While in Constantinople, I received letters which opened to me wider and richer fields of travel than I had already traversed. I saw a possibility of exploring the far Indian realms, the shores of farthest Cathay and the famed Zipango of Marco Polo. Before entering on this new sphere of experiences, however, it was necessary for me to visit Italy, Germany, and England. I sailed from Messina to Leghorn, and travelled thence, by way of Florence, Venice, and the Tyrol, to Munich. After three happy weeks at Gotha, and among the valleys of she Thueringian Forest, I went to London, where business and the preparation for my new journeys detained me two or three weeks longer. Although the comforts of European civilization were pleasant, as a change, after the wild life of the Orient, the autumnal rains of England soon made me homesick for the sunshine I had left. The weather was cold, dark, and dreary, and the oppressive, sticky atmosphere of the bituminous metropolis weighed upon me like a nightmare. Heartily tired of looking at a sun that could show nothing brighter than a red copper disk, and of breathing an air that peppered my face with particles of soot, I left on the 28th of October. It was one of the dismalest days of autumn; the meadows of Berkshire were flooded with broad, muddy streams, and the woods on the hills of Hampshire looked brown and sodden, as if slowly rotting away. I reached Southampton at dusk, but there the sky was neither warmer nor clearer, so I spent the evening over a coal fire, all impatience for the bright beloved South, towards which my face was turned once more.
The Madras left on the next day, at 2 P.M., in the midst of a cheerless rain, which half blotted out the pleasant shores of Southampton Water, and the Isle of Wight. The Madras was a singularly appropriate vessel for one bound on such a journey as mine. The surgeon was Dr. Mungo Park, and one of my room-mates was Mr. R. Crusoe. It was a Friday, which boded no good for the voyage; but then my journey commenced with my leaving London the day previous, and Thursday is a lucky day among the Arabs. I caught a watery view of the gray cliffs of the Needles, when dinner was announced, but many were those (and I among them) who commenced that meal, and did not stay to finish it.
Is there any piece of water more unreasonably, distressingly, disgustingly rough and perverse than the British Channel? Yes: there is one, and but one—the Bay of Biscay. And as the latter succeeds the former, without a pause between, and the head-winds never ceased, and the rain continually poured, I leave you to draw the climax of my misery. Four days and four nights in a berth, lying on your back, now dozing dull hour after hour, now making faint endeavors to eat, or reading the feeblest novel ever written, because the mind cannot digest stronger aliment—can there be a greater contrast to the wide-awake life, the fiery inspiration, of the Orient? My blood became so sluggish and my mind so cloudy and befogged, that I despaired of ever thinking clearly or feeling vividly again. "The winds are rude" in Biscay, Byron says. They are, indeed: very rude. They must have been raised in some most disorderly quarter of the globe. They pitched the waves right over our bulwarks, and now and then dashed a bucketful of water down the cabin skylight, swamping the ladies' cabin, and setting scores of bandboxes afloat. Not that there was the least actual danger; but Mrs. —— would not be persuaded that we were not on the brink of destruction, and wrote to friends at home a voluminous account of her feelings. There was an Irishman on board, bound to Italy, with his sister. It was his first tour, and when asked why he did not go direct, through France, he replied, with brotherly concern, that he was anxious his sister should see the Bay of Biscay.
This youth's perceptions were of such an emerald hue, that a lot of wicked Englishmen had their own fun out of him. The other day, he was trying to shave, to the great danger of slicing off his nose, as the vessel was rolling fearfully. "Why don't you have the ship headed to the wind?" said one of the Englishmen, who heard his complaints; "she will then lie steady, and you can shave beautifully." Thereupon the Irishman sent one of the stewards upon deck with a polite message to the captain, begging him to put the vessel about for five minutes.
Towards noon of the fifth day, we saw the dark, rugged mountains that guard the north-western corner of the Spanish Peninsula. We passed the Bay of Corunna, and rounding the bold headland of Finisterre, left the Biscayan billows behind us. But the sea was still rough and the sky clouded, although the next morning the mildness of the air showed the change in our latitude. About noon that day, we made the Burlings, a cluster of rocks forty miles north of Lisbon, and just before sunset, a transient lifting of the clouds revealed the Rock of Cintra, at the mouth of the Tagus. The tall, perpendicular cliffs, and the mountain slopes behind, covered with gardens, orchards, and scattered villas and hamlets, made a grand though dim picture, which was soon hidden from our view.
On the 4th, we were nearly all day crossing the mouth of the Bay of Cadiz, and only at sunset saw Cape Trafalgar afar off, glimmering through the reddish haze. I remained on deck, as there were patches of starlight in the sky. After passing the light-house at Tarifa, the Spanish shore continued to be visible. In another hour, there was a dim, cloudy outline high above the horizon, on our right. This was the Lesser Atlas, in Morocco. And now, right ahead, distinctly visible, though fifteen miles distant, lay a colossal lion, with his head on his outstretched paws, looking towards Africa. If I had been brought to the spot blindfolded, I should have known what it was. The resemblance is certainly very striking, and the light-house on Europa Point seemed to be a lamp held in his paws. The lights of the city and fortifications rose one by one, glittering along the base, and at midnight we dropped anchor before them on the western side.
I landed yesterday morning. The mists, which had followed me from England, had collected behind the Rock, and the sun, still hidden by its huge bulk, shone upwards through them, making a luminous background, against which the lofty walls and jagged ramparts of this tremendous natural fortification were clearly defined. I announced my name, and the length of time I designed remaining, at a little office on the quay, and was then allowed to pass into the city. A number of familiar white turbans met me on entering, and I could not resist the temptation of cordially saluting the owners in their own language. The town is long and narrow, lying steeply against the Rock. The houses are white, yellow and pink, as in Spanish towns, but the streets are clean and well paved. There is a square, about the size of an ordinary building-lot, where a sort of market of dry goods and small articles is held The "Club-House Hotel" occupies one side of it; and, as I look out of my window upon it, I see the topmost cliffs of the Rock above me, threatening to topple down from a height of 1,500 feet.
My first walk in Gibraltar was in search of a palm-tree. After threading the whole length of the town, I found two small ones in a garden, in the bottom of the old moat. The sun was shining, and his rays seemed to fall with double warmth on their feathery crests. Three brown Spaniards, bare-armed, were drawing water with a pole and bucket, and filling the little channels which conveyed it to the distant vegetables. The sea glittered blue below; an Indian fig-tree shaded me; but, on the rock behind, an aloe lifted its blossoming stem, some twenty feet high, into the sunshine. To describe what a weight was lifted from my heart would seem foolish to those who do not know on what little things the whole tone of our spirits sometimes depends.
But if an even balance was restored yesterday, the opposite scale kicked the beam this morning. Not a speck of vapor blurred the spotless crystal of the sky, as I walked along the hanging paths of the Alameda. The sea was dazzling ultra-marine, with a purple lustre; every crag and notch of the mountains across the bay, every shade of brown or gray, or the green of grassy patches, was drawn and tinted with a pencil so exquisitely delicate as almost to destroy the perspective. The white houses of Algeciras, five miles off, appeared close at hand: a little toy-town, backed by miniature hills. Apes' Hill, the ancient Abyla, in Africa, advanced to meet Calpe, its opposing pillar, and Atlas swept away to the east ward, its blue becoming paler and paler, till the powers of vision finally failed. From the top of the southern point of the Rock, I saw the mountain-shore of Spain, as far as Malaga, and the snowy top of one of the Sierra Nevada. Looking eastward to the horizon line of the Mediterranean, my sight extended so far, in the wonderful clearness of the air, that the convexity of the earth's surface was plainly to be seen. The sea, instead of being a plane, was slightly convex, and the sky, instead of resting upon it at the horizon, curved down beyond it, as the upper side of a horn curves over the lower, when one looks into the mouth. There is none of the many aspects of Nature more grand than this, which is so rarely seen, that I believe the only person who has ever described it is Humboldt, who saw it, looking from the Silla de Caraccas over the Caribbean Sea. It gives you the impression of standing on the edge of the earth, and looking off into space. From the mast-head, the ocean appears either flat or slightly concave, and aeronauts declare that this apparent concavity becomes more marked, the higher they ascend. It is only at those rare periods when the air is so miraculously clear as to produce the effect of no air—rendering impossible the slightest optical illusion—that our eyes can see things as they really are. So pure was the atmosphere to-day, that, at meridian, the moon, although a thin sickle, three days distant from the sun, shone perfectly white and clear.
As I loitered in the Alameda, between thick hedges of ever-blooming geraniums, clumps of heliotrope three feet high, and luxuriant masses of ivy, around whose warm flowers the bees clustered and hummed, I could only think of the voyage as a hideous dream. The fog and gloom had been in my own eyes and in my own brain, and now the blessed sun, shining full in my face, awoke me. I am a worshipper of the Sun. I took off my hat to him, as I stood there, in a wilderness of white, crimson, and purple flowers, and let him blaze away in my face for a quarter of an hour. And as I walked home with my back to him, I often turned my face from side to side that I might feel his touch on my cheek. How a man can live, who is sentenced to a year's imprisonment, is more than I can understand.
