George Borrow.

The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2





Early on the 24th I embarked for Seville, in the small Spanish steamer the Betis.163163
Latin, B?tis = the river afterwards named by the Arabs Wady al Kebir, the Guadalquivir.


[]
The morning was wet, and the aspect of nature was enveloped in a dense mist, which prevented my observing surrounding objects. After proceeding about six leagues, we reached the north-eastern extremity of the Bay of Cadiz, and passed by San Lucar, an ancient town near to the spot where the Guadalquivir disembogues itself. The mist suddenly disappeared, and the sun of Spain burst forth in full brilliancy, enlivening all round, and particularly myself, who had till then been lying on the deck in a dull melancholy stupor. We entered the mouth of The Great River, for that is the English translation of Wady al Kebir, as the Moors designated the ancient Betis. We came to anchor for a few minutes at a little village called Bonanza, at the extremity of the first reach of the river, where we received several passengers, and again proceeded. There is not much in the appearance of the Guadalquivir to interest the traveller: the banks are low and destitute of trees, the adjacent country is flat, and only in the distance is seen a range of tall blue sierras. The water is turbid and muddy, and in colour closely resembling the contents of a duck-pool; the average width of the stream is from 150 to 200 yards. But it is impossible to move along this river without remembering that it has borne the Roman, the Vandal, and the Arab, and has been the witness of deeds which have resounded through the world, and been the themes of immortal songs. I repeated Latin verses and fragments of old Spanish ballads till we reached Seville, at about nine oclock of a lovely moonlight night.

Seville contains ninety thousand inhabitants, and is situated on the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir, about eighteen leagues from its mouth; it is surrounded with high Moorish walls, in a good state of preservation, and built of such durable materials that it is probable they will for many centuries still bid defiance to the encroachments of time. The most remarkable edifices are the cathedral and alcazar, or palace of the Moorish kings. The tower of the former, called La Giralda,164164
The vane, porque gira. The modern tower is about 275 feet high. See Girault de Prangey, Essai sur lArchitecture des Maures et Arabes (1841), pp. 103112.


[]
belongs to the period of the Moors, and formed part of the grand mosque of Seville: it is computed to be one hundred ells in height, and is ascended not by stairs or ladders, but by a vaulted pathway, in the manner of an inclined plane.

This path is by no means steep, so that a cavalier might ride up to the top, a feat which Ferdinand the Seventh is said to have accomplished. The view from the summit is very extensive, and on a fine clear day the mountain ridge called the Sierra de Ronda may be discovered, though upwards of twenty leagues distant. The cathedral itself is a noble Gothic structure,165165
The largest and perhaps the grandest of the medi?val cathedrals, not only of Spain, but of Europe. It was commenced in 1403, and completed about 1520.


[]
reputed the finest of the kind in Spain. In the chapels allotted to the various saints are some of the most magnificent paintings which Spanish art has produced; indeed, the cathedral of Seville is at the present time far more rich in splendid paintings than at any former period, possessing many very recently removed from some of the suppressed convents, particularly from the Capuchin and San Francisco.

No one should visit Seville without paying particular attention to the alcazar, that splendid specimen of Moorish architecture. It contains many magnificent halls, particularly that of the ambassadors, so called, which is in every respect more magnificent than the one of the same name within the Alhambra of Granada. This palace was a favourite residence of Peter the Cruel,166166
13501369.


[]
who carefully repaired it without altering its Moorish character and appearance. It probably remains in much the same state as at the time of his death.

On the right side of the river is a large suburb, called Triana, communicating with Seville by means of a bridge of boats;167167
Triana, for long the Whitefriars or Alsatia of Seville, the resort of thieves, gypsies, and mala gente of every description. See Zincali, pt. ii. chap. ii. The Arabic Tarayana is said to perpetuate the name of the Emperor Trajan, who was certainly born in the neighbourhood, and who would not be proud of his supposed conciudadanos! The modern suburb was almost entirely destroyed by the overflowing of the Guadalquivir in 1876. There is now (1895) a permanent bridge across the river.


