The Land of The Blessed Virgin; Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia
by William Somerset Maugham
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Beside this, however, the Andalusians are much attached to children, and it is pleasant to see the real fondness which exists between various members of a family. One singular point I have noted, that although the Spanish marry for love rather than from convenience, a wife puts kindred before husband, her affection remaining chiefly where it was before marriage. But if the moralist desires yet more solid virtues, he need only inquire of the first Sevillan he meets, who will give at shortest notice, in choice and fluent language, a far more impressive list than I could ever produce.


[Sidenote: Don Juan Tenorio]

On its own behalf each country seems to choose one man, historical or imaginary, to stand for the race, making as it were an incarnation of all the virtues and all the vices wherewith it is pleased to charge itself; and nothing really better explains the character of a people than their choice of a national hero. Fifty years ago John Bull was the typical Englishman. Stout, rubicund and healthy, with a loud voice and a somewhat aggressive manner, he belonged distinctly to the middle classes. He had a precise idea of his rights and a flattering opinion of his merits; he was peaceable, but ready enough to fight for commercial advantages, or if roused, for conscience sake. And when this took place he possessed always the comforting assurance that the Almighty was on his side; he put his faith without hesitation on the Bible and on the superiority of the English Nation. For foreigners he had a magnificent contempt and distinguished between them and monkeys only by a certain mental effort. Art he thought nasty, literature womanish; he was a Tory, middle-aged and well-to-do.

But nowadays all that is changed; John Bull, having amassed great wealth, has been gathered to his fathers and now disports himself in an early Victorian paradise furnished with horse-hair sofas and mahogany sideboards. His son reigns in his stead; and though perhaps not officially recognised as England's archetype, his appearance in novel and in drama, in the illustrated papers, in countless advertisements, proves the reality of his sway. It is his image that rests in the heart of British maidens, his the example that British youths industriously follow.

But John Bull, Junior, has added his mother's maiden name to his own, and remembers with pleasure that he belongs to a good old county family. He has changed his address from Bedford Square to South Kensington, and has been educated at a Public School and at a University. Young, tall and fair-haired, there is nothing to suggest that he will ever have that inelegant paunch which prevented the father, even in his loftiest moments of moral indignation, from being dignified. Of course he is a soldier, for the army is still the only profession for a gentleman, and England's hero is that above all things. His morals are unexceptional, since to the ten commandments of Moses he has added the decalogue of good form. His clothes, whether he wears a Norfolk jacket or a frock coat, fit to perfection. He is a good shot, a daring rider, a serviceable cricketer. His heart beats with simple emotions, he will ever cheer at the sight of the Union Jack, and the strains of Rule Britannia bring patriotic tears to his eyes. Of late, (like myself,) he has become an Imperialist. His intentions are always strictly honourable, and he would not kiss the tip of a woman's fingers except Hymen gave him the strictest rights to do so. If he became enamoured of a lady with whom such tender sentiments should not be harboured, he would invariably remember his duty at the psychological moment, and with many moving expressions renounce her: in fact he is a devil at renouncing women. I wonder it flatters them.

Contrast with this pattern of excellence, eminently praiseworthy if somewhat dull, Don Juan Tenorio, who stands in exactly the same relation to the Andalusians as does John Bull to the English. He is a worthless, heartless creature, given over to the pursuit of emotion. The main lines of the story are well known. The legend, so far as Seville is concerned, (industrious persons have found analogues throughout the world,) appears to be founded on fact. There actually lived a Comendador de Calatrava who was killed by Don Juan after the abduction of his daughter. The perfect amorist, according to the Cronica de Sevilla, was then inveigled into the church where lay his enemy and assassinated by the Franciscans, who spread the pious fiction that the image of his victim, descending from its pedestal, had itself exacted vengeance. It was an unfortunate invention, for the catastrophe has proved a stumbling-block to all that have dealt with the subject. The Spaniards of Molina's day may not have minded the clumsy deus ex machina, but later writers have been able to make nothing of it. In Moliere's play, for instance, the grotesque statue is absurdly inapposite, for his Don Juan is a wit and a cynic, a courtier of Louis XIV., with whose sins avenging gods are out of all proportion. Love for him is an intellectual exercise and a pastime. 'Constancy,' he says, 'is only good for fools. We owe ourselves to pretty women in general, and the mere fact of having met one does not absolve us from our duty to others. The birth of passion has an inexplicable charm, and the pleasure of love is in variety.' And Zorilla, whose version is the most poetic of them all, has succeeded in giving only a ridiculous exhibition of waxworks.

But the monk, Tirso de Molina, who was the first to apply literary form to the legend, alone gives the character in its primitive simplicity. He drew the men of his time; and his compatriots, recognising themselves, have made the work immortal. For Spain, at all events, the type has been irrevocably fixed. Don Juan Tenorio was indeed a Spaniard of his age, a man of turbulent instincts, with a love of adventure and a fine contempt for danger, of an overwhelming pride; careful of his own honour, and careless of that of others. He looked upon every woman as lawful prey and hesitated at neither perjury nor violence to gain his ends; despair and tears left him indifferent. Love for him was purely carnal, with nothing of the timid flame of pastoral romance, nor of the chivalrous and metaphysic passion of Provence; it was a fierce, consuming fire which quickly burnt itself out. He was a vulgar and unoriginal seducer who stole favours in the dark by pretending to be the lady's chosen lover, or induced guileless maids to trust him under promise of marriage, then rode away as fast as his horse could carry him. The monotony of his methods and their success are an outrage to the intelligence of the sex. But for all his scoffing he remained a true Catholic, devoutly believing that the day would come when he must account for his acts; and he proposed, when too old to commit more sins, to repent and make his peace with the Almighty.

It is significant that the Andalusians have thus chosen Don Juan Tenorio, for he is an abstract, with the lines somewhat subdued by the advance of civilisation, of the national character. For them his vices, his treachery, his heartlessness, have nothing repellent; nor does his inconstancy rob him of feminine sympathy. He is, indeed, a far greater favourite with the ladies than John Bull. The Englishman they respect, they know he will make a good husband and a model father; but he is too monogamous to arouse enthusiasm.


[Sidenote: Women of Andalusia]

It is meet and just that the traveller who desires a closer acquaintance with the country wherein he sojourns than is obtained by the Cockney tripper, should fall in love. The advantages of this proceeding are manifold and obvious. He will acquire the language with a more rapid facility; he will look upon the land with greater sympathy and hence with sharper insight; and little particularities of life will become known to him, which to the dreary creature who surveys a strange world from the portico of an expensive hotel, must necessarily lie hid. If I personally did not arrive at that delectable condition the fault is with the immortal gods rather than with myself; for in my eagerness to learn the gorgeous tongue of Calderon and of Cervantes, I placed myself purposely in circumstances where I thought the darts of young Cupid could never fail to miss me. But finally I was reduced to Ollendorf's Grammar. However, these are biographical details of interest to none but myself; they are merely to serve as preface for certain observations upon the women whom the traveller in the evening sees hurrying through the Sierpes on their way home.

Human beauty is the most arbitrary of things, and the Englishman, accustomed to the classic type of his own countrywomen, will at first perhaps be somewhat disappointed with the excellence of Spain. It consists but seldom in any regularity of feature, for their appeal is to the amorist rather than to the sculptor in marble. Their red lips carry suggestions of burning kisses, so that his heart must be hard indeed who does not feel some flutterings at their aspect. The teeth are small, very white, regular. Face and body, indeed, are but the expression of a passionate nature.

But when I write of Spanish women I think of you, Rosarito; I find suddenly that it is no impersonal creature that fills my mind, but you—you! When I state solemnly that their greatest beauty lies in their hair and eyes, it is of you I think; it is your dark eyes that were lustrous, soft as velvet, caressing sometimes, and sometimes sparkling with fiery glances. (Alas! that I can find but hackneyed phrases to describe those heart-disturbers!) And when I say that the eyebrows of a Spanish woman are not often so delicately pencilled as with many an English girl, I remember that yours were thick; and the luxuriance gave you a certain tropical and savage charm. And your hair was plentiful and curling, intensely black; I believe it was your greatest care in life. Don't you remember how often you explained to me that nothing was so harmful as to brush it, and how proud you were that it hung in glorious locks to your very knees?

Hardly any girl in Seville is too poor to have a peinadora to do her hair; and these women go from house to house, combing and arranging the coiffure for such infinitesimal sums as half a real, which is little more than a penny.