But all this (you will say) gives you no picture of Gibraltar. The Rock is so familiar to all the world, in prints and descriptions, that I find nothing new to say of it, except that it is by no means so barren a rock as the island of Malta, being clothed, in many places, with beautiful groves and the greenest turf; besides, I have not yet seen the rock-galleries, having taken passage for Cadiz this afternoon. When I return—as I hope to do in twenty days, after visiting Seville and Granada—I shall procure permission to view all the fortifications, and likewise to ascend to the summit.
Cadiz And Seville.
Voyage to Cadiz—Landing—The City—Its Streets—The Women of Cadiz—Embarkation for Seville—Scenery of the Guadalquivir—Custom House Examination—The Guide—The Streets of Seville—The Giralda—The Cathedral of Seville—The Alcazar-Moorish Architecture—Pilate's House—Morning View from the Giralda—Old Wine—Murillos—My Last Evening in Seville.
"The walls of Cadiz front the shore, And shimmer o'er the sea."
R. H. Stoddard.
"Beautiful Seville! Of which I've dreamed, until I saw its towers In every cloud that hid the setting sun."
George H. Boker.
Seville, November 10, 1852.
I left Gibraltar on the evening of the 6th, in the steamer Iberia. The passage to Cadiz was made in nine hours, and we came to anchor in the harbor before day-break. It was a cheerful picture that the rising sun presented to us. The long white front of the city, facing the East, glowed with a bright rosy lustre, on a ground of the clearest blue. The tongue of land on which Cadiz stands is low, but the houses are lifted by the heavy sea-wall which encompasses them. The main-land consists of a range of low but graceful hills, while in the south-east the mountains of Ronda rise at some distance. I went immediately on shore, where my carpet-bag was seized upon by a boy, with the rich brown complexion of one Murillo's beggars, who trudged off with it to the gate. After some little detention there, I was conducted to a long, deserted, barn-like building, where I waited half an hour before the proper officer came. When the latter had taken his private toll of my contraband cigars, the brown imp conducted me to Blanco's English Hotel, a neat and comfortable house on the Alameda.
Cadiz is soon seen. Notwithstanding its venerable age of three thousand years—having been founded by Hercules, who figures on its coat-of-arms—it is purely a commercial city, and has neither antiquities, nor historic associations that interest any but Englishmen. It is compactly built, and covers a smaller space than accords with my ideas of its former splendor. I first walked around the sea-ramparts, enjoying the glorious look-off over the blue waters. The city is almost insulated, the triple line of fortifications on the land side being of but trifling length. A rocky ledge stretches out into the sea from the northern point, and at its extremity rises the massive light-house tower, 170 feet high. The walls toward the sea were covered with companies of idle anglers, fishing with cane rods of enormous length. On the open, waste spaces between the bastions, boys had spread their limed cords to catch singing birds, with chirping decoys placed here and there in wicker cages. Numbers of boatmen and peasants, in their brown jackets, studded with tags and bugles, and those round black caps which resemble smashed bandboxes, loitered about the walls or lounged on the grass in the sun.
Except along the Alameda, which fronts the bay, the exterior of the city has an aspect of neglect and desertion. The interior, however, atones for this in the gay and lively air of its streets, which, though narrow, are regular and charmingly clean. The small plazas are neatness itself, and one is too content with this to ask for striking architectural effects. The houses are tall and stately, of the most dazzling whiteness, and though you could point out no one as a pattern of style, the general effect is chaste and harmonious. In fact, there are two or three streets which you would almost pronounce faultless. The numbers of hanging balconies and of court-yards paved with marble and surrounded with elegant corridors, show the influence of Moorish taste. There is not a mean-looking house to be seen, and I have no doubt that Cadiz is the best built city of its size in the world. It lies, white as new-fallen snow, like a cluster of ivory palaces, between sea and sky. Blue and silver are its colors, and, as everybody knows, there can be no more charming contrast.
I visited both the old and new cathedrals, neither of which is particularly interesting. The latter is unfinished, and might have been a fine edifice had the labor and money expended on its construction been directed by taste. The interior, rich as it is in marbles and sculpture, has a heavy, confused effect. The pillars dividing the nave from the side-aisles are enormous composite masses, each one consisting of six Corinthian columns, stuck around and against a central shaft. More satisfactory to me was the Opera-House, which I visited in the evening, and where the dazzling array of dark-eyed Gaditanas put a stop to architectural criticism. The women of Cadiz are noted for their beauty and their graceful gait. Some of them are very beautiful, it is true; but beauty is not the rule among them. Their gait, however, is the most graceful possible, because it is perfectly free and natural. The commonest serving-maid who walks the streets of Cadiz would put to shame a whole score of our mincing and wriggling belles.
Honest old Blanco prepared me a cup of chocolate by sunrise next morning, and accompanied me down to the quay, to embark for Seville. A furious wind was blowing from the south-east, and the large green waves raced and chased one another incessantly over the surface of the bay. I took a heavy craft, which the boatmen pushed along under cover of the pier, until they reached the end, when the sail was dropped in the face of the wind, and away we shot into the watery tumult. The boat rocked and bounced over the agitated surface, running with one gunwale on the waves, and sheets of briny spray broke over me. I felt considerably relieved when I reached the deck of the steamer, but it was then diversion enough to watch those who followed. The crowd of boats pitching tumultuously around the steamer, jostling against each other, their hulls gleaming with wet, as they rose on the beryl-colored waves, striped with long, curded lines of wind-blown foam, would have made a fine subject for the pencil of Achenbach.
At last we pushed off, with a crowd of passengers fore and aft, and a pyramid of luggage piled around the smoke-pipe. There was a party of four Englishmen on board, and, on making their acquaintance, I found one of them to be a friend to some of my friends—Sir John Potter, the progressive ex-Mayor of Manchester. The wind being astern, we ran rapidly along the coast, and in two hours entered the mouth of the Guadalquivir. [This name comes from the Arabic wadi el-kebeer—literally, the Great Valley.] The shores are a dead flat. The right bank is a dreary forest of stunted pines, abounding with deer and other game; on the left is the dilapidated town of San Lucar, whence Magellan set sail on his first voyage around the world. A mile further is Bonanza, the port of Xeres, where we touched and took on board a fresh lot of passengers. Thenceforth, for four hours, the scenery of the Guadalquivir had a most distressing sameness. The banks were as flat as a board, with here and there a straggling growth of marshy thickets. Now and then we passed a herdsman's hut, but there were no human beings to be seen, except the peasants who tended the large flocks of sheep and cattle. A sort of breakfast was served in the cabin, but so great was the number of guests that I had much difficulty in getting anything to eat. The waiters were models of calmness and deliberation.
As we approached Seville, some low hills appeared on the left, near the river. Dazzling white villages were planted at their foot, and all the slopes were covered with olive orchards, while the banks of the stream were bordered with silvery birch trees. This gave the landscape, in spite of the African warmth and brightness of the day, a gray and almost wintry aspect. Soon the graceful Giralda, or famous Tower of Seville, arose in the distance; but, from the windings of the river, we were half an hour in reaching the landing-place. One sees nothing of the far-famed beauty of Seville, on approaching it. The boat stops below the Alameda, where the passengers are received by Custom-House officers, who, in my case, did not verify the stories told of them in Cadiz. I gave my carpet-bag to a boy, who conducted me along the hot and dusty banks to the bridge over the Guadalquivir, where he turned into the city. On passing the gate, two loafer-like guards stopped my baggage, notwithstanding it had already been examined. "What!" said I, "do you examine twice on entering Seville?" "Yes," answered one; "twice, and even three times;" but added in a lower tone, "it depends entirely on yourself." With that he slipped behind me, and let one hand fall beside my pocket. The transfer of a small coin was dexterously made, and I passed on without further stoppage to the Fonda de Madrid.
Sir John Potter engaged Antonio Bailli, the noted guide of Seville, who professes to have been the cicerone of all distinguished travellers, from Lord Byron and Washington Irving down to Owen Jones, and I readily accepted his invitation to join the party. Bailli is recommended by Ford as "fat and good-humored" Fat he certainly is, and very good-humored when speaking of himself, but he has been rather spoiled by popularity, and is much too profuse in his critical remarks on art and architecture. Nevertheless, as my stay in Seville is limited, I have derived no slight advantage from his services.
On the first morning I took an early stroll through the streets. The houses are glaringly white, like those of Cadiz, but are smaller and have not the same stately exteriors. The windows are protected by iron gratings, of florid patterns, and, as many of these are painted green, the general effect is pleasing. Almost every door opens upon a patio, or courtyard, paved with black and white marble and adorned with flowers and fountains. Many of these remain from the time of the Moors, and are still surrounded by the delicate arches and brilliant tile-work of that period. The populace in the streets are entirely Spanish—the jaunty majo in his queer black cap, sash, and embroidered jacket, and the nut-brown, dark-eyed damsel, swimming along in her mantilla, and armed with the irresistible fan.