[]
for there is no permanent bridge across the Guadalquivir, owing to the violent inundations to which it is subject. This suburb is inhabited by the dregs of the populace, and abounds with Gitanos or gypsies. About a league and a half to the north-west stands the village of Santi Ponce: at the foot and on the side of some elevated ground higher up are to be seen vestiges of ruined walls and edifices, which once formed part of Italica, the birthplace of Silius Italicus and Trajan, from which latter personage Triana derives its name.

One fine morning I walked thither, and, having ascended the hill, I directed my course northward. I soon reached what had once been bagnios; and a little farther on, in a kind of valley, between two gentle declivities, the amphitheatre. This latter object is by far the most considerable relic of ancient Italica; it is oval in its form, with two gateways fronting the east and west.

On all sides are to be seen the time-worn broken granite benches, from whence myriads of human beings once gazed down on the area below, where the gladiator shouted, and the lion and the leopard yelled: all around, beneath these flights of benches, are vaulted excavations from whence the combatants, part human, part bestial, darted forth by their several doors. I spent many hours in this singular place, forcing my way through the wild fennel and brushwood into the caverns, now the haunts of adders and other reptiles, whose hissings I heard. Having sated my curiosity, I left the ruins, and, returning by another way, reached a place where lay the carcass of a horse half devoured; upon it, with lustrous eyes, stood an enormous vulture, who, as I approached, slowly soared aloft till he alighted on the eastern gate of the amphitheatre, from whence he uttered a hoarse cry, as if in anger that I had disturbed him from his feast of carrion.

Gomez had not hitherto paid a visit to Seville: when I arrived he was said to be in the neighbourhood of Ronda. The city was under watch and ward: several gates had been blocked up with masonry, trenches dug, and redoubts erected; but I am convinced that the place would not have held out six hours against a resolute attack. Gomez had proved himself to be a most extraordinary man; and with his small army of Aragonese and Basques had, within the last four months, made the tour of Spain. He had very frequently been hemmed in by forces three times the number of his own, in places whence escape appeared impossible; but he had always baffled his enemies, whom he seemed to laugh at. The most absurd accounts of victories gained over him were continually issuing from the press at Seville; amongst others, it was stated that his army had been utterly defeated, himself killed, and that twelve hundred prisoners were on their way to Seville. I saw these prisoners: instead of twelve hundred desperadoes,168168
This is, I think, a good English word. The Spanish form would be desesperados.


[]
they consisted of about twenty poor, lame, ragged wretches, many of them boys from fourteen to sixteen years of age. They were evidently camp-followers, who, unable to keep up with the army, had been picked up straggling in the plains and amongst the hills.

It subsequently appeared that no battle had occurred, and that the death of Gomez was a fiction. The grand defect of Gomez consisted in not knowing how to take advantage of circumstances: after defeating Lopez, he might have marched to Madrid and proclaimed Don Carlos there; and after sacking Cordova he might have captured Seville.

There were several booksellers shops at Seville, in two of which I found copies of the New Testament in Spanish, which had been obtained from Gibraltar about two years before, since which time six copies had been sold in one shop and four in the other. The person who generally accompanied me in my walks about the town and the neighbourhood, was an elderly Genoese, who officiated as a kind of valet de place in the Posada del Turco, where I had taken up my residence. On learning from me that it was my intention to bring out an edition of the New Testament at Madrid, he observed that copies of the work might be extensively circulated in Andalusia. I have been accustomed to bookselling, he continued, and at one time possessed a small shop of my own in this place. Once having occasion to go to Gibraltar, I procured several copies of the Scriptures: some, it is true, were seized by the officers of the customs; but the rest I sold at a high price, and with considerable profit to myself.