Again I try to be impersonal. The complexion ranges through every quality from dark olive to pearly white; but yours, Rosarito, was like the very finest ivory, a perfect miracle of delicacy and brilliance; and the blood in the cheeks shone through with a rich, soft red. I used to think it was a colour by itself, not to be found on palettes, the carnation of your cheeks, Rosarito. And none could walk with such graceful dignity as you; it was a pleasure to watch your perfect ease, your self-command. Your feet, I think, were somewhat long; but your hands were wonderful, very small, admirably modelled, with little tapering fingers, and the most adorable filbert nails. Don't you remember how I used to look at them, and turn them over and discuss them point by point? And if ever I kissed their soft, warm palms, (I think it possible, though I have no vivid recollections,) remember that I was twenty-three; and it was certainly an appropriate gesture in the little comedy which to our mutual entertainment we played so gravely.

Now, as I write, my heart goes pit-a-pat, thinking of you, Rosarito; and I'm sure that if we had over again that charming time, I should fall head over ears in love. Oh, you know we were both fibbing when we vowed we adored one another; I am a romancer by profession, and you by nature. We parted joyously, and you had the grace not to force a tear, and neither of our hearts was broken. Where are you now, I wonder; and do you ever think of me?

* * *

The whole chapter of Andalusian beauty is unfolded in the tobacco factory at Seville. Six thousand women work there, at little tables placed by the columns which uphold the roof; they are of all ages, of all types; plain, pretty, commonplace, beautiful; and ten, perhaps, are lovely. The gipsies are disappointing, not so comely as the pure Spaniards; and they attract only by the sphinx-like mystery of their copper-coloured skin, by their hard, unfathomable eyes.

The Sevillans are perhaps inclined to stoutness, but that is a charm in their lover's sight, and often have a little down on the upper lip, than which, when it amounts to no more than a shadow, nothing can be more enchanting. They look with malicious eyes as you saunter through room after room in the factory; it is quite an experience to run the gauntlet of their numerous tongues, making uncomplimentary remarks about your person, sometimes to your embarrassment offering you the carnation from their hair, or other things. Their clothes are suspended to the pillars, and their costume in summer is more adapted for coolness than for the inspection of decorous foreigners. They may bring with them babies, and many a girl will have a cradle by her side, which she rocks with one foot as her fingers work nimbly at the cigarettes.

They are very oriental, these women with voluptuous forms; they have no education, and with all their charm are unutterably stupid; they do not read, and find even newspapers tiresome! Those whose circumstances do not force them to work for their living, love nothing better than to lie for long hours on a sofa, neither talking nor thinking, in easy gowns, untrammelled by tight-fitting things. In the morning they put on a mantilla and go to mass, and besides, except to pay a polite visit on a friend or to drive in the Paseo, hardly leave the house. They are content with the simplest life. They adore their children, and willingly devote themselves entirely to them; they seem never to be bored.

For them the days must come and go without distinction. Their fleeting beauty leaves them imperceptibly; they grow fat, they grow thin, wrinkled, and gaunt; the years pass and their life proceeds without change. They do not think, they do not live: they merely exist, and they die, and that is the end of it. I suppose they are as happy as any one else. After all, taking it from one point of view, it matters very little what sort of life one leads, there are so many people in the world, such millions have come and gone, such millions will come and go. If an individual makes no use of his hour what does it signify? He is only one among countless hordes. In the existence of these handsome creatures, so passionate and yet so apathetic, there are no particular pleasures beside the simple joys of sense, but on the other hand, beyond the inevitable separations of death, there are no outstanding griefs. They propagate their species, and that, perhaps, is the only quite certain duty that human beings have.


[Sidenote: The Dance]

Cervantes said that there was never born a Spanish woman but she was made to dance; and he might have added that in the South, at all events, most men share the enviable faculty. The dance is one of the most characteristic features of Andalusia, and as an amusement rivals in popularity even the bull-fight. The Sevillans dance on every possible occasion, and nothing pleases them more than the dexterity of professionals. Before a company has been assembled half an hour some one is bound to suggest that a couple should show their skill; room is quickly made, the table pushed against the wall, the chairs drawn back, and they begin. Even when men are alone in a tavern, drinking wine, two of them will often enough stand up to tread a seguidilla. On a rainy day it is the entertainment that naturally recommends itself.

Riding through the villages round Seville on Sundays it delighted me to see little groups making a circle about the house doors, in the middle of which were dancing two girls in bright-coloured clothes, with roses in their hair. A man seated on a broken chair was twanging a guitar, the surrounders beat their hands in time and the dancers made music with their castanets. Sometimes on a feast-day I came across a little band, arrayed in all its best, that had come into the country for an afternoon's diversion, and sat on the grass in the shade of summer or in the wintry sun. Whenever Andalusians mean to make merry some one will certainly bring a guitar, or if not the girls have their castanets; and though even these are wanting and no one can be induced to sing, a rhythmical clapping of hands will be sufficient accompaniment, and the performers will snap their fingers in lieu of castanets.

It is charming then to see the girls urge one another to dance; each vows with much dramatic gesture that she cannot, calling the Blessed Virgin to witness that she has strained her ankle and has a shocking cold. But some youth springs up and volunteers, inviting a particular damsel to join him. She is pushed forward, and the couple take their places. The man carefully puts down his cigarette, jams his broad-brimmed hat on his head, buttons his short coat and arches his back! The spectators cry: 'Ole!' The girl passes an arranging hand over her hair. The measure begins. The pair stand opposite one another, a yard or so distant, and foot it in accordance with one another's motions. It is not a thing of complicated steps, but, as one might expect from its Moorish origin, of movements of the body. With much graceful swaying from side to side the executants approach and retire, and at the middle of the dance change positions. It finishes with a great clapping of hands, the maiden sinks down among her friends and begins violently to fan herself, while her partner, with a great affectation of nonchalance, takes a seat and relights his cigarette.

And in the music-halls the national dances are, with the national songs, the principal attraction. Seville possesses but one of these establishments; it is a queer place, merely the patio of a private house, with a stage at one end, in which chairs and tables have been placed. On holiday nights it is crammed with students, with countrymen and artisans, with the general riff-raff of the town, and with women of no particular reputation. Now and then appears a gang of soldiers, giving a peculiar note with the uniformity of their brown holland suits; and occasionally a couple of British sailors come sauntering in with fine self-assurance, their fair hair and red cheeks contrasting with the general swartness. You pay no entrance money, but your refreshment costs a real—which is twopence ha'penny; and for that you may enjoy not only a cup of coffee or a glass of manzanilla, but an evening's entertainment. As the night wears on the heat is oven-like, and the air is thick and grey with the smoke of countless cigarettes.

The performance consists of three 'turns' only, and these are repeated every hour. The company boasts generally of a male singer, a female singer, and of the corps de ballet, which is made up of six persons. Spain is the stronghold of the out-of-date, and I suppose it alone preserves the stiff muslin ballet-skirts which delighted our fathers. To see half-a-dozen dancers thus attired in a remote Andalusian music-hall is so entirely unexpected that it quite takes the breath away. But by the time the traveller reaches Seville he must be used to disillusion, and he must be ingenuous indeed if he expects the Spaniards to have preserved their national costume for the most national of their pastimes. Yet the dances are still Spanish; and even if the pianoforte has ousted the guitar, the castanets give, notwithstanding, a characteristic note which the aggressive muslin and the pink, ill-fitting tights cannot entirely destroy.

* * *

But I remember one dancer who was really a great artist. She was ill-favoured, of middle age, thin; but every part of her was imbued with grace, expressive, from the tips of her toes to the tips of her fingers. The demands of the public sometimes forced upon her odious ballet-skirts, sometimes she wasted her talent on the futilities of skirt-dancing; but chiefly she loved the national measures, and her phenomenal leanness made her only comfortable in the national dress. She travelled from place to place in Spain with another woman whom she had taught to dance, and whose beauty she used cleverly as a foil to her own uncomeliness; and so wasted herself in these low resorts, earning hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together. I wish I could remember her name.