We went first to the Cathedral, built on the site of the great mosque of Abou Youssuf Yakoub. The tall Giralda beckoned to us over the tops of the intervening buildings, and finally a turn in the street brought us to the ancient Moorish gateway on the northern side. This is an admirable specimen of the horse-shoe arch, and is covered with elaborate tracery. It originally opened into the court, or haram, of the mosque, which still remains, and is shaded by a grove of orange trees. The Giralda, to my eye, is a more perfect tower than the Campanile of Florence, or that of San Marco, at Venice, which is evidently an idea borrowed from it. The Moorish structure, with a base of fifty feet square, rises to the height of two hundred and fifty feet. It is of a light pink color, and the sides, which are broken here and there by exquisitely proportioned double Saracenic arches, are covered from top to bottom with arabesque tracery, cut in strong relief. Upon this tower, a Spanish architect has placed a tapering spire, one hundred feet high, which fortunately harmonizes with the general design, and gives the crowning grace to the work.
The Cathedral of Seville may rank as one of the grandest Gothic piles in Europe. The nave lacks but five feet of being as high as that of St. Peter's, while the length and breadth of the edifice are on a commensurate scale. The ninety-three windows of stained glass fill the interior with a soft and richly-tinted light, mellower and more gentle than the sombre twilight of the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe. The wealth lavished on the smaller chapels and shrines is prodigious, and the high altar, inclosed within a gilded railing fifty feet high, is probably the most enormous mass of wood-carving in existence. The Cathedral, in fact, is encumbered with its riches. While they bewilder you as monuments of human labor and patience, they detract from the grand simplicity of the building. The great nave, on each side of the transept, is quite blocked up, so that the choir and magnificent royal chapel behind it have almost the effect of detached edifices.
We returned again this morning, remaining two hours, and succeeded in making a thorough survey, including a number of trashy pictures and barbarously rich shrines. Murillo's "Guardian Angel" and the "Vision of St. Antonio" are the only gems. The treasury contains a number of sacred vessels of silver, gold and jewels—among other things, the keys of Moorish Seville, a cross made of the first gold brought from the New-World by Columbus, and another from that robbed in Mexico by Cortez. The Cathedral won my admiration more and more. The placing of the numerous windows, and their rich coloring, produce the most glorious effects of light in the lofty aisles, and one is constantly finding new vistas, new combinations of pillar, arch and shrine. The building is in itself a treasury of the grandest Gothic pictures.
From the Cathedral we went to the Alcazar (El-Kasr), or Palace of the Moorish Kings. We entered by a long passage, with round arches on either side, resting on twin pillars, placed at right angles to the line of the arch, as one sees both in Saracenic and Byzantine structures. Finally, old Bailli brought us into a dull, deserted court-yard, where we were surprised by the sight of an entire Moorish facade, with its pointed arches, its projecting roof, its rich sculptured ornaments and its illuminations of red, blue, green and gold. It has been lately restored, and now rivals in freshness and brilliancy any of the rich houses of Damascus. A doorway, entirely too low and mean for the splendor of the walls above it, admitted us into the first court. On each side of the passage are the rooms of the guard and the Moorish nobles. Within, all is pure Saracenic, and absolutely perfect in its grace and richness. It is the realization of an Oriental dream; it is the poetry and luxury of the East in tangible forms. Where so much depends on the proportion and harmony of the different parts—on those correspondences, the union of which creates that nameless soul of the work, which cannot be expressed in words—it is useless to describe details. From first to last—the chambers of state; the fringed arches; the open tracery, light and frail as the frost-stars crystallized on a window-pane; the courts, fit to be vestibules to Paradise; the audience-hall, with its wondrous sculptures, its columns and pavement of marble, and its gilded dome; the garden, gorgeous with its palm, banana, and orange-trees—all were in perfect keeping, all jewels of equal lustre, forming a diadem which still lends a royal dignity to the phantom of Moorish power.
We then passed into the gardens laid out by the Spanish monarchs—trim, mathematical designs, in box and myrtle, with concealed fountains springing up everywhere unawares in the midst of the paven walks; yet still made beautiful by the roses and jessamines that hung in rank clusters over the marble balustrades, and by the clumps of tall orange trees, bending to earth under the weight of their fruitage. We afterward visited Pilate's House, as it is called—a fine Spanish-Moresco palace, now belonging to the Duke of Medina Coeli. It is very rich and elegant, but stands in the same relation to the Alcazar as a good copy does to the original picture. The grand staircase, nevertheless, is a marvel of tile work, unlike anything else in Seville, and exhibits a genius in the invention of elaborate ornamental patterns, which is truly wonderful. A number of workmen were busy in restoring the palace, to fit it for the residence of the young Duke. The Moorish sculptures are reproduced in plaster, which, at least, has a better effect than the fatal whitewash under which the original tints of the Alcazar are hidden. In the courts stand a number of Roman busts—Spanish antiquities, and therefore not of great merit—singularly out of place in niches surrounded by Arabic devices and sentences from the Koran.
This morning, I climbed the Giralda. The sun had just risen, and the clay was fresh and crystal-clear. A little door in the Cathedral, near the foot of the tower, stood open, and I entered. A rather slovenly Sevillana had just completed her toilet, but two children were still in undress. However, she opened a door in the tower, and I went up without hindrance. The ascent is by easy ramps, and I walked four hundred yards, or nearly a quarter of a mile, before reaching the top of the Moorish part. The panoramic view was superb. To the east and west, the Great Valley made a level line on a far-distant horizon. There were ranges of hills in the north and south, and those rising near the city, clothed in a gray mantle of olive-trees, were picturesquely crowned with villages. The Guadalquivir, winding in the most sinuous mazes, had no longer a turbid hue; he reflected the blue morning sky, and gleamed brightly between his borders of birch and willow. Seville sparkled white and fair under my feet, her painted towers and tiled domes rising thickly out of the mass of buildings. The level sun threw shadows into the numberless courts, permitting the mixture of Spanish and Moorish architecture to be plainly discerned, even at that height. A thin golden vapor softened the features of the landscape, towards the sun, while, on the opposite side, every object stood out in the sharpest and clearest outlines.
On our way to the Museo, Bailli took us to the house of a friend of his, in order that we might taste real Manzanilla wine. This is a pale, straw-colored vintage, produced in the valley of the Guadalquivir. It is flavored with camomile blossoms, and is said to be a fine tonic for weak stomachs. The master then produced a dark-red wine, which he declared to be thirty years old. It was almost a syrup in consistence, and tasted more of sarsaparilla than grapes. None of us relished it, except Bailli, who was so inspired by the draught, that he sang us two Moorish songs and an Andalusian catch, full of fun and drollery.
The Museo contains a great amount of bad pictures, but it also contains twenty-three of Murillo's works, many of them of his best period. To those who have only seen his tender, spiritual "Conceptions" and "Assumptions," his "Vision of St. Francis" in this gallery reveals a mastery of the higher walks of his art, which they would not have anticipated. But it is in his "Cherubs" and his "Infant Christs" that he excels. No one ever painted infantile grace and beauty with so true a pencil. There is but one Velasquez in the collection, and the only thing that interested me, in two halls filled with rubbish, was a "Conception" by Murillo's mulatto pupil, said by some to have been his slave. Although an imitation of the great master, it is a picture of much sweetness and beauty. There is no other work of the artist in existence, and this, as the only production of the kind by a painter of mixed African blood, ought to belong to the Republic of Liberia.
Among the other guests at the Fonda de Madrid is Mr. Thomas Hobhouse, brother of Byron's friend. We had a pleasant party in the Court this evening, listening to blind Pepe, who sang to his guitar a medley of merry Andalusian refrains. Singing made the old man courageous, and, at the close, he gave us the radical song of Spain, which is now strictly prohibited. The air is charming, but too gay; one would sooner dance than fight to its measures. It does not bring the hand to the sword, like the glorious Marseillaise.
Adios, beautiful Seville!
Journey in a Spanish Diligence.
Spanish Diligence Lines—Leaving Seville—An Unlucky Start—Alcala of the Bakers—Dinner at Carmona—A Dehesa—The Mayoral and his Team—Ecija—Night Journey—Cordova—The Cathedral-Mosque—Moorish Architecture—The Sierra Morena—A Rainy Journey—A Chapter of Accidents—Baylen—The Fascination of Spain—Jaen—The Vega of Granada.
Granada, November 14, 1852.
It is an enviable sensation to feel for the first time that you are in Granada. No amount of travelling can weaken the romantic interest which clings about this storied place, or take away aught from the freshness of that emotion with which you first behold it, I sit almost at the foot of the Alhambra, whose walls I can see from my window, quite satisfied for to-day with being here. It has been raining since I arrived, the thunder is crashing overhead, and the mountains are covered with clouds, so I am kept in-doors, with the luxury of knowing that all the wonders of the place are within my reach. And now let me beguile the dull weather by giving you a sketch of my journey from Seville hither.