I had returned from a walk in the country, on a glorious sunshiny morning of the Andalusian winter, and was directing my steps towards my lodging: as I was passing by the portal of a large gloomy house near the gate of Xeres, two individuals, dressed in zamarras, emerged from the archway, and were about to cross my path, when one, looking in my face, suddenly started back, exclaiming in the purest and most melodious French: What do I see? If my eyes do not deceive me it is himself. Yes, the very same as I saw him first at Bayonne; then long subsequently beneath the brick wall at Novogorod; then beside the Bosphorus; and last at at Oh, my respectable and cherished friend, where was it that I had last the felicity of seeing your well-remembered and most remarkable physiognomy?

Myself. It was in the south of Ireland, if I mistake not. Was it not there that I introduced you to the sorcerer who tamed the savage horses by a single whisper into their ear? But tell me what brings you to Spain and Andalusia, the last place where I should have expected to find you?

Baron Taylor. And wherefore, my most respectable B-? Is not Spain the land of the arts; and is not Andalusia of all Spain that portion which has produced the noblest monuments of artistic excellence and inspiration? Surely you know enough of me to be aware that the arts are my passion; that I am incapable of imagining a more exalted enjoyment than to gaze in adoration on a noble picture. Oh, come with me! for you, too, have a soul capable of appreciating what is lovely and exalted; a soul delicate and sensitive. Come with me, and I will show you a Murillo, such as.. But first allow me to introduce you to your compatriot. My dear Monsieur W-, turning to his companion (an English gentleman, from whom and from his family I subsequently experienced unbounded kindness and hospitality on various occasions, and at different periods at Seville), allow me to introduce to you my most cherished and respectable friend, one who is better acquainted with gypsy ways than the Chef des Boh?miens ? Triana,169169
King of the gypsies in Triana.


[]
one who is an expert whisperer and horse-sorcerer; and who, to his honour I say it, can wield hammer and tongs, and handle a horseshoe with the best of the smiths amongst the Alpujarras of Granada.

In the course of my travels I have formed various friendships and acquaintances, but no one has more interested me than Baron Taylor,170170
Isidore Justin Severin, Baron Taylor, was born at Brussels in 1789. His father was an Englishman, and his mother half Irish, half Flemish. Isidore was naturalized as a Frenchman, and after serious studies and artistic travels throughout Europe, he returned to France on the Restoration with a commission in the Royal Guard. His Bertram, written in collaboration with Charles Nodier, had a great success on the Paris stage in 1821. In 1823 he accompanied the French army to Spain, and on his return was made Commissaire Royal du Th??tre Fran?ais, in which capacity he authorized the production of Hernani and the Mariage de Figaro. In 1833 he arranged for the transport of the two obelisks from Luxor to Paris, and in 1835 he was commissioned by Louis Philippe with an artistic mission to Spain to purchase pictures for the Louvre, and on his return, having transferred the Standish collection of paintings from London to Paris, he was named Inspecteur-G?n?ral des beaux arts in 1838. He died in 1879.


[]
and there is no one for whom I entertain a greater esteem and regard. To personal and mental accomplishments of the highest order he unites a kindness of heart rarely to be met with, and which is continually inducing him to seek for opportunities of doing good to his fellow-creatures, and of contributing to their happiness; perhaps no person in existence has seen more of the world and life in its various phases than himself. His manners are naturally to the highest degree courtly, yet he nevertheless possesses a disposition so pliable that he finds no difficulty in accommodating himself to all kinds of company, in consequence of which he is a universal favourite. There is a mystery about him, which, wherever he goes, serves not a little to increase the sensation naturally created by his appearance and manner. Who he is, no one pretends to assert with downright positiveness: it is whispered, however, that he is a scion of royalty; and who can gaze for a moment upon that most graceful figure, that most intelligent but singularly moulded countenance, and those large and expressive eyes, without feeling as equally convinced that he is of no common lineage, as that he is no common man? Though possessed of talents and eloquence which would speedily have enabled him to attain to an illustrious position in the state, he has hitherto, and perhaps wisely, contented himself with comparative obscurity, chiefly devoting himself to the study of the arts and of literature, of both of which he is a most bounteous patron.