When she began to dance you forgot her ugliness; her gaunt arms gained shape, her face was transfigured, her dark eyes flashed, and her mouth and smile said a thousand eloquent things. Even the nape of her neck, which in most women has no significance, with her was expressive. A consummate actress, she exhibited all her skill in the bolero, which represents a courtship; she threw aside the castanets and wrapped herself in a mantilla, while her companion, dressed as a man, was hidden in a capa. The two passed one another, he trying to see the lady's face, which she averted, but not too strenuously; he pursued, she fled, but not too rapidly. Dropping his cloak, the lover attacked with greater warmth, while alternately she repelled and lured him on. At last she too cast away the mantilla. They seized the castanets and danced round one another with all manner of graceful and complicated evolutions, making love, quarrelling, pouting, exhibiting every variety of emotion. The dance grew more passionate, the steps flew faster, till at last, with the music, both stopped suddenly dead still. This abrupt cessation is one of the points most appreciated by a Spanish audience. 'Ole!' they cry,'bien parado!'

But when, unhampered by a partner, this nameless, exquisite dancer gave full play to her imagination, there was no end to the wildness of her fancy, to the intricacy and elaboration of her measures, to the gay audacity of her movements. She performed a hundred feats, each more difficult than the other—and all impossible to describe.

* * *

Then, between Christmas and Lent, at midnight on Saturdays and Sundays, the tables and the chairs are cleared away for the masked ball; and you will see the latest mode of Spanish dance. The women are of the lowest possible class; some, with a kind of savage irony, disguised as nuns, others in grotesque dominos of their own devising; but most wear every-day clothes with great shawls draped about them. The men are of a corresponding station, and through the evening wear their broad-brimmed hats. On the stage is a brass band, which plays one single tune till day-break, and to that one single measure is danced—the habanera.

In this alone may people take part as in any round dance. The couples hold one another in the very tightest embrace, the lady clasping her arms round her partner's neck, while he places both his about her waist. They go round the room very slowly, immediately behind one another; it is a kind of straight polka, with a peculiar, rhythmic swaying of the body; the feet are not lifted off the floor, and you do not turn at all. The highest gravity is preserved throughout, and the whole performance is—well, very oriental.


[Sidenote: A Feast Day]

I arrived in Seville on the Eve of the Immaculate Conception. All day people had been preparing to celebrate the feast, decorating their houses with great banners of blue and white; and at night the silent, narrow streets had a strange appearance, for in every window were lighted candles, throwing around them a white, unusual glare; they looked a little like the souls of infants dead. All day the bells of a hundred churches had been ringing, half drowned by the rolling peals of the Giralda.

It had been announced that the archbishop would himself officiate at the High Mass in the Blessed Virgin's honour; and early in the morning the cathedral steps were crowded with black-robed women, making their way to the great sacristy where was to be held the service. I joined the throng, and entering through the darkness of the porch, was almost blinded by the brilliant altar, upon which stood a life-sized image of the Virgin, surrounded by a huge aureole, with great bishops, all of silver, on either side. It was ablaze with the light of many candles, so that the nave was thrown into deep shadow, and the kneeling women were scarcely visible.

The canons in the choir listlessly droned their prayers. At last the organ burst forth, and a long procession slowly came into the chapel, priests in white and blue, the colours of the Virgin, four bishops in mitres, the archbishop with his golden crozier; and preceding them all, in odd contrast, the beadle in black, with a dark periwig, bearing a silver staff. From the choir in due order they returned to the altar, headed this time by three pairs of acolytes, bearing great silver candlesticks, and by incense-burners, that filled the church with rich perfume.

When the Mass was finished, a young dark man in copious robes of violet ascended the pulpit and muttered a text. He waited an instant to collect himself, looking at the congregation; then turning to the altar began a passionate song of praise to the Blessed Virgin, unsoiled by original sin. He described her as in a hundred pictures the great painter of the Immaculate Conception has portrayed her—a young and graceful maid, clothed in a snowy gown of ample folds, with an azure cloak, a maid mysteriously pure; her hair, floating on the shoulders in luxurious ringlets, was an aureole more glorious than the silver rays which surrounded the great image; her dark eyes, with their languid lashes, her mouth, with the red lips, expressed a beautiful and immaculate virtue. It might have been some earthly woman of whom the priest spoke, one of those Andalusians that knelt below him, flashing quick glances at the gallant who negligently leaned against a pillar.

The archbishop sat on his golden throne—a thin, small man with a wrinkled face, with dead and listless eyes; in his gorgeous vestments he looked hardly human, he seemed a puppet, sitting stilly. At the end of the sermon he went back to the altar, and in his low, broken voice read the prayers. And then turning towards the great congregation he gave the plenary absolution, for which the Pope's Bull had been read from the pulpit steps.

* * *

In the afternoon, when the sun was going down behind the Guadalquivir, over the plain, I went again to the cathedral. The canons in the choir still droned their chant in praise of the Blessed Virgin, and in the greater darkness the altar shone more magnificently. The same procession filed through the nave, some priests were in black, some in violet, some in the Virgin's colours; but this time the archbishop wore gorgeous robes of scarlet, and as he knelt at the altar his train spread to the chancel steps. From the side appeared ten boys and knelt before the altar, and stood in two lines facing one another. They were dressed like pages of the seventeenth century, with white stockings and breeches, and a doublet of blue and silver, holding in their hands hats with long feathers. The archbishop, kneeling in front of the throne, buried his face in his hands.

A soft melody, played by violins and 'cellos, broke the silence, and presently the ten pages began to sing:

Los cielos y la tierra alaben al Senor Con imnos de alabanza que inflamen al Senor.

It was a curious, old-fashioned music, reminding one a little of the quiet harmonies of Gluck. Then, putting on their hats, the pages danced, continuing their song; they wound in and out of one another, gravely footing it, swaying to and fro with the music very slowly. The measure was performed with the utmost reverence. Now and then the chorus came, and the fresh boys' voices, singing in unison, filled the church with delightful melody. And still the old archbishop prayed, his face buried in his hands.

The boys ceased to sing, but continued the dance, marking the time now with castanets, and the mundane instrument contrasted strangely with the glittering altar and with the kneeling priests. I wondered of what the archbishop thought, kneeling so humbly—of the boys dancing before the altar, fresh and young? Was he thinking of their white souls darkening with the sins of the world, or of the troubles, the disillusionments of life, and the decrepitude? Or was it of himself—did he think of his own youth, so long past, so hopelessly gone, or did he think that he was old and worn, and of the dark journey before him, and of the light that seemed so distant? Did he regret his beautiful Seville with the blue sky, and the orange-trees bowed down with their golden fruit? He seemed so small and weak, overwhelmed in his gorgeous robes.

Again the ten boys repeated their song and dance and their castanets, and with a rapid genuflection disappeared.

The archbishop rose painfully from his knees and ascended to the altar. A priest held open a book before him, and another lighted the printed page with a candle; he read out a prayer. Then, kneeling down, he bent very low, as though he felt himself unworthy to behold the magnificence of the Queen of Heaven. The people fell to their knees, and a man's voice burst forth—Ave Maria, gratia plena; waves of passionate sound floated over the worshippers, upwards, towards heaven. And from the Giralda, the Moorish tower, the Christian bells rang joyfully. The archbishop turned towards the people; and when in his thin, broken voice he gave the benediction, one thought that no man in his heart felt such humility as the magnificent prince of the Church, Don Marcelo Spinola y Maestre, Archbishop of Seville.

The people flocked out quickly, and soon only a few devout penitents remained. A priest came, waving censers before the altar, and thick volumes of perfume ascended to the Blessed Virgin. He disappeared, and one by one the candles were extinguished. The night crept silently along the church, and the silver image sank into the darkness; at last two candles only were left on the altar, high up, shining dimly.

Outside the sky was still blue, bespattered with countless stars.

NOTE.—I believe there is no definite explanation of this ceremony, and the legend told me by an ancient priest that it was invented during the Moorish dominion so that Christian services might be held under cover of a social gathering—intruding Muslims would be told merely that people were there assembled to see boys dance and to listen to their singing—is more picturesque than probable. Rather does it seem analogous with the leaping of David the King before the Ark of Jehovah, when he danced before the Lord with all his might, girt with a linen Ephod; and this, if I may hazard an opinion, was with a view to amuse a deity apt to be bored or languid, just as Nautch girls dance to this day before the idols of the Hindus, and tops are spun before Krishna to divert him.