There are three lines of stages from Seville to Madrid, and their competition has reduced the fare to $12, which, for a ride of 350 miles, is remarkably cheap. The trip is usually made in three days and a half. A branch line from Baylen—nearly half-way—strikes southward to Granada, and as there is no competition on this part of the road, I was charged $15 for a through seat in the coupe. On account of the lateness of the season, and the limited time at my command, this was preferable to taking horses and riding across the country from Seville to Cordova. Accordingly, at an early hour on Thursday morning last, furnished with a travelling ticket inscribed: "Don Valtar de Talor" (myself!), I took leave of my English friends at the Fonda de Madrid, got into an immense, lumbering yellow vehicle, drawn by ten mules, and started, trusting to my good luck and bad Spanish to get safely through. The commencement, however, was unpropitious, and very often a stumble at starting makes the whole journey limp. The near mule in the foremost span was a horse, ridden by our postillion, and nothing could prevent that horse from darting into all sorts of streets and alleys where we had no desire to go. As all mules have implicit faith in horses, of course the rest of the animals followed. We were half an hour in getting out of Seville, and when at last we reached the open road and dashed off at full gallop, one of the mules in the traces fell and was dragged in the dust some twenty or thirty yards before we could stop. My companions in the coupe were a young Spanish officer and his pretty Andalusian bride, who was making her first journey from home, and after these mishaps was in a state of constant fear and anxiety.
The first stage across the valley of the Guadalquivir took us to the town of Alcala, which lies in the lap of the hills above the beautiful little river Guadaira. It is a picturesque spot; the naked cliffs overhanging the stream have the rich, red hue of cinnabar, and the trees and shrubbery in the meadows, and on the hill-sides are ready grouped to the artist's hand. The town is called Alcala de los Panadores (of the Bakers) from its hundreds of flour mills and bake-ovens, which supply Seville with those white, fine, delicious twists, of which Spain may be justly proud. They should have been sent to the Exhibition last year, with the Toledo blades and the wooden mosaics. We left the place and its mealy-headed population, and turned eastward into wide, rolling tracts, scattered here and there with gnarled olive trees. The soil was loose and sandy, and hedges of aloes lined the road. The country is thinly populated, and very little of it under cultivation.
About noon we reached Carmona, which was founded by the Romans, as, indeed, were nearly all the towns of Southern Spain. It occupies the crest and northern slope of a high hill, whereon the ancient Moorish castle still stands. The Alcazar, or palace, and the Moorish walls also remain, though in a very ruinous condition. Here we stopped to dinner, for the "Nueva Peninsular," in which I was embarked, has its hotels all along the route, like that of Zurutuza, in Mexico. We were conducted into a small room adjoining the stables, and adorned with colored prints illustrating the history of Don John of Austria. The table-cloths, plates and other appendages were of very ordinary quality, but indisputably clean; we seated ourselves, and presently the dinner appeared. First, a vermicelli pilaff, which I found palatable, then the national olla, a dish of enormous yellow peas, sprinkled with bits of bacon and flavored with oil; then three successive courses of chicken, boiled, stewed and roasted, but in every case done to rags, and without a particle of the original flavor. This was the usual style of our meals on the road, whether breakfast, dinner or supper, except that kid was sometimes substituted for fowl, and that the oil employed, being more or less rancid, gave different flavors to the dishes, A course of melons, grapes or pomegranates wound up the repast, the price of which varied from ten to twelve reals—a real being about a half-dime. In Seville, at the Fonda de Madrid, the cooking is really excellent; but further in the interior, judging from what I have heard, it is even worse than I have described.
Continuing our journey, we passed around the southern brow of the hill, under the Moorish battlements. Here a superb view opened to the south and east over the wide Vega of Carmona, as far as the mountain chain which separates it from the plain of Granada. The city has for a coat of arms a silver star in an azure field, with the pompous motto: "As Lucifer shines in the morning, so shines Carmona in Andalusia." If it shines at all, it is because it is a city set upon a hill; for that is the only splendor I could find about the place. The Vega of Carmona is partially cultivated, and now wears a sombre brown hue, from its tracts of ploughed land.
Cultivation soon ceased, however, and we entered on a dehesa, a boundless plain of waste land, covered with thickets of palmettos. Flocks of goats and sheep, guarded by shepherds in brown cloaks, wandered here and there, and except their huts and an isolated house, with its group of palm-trees, there was no sign of habitation. The road was a deep, red sand, and our mules toiled along slowly and painfully, urged by the incessant cries of the mayoral, or conductor, and his mozo. As the mayoral's whip could only reach the second span, the business of the latter was to jump down every ten minutes, run ahead and belabor the flanks of the foremost mules, uttering at the same time a series of sharp howls, which seemed to strike the poor beasts with quite as much severity as his whip. I defy even a Spanish ear to distinguish the import of these cries, and the great wonder was how they could all come out of one small throat. When it came to a hard pull, they cracked and exploded like volleys of musketry, and flew like hail-stones about the ears of the machos (he-mules). The postillion, having only the care of the foremost span, is a silent man, but he has contracted a habit of sleeping in the saddle, which I mention for the benefit of timid travellers, as it adds to the interest of a journey by night.
The clouds which had been gathering all day, now settled down upon the plain, and night came on with a dull rain. At eight o'clock we reached the City of Ecija, where we had two hours' halt and supper. It was so dark and rainy that I saw nothing, not even the classic Xenil, the river of Granada, which flows through the city on its way to the Guadalquivir, The night wore slowly away, and while the mozo drowsed on his post, I caught snatches of sleep between his cries. As the landscape began to grow distinct in the gray, cloudy dawn, we saw before us Cordova, with the dark range of the Sierra Morena rising behind it. This city, once the glory of Moorish Spain, the capital of the great Abd-er-Rahman, containing, when in its prime, a million of inhabitants, is now a melancholy wreck. It has not a shadow of the art, science, and taste which then distinguished it, and the only interest it now possesses is from these associations, and the despoiled remnant of its renowned Mosque.
We crossed the Guadalquivir on a fine bridge built on Roman foundations, and drove slowly down the one long, rough, crooked street. The diligence stops for an hour, to allow passengers to breakfast, but my first thought was for the Cathedral-mosque, la Mezquita, as it is still called. "It is closed," said the ragged crowd that congregated about us; "you cannot get in until eight o'clock." But I remembered that a silver key will open anything in Spain, and taking a mozo as a guide we hurried off as fast as the rough pavements would permit. We had to retrace the whole length of the city, but on reaching the Cathedral, found it open. The exterior is low, and quite plain, though of great extent. A Moorish gateway admitted me into the original court-yard, or haram, of the mosque, which is planted with orange trees and contains the fountain, for the ablutions of Moslem worshippers, in the centre. The area of the Mosque proper, exclusive of the court-yard, is about 400 by 350 feet. It was built on the plan of the great Mosque of Damascus, about the end of the eighth century. The materials—including twelve hundred columns of marble, jasper and porphyry, from the ruins of Carthage, and the temples of Asia Minor—-belonged to a Christian basilica, of the Gothic domination, which was built upon the foundations of a Roman temple of Janus; so that the three great creeds of the world have here at different times had their seat. The Moors considered this mosque as second in holiness to the Kaaba of Mecca, and made pilgrimages to it from all parts of Moslem Spain and Barbary. Even now, although shorn of much of its glory, it surpasses any Oriental mosque into which I have penetrated, except St. Sophia, which is a Christian edifice.
All the nineteen original entrances—beautiful horse-shoe arches—are closed, except the central one. I entered by a low door, in one corner of the corridor. A wilderness of columns connected by double arches (one springing above the other, with an opening between), spread their dusky aisles before me in the morning twilight. The eight hundred and fifty shafts of this marble forest formed labyrinths and mazes, which at that early hour appeared boundless, for their long vistas disappeared in the shadows. Lamps were burning before distant shrines, and a few worshippers were kneeling silently here and there. The sound of my own footsteps, as I wandered through the ranks of pillars, was all that I heard. In the centre of the wood (for such it seemed) rises the choir, a gaudy and tasteless excrescence added by the Christians. Even Charles V., who laid a merciless hand on the Alhambra, reproved the Bishop of Cordova for this barbarous and unnecessary disfigurement.
The sacristan lighted lamps in order to show me the Moorish chapels. Nothing but the precious materials of which these exquisite structures are composed could have saved them from the holy hands of the Inquisition, which intentionally destroyed all the Roman antiquities of Cordova. Here the fringed arches, the lace-like filigrees, the wreathed inscriptions, and the domes of pendent stalactites which enchant you in the Alcazar of Seville, are repeated, not in stucco, but in purest marble, while the entrance to the "holy of holies" is probably the most glorious piece of mosaic in the world. The pavement of the interior is deeply worn by the knees of the Moslem pilgrims, who compassed it seven times, kneeling, as they now do in the Kaaba, at Mecca. The sides are embroidered with sentences from the Koran, in Cufic characters, and the roof is in the form of a fluted shell, of a single piece of pure white marble, fifteen feet in diameter. The roof of the vestibule is a wonderful piece of workmanship, formed of pointed arches, wreathed and twined through each other, like basket-work. No people ever wrought poetry into stone so perfectly as the Saracens. In looking on these precious relics of an elegant and refined race, I cannot help feeling a strong regret that their kingdom ever passed into other hands.