He has, notwithstanding, been employed by the illustrious house to which he is said to be related in more than one delicate and important mission, both in the East and the West, in which his efforts have uniformly been crowned with complete success. He was now collecting masterpieces of the Spanish school of painting, which were destined to adorn the saloons of the Tuileries.

He has visited most portions of the earth; and it is remarkable enough that we are continually encountering each other in strange places and under singular circumstances. Whenever he descries me, whether in the street or the desert, the brilliant hall or amongst Bedouin haimas, at Novogorod or Stambul, he flings up his arms and exclaims, O ciel! I have again the felicity of seeing my cherished and most respectable B-.

CHAPTER XVI

Departure for Cordova Carmona German Colonies Language The Sluggish Horse Nocturnal Welcome Carlist Landlord Good Advice Gomez The Old Genoese The Two Opinions.

After a sojourn of about fourteen days at Seville, I departed for Cordova. The diligence had for some time past ceased running, owing to the disturbed state of the province. I had therefore no resource but to proceed thither on horseback. I hired a couple of horses, and engaged the old Genoese, of whom I have already had occasion to speak, to attend me as far as Cordova, and to bring them back. Notwithstanding we were now in the depths of winter, the weather was beautiful, the days sunny and brilliant, though the nights were rather keen. We passed by the little town of Alcal?,171171
Alcal? de Guadaira; Arabic, Al-Kalah, the fort, or castle. A name necessarily often repeated in Spain, where the Goths, who are so proudly remembered, have left so few records of their three hundred years dominion in the place-names of the Peninsula, and where the Arab, at all times detested, is yet remembered in the modern names of wellnigh every town, river, and headland in Southern Spain, and in many places throughout the entire Peninsula. The most celebrated of all these castles is, of course, Alcal? de Henares, the birthplace of Cervantes, the seat of the great university of Ximenes. This Alcal? is known as that of Guadaira, i.e. the river of Aira, the Arabic Wady al Aira. The town at the present day, though small, is a very important place, with some eight thousand inhabitants, and over two hundred flour-mills, and is known as the oven of Seville, El horno de Sevilla. Carmona the Roman Carmo and Arab Karmanah with double the population, was the last stronghold of Peter the Cruel, and is full of historic associations.


[]
celebrated for the ruins of an immense Moorish castle, which stand on a rocky hill, overhanging a picturesque river. The first night we slept at Carmona, another Moorish town, distant about seven leagues from Seville. Early in the morning we again mounted and departed. Perhaps in the whole of Spain there is scarcely a finer Moorish monument of antiquity than the eastern side of this town of Carmona, which occupies the brow of a lofty hill, and frowns over an extensive vega or plain, which extends for leagues unplanted and uncultivated, producing nothing but brushwood and carrasco. Here rise tall and dusky walls, with square towers at short distances, of so massive a structure that they would seem to bid defiance alike to the tooth of time and the hand of man. This town, in the time of the Moors, was considered the key to Seville, and did not submit to the Christian arms till after a long and desperate siege: the capture of Seville followed speedily after. The vega upon which we now entered forms a part of the grand despoblado or desert of Andalusia, once a smiling garden, but which became what it now is on the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, when it was drained almost entirely of its population. The towns and villages from hence to the Sierra Morena, which divides Andalusia from La Mancha, are few and far between, and even of these several date from the middle of the last century, when an attempt was made by a Spanish minister to people this wilderness with the children of a foreign land.