[Sidenote: The Giralda]

The Christian bells rang joyfully from the Moorish tower, the great old bells christened with holy oil, el Cantor the Singer, la Gorda the Great, San Miguel. I climbed the winding passage till I came to the terrace where stood the ringers, and as they pulled their ropes the bells swung round on their axles, completing a circle, with deafening clamour. The din was terrific, so that the solid masonry appeared to shake, and I felt the vibrations of the surrounding air. It was a strange sensation to shout as loud as possible and hear no sound issue from my mouth.

The Giralda, with its Moorish base and its Christian belfry, is a symbol of Andalusia. There is in the Ayuntamiento an old picture of the Minaret built by Djabir the Moor, nearly one hundred feet shorter than the completed tower, but surmounted by a battlemented platform on which are huge brazen balls and an iron standard. These were overthrown by an earthquake, and later, when the discoveries of Christopher Columbus had poured unmeasured riches into Seville, the Chapter commissioned Hernan Ruiz to add a belfry to the Moorish base. Hernan Ruiz nearly ruined the mosque at Cordova, but here he was entirely successful. Indeed it is extraordinary that the two parts should be joined in such admirable harmony. It is impossible to give in words an idea of the slender grace of the Giralda, it does not look a thing of bricks and mortar, it is so straight and light that it reminds one vaguely of some beautiful human thing. The great height is astonishing, there is no buttress or projection to break the very long straight line as it rises, with a kind of breathless speed, to the belfry platform. And then the renaissance building begins, ascending still more, a sort of filigree work, excessively rich, and elegant beyond all praise. It is surmounted by a female figure of bronze, representing Faith and veering with every breeze, and the artist has surrounded his work with the motto: Nomen Domini Fortissima Turris.

But the older portion gains another charm from the Moorish windows that pierce it, one above the other, with horseshoe arches; and from the arabesque network with which the upper part is diapered, a brick trellis-work against the brick walls, of the most graceful and delicate intricacy. The Giralda is almost toylike in the daintiness of its decoration. Notwithstanding its great size it is a masterpiece of exquisite proportion. At night it stands out with strong lines against the bespangled sky, and the lights of the watchers give it a magic appearance of some lacelike tower of imagination; but on high festivals it is lit with countless lamps, and then, as Richard Ford puts it, hangs from the dark vault of heaven like a brilliant chandelier.

I looked down at Seville from above. A Spanish town wears always its most picturesque appearance thus seen, but it is never different; the patios glaring with whitewash, the roofs of brown and yellow tiles, and the narrow streets, winding in unexpected directions, narrower than ever from such a height and dark with shade, so that they seem black rivulets gliding stealthily through the whiteness. Looking at a northern city from a tall church tower all things are confused with one another, the slate roofs join together till it is like a huge uneven sea of grey; but in Seville the atmosphere is so limpid, the colour so brilliant, that every house is clearly separated from its neighbour, and sometimes there appears to be between them a preternatural distinctness. Each stands independently of any other; you might suppose yourself in a strange city of the Arabian Nights where a great population lived in houses crowded together, but invisibly, so that each person fancied himself in isolation.

Immediately below was the Cathedral and to remind you of Cordova, the Court of Oranges; but here was no sunny restfulness, nor old-world quiet. The Court is gloomy and dark, and the trim rows of orange-trees contrast oddly with the grey stone of the Cathedral, its huge porches, and the flamboyant exuberance of its decoration. The sun never shines in it and no fruit splash the dark foliage with gold. You do not think of the generations of priests who have wandered in it on the summer evenings, basking away their peaceful lives in the sunshine; but rather of the busy merchants who met there in the old days when it was still the exchange of Seville, before the Lonja was built, to discuss the war with England, or the fate of ships bringing gold from America. At one end of the court is an old stone pulpit from which preached St. Francis of Borga and St. Vincent Ferrer and many an unknown monk besides. Then it was thronged with multi-coloured crowds, with townsmen, soldiers and great noblemen, when the faith was living and strong; and the preacher, with all the gesture and the impassioned rhetoric of a Spaniard, poured out burning words of hate for Jew and Moor and Heretic, so that the listeners panted and a veil of blood passed before their eyes; or else uttered so eloquent a song in praise of the Blessed Virgin, immaculately conceived, that strong men burst into tears at the recital of her perfect beauty.


[Sidenote: The Cathedral of Seville]

Your first impression when you walk round the cathedral of Seville, noting with dismay the crushed cupolas and unsightly excrescences, the dinginess of colour, is not enthusiastic. It was built by German architects without a thought for the surrounding houses, brilliantly whitewashed, and the blue sky, and it proves the incongruity of northern art in a southern country; but even lowering clouds and mist could lend no charm to the late Gothic of Santa Maria de la Sede.

The interior fortunately is very different. Notwithstanding the Gothic groining, as you enter from the splendid heat of noonday, (in the Plaza del Triunfo the sun beats down and the houses are more dazzling than snow,) the effect is thoroughly and delightfully Spanish. Light is very fatal to devotion and the Spaniards have been so wise as to make their churches extremely dark. At first you can see nothing. Incense floats heavily about you, filling the air, and the coolness is like a draught of fresh, perfumed water. But gradually the church detaches itself from the obscurity and you see great columns, immensely lofty. The spaces are large and simple, giving an impression of vast room; and the choir, walled up on three sides, in the middle of the nave as in all Spanish cathedrals, by obstructing the view gives an appearance of almost unlimited extent. To me it seems that in such a place it is easier to comprehend the majesty wherewith man has equipped himself. Science offers only thoughts of human insignificance; the vastness of the sea, the terror of the mountains, emphasise the fact that man is of no account, ephemeral as the leaves of summer. But in those bold aisles, by the pillars rising with such a confident pride towards heaven, it is almost impossible not to feel that man indeed is god-like, lord of the earth; and that the great array of nature is builded for his purpose.

Typically Spanish also is the decoration, and very rich. The choir-stalls are of carved wood, florid and exuberant like the Spanish imagination; the altars gleam with gold; pictures of saints are framed by golden pillars carved with huge bunches of grapes and fruit and fantastic leaves. I was astounded at the opulence of the treasure; there were gorgeous altars of precious metal, great saints of silver, caskets of gold, monstrances studded with rare stones, crosses and crucifixes. The vestments were of unimaginable splendour: there were two hundred copes of all ages and of every variety, fifty of each colour, white for Christmas and Easter, red for Corpus Christi, blue for the Immaculate Conception, violet for Holy Week; there were the special copes of the Primate, copes for officiating bishops, copes for dignitaries from other countries and dioceses. They were of the richest velvet and satin, heavily embroidered with gold, many with saints worked in silk, so heavy that it seemed hardly possible for a man to bear them.

In the Baptistery, filling it with warm light, is the San Antonio of Murillo, than which no picture gives more intensely the religious emotion. The saint, tall and meagre, beautiful of face, looks at the Divine Child hovering in a golden mist with an ecstasy that is no longer human.

It is interesting to consider whether an artist need feel the sentiment he desires to convey. Certainly many pictures have been painted under the influence of profound feeling which leave the spectator entirely cold, and it is probable enough that the early Italians felt few of the emotions which their pictures call forth. We know that the masterpieces of Perugino, so moving, so instinct with religious tenderness, were very much a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. But Luis de Vargas, on the other hand, daily humbled himself by scourging and by wearing a hair shirt, and Vicente Joanes prepared himself for a new picture by communion and confession; so that it is impossible to wonder at the rude and savage ardour of their work. And the impression that may be gathered of Murillo from his pictures is borne out by the study of his grave and simple life. He had not the turbulent piety of the other two, but a calm and sweet devotion, which led him to spend long hours in church, meditating. He, at any rate, felt all that he expressed.

I do not know a church that gives the religious sentiment more completely than Seville Cathedral. The worship of the Spaniards is sombre, full-blooded, a thing of dark rich colours; it requires the heaviness of incense and that overloading of rococo decoration. It is curious that notwithstanding their extreme similarity to the Neapolitans, the Andalusians should in their faith differ so entirely. Of course, in Southern Italy religion is as full of superstition—an adoration of images in which all symbolism is lost and only the gross idol remains; but it is a gayer and a lighter thing than in Spain. Most characteristic of this is the difference between the churches; and with Santa Maria de la Sede may well be contrasted the Neapolitan Santa Chiara, with its great windows, so airy and spacious, sparkling with white and gold. The paintings are almost frolicsome. It is like a ballroom, a typical place of worship for a generation that had no desire to pray, but strutted in gaudy silks and ogled over pretty fans, pretending to discuss the latest audacity of Monsieur Arouet de Voltaire.