Leaving Cordova, our road followed the Guadalquivir, along the foot of the Sierra Morena, which rose dark and stern, a barrier to the central table-lands of La Mancha. At Alcolea, we crossed the river on a noble bridge of black marble, out of all keeping with the miserable road. It rained incessantly, and the scenery through which we passed had a wild and gloomy character. The only tree to be seen was the olive, which covered the hills far and near, the profusion of its fruit showing the natural richness of the soil. This part of the road is sometimes infested with robbers, and once, when I saw two individuals waiting for us in a lonely defile, with gun-barrels thrust out from under their black cloaks, I anticipated a recurrence of a former unpleasant experience. But they proved to be members of the guardia civil, and therefore our protectors.
The ruts and quagmires, made by the rain, retarded our progress, and it was dark when we reached Andujar, fourteen leagues from Cordova. To Baylen, where I was to quit the diligence, and take another coming down from Madrid to Granada, was four leagues further. We journeyed on in the dark, in a pouring rain, up and down hill for some hours, when all at once the cries of the mozo ceased, and the diligence came to a dead stop. There was some talk between our conductors, and then the mayoral opened the door and invited us to get out. The postillion had fallen asleep, and the mules had taken us into a wrong road. An attempt was made to turn the diligence, but failed, leaving it standing plump against a high bank of mud. We stood, meanwhile, shivering in the cold and wet, and the fair Andalusian shed abundance of tears. Fortunately, Baylen was close at hand, and, after some delay, two men came with lanterns and escorted us to the posada, or inn, where we arrived at midnight. The diligence from Madrid, which was due six hours before, had not made its appearance, and we passed the rest of the night in a cold room, fasting, for the meal was only to be served when the other passengers came. At day-break, finally, a single dish of oily meat was vouchsafed to us, and, as it was now certain that some accident had happened, the passengers to Madrid requested the Administrador to send them on in an extra conveyance. This he refused, and they began to talk about getting up a pronunciamento, when a messenger arrived with the news that the diligence had broken down at midnight, about two leagues off. Tools were thereupon dispatched, nine hours after the accident happened, and we might hope to be released from our imprisonment in four or five more.
Baylen is a wretched place, celebrated for having the first palm-tree which those see who come from Madrid, and for the victory gained by Castanos over the French forces under Dupont, which occasioned the flight of Joseph Buonaparte from Madrid, and the temporary liberation of Spain from the French yoke. Castanos, who received the title of Duke de Baylen, and is compared by the Spaniards to Wellington, died about three months ago. The battle-field I passed in the night; the palm-tree I found, but it is now a mere stump, the leaves having been stripped off to protect the houses of the inhabitants from lightning. Our posada had one of them hung at the window. At last, the diligence came, and at three P.M., when I ought to have been in sight of Granada, I left the forlorn walls of Baylen. My fellow-passengers were a young sprig of the Spanish nobility and three chubby-faced nuns.
The rest of the journey that afternoon was through a wide, hilly region, entirely bare of trees and habitations, and but partially cultivated. There was something sublime in its very nakedness and loneliness, and I felt attracted to it as I do towards the Desert. In fact, although I have seen little fine scenery since leaving Seville, have had the worst of weather, and no very pleasant travelling experiences, the country has exercised a fascination over me, which I do not quite understand. I find myself constantly on the point of making a vow to return again. Much to my regret, night set in before we reached Jaen, the capital of the Moorish kingdom of that name. We halted for a short time in the large plaza of the town, where the dash of fountains mingled with the sound of the rain, and the black, jagged outline of a mountain overhanging the place was visible through the storm.
All night we journeyed on through the mountains, sometimes splashing through swollen streams, sometimes coming almost to a halt in beds of deep mud. When this morning dawned, we were ascending through wild, stony hills, overgrown with shrubbery, and the driver said we were six leagues from Granada. Still on, through a lonely country, with now and then a large venta, or country inn, by the road-side, and about nine o'clock, as the sky became more clear, I saw in front of us, high up under the clouds, the snow-fields of the Sierra Nevada. An hour afterwards we were riding between gardens, vineyards, and olive orchards, with the magnificent Vega of Granada stretching far away on the right, and the Vermilion Towers of the Alhambra crowning the heights before us.
Granada And The Alhambra.
Mateo Ximenez, the Younger—The Cathedral of Granada—A Monkish Miracle—Catholic Shrines—Military Cherubs—The Royal Chapel—The Tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella—Chapel of San Juan de Dios—The Albaycin—View of the Vega—The Generalife—The Alhambra—Torra de la Vela—The Walls and Towers—A Visit to Old Mateo—The Court of the Fish-pond—The Halls of the Alhambra—Character of the Architecture—Hall of the Abencerrages—Hall of the Two Sisters—The Moorish Dynasty in Spain.
"Who has not in Granada been, Verily, he has nothing seen."
Granada, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1852.
Immediately on reaching here, I was set upon by an old gentleman who wanted to act as guide, but the mozo of the hotel put into my hand a card inscribed "Don Mateo Ximenez, Guide to the celebrated Washington Irving," and I dismissed the other applicant. The next morning, as the mozo brought me my chocolate, he said; "Senor, el chico is waiting for you." The "little one" turned out to be the son of old Mateo, "honest Mateo," who still lives up in the Alhambra, but is now rather too old to continue his business, except on great occasions. I accepted the young Mateo, who spoke with the greatest enthusiasm of Mr. Irving, avowing that the whole family was devoted to him, in life and death. It was still raining furiously, and the golden Darro, which roars in front of the hotel, was a swollen brown flood. I don't wonder that he sometimes threatens, as the old couplet says, to burst up the Zacatin, and bear it down to his bride, the Xenil.
Towards noon, the clouds broke away a little, and we sallied out. Passing through the gate and square of Vivarrambla (may not this name come from the Arabic bob er-raml, the "gate of the sand?"), we soon reached the Cathedral. This massive structure, which makes a good feature in the distant view of Granada, is not at all imposing, near at hand. The interior is a mixture of Gothic and Roman, glaring with whitewash, and broken, like that of Seville, by a wooden choir and two grand organs, blocking up the nave. Some of the side chapels, nevertheless, are splendid masses of carving and gilding. In one of them, there are two full-length portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella, supposed to be by Alonzo Cano. The Cathedral contains some other good pictures by the same master, but all its former treasures were carried off by the French.
We next went to the Picture Gallery, which is in the Franciscan Convent. There are two small Murillos, much damaged, some tolerable Alonzo Canos, a few common-place pictures by Juan de Sevilla, and a hundred or more by authors whose names I did not inquire, for a more hideous collection of trash never met my eye. One of them represents a miracle performed by two saints, who cut off the diseased leg of a sick white man, and replace it by the sound leg of a dead negro, whose body is seen lying beside the bed. Judging from the ghastly face of the patient, the operation is rather painful, though the story goes that the black leg grew fast, and the man recovered. The picture at least illustrates the absence of "prejudice of color" among the Saints.
We went into the adjoining Church of Santo Domingo, which has several very rich shrines of marble and gold. A sort of priestly sacristan opened the Church of the Madonna del Rosario—-a glittering mixture of marble, gold, and looking-glasses, which has rather a rich effect. The beautiful yellow and red veined marbles are from the Sierra Nevada. The sacred Madonna—a big doll with staring eyes and pink cheeks—has a dress of silver, shaped like an extinguisher, and encrusted with rubies and other precious stones. The utter absence of taste in most Catholic shrines is an extraordinary thing. It seems remarkable that a Church which has produced so many glorious artists should so constantly and grossly violate the simplest rules of art. The only shrine which I have seen, which was in keeping with the object adored, is that of the Virgin, at Nazareth, where there is neither picture nor image, but only vases of fragrant flowers, and perfumed oil in golden lamps, burning before a tablet of spotless marble.
Among the decorations of the chapel, there are a host of cherubs frescoed on the ceiling, and one of them is represented in the act of firing off a blunderbuss. "Is it true that the angels carry blunderbusses?" I asked the priest. He shrugged his shoulders with a sort of half-smile, and said nothing. In the Cathedral, on the plinths of the columns in the outer aisles, are several notices to the effect that "whoever speaks to women, either in the nave or the aisles, thereby puts himself in danger of excommunication." I could not help laughing, as I read this monkish and yet most unmonk-like statute. "Oh," said Mateo, "all that was in the despotic times; it is not so now."
A deluge of rain put a stop to my sight-seeing until the next morning, when I set out with Mateo to visit the Royal Chapel. A murder had been committed in the night, near the entrance of the Zacatin, and the paving-stones were still red with the blood of the victim. A funcion of some sort was going on in the Chapel, and we went into the sacristy to wait. The priests and choristers were there, changing their robes; they saluted me good-humoredly, though there was an expression in their faces that plainly said: "a heretic!" When the service was concluded, I went into the chapel and examined the high altar, with its rude wood-carvings, representing the surrender of Granada. The portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella, Cardinal Ximenez, Gonzalvo of Cordova, and King Boabdil, are very curious. Another tablet represents the baptism of the conquered Moors.
