail like the broken rush of a cascade. The keeping is wonderful; a fresh sea breeze blows out of the canvas. A brilliant bit of color is thrown into the red, gold-fringed scarf of the horseman, fluttering backward over his shoulder. Yet the face of the king is, as it should be, the principal point of the picture,—the small-eyed, heavy-mouthed, red-lipped, fair, self-satisfied face of these Austrian despots. It is a handsomer face than most of Velazquez, as it was probably painted from memory and lenient tradition. For Philip III. was gathered to his fathers in the Escorial before Velazquez came up from Andalusia to seek his fortune at the court. The first work he did in Madrid was to paint the portrait of the king, which so pleased his majesty that he had it repeated ad nauseam. You see him served up in every form in this gallery,—on foot, on horseback, in full armor, in a shooting-jacket, at picnics, and actually on his knees at his prayers! We wonder if Velazquez ever grew tired of that vacant face with its contented smirk, or if in that loyal age the smile of royalty was not always the sunshine of the court?
There is a most instructive study of faces in the portraits of the Austrian line. First comes Charles V., the First of Spain, painted by Titian at Augsburg, on horseback, in the armor he wore at Muhl-berg, his long lance in rest, his visor up over the eager, powerful face,—the eye and beak of an eagle, the jaw of a bull-dog, the face of a born ruler, a man of prey. And yet in the converging lines about the eyes, in the premature gray hair, in the nervous, irritable lips, you can see the promise of early decay, of an age that will be the spoil of superstition and bigotry. It is the face of a man who could make himself emperor and hermit. In his son, Philip II., the soldier dies out and the bigot is intensified. In the fine portrait by Pantoja, of Philip in his age, there is scarcely any trace of the fresh, fair youth that Titian painted as Adonis. It is the face of a living corpse; of a ghastly pallor, heightened by the dull black of his mourning suit, where all passion and feeling have died out of the livid lips and the icy eyes. Beside him hangs the portrait of his rickety, feebly passionate son, the unfortunate Don Carlos. The forehead of the young prince is narrow and ill-formed; the Austrian chin is exaggerated one degree more; he looks a picture of fitful impulse. His brother, Philip III., we have just seen, fair and inane,—a monster of cruelty, who burned Jews and banished Moors, not from malice, but purely from vacuity of spirit; his head broadens like a pine-apple from the blond crest to the plump jowls. Every one knows the head of Philip IV.,—he was fortunate in being the friend of Velazquez,—the high, narrow brow, the long, weak face, the yellow, curled mustache, the thick, red lips, and the ever lengthening Hapsburg chin. But the line of Austria ends with the utmost limit of caricature in the face of Charles the Bewitched! Carreno has given us an admirable portrait of this unfortunate,—the forehead caved in like the hat of a drunkard, the red-lidded eyes staring vacantly, a long, thin nose absurd as a Carnival disguise, an enormous mouth which he could not shut, the under-jaw projected so prodigiously,—a face incapable of any emotion but fear. And yet in gazing at this idiotic mask you are reminded of another face you have somewhere seen, and are startled to remember it is the resolute face of the warrior and statesman, the king of men, the Kaiser Karl. Yes, this pitiable being was the descendant of the great emperor, and for that sufficient reason, although he was an impotent and shivering idiot, although he could not sleep without a friar in his bed to keep the devils away, for thirty-five years this scarecrow ruled over Spain, and dying made a will whose accomplishment bathed the Peninsula in blood. It must be confessed this institution of monarchy is a luxury that must be paid for.