[Sidenote: The Hospital of Charity]

The Spaniards possess to the fullest degree the art of evoking devout emotions, and in their various churches may be experienced every phase of religious feeling. After the majestic size and the solemn mystery of the Cathedral, nothing can come as a greater contrast than the Church of the Hermandad de la Caredad. It was built by don Miguel de Manara, who rests in the chancel, with the inscription over him: 'Aqui jacen los huesos y cenizas del peor hombre que ha habido en el mundo; ruegan por el'—'Here lie the bones and ashes of the worst man that has ever been in the world; pray for him.' But like all Andalusians he was a braggart; for a love of chocolate, which appears to have been his besetting sin, is insufficient foundation for such a vaunt: a vice of that order is adequately punished by the corpulence it must occasion. However, legend, representing don Miguel as the most dissolute of libertines, is more friendly. The grave sister who escorts the visitor relates that one day in church don Miguel saw a beautiful nun, and undaunted by her habit, made amorous proposals. She did not speak, but turned to look at him, whereupon he saw the side of her face which had been hidden from his gaze, and it was eaten away by a foul and loathsome disease, so that it seemed more horrible than the face of death. The gallant was so terrified that he fainted, and afterwards the face haunted him, the face of matchless beauty and of revolting decay, so that he turned from the world. He devoted his fortune to rebuilding the hospital and church of the Brotherhood of Charity, whose chief office it was to administer the sacraments to those condemned to death and provide for their burial, and was eventually received into their Order.

It was in the seventeenth century that Manara built his church, and consequently rococo holds sway with all its fantasies. It is small, without aisles or chapels, and the morbid opulence of the decoration gives it a peculiar character. The walls are lined with red damask, and the floor carpeted with a heavy crimson carpet; it gives the sensation of a hothouse, or, with its close odours, of a bedchamber transformed into a chapel for the administration of the last sacrament. The atmosphere is unhealthy: one pants for breath.

At one end, taking up the entire wall, is a reredos by Pedro Roldan, of which the centrepiece is an elaborate 'Deposition in the Tomb,' with numerous figures coloured to the life. It is very fine in its mingling of soft, rich hues and flamboyant realism. The artist has revelled in the opportunity for anguish of expression that his subject afforded, but has treated it with such a passionate seriousness that, in his grim, fierce way, he does not fail to be impressive. The frame is of twisted golden pillars, supported by little naked angels, and decorated with grapes and vine-leaves. Above and at the sides are great saints in carved wood, and angels with floating drapery.

Murillo was on terms of intimacy with don Miguel de Manara, and like him a member of the Hermandad. For his friend he painted some of his most famous pictures, which by the subdued ardour of their colour, by their opulent tones, harmonise most exquisitely with the church. Marshal Soult, with a fine love of art that was profitable, carried off several of them, and their empty frames stare at one still. But before that, when they were all in place, the effect must have been of unique magnificence.

It must be an extraordinary religion that flourishes in such a place, an artificial faith that needs heat like tropical plants, that desires unnatural vows. It breathes of neurotic emotions with its damask-covered walls, with its carpet that deadens the footfall, its sombre, gorgeous pictures. The sweet breeze of heaven never enters there, nor the sunlight; the air is languid with incense; one is oppressed by a strange, heavy silence. In such a church sins must be fostered for the morbid pleasure of confession. One can imagine that the worshippers in that overloaded atmosphere would see strange visions, voluptuous and mystical; the Blessed Mary and the Saints might gain visible and palpable flesh, and the devil would not be far off. There the gruesome imaginings of Valdes Leal are a fitting decoration. Every one knows that grim picture of a bishop in episcopal robes, eaten by worms, his flesh putrefying, which led Murillo to say: 'Leal, you make me hold my nose,' and the other answered: 'You have taken all the flesh and left me nought but the bones.' Elsewhere, by the same master, there is a painting that suggests, with greater poignancy to my mind because less brutally, the thoughts evoked by the more celebrated work, and since it seems to complete the ideas awakened by this curious chapel, I mention it here.

It represents a priest at the altar, saying his mass, and the altar after the Spanish fashion is sumptuous with gilt and florid carving. He wears a magnificent cope and a surplice of exquisite lace, but he wears them as though their weight were more than he could bear; and in the meagre, trembling hands, and in the white, ashen face, in the dark hollowness of the eyes and in the sunken cheeks, there is a bodily corruption that is terrifying. The priest seems to hold together with difficulty the bonds of the flesh, but with no eager yearning of the soul to burst its prison, only with despair; it is as if the Lord Almighty had forsaken him, and the high heavens were empty of their solace. All the beauty of life appears forgotten, and there is nothing in the world but decay. A ghastly putrefaction has attacked already the living man; the worms of the grave, the piteous horror of mortality, and the darkness before him offer nought but fear, and what soul is there to rise again! Beyond, dark night is seen and a turbulent sea, the dark night of the soul of which the mystics write, and the troublous sea of life whereon there is no refuge for the weary and the sick at heart.

* * *

Then, if you would study yet another phase of the religious sentiment, go to the Museo, where are the fine pictures that Murillo painted for the Capuchin Monastery. You will see all the sombreness of Spanish piety, the savage faith, dissolved into ineffable love. Religion has become a wonderful tenderness, in which passionate human affection is inextricably mingled with god-like adoration. Murillo, these sensual forms quivering with life, brought the Eternal down to earth, and gave terrestrial ardour to the apathy of an impersonal devotion; that, perhaps, is why to women he has always been the most fascinating of painters. In the Madonna de la Servilleta—painted on a napkin for the cook of the monastery—the child is a simple, earthly infant, fresh and rosy, with wide-open, wondering eyes and not a trace of immortality. I myself saw a common woman of the streets stand before this picture with tears running down her cheeks.

'Corazon de mi alma!' she said, 'Heart of my soul! I could cover his little body with kisses.'

She smiled, but could hardly restrain her sobs. The engrossing love of a mother for her child seemed joined in miraculous union with the worship of a mortal for his God.

Murillo had neither the power nor the desire to idealise his models. The saints of these great pictures, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Felix of Cantalicio, St. Thomas of Villanueva, are monks and beggars such as may to this day be seen in the streets of Seville. St. Felix is merely an old man with hollow cheeks and a grey, ragged beard; but yet as he clasps the child in his arms with eager tenderness, he is transfigured by a divine ecstasy: his face is radiant with the most touching emotion. And St. Antony of Padua, in another picture, worships the infant God with a mystic adoration, which, notwithstanding the realism of the presentment, lifts him far, far above the earth.


[Sidenote: Gaol]

I was curious to see the prison in Seville. Gruesome tales had been told me of its filth and horror, and the wretched condition of the prisoners; I had even heard that from the street you might see them pressing against the barred windows with arms thrust through, begging the passer-by for money or bread. Mediaeval stories recurred to my mind and the clank of chains trailed through my imagination.

I arranged to be conducted by the prison doctor, and one morning soon after five set out to meet him. My guide informed me by a significant gesture that his tendencies were—bibulous, and our meeting-place was a tavern; but when we arrived they told us that don Felipe—such was his name—had been taken his morning dram and gone; however, if we went to another inn we should doubtless find him. But there we heard he had not yet arrived, he was not due till half-past five. To pass the time we drank a mouthful of aguardiente and smoked a cigarette, and eventually the medico was espied in the distance. We went towards him—a round, fat person with a red face and a redder nose, somewhat shabbily dressed.

He looked at me pointedly and said:

'I'm dry. Vengo seco.'

It was a hint not to be neglected, and we returned to the tavern where don Felipe had his nip.

'It's very good for the stomach,' he assured me.

We sallied forth together, and as we walked he told me the number of prisoners, the sort of crimes for which they were detained—ranging from man-slaughter to petty larceny—and finally, details of his own career. He was an intelligent man, and when we came to the prison door insisted on drinking my health.

The prison is an old convent, and it is a little startling to see the church facade, with a statue of the Madonna over the central porch. At the steps a number of women stood waiting with pots and jars and handkerchiefs full of food for their relatives within; and when the doctor appeared several rushed up to ask about a father or a son that lay sick. We went in and there was a melodramatic tinkling of keys and an unlocking of heavy doors.