In the centre of the chapel stand the monuments erected to Ferdinand and Isabella, and their successors Philip L, and Maria, by Charles V. They are tall catafalques of white marble, superbly sculptured, with the full length effigies of the monarchs upon them. The figures are admirable; that of Isabella, especially, though the features are settled in the repose of death, expresses all the grand and noble traits which belonged to her character. The sacristan removed the matting from a part of the floor, disclosing an iron grating underneath, A damp, mouldly smell, significant of death and decay, came up through the opening. He lighted two long waxen tapers, lifted the grating, and I followed him down the narrow steps into the vault where lie the coffins of the Catholic Sovereigns. They were brought here from the Alhambra, in 1525. The leaden sarcophagi, containing the bodies of Ferdinand and Isabella, lie, side by side, on stone slabs; and as I stood between the two, resting a hand on each, the sacristan placed the tapers in apertures in the stone, at the head and foot. They sleep, as they wished, in their beloved Granada, and no profane hand has ever disturbed the repose of their ashes.
After visiting the Church of San Jeronimo, founded by Gonzalvo of Cordova, I went to the adjoining Church and Hospital of San Juan de Dios. A fat priest, washing his hands in the sacristy, sent a boy to show me the Chapel of San Juan, and the relics. The remains of the Saint rest in a silver chest, standing in the centre of a richly-adorned chapel. Among the relics is a thorn from the crown of Christ, which, as any botanist may see, must have grown on a different plant from the other thorn they show at Seville; and neither kind is found in Palestine. The true spina christi, the nebbuk, has very small thorns; but nothing could be more cruel, as I found when riding through patches of it near Jericho. The boy also showed me a tooth of San Lorenzo, a crooked brown bicuspis, from which I should infer that the saint was rather an ill-favored man. The gilded chapel of San Juan is in singular contrast with one of the garments which he wore when living—a cowl of plaited reeds, looking like an old fish basket—which is kept in a glass case. His portrait is also to be seen—a mild and beautiful face, truly that of one who went about doing good. He was a sort of Spanish John Howard, and deserved canonization, if anybody ever did.
I ascended the street of the Darro to the Albaycin, which we entered by one of the ancient gates. This suburb is still surrounded by the original fortifications, and undermined by the capacious cisterns of the Moors. It looks down on Granada; and from the crumbling parapets there are superb views over the city, the Vega, and its inclosing mountains. The Alhambra rose opposite, against the dark-red and purple background of the Sierra Nevada, and a canopy of heavy rain-clouds rested on all the heights. A fitful gleam of sunshine now and then broke through and wandered over the plain, touching up white towers and olive groves and reaches of the winding Xenil, with a brilliancy which suggested the splendor of the whole picture, if once thus restored to its proper light. I could see Santa Fe in the distance, toward Loxa; nearer, and more eastward, the Sierra de Elvira, of a deep violet color, with the woods of the Soto de Roma, the Duke of Wellington's estate, at its base; and beyond it the Mountain of Parapanda, the weather-guage of Granada, still covered with clouds. There is an old Granadian proverb which says:—"When Parapanda wears his bonnet, it will rain whether God wills it or no." From the chapel of San Miguel, above the Albaycin, there is a very striking view of the deep gorge of the Darro, at one's feet, with the gardens and white walls of the Generalife rising beyond, and the Silla del Moro and the Mountain of the Sun towering above it. The long, irregular lines of the Alhambra, with the huge red towers rising here and there, reminded me somewhat of a distant view of Karnak; and, like Karnak, the Alhambra is picturesque from whatever point it is viewed.
We descended through wastes of cactus to the Darro, in whose turbid stream a group of men were washing for gold. I watched one of them, as he twirled his bowl in precisely the California style, but got nothing for his pains. Mateo says that they often make a dollar a day, each. Passing under the Tower of Comares and along the battlements of the Alhambra, we climbed up to the Generalife. This charming villa is still in good preservation, though its exquisite filigree and scroll-work have been greatly injured by whitewash. The elegant colonnades surround gardens rich in roses, myrtles and cypresses, and the fountains that lulled the Moorish Kings in their summer idleness still pour their fertilizing streams. In one of the rooms is a small and bad portrait gallery, containing a supposed portrait of Boabdil. It is a mild, amiable face, but wholly lacks strength of character.
To-day I devoted to the Alhambra. The storm, which, as the people say, has not been equalled for several years, showed no signs of breaking up, and in the midst of a driving shower I ascended to the Vermilion Towers, which are supposed to be of Phoenician origin. They stand on the extremity of a long, narrow ledge, which stretches out like an arm from the hill of the Alhambra. The paseo lies between, and is shaded by beautiful elms, which the Moors planted.
I entered the Alhambra by the Gate of Justice, which is a fine specimen of Moorish architecture, though of common red brick and mortar. It is singular what a grace the horse-shoe arch gives to the most heavy and lumbering mass of masonry. The round arches of the Christian edifices of Granada seem tame and inelegant, in comparison. Over the arch of the vestibule of this gate is the colossal hand, and over the inner entrance the key, celebrated in the tales of Washington Irving and the superstitions of the people. I first ascended the Torre de la Vela, where the Christian flag was first planted on the 2d of January, 1492. The view of the Vega and City of Granada was even grander than from the Albaycin. Parapanda was still bonneted in clouds, but patches of blue sky began to open above the mountains of Loxa. A little boy accompanied us, to see that I did not pull the bell, the sound of which would call together all the troops in the city. While we stood there, the funeral procession of the man murdered two nights before came up the street of Gomerez, and passed around the hill under the Vermilion Towers.
I made the circuit of the walls before entering the Palace. In the Place of the Cisterns, I stopped to take a drink of the cool water of the Darro, which is brought thither by subterranean channels from the hills. Then, passing the ostentatious pile commenced by Charles V., but which was never finished, and never will be, nor ought to be, we walked along the southern ramparts to the Tower of the Seven Floors, amid the ruins of winch I discerned the top of the arch by which the unfortunate Boabdil quitted Granada, and which was thenceforth closed for ever. In the Tower of the Infantas, a number of workmen were busy restoring the interior, which has been cruelly damaged. The brilliant azulejo, or tile-work, the delicate arches and filigree sculpture of the walls, still attest its former elegance, and give some color to the tradition that it was the residence of the Moorish Princesses.
As we passed through the little village which still exists among the ruins of the fortress, Mateo invited me to step in and see his father, the genuine "honest Mateo," immortalized in the "Tales of the Alhambra." The old man has taken up the trade of silk-weaving, and had a number of gay-colored ribbons on his loom. He is more than sixty years old and now quite gray-headed, but has the same simple manners, the same honest face that attracted his temporary master. He spoke with great enthusiasm of Mr. Irving, and brought out from a place of safety the "Alhambra" and the "Chronicles of the Conquest," which he has carefully preserved. He then produced an Andalusian sash, the work of his own hands, which he insisted on binding around my waist, to see how it would look. I must next take off my coat and hat, and put on his Sunday jacket and jaunty sombrero. "Por Dios!" he exclaimed: "que buen mozo! Senor, you are a legitimate Andalusian!" After this, of course, I could do no less than buy the sash. "You must show it to Washington Irving," said he, "and tell him it was made by Mateo's own hands;" which I promised. I must then go into the kitchen, and eat a pomegranate from his garden—a glorious pomegranate, with kernels of crimson, and so full of blood that you could not touch them but it trickled through your fingers. El Marques, a sprightly dog, and a great slate-colored cat, took possession of my legs, and begged for a share of every mouthful I took, while old Mateo sat beside me, rejoicing in the flavor of a Gibraltar cigar which I gave him. But my time was precious, and so I let the "Son of the Alhambra" go back to his loom, and set out for the Palace of the Moorish Kings.
This palace is so hidden behind the ambitious shell of that of Charles V. that I was at a loss where it could be. I thought I had compassed the hill, and yet had seen no indications of the renowned magnificence of the Alhambra. But a little door in a blank wall ushered me into a true Moorish realm, the Court of the Fishpond, or of the Myrtles, as it is sometimes called. Here I saw again the slender pillars, the fringed and embroidered arches, and the perforated, lace-like tracery of the fairy corridors. Here, hedges of roses and myrtles still bloomed around the ancient tank, wherein hundreds of gold-fish disported. The noises of the hill do not penetrate here, and the solitary porter who admitted me went back to his post, and suffered me to wander at will through the enchanted halls.
I passed out of this court by an opposite door, and saw, through the vistas of marble pillars and the wonderful fret-work which seems a thing of air rather than of earth, the Fountain of the Lions. Thence I entered in succession the Hall of the Abencerrages, the Hall of the Two Sisters, the apartments of the Sultanas, the Mosque, and the Hall of the Ambassadors. These places—all that is left of the renowned palace—are now well kept, and carefully guarded. Restorations are going on, here and there, and the place is scrupulously watched, that no foreign Vandal, may further injure what the native Goths have done their best to destroy. The rubbish has been cleared away; the rents in the walls have been filled up, and, for the first time since it passed into Spanish hands, there seems a hope that the Alhambra will be allowed to stand. What has been already destroyed we can only partially conjecture; but no one sees what remains without completing the picture in his own imagination, and placing it among the most perfect and marvellous creations of human genius.