At about midday we arrived at a place called Moncloa, which consisted of a venta, and a desolate-looking edifice which had something of the appearance of a ch?teau; a solitary palm tree raised its head over the outer wall. We entered the venta, tied our horses to the manger, and having ordered barley for them, we sat down before a large fire, which burned in the middle of the venta. The host and hostess also came and sat down beside us. They are evil people, said the old Genoese to me in Italian, and this is an evil house; it is a harbouring place for thieves, and murders have been committed here, if all tales be true. I looked at these two people attentively; they were both young, the man apparently about twenty-five years of age. He was a short thick-made churl, evidently of prodigious strength; his features were rather handsome, but with a gloomy expression, and his eyes were full of sullen fire. His wife somewhat resembled him, but had a countenance more open and better tempered; but what struck me as most singular in connexion with these people, was the colour of their hair and complexion. The latter was fair and ruddy, and the former of a bright auburn, both in striking contrast to the black hair and swarthy visages which in general distinguish the natives of this province. Are you an Andalusian? said I to the hostess. I should almost conclude you to be a German.

Hostess. And your worship would not be very wrong. It is true that I am a Spaniard, being born in Spain; but it is equally true that I am of German blood, for my grandparents came from Germany even like those of this gentleman, my lord and husband.

Myself. And what chance brought your grandparents into this country?

Hostess. Did your worship never hear of the German colonies? There are many of them in these parts. In old times the land was nearly deserted, and it was very dangerous for travellers to journey along the waste, owing to the robbers. So a long time ago, nearly a hundred years, as I am told, some potent lord sent messengers to Germany, to tell the people there what a goodly land there was in these parts uncultivated for want of hands, and to promise every labourer who would consent to come and till it, a house and a yoke of oxen, with food and provision for one year. And in consequence of this invitation a great many poor families left the German land and came hither, and settled down in certain towns and villages which had been prepared for them, which places were called German colonies, and this name they still retain.

Myself. And how many of these colonies may there be?

Hostess. There are several, both on this side of Cordova and the other. The nearest is Luisiana, about two leagues from hence, from which place both my husband and myself come; the next is Carlota,172172
Madoz, in his Diccionario Geografico-estadistico, published in 1846, half a dozen years after the date of Borrows visit, says nothing under Carolina, Carlota, or Luisiana of this supposed German colonization. Yet Carolina and eighty-four neighbouring villages form a most interesting district, known as the Nuevas poblaciones de Sierra Morena, especially exempted from taxation and conscription on their foundation or incorporation by Olavides, the Minister of Charles III., in 1768. It is possible that some German colonists were introduced at that time. Among the eighty-five pueblos constituting this strange district is the historic Navas de Tolosa, where the Moors were so gloriously defeated in 1212.


[]
which is some ten leagues distant, and these are the only colonies of our people which I have seen; but there are others farther on, and some, as I have heard say, in the very heart of the Sierra Morena.

Myself. And do the colonists still retain the language of their forefathers?

Hostess. We speak Spanish, or rather Andalusian, and no other language. A few, indeed, amongst the very old people, retain a few words of German, which they acquired from their fathers, who were born in the other country; but the last person amongst the colonists who could understand a conversation in German was the aunt of my mother, who came over when a girl. When I was a child I remember her conversing with a foreign traveller, a countryman of hers, in a language which I was told was German, and they understood each other, though the old woman confessed that she had lost many words: she has now been dead several years.

Myself. Of what religion are the colonists?

Hostess. They are Christians, like the Spaniards, and so were their fathers before them. Indeed, I have heard that they came from a part of Germany where the Christian religion is as much practised as in Spain itself.

Myself. The Germans are the most honest people in the world: being their legitimate descendants, you have of course no thieves amongst you.

The hostess glanced at me for a moment, then looked at her husband and smiled: the latter, who had hitherto been smoking without uttering a word, though with a peculiarly surly and dissatisfied countenance, now flung the remainder of his cigar amongst the embers, then springing up, he muttered, Disparate! and Conversacion! and went abroad.

You touched them in the sore place, Signore, said the Genoese, after we had left Moncloa some way behind us. Were they honest people they would not keep that venta; and as for the colonists, I know not what kind of people they might be when they first came over, but at present their ways are not a bit better than those of the Andalusians, but rather worse, if there is any difference at all.

A short time before sunset of the third day after our departure from Seville