The male prisoners, the adults, were in the patio of the convent, where in olden days the nuns had wandered on summer evenings, watering their roses. The iron door was opened and shut behind us; there was a movement of curiosity at the sight of a stranger, and many turned to look at me. Such as had illnesses came to the doctor, and he looked at their tongues and felt their pulse, giving directions to an assistant who stood beside him with a note-book. Don Felipe was on excellent terms with his patients, laughing and joking; a malingerer asked if he could not have a little wine because his throat was sore; the doctor jeered and the man began to laugh; they bandied repartees with one another.

There were about two hundred in the patio, and really they did not seem to have so bad a time. There was one large group gathered round a man who read a newspaper aloud; it was Monday morning, and all listened intently to the account of a bull-fight on the previous day, bursting into a little cry of surprise and admiration on hearing that the matador had been caught and tossed. Others lay by a pillar playing draughts for matches, while half a dozen more eagerly watched, giving unsolicited advice with much gesticulation. The draught-board consisted of little squares drawn on the pavement with chalk, and the pieces were scraps of white and yellow paper. One man sat cross-legged by a column busily rolling cigarettes; he had piles of them by his side arranged in packets, which he sold at one penny each; it was certainly an illegal offence, because the sale of tobacco is a government monopoly, but if you cannot break the laws in prison where can you break them? Others occupied themselves by making baskets or nets. But the majority did nothing at all, standing about, sitting when they could, with the eternal cigarette between their lips; and the more energetic watched the blue smoke curl into the air. Altogether a very happy family!

Nor did they seem really very criminal, more especially as they wore no prison uniform, but their own clothes. I saw no difference between them and the people I met casually in the street. They were just very ordinary citizens, countrymen smelling of the soil, labouring men, artisans. Their misfortune had been only to make too free a use of their long curved knives or to be discovered taking something over which another had prior claims. But in Andalusia every one is potentially as criminal, which is the same as saying that these jail-birds were estimable persons whom an unkind fate and a mistaken idea of justice had separated for a little while from their wives and families.

I saw two only whose aspect was distinctly vicious. One was a tall fellow with shifty eyes, a hard thin mouth, a cruel smile, and his face was really horrible. I asked the doctor why he was there. Don Felipe, without speaking, made the peculiar motion of the fingers which signifies robbery, and the man seeing him repeated it with a leer. I have seldom seen a face that was so utterly repellent, so depraved and wicked: I could not get it out of my head, and for a long time saw before me the crafty eyes and the grinning mouth. Obviously the man was a criminal born who would start thieving as soon as he was out of prison, hopelessly and utterly corrupt. But it was curious that his character should be marked so plainly on his face; it was a danger-signal to his fellows, and one would have thought the suspicion it aroused must necessarily keep him virtuous. It was a countenance that would make a man instinctively clap his hand to his pocket.

The other was a Turk, a huge creature, with dark scowling face and prominent brows; he made a singular figure in his bright fez and baggy breeches, looking at his fellow prisoners with a frown of hate.

But the doctor had finished seeing his patients and the iron door was opened for us to go out. We went upstairs to the hospital, a long bare ward, terribly cheerless. Six men, perhaps, lay in bed, guarded by two warders; one old fellow with rheumatism groaning in agony, two others dazed and very still, with high fever. We walked round quickly, don Felipe as before mechanically looking at their tongues and feeling their pulse, speaking a word to the assistant and moving on. The windows were shut and there was a horrid stench of illness and drugs and antiseptics.

We went through long corridors to the female side, and meanwhile the assistant told the doctor that during the night a woman had been confined. Don Felipe sat down in an office to write a certificate.

'What a nuisance these women are!' he said. 'Why can't they wait till they get out of prison? How is it?'

'It was still-born.'

'Pero, hombre,' said the doctor crossly. 'Why didn't you tell me that before? Now I shall have to write another certificate. This one's no good.'

He tore it up and painfully made out a second with the slow laborious writing of a man unused to holding a pen.

Then we marched on and came to another smaller patio where the females were. They were comparatively few, not more than twenty or thirty; and when we entered a dark inner-room to see the woman who was ill they all trooped in after us—all but one. They stood round eagerly telling us of the occurrence.

'Don't make such a noise, por Dios! I can't hear myself speak,' said the doctor.

The woman was lying on her back with flushed cheeks, her eyes staring glassily. The doctor asked a question, but she did not answer. She began to cry, sobbing from utter weakness in a silent, unrestrained way. On a table near her, hidden by a cloth, lay the dead child.

We went out again into the patio. The sun was higher now and it was very warm, the blue sky shone above us without a cloud. The prisoners returned to their occupations. One old hag was doing a younger woman's hair; I noticed that even for Spain it was beautiful, very thick, curling, and black as night. The girl held a carnation in her hand to put in front of the comb when the operation was completed. Another woman suckled a baby, and several tiny children were playing about happily, while their mothers chatted to one another, knitting.

But there was one, markedly different from the others, who sat alone taking no notice of the scene. It was she who remained in the patio when the rest followed us into the sick room, a gipsy, tall and gaunt, with a skin of the darkest yellow. Her hair was not elaborately arranged as that of her companions, but plainly done, drawn back stiffly from the forehead. She sat there, erect and motionless, looking at the ground with an unnatural stare, silent. They told me she never spoke a word nor paid attention to the women in the court. She might have been entirely alone. She never altered her position, but sat there, sphinx-like, in that attitude of stony grief. She was a stranger among the rest, and her bronzed face, her silence gave a weird impression; she seemed to recall the burning deserts of the East and an endless past.

At last we came out, and the heavy iron door was closed behind us. What a relief it was to be in the street again, to see the sun and the trees, and to breathe the free air! A cart went by with a great racket, drawn by three mules, and the cries of the driver as he cracked his whip were almost musical; a train of donkeys passed; a man trotted by on a brown shaggy cob, his huge panniers filled with glowing vegetables, green and red, and in a corner was a great bunch of roses. I took long breaths of the free air, I shook myself to get rid of those prison odours.

I offered don Felipe refreshment and we repaired to a dram-shop immediately opposite. Two women were standing there.

'Ole!' said the doctor to an old toothless hag with a vicious leer. 'What are you doing here? You've not been in for some time.'

She laughed and explained that she was come to fetch her friend, a young woman, who had been released that morning. The doctor nodded to her, asking how long she had been in gaol.

'Two years and nine months,' she said.

And she began to laugh hysterically with tears streaming down her cheeks.

'I don't know what I'm doing,' she cried. 'I can't understand it.'

She looked into the street with wild, yearning eyes; everything seemed to her strange and new.

'I haven't seen a tree for nearly three years,' she sobbed.

But the hag was pressing the doctor to drink with her; he accepted without much hesitation, and gallantly proposed her health.

'What are you going to do?' he said to the younger woman, she was hardly more than a girl. 'You'd better not hang about in Seville or you'll get into trouble again.'

'Oh no,' she said, 'I'm going to my village—mi pueblo—this afternoon. I want to see my husband and my child.'

Don Felipe turned to me and asked what I thought of the Seville prison. I made some complimentary reply.

'Are English prisons like that?' he asked.

I said I did not think so.

'Are they better?'

I shrugged my shoulders.

'I'm told,' he said, 'that two years' hard labour in an English prison kills a man.'

'The English are a great nation,' I replied.

'And a humane one,' he added, with a bow and a smile.

I bade him good-morning.


[Sidenote: Before the Bull-fight]

If all Andalusians are potential gaol-birds they are also potential bull-fighters. It is impossible for foreigners to realise how firmly the love of that pastime is engrained in all classes. In other countries the gift that children love best is a box of soldiers, but in Spain it is a miniature ring with tin bulls, picadors on horseback and toreros. From their earliest youth boys play at bull-fighting, one of them taking the bull's part and charging with the movements peculiar to that animal, while the rest make passes with their coats or handkerchiefs. Often, to increase the excitement of the game, they have two horns fixed on a piece of wood. You will see them playing it at every street corner all day long, and no amusement can rival it; with the result that by the time a boy is fifteen he has acquired considerable skill in the exercise, and a favourite entertainment then is to hire a bull-calf for an afternoon and practise with it. Every urchin in Andalusia knows the names of the most prominent champions and can tell you their merits.