Nothing can exceed the richness of invention which, in this series of halls, corridors, and courts, never repeats the same ornaments, but, from the simplest primitive forms and colors, produces a thousand combinations, not one of which is in discord with the grand design. It is useless to attempt a detailed description of this architecture; and it is so unlike anything else in the world, that, like Karnak and Baalbec, those only know the Alhambra who see it. When you can weave stone, and hang your halls with marble tapestry, you may rival it. It is nothing to me that these ornaments are stucco; to sculpture them in marble is only the work of the hands. Their great excellence is in the design, which, like all great things, suggests even more than it gives. If I could create all that the Court of Lions suggested to me for its completion, it would fulfil the dream of King Sheddad, and surpass the palaces of the Moslem Paradise.
The pavilions of the Court of Lions, and the halls which open into it, on either side, approach the nearest to their original perfection. The floors are marble, the wainscoting of painted tiles, the walls of embroidery, still gleaming with the softened lustre of their original tints, and the lofty conical domes seem to be huge sparry crystalizations, hung with dropping stalactites, rather than any work of the human hand. Each of these domes is composed of five thousand separate pieces, and the pendent prismatic blocks, colored and gilded, gradually resolve themselves, as you gaze, into the most intricate and elegant designs. But you must study long ere you have won all the secret of their beauty. To comprehend them, one should spend a whole day, lying on his back, under each one. Mateo spread his cloak for me in the fountain in the Hall of the Abencerrages, over the blood-stains made by the decapitation of those gallant chiefs, and I lay half an hour looking upward: and this is what I made out of the dome. From its central pinnacle hung the chalice of a flower with feathery petals, like the "crape myrtle" of our Southern States Outside of this, branched downward the eight rays of a large star, whose points touched the base of the dome; yet the star was itself composed of flowers, while between its rays and around its points fell a shower of blossoms, shells, and sparry drops. From the base of the dome hung a gorgeous pattern of lace, with a fringe of bugles, projecting into eight points so as to form a star of drapery, hanging from the points of the flowery star in the dome. The spaces between the angles were filled with masses of stalactites, dropping one below the other, till they tapered into the plain square sides of the hall.
In the Hall of the Two Sisters, I lay likewise for a considerable time, resolving its misty glories into shape. The dome was still more suggestive of flowers. The highest and central piece was a deep trumpet-flower, whose mouth was cleft into eight petals. It hung in the centre of a superb lotus-cup, the leaves of which were exquisitely veined and chased. Still further below swung a mass of mimosa blossoms, intermixed with pods and lance-like leaves, and around the base of the dome opened the bells of sixteen gorgeous tulips. These pictures may not be very intelligible, but I know not how else to paint the effect of this fairy architecture.
In Granada, as in Seville and Cordova, one's sympathies are wholly with the Moors. The few mutilated traces which still remain of their power, taste, and refinement, surpass any of the monuments erected by the race which conquered them. The Moorish Dynasty in Spain was truly, as Irving observes, a splendid exotic, doomed never to take a lasting root in the soil It was choked to death by the native weeds; and, in place of lands richly cultivated and teeming with plenty, we now have barren and-almost depopulated wastes—in place of education, industry, and the cultivation of the arts and sciences, an enslaved, ignorant and degenerate race. Andalusia would be far more prosperous at this day, had she remained in Moslem hands. True, she would not have received that Faith which is yet destined to be the redemption of the world, but the doctrines of Mahomet are more acceptable to God, and more beneficial to Man than those of that Inquisition, which, in Spain alone, has shed ten times as much Christian blood as all the Moslem races together for the last six centuries. It is not from a mere romantic interest that I lament the fate of Boabdil, and the extinction of his dynasty. Had he been a king worthy to reign in those wonderful halls, he never would have left them. Had he perished there, fighting to the last, he would have been freed from forty years of weary exile and an obscure death. Well did Charles V. observe, when speaking of him: "Better a tomb in the Alhambra than a palace in the Alpujanas!"
The Bridle-Roads of Andalusia.
Change of Weather—Napoleon and his Horses—Departure from Granada—My Guide, Jose Garcia—His Domestic Troubles—The Tragedy of the Umbrella—The Vow against Aguardiente—Crossing the Vega—The Sierra Nevada—The Baths of Alhama—"Woe is Me, Alhama!"—The Valley of the River Velez—Velez Malaga—The Coast Road—The Fisherman and his Donkey—Malaga—Summer Scenery—The Story of Don Pedro, without Fear and without Care—The Field of Monda—A Lonely Venta.
Venta de Villalon, November 20, 1852.
The clouds broke away before I had been two hours in the Alhambra, and the sunshine fell broad and warm into its courts. They must be roofed with blue sky, in order to give the full impression of their brightness and beauty. Mateo procured me a bottle of vino rancio, and we drank it together in the Court of Lions. Six hours had passed away before I knew it, and I reluctantly prepared to leave. The clouds by this time had disappeared; the Vega slept in brilliant sunshine, and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada shone white and cold against the sky.
On reaching the hotel, I found a little man, nicknamed Napoleon, awaiting me. He was desirous to furnish me with horses, and, having a prophetic knowledge of the weather, promised me a bright sky as far as Gibraltar. "I furnish all the senors," said he; "they know me, and never complain of me or my horses;" but, by way of security, on making the bargain, I threatened to put up a card in the hotel at Gibraltar, warning all travellers against him, in case I was not satisfied. My contract was for two horses and a guide, who were to be ready at sunrise the next morning. Napoleon was as good as his word; and before I had finished an early cup of chocolate, there was a little black Andalusian stallion awaiting me. The alforjas, or saddle-bags, of the guide were strengthened by a stock of cold provisions, the leathern bota hanging beside it was filled with ripe Granada wine; and now behold me ambling over the Vega, accoutred in a gay Andalusian jacket, a sash woven by Mateo Ximenes, and one of those bandboxy sombreros, which I at first thought so ungainly, but now consider quite picturesque and elegant.
My guide, a short but sinewy and well-knit son of the mountains, named Jose Garcia, set off at a canter down the banks of the Darro. "Don't ride so fast!" cried Napoleon, who watched our setting out, from the door of the fonda; but Jose was already out of hearing. This guide is a companion to my liking. Although he is only twenty-seven, he has been for a number of years a correo, or mail-rider, and a guide for travelling parties. His olive complexion is made still darker by exposure to the sun and wind, and his coal-black eyes shine with Southern heat and fire. He has one of those rare mouths which are born with a broad smile in each corner, and which seem to laugh even in the midst of grief. We had not been two hours together, before I knew his history from beginning to end. He had already been married eight years, and his only trouble was a debt of twenty-four dollars, which the illness of his wife had caused him. This money was owing to the pawnbroker, who kept his best clothes in pledge until he could pay it. "Senor," said he, "if I had ten million dollars, I would rather give them all away than have a sick wife." He had a brother in Puerto Principe, Cuba, who sent over money enough to pay the rent of the house, but he found that children were a great expense. "It is most astonishing," he said, "how much children can eat. From morning till night, the bread is never out of their mouths."
Jose has recently been travelling with some Spaniards, one of whom made him pay two dollars for an umbrella which was lost on the road. This umbrella is a thorn in his side. At every venta where we stop, the story is repeated, and he is not sparing of his maledictions. The ghost of that umbrella is continually raised, and it will be a long time before he can shut it. "One reason why I like to travel with foreign Senors," said he to me, "is, that when I lose anything, they never make me pay for it." "For all that," I answered, "take care you don't lose my umbrella: it cost three dollars." Since then, nothing can exceed Jose's attention to that article. He is at his wit's end how to secure it best. It appears sometimes before, sometimes behind him, lashed to the saddle with innumerable cords; now he sticks it into the alforja, now carries it in his hand, and I verily believe that he sleeps with it in his arms. Every evening, as he tells his story to the muleteers, around the kitchen fire, he always winds up by triumphantly appealing to me with: "Well, Senor, have I lost your umbrella yet?"
Our bargain is that I shall feed him on the way, and as we travel in the primitive style of the country, we always sit down together to the same dish. To his supervision, the olla is often indebted for an additional flavor, and no "thorough-bred" gentleman could behave at table with more ease and propriety. He is as moderate as a Bedouin in his wants, and never touches the burning aguardiente which the muleteers are accustomed to drink. I asked him the reason of this. "I drink wine. Senor," he replied, "because that, you know, is like meat and bread; but I have made a vow never to drink aguardiente again. Two of us got drunk on it, four or five years ago, in Granada, and we quarrelled. My comrade drew his knife and stabbed me here, in the left shoulder. I was furious and cut him across the breast. We both went to the hospital—I for three months and he for six—and he died in a few days after getting out. It cost my poor father many a thousand reals; and when I was able to go to work, I vowed before the Virgin that I would never touch aguardiente again."
For the first league, our road lay over the rich Vega of Granada, but gradually became wilder and more waste. Passing the long, desert ridge, known as the "Last Sigh of the Moor," we struck across a region of low hills. The road was very deep, from the recent rains, and studded, at short intervals, by rude crosses, erected to persons who had been murdered. Jose took a grim delight in giving me the history of each. Beyond the village of Lamala, which lies with its salt-pans in a basin of the hills, we ascended the mountain ridge which forms the southern boundary of the Vega. Granada, nearly twenty miles distant, was still visible. The Alhambra was dwindled to a speck, and I took my last view of it and the magnificent landscape which lies spread out before it. The Sierra Nevada, rising to the height of 13,000 feet above the sea, was perfectly free from clouds, and the whole range was visible at one glance. All its chasms were filled with snow, and for nearly half-way down its sides there was not a speck of any other color. Its summits were almost wholly devoid of shadow, and their notched and jagged outlines rested flatly against the sky, like ivory inlaid on a table of lapis-lazuli.
From these waste hills, we descended into the valley of Cacia, whose poplar-fringed river had been so swollen by the rains that the correo from Malaga had only succeeded in passing it that morning. We forded it without accident, and, crossing a loftier and bleaker range, came down into the valley of the Marchan. High on a cliff over the stream stood Alhama, my resting-place for the night. The natural warm baths, on account of which this spot was so beloved by the Moors, are still resorted to in the summer. They lie in the bosom of a deep and rugged gorge, half a mile further down the river. The town occupies the crest of a narrow promontory, bounded, on all sides but one, by tremendous precipices. It is one of the most picturesque spots imaginable, and reminded me—to continue the comparison between Syria and Andalusia, which I find so striking—of the gorge of the Barrada, near Damascus. Alhama is now a poor, insignificant town, only visited by artists and muleteers. The population wear long brown cloaks and slouched hats, like the natives of La Mancha.
I found tolerable quarters in a house on the plaza, and took the remaining hour of daylight to view the town. The people looked at me with curiosity, and some boys, walking on the edge of the tajo, or precipice, threw over stones that I might see how deep it was. The rock, in some places, quite overhung the bed of the Marchan, which half-girdles its base. The close scrutiny to which I was subjected by the crowd in the plaza called to mind all I had heard of Spanish spies and robbers. At the venta, I was well treated, but received such an exorbitant bill in the morning that I was ready to exclaim, with King Boabdil, "Woe is me, Alhama!" On comparing notes with Jose, I found that he had been obliged to pay, in addition, for what he received—a discovery which so exasperated that worthy that he folded his hands, bowed his head, made three kisses in the air, and cried out: "I swear before the Virgin that I will never again take a traveller to that inn."
We left Alhama an hour before daybreak, for we had a rough journey of more than forty miles before us. The bridle-path was barely visible in the darkness, but we continued ascending to a height of probably 5,000 feet above the sea, and thus met the sunrise half-way. Crossing the llano of Ace faraya, we reached a tremendous natural portal in the mountains, from whence, as from a door, we looked down on all the country lying between us and the sea. The valley of the River Velez, winding among the hills, pointed out the course of our road. On the left towered over us the barren Sierra Tejeda, an isolated group of peaks, about 8,000 feet in height. For miles, the road was a rocky ladder, which we scrambled down on foot, leading our horses. The vegetation gradually became of a warmer and more luxuriant cast; the southern slopes were planted with the vine that produces the famous Malaga raisins, and the orange groves in the sunny depths of the valleys were as yellow as autumnal beeches, with their enormous loads of fruit. As the bells of Velez Malaga were ringing noon, we emerged from the mountains, near the mouth of the river, and rode into the town to breakfast.
We halted at a queer old inn, more like a Turkish khan than a Christian hostlery. It was kept by a fat landlady, who made us an olla of kid and garlic, which, with some coarse bread and the red Malaga wine, soon took off the sharp edge of our mountain appetites. While I was washing my hands at a well in the court-yard, the mozo noticed the pilgrim-seal of Jerusalem, which is stamped indelibly on my left arm. His admiration and reverence were so great that he called the fat landlady, who, on learning that it had been made in Jerusalem, and that I had visited the Holy Sepulchre, summoned her children to see it. "Here, my children!" she said; "cross yourselves, kneel down, and kiss this holy seal; for, as long as you live, you may never see the like of it again." Thus I, a Protestant heretic, became a Catholic shrine. The children knelt and kissed my arm with touching simplicity; and the seal will henceforth be more sacred to me than ever.
The remaining twenty miles or more of the road to Malaga follow the line of the coast, passing headlands crowned by the atalayas, or watch-towers, of the Moors. It is a new road, and practicable for carriages, so that, for Spain, it may be considered an important achievement. The late rains have, however, already undermined it in a number of places. Here, as among the mountains, we met crowds of muleteers, all of whom greeted me with: "Vaya usted con Dios, caballero!"—("May you go with God, cavalier!") By this time, all my forgotten Spanish had come back again, and a little experience of the simple ways of the people made me quite at home among them. In almost every instance, I was treated precisely as a Spaniard would have been, and less annoyed by the curiosity of the natives than I have been in Germany, and even America.
We were still two leagues from Malaga, at sunset, The fishermen along the coast were hauling in their nets, and we soon began to overtake companies of them, carrying their fish to the city on donkeys. One stout, strapping fellow, with flesh as hard and yellow as a sturgeon's, was seated sideways on a very small donkey, between two immense panniers of fish, As he trotted before us, shouting, and slapping the flanks of the sturdy little beast, Jose and I began to laugh, whereupon the fellow broke out into the following monologue, addressed to the donkey: "Who laughs at this burrico? Who says he's not fine gold from head to foot? What is it that he can't do? If there was a mountain ever so high, he would gallop over it. If there was a river ever so deep, he would swim through it If he could but speak, I might send him to market alone with the fish, and not a chavo of the money would he spend on the way home. Who says he can't go as far as that limping horse? Arrrre, burrico! punate—ar-r-r-r-r-e-e!"
We reached Malaga, at last, our horses sorely fagged. At the Fonda de la Alameda, a new and very elegant hotel, I found a bath and a good dinner, both welcome things to a tired traveller. The winter of Malaga is like spring in other lands and on that account it is much visited by invalids, especially English. It is a lively commercial town of about 80,000 inhabitants, and, if the present scheme of railroad communication with Madrid is carried out, must continue to increase in size and importance. A number of manufacturing establishments have lately been started, and in this department it bids fair to rival Barcelona. The harbor is small, but good, and the country around rich in all the productions of temperate and even tropical climates. The city contains little to interest the tourist. I visited the Cathedral, an immense unfinished mass, without a particle of architectural taste outwardly, though the interior has a fine effect from its large dimensions.
At noon to-day we were again in the saddle, and took the road to the Baths of Caratraca. The tall factory chimneys of Malaga, vomiting forth streams of black smoke, marred the serenity of the sky; but the distant view of the city is very fine. The broad Vega, watered by the Guadaljorce, is rich and well cultivated, and now rejoices in the verdure of spring. The meadows are clothed with fresh grass, butter-cups and daisies are in blossom, and larks sing in the olive-trees. Now and then, we passed a casa del campo, with its front half buried in orange-trees, over which towered two or three sentinel palms. After two leagues of this delightful travel, the country became more hilly, and the groups of mountains which inclosed us assumed the most picturesque and enchanting forms. The soft haze in which the distant peaks were bathed, the lovely violet shadows filling up their chasms and gorges, and the fresh meadows, vineyards, and olive groves below, made the landscape one of the most beautiful I have seen in Spain.
As we were trotting along through the palmetto thickets, Jose asked me if I should not like to hear an Andalusian story. "Nothing would please me better," I replied. "Ride close beside me, then," said he, "that you may understand every word of it." I complied, and he gave me the following, just as I repeat it: "There was once a very rich man, who had thousands of cattle in the Sierra Nevada, and hundreds of houses in the city. Well: this man put a plate, with his name on it, on the door of the great house in which he lived, and the name was this: Don Pedro, without Fear and without Care. Now, when the King was making his paseo, he happened to ride by this house in his carriage, and saw the plate on the door. 'Read me the name on that plate!' said he to his officer. Then the officer read the name: Don Pedro, without Fear and without Care. 'I will see whether Don Pedro is without Fear and without Care,' said the King. The next day came a messenger to the house, and, when he saw Don Pedro, said he to him; 'Don Pedro, without Fear and without Care, the King wants you!' 'What does the King want with me?' said Don Pedro. 'He sends you four questions which you must answer within four days, or he will have you shot; and the questions are:—How can the Sierra Nevada be cleared of snow? How can the sea be made smaller? How many arrobas does the moon weigh? And: How many leagues from here to the Land of Heavenly Glory?' Then Don Pedro without Fear and without Care began to sweat from fright, and knew not what he should do. He called some of his arrieros and loaded twenty mules with money, and went up into the Sierra Nevada, where his herdsmen tended his flocks; for, as I said, he had many thousand cattle. 'God keep you, my master!' said the chief herdsman, who was young, and buen mozo, and had as good a head as ever was set on two shoulders. 'Anda, hombre! said Don Pedro, 'I am a dead man;' and so he told the herdsman all that the King had said. 'Oh, is that all?' said the knowing mozo. 'I can get you out of the scrape. Let me go and answer the questions in your name, my master!' 'Ah, you fool! what can you do?' said Don Pedro without Fear and without Care, throwing himself upon the earth, and ready to die.