The bull-fight is the national spectacle; it excites Spaniards as nothing else can, and the death of a famous torero is more tragic than the loss of a colony. Seville looks upon itself as the very home and centre of the art. The good king Ferdinand VII.—as precious a rascal as ever graced a throne—founded in Seville the first academy for the cultivation of tauromachy, and bull-fighters swagger through the Sierpes in great numbers and the most faultless costume.

There are only five great bull-fights in a year at Seville, namely, on Easter day, on the three days of the fair, and on Corpus Christi. But during the summer novilladas are held every Sunday, with bulls of three years old and young fighters. Long before an important corrida there is quite an excitement in the town. Gaudy bills are posted on the walls with the names of the performers and the proprietor of the bulls; crowds stand round reading them breathlessly, discussing with one another the chances of the fray; the papers give details and forecasts as in England they do for the better cause of horse-racing! And the journeyings of the matador are announced as exactly as with us the doings of the nobility and gentry.

The great matador, Mazzantini or Guerrita, arrives the day before the fight, and perhaps takes a walk in the Sierpes. People turn to look at him and acquaintances shake his hand, pleased that all the world may know how friendly they are with so great a man. The hero himself is calm and gracious. He feels himself a person of merit, and cannot be unconscious that he has a fortune of several million pesetas bringing in a reasonable interest. He talks with ease and assurance, often condescends to joke, and elegantly waves his hand, sparkling with diamonds of great value.

* * *

Many persons have described a bull-fight, but generally their emotions have overwhelmed them so that they have seen only part of one performance, and consequently have been obliged to use an indignant imagination to help out a very faulty recollection. This is my excuse for giving one more account of an entertainment which can in no way be defended. It is doubtless vicious and degrading; but with the constant danger, the skill displayed, the courage, the hair-breadth escapes, the catastrophes, it is foolish to deny that any pastime can be more exciting.

The English humanity to animals is one of the best traits of a great people, and they justly thank God they are not as others are. Can anything more horrid be imagined than to kill a horse in the bull-ring, and can any decent hack ask for a better end when he is broken down, than to be driven to death in London streets or to stand for hours on cab ranks in the rain and snow of an English winter? The Spaniards are certainly cruel to animals; on the other hand, they never beat their wives nor kick their children. From the dog's point of view I would ten times sooner be English, but from the woman's—I have my doubts. Some while ago certain papers, anxious perhaps to taste the comfortable joys of self-righteousness, turned their attention to the brutality of Spaniards, and a score of journalists wrote indignantly of bull-fights. At the same time, by a singular chance, a prize-fighter was killed in London, and the Spanish papers printed long tirades against the gross, barbaric English. The two sets of writers were equally vehement, inaccurate and flowery; but what seemed most remarkable was that each side evidently felt quite unaffected horror and disgust for the proceedings of the other. Like persons of doubtful character inveighing against the vices of the age, both were so carried away by moral enthusiasm as to forget that there was anything in their own histories which made this virtuous fury a little absurd. There is really a good deal in the point of view.


[Sidenote: Corrida de Toros—I]

On the day before a bull-fight all the world goes down to Tablada to see the bulls. Youth and beauty drive, for every one in Seville of the least pretension to gentility keeps a carriage; the Sevillans, characteristically, may live in houses void of every necessity and comfort, eating bread and water, but they will have a carriage to drive in the paseo. You see vehicles of all kinds, from the new landau with a pair of magnificent Andalusian horses, or the strange omnibus drawn by mules, typical of Southern Spain, to the shabby victoria, with a broken-down hack and a decrepit coachman.

Tablada is a vast common without the town, running along the river side, and here all manner of cattle are kept throughout the year. But the fighting bulls are brought from their respective farms the morning before the day of battle, and each is put in an enclosure with its attendant oxen. The crowd looks eagerly, admiring the length of horn, forecasting the fight.

The handsome brutes remain there till midnight, when they are brought to the ring and shut in little separate boxes till the morrow. The encierro, as it is called, is an interesting sight. The road has been palisaded and the bulls are driven along by oxen. It is very curious to wait in the darkness, in the silence, under the myriad stars of the southern night. Your ear is astrung to hear the distant tramp; the waiting seems endless. A sound is heard and every one runs to the side; but nothing follows, and the waiting continues. Suddenly the stillness is broken by tinkling bells, the oxen; and immediately there is a tramp of rushing hoofs. Three men on horseback gallop through the entrance, and on their heels the cattle; the riders turn sharply round, a door is swung to behind them, and the oxen, with the bulls in their midst, pound through the ring.

* * *

The doors are opened two hours before the performance. Through the morning the multitude has trooped to the Plaza San Fernando to buy tickets, and in the afternoon all Seville wends its way towards the ring. The road is thronged with people, they walk in dense crowds, pushing one another to get out of the way of broken-down shays that roll along filled with enthusiasts. The drivers crack their whips, shouting: 'Un real, un real a los Toros!'{a} The sun beats down and the sky is intensely blue. It is very hot, already people are blowing and panting, boys sell fans at a halfpenny each. 'Abanicos a perra chica!'{b}

When you come near the ring the din is tremendous; the many vendors shout their wares, middlemen offer tickets at double the usual price, friends call to one another. Now and then is a quarrel, a quick exchange of abuse as one pushes or treads upon his neighbour; but as a rule all are astonishingly good-natured. A man, after a narrow escape from being run over, will shout a joke to the driver, who is always ready with a repartee. And they surge on towards the entrance. Every one is expectant and thrilled, the very air seems to give a sense of exhilaration. The people crowd in like ants. All things are gay and full of colour and life.

A picador passes on horseback in his uncouth clothes, and all turn to look at him.

And in the ring itself the scene is marvellous. On one side the sun beats down with burning rays, and there, the seats being cheaper, notwithstanding the terrific heat people are closely packed. There is a perpetual irregular movement of thousands of women's fans fluttering to and fro. Opposite, in the shade, are nearly as many persons, but of better class. Above, in the boxes sit ladies in mantillas, and when a beautiful woman appears she is often greeted with a burst of applause, which she takes most unconcernedly. When at last the ring is full, tier above tier crammed so that not a place is vacant, it gives quite an extraordinary emotion. The serried masses cease then to be a collection of individuals, but gain somehow a corporate unity; you realise, with a kind of indeterminate fear, the many-headed beast of savage instincts and of ruthless might. No crowd is more picturesque than the Spanish, and the dark masculine costume vividly contrasts with the bright colours of the women, with flowers in their hair and mantillas of white lace.

But also the tremendous vitality of it all strikes you. Late arrivals walk along looking for room, gesticulating, laughing, bandying jokes; vendors of all sorts cry out their goods: the men who sell prawns, shrimps, and crabs' claws from Cadiz pass with large baskets: 'Bocas, bocas!'

The water sellers with huge jars: 'Agua, quien quiere agua? Agua!'{c} The word sings along the interminable rows. A man demands a glass and hands down a halfpenny; a mug of sparkling water is sent up to him. It is deliciously cool.

The sellers of lottery tickets, offering as usual the first prize: 'Premio gordo, quien quiere el premio gordo';{d} or yelling the number of the ticket: 'Who wants number seventeen hundred and eighty-five for three pesetas?'

And the newsboys add to the din: 'Noticiero! Porvenir!' Later on arrives the Madrid paper: 'Heraldo! Heraldo!'

Lastly the men with stacks of old journals to use as seats: 'A perra chica, dos periodicos a perra chica!'{e}

Suddenly there is a great clapping of hands, and looking up you find the president has come; he is supported by two friends, and all three, with comic solemnity, wear tall hats and frock coats. They bow to the public. Bull-fighting is the only punctual thing in Spain, and the president arrives precisely as the clock strikes half-past four. He waves a handkerchief, the band strikes up, a door is opened, and the fighters enter. First come the three matadors, the eldest in the middle, the next on his right, and the youngest on the left; they are followed by their respective cuadrillas, the banderilleros, the capeadors, the picadors on horseback, and finally the chulos, whose duty it is to unsaddle dead horses, attach the slaughtered bull to the team of mules, and perform other minor offices. They advance, gorgeous in their coloured satin and gold embroidery, bearing a cloak peculiarly folded over the arm; they walk with a kind of swinging motion, as ordained by the convention of a century. They bow to the president, very solemnly. The applause is renewed. They retire to the side, three picadors take up their places at some distance from one another on the right of the door from which issues the bull. The alguaciles, in black velvet, with peaked and feathered hats, on horseback, come forward, and the key of the bull's den is thrown to them. They disappear. The fighters meanwhile exchange their satin cloaks for others of less value. There is another flourish of trumpets, the gates are opened for the bull.

Then comes a moment of expectation, every one is trembling with excitement. There is perfect silence. All eyes are fixed on the open gate.


{a} 'Twopence-halfpenny to the Bulls.'

{b} "Fans, one halfpenny each!"

{c} 'Water, who wants water? Water!'

{d} 'The first prize, who wants the first prize?'

{e} 'One halfpenny, two papers for one halfpenny.'


[Sidenote: Corrida de Toros—II]

One or two shouts are heard, a murmur passes through the people, and the bull emerges—shining, black, with massive shoulders and fine horns. It advances a little, a splendid beast conscious of its strength, and suddenly stops dead, looking round. The toreros wave their capes and the picadors flourish their lances, long wooden spikes with an iron point. The bull catches sight of a horse, and lowering his head, bears down swiftly upon it. The picador takes firmer hold of his lance, and when the brute reaches him plants the pointed end between its shoulders; at the same moment the senior matador dashes forward and with his cloak distracts the bull's attention. It wheels round and charges; he makes a pass; it goes by almost under his arm, but quickly turns and again attacks. This time the skilful fighter receives it backwards, looking over his shoulder, and again it passes. There are shouts of enthusiasm from the public. The bull's glossy coat is stained with red.

A second picador comes forward, and the bull charges again, but furiously now, exerting its full might. The horse is thrown to the ground and the rider, by an evil chance, falls at the bull's very feet.

It cannot help seeing him and lowers its head; the people catch their breath; many spring instinctively to their feet; here and there is a woman's frightened cry; but immediately a matador draws the cape over its eyes and passionately the bull turns on him. Others spring forward and lift the picador: his trappings are so heavy that he cannot rise alone; he is dragged to safety and the steed brought back for him. One more horseman advances, and the bull with an angry snort bounds at him; the picador does his best, but is no match for the giant strength. The bull digs its horns deep into the horse's side and lifts man and beast right off the ground; they fall with a heavy thud, and as the raging brute is drawn off, blood spurts from the horse's flank. The chulos try to get it up; they drag on the reins with shouts and curses, and beat it with sticks. But the wretched creature, wounded to the death, helplessly lifts its head. They see it is useless and quickly remove saddle and bridle, a man comes with a short dagger called the puntilla, which he drives into its head, the horse falls on its side, a quiver passes through its body, and it is dead. The people are shouting with pleasure; the bull is a good one. The first picador comes up again and the bull attacks for the fourth time, but it has lost much strength, and the man drives it off. It has made a horrible gash in the horse's belly, and the entrails protrude, dragging along the ground. The horse is taken out.

The president waves his handkerchief, the trumpets sound, and the first act of the drama is over.

The picadors leave the ring and the banderilleros take their darts, about three feet long, gay with decorations of coloured paper. While they make ready, others play with the bull, gradually tiring it: one throws aside his cape and awaits the charge with folded arms; the bull rushes at him, and the man without moving his feet twists his body away and the savage brute passes on. There is a great burst of applause for a daring feat well done.

Each matador has two banderilleros, and it is proper that three pairs of these darts should be placed. One of them steps to within speaking distance of the animal, and holding a banderilla in each hand lifted above his head, stamps his foot and shouts insulting words. The bull does not know what this new thing is, but charges blindly; at the same moment the man runs forward, and passing, plants the two darts between the shoulders. If they are well placed there is plentiful hand-clapping; no audience is so liberal of applause for skill or courage, none so intolerant of cowardice or stupidity; and with equal readiness it will yell with delight or hiss and hoot and whistle. The second banderillero comes forward to plant his pair; a third is inserted and the trumpets sound for the final scene.

This is the great duel between the single man and the bull. The matador advances, sword in hand, with the muleta, the red cloth for the passes, over his arm. Under the president's box he takes off his hat, and with fine gesture makes a grandiloquent speech, wherein he vows either to conquer or to die: the harangue is finished with a wheel round and a dramatic flinging of his hat to attendants on the other side of the barrier. He pensively walks forward. All eyes are upon him—and he knows it. He motions his companions to stand back and goes close to the bull. He is quite alone, with his life in his hands—a slender figure, very handsome in the gorgeous costume glittering with fine gold. He arranges the muleta over a little stick, so that it hangs down like a flag and conceals his sword. Then quite solemnly he walks up to the bull, holding the red rag in his left hand. The bull watches suspiciously, suddenly charges, and the muleta is passed over its head; the matador does not move a muscle, the bull turns and stands quite motionless. Another charge, another pass. And so he continues, making seven or eight of various sorts, to the growing approbation of the public. At last it is time to kill. With great caution he withdraws the sword; the bull looks warily. He makes two or three passes more and walks round till he gets the animal into proper position: the forefeet must be set squarely on the ground. 'Ora! Ora!' cry the people. 'Now! Now!' The bull is well placed. The matador draws the sword back a little and takes careful aim. The bull rushes, and at the same moment the man makes one bound forward and buries the sword to the hilt between the brute's shoulders. It falls to its knees and rolls over.

Then is a perfect storm of applause; and it is worth while to see fourteen thousand people wild with delight. The band bursts into joyous strains, and the mules come galloping in, gaily caparisoned; a rope is passed round the dead beast, and they drag it away. The matador advances to the president's box and bows, while the shouting grows more frantic. He walks round, bowing and smiling, and the public in its enthusiasm throws down hats and cigars and sticks.

But there are no intervals to a bull-fight, and the picadors immediately reappear and take their places; the doors are flung open, and a second bull rushes forth. The matador still goes round bowing to the applause, elaborately unmindful of the angry beast.

Six animals are killed in an afternoon within two hours, and then the mighty audience troop out with flushed cheeks, the smell of blood strong in their nostrils.


[Sidenote: On Horseback]

I had a desire to see something of the very heart of Andalusia, of that part of the country which had preserved its antique character, where railway trains were not, and the horse, the mule, the donkey were still the only means of transit. After much scrutiny of local maps and conversation with horse-dealers and others, I determined from Seville to go circuitously to Ecija, and thence return by another route as best I could. The district I meant to traverse in olden times was notorious for its brigands; even thirty years ago the prosperous tradesman, voyaging on his mule from town to town, was liable to be seized by unromantic outlaws and detained till his friends forwarded ransom, while ears and fingers were playfully sent to prove identity. In Southern Spain brigandage necessarily flourished, for not only were the country-folk in collusion with the bandits, but the very magistrates united with them to share the profits of lawless undertakings. Drastic measures were needful to put down the evil, and in a truly Spanish way drastic measures were employed. The Civil Guard, whose duty it was to see to the safety of the country side, had no confidence in the justice of Madrid, whither captured highwaymen were sent for trial; once there, for a few hundred dollars, the most murderous ruffian could prove his babe-like innocence, forthwith return to the scene of his former exploits and begin again. So they hit upon an expedient. The Civil Guards set out for the capital with their prisoner handcuffed between them; but, curiously enough, in every single case the brigand had scarcely marched a couple of miles before he incautiously tried to escape, whereupon he was, of course, promptly shot through the back. People noticed two things: first, that the clothes of the dead man were often singed, as if he had not escaped very far before he was shot down; that only proved his guardians' zeal. But the other was stranger: the two Civil Guards, when after a couple of hours they returned to the town, as though by a mysterious premonition they had known the bandit would make some rash attempt, invariably had waiting for them an excellent hot dinner.

The only robber of importance who avoided such violent death was the chief of a celebrated band who, when captured, signed a declaration that he had not the remotest idea of escaping, and insisted on taking with him to Madrid his solicitor and a witness. He reached the capital alive, and having settled his little affairs with benevolent judges, turned to a different means of livelihood, and eventually, it is said, occupied a responsible post in the Government. It is satisfactory to think that his felonious talents were not in after-life entirely wasted.

* * *

It was the beginning of March when I started. According to the old proverb, the dog was already seeking the shade: En Marzo busca la sombra el perro; the chilly Spaniard, loosening the folds of his capa, acknowledged that at mid-day in the sun it was almost warm. The winter rains appeared to have ceased; the sky over Seville was cloudless, not with the intense azure of midsummer, but with a blue that seemed mixed with silver. And in the sun the brown water of the Guadalquivir glittered like the scales on a fish's back, or like the burnished gold of old Moorish pottery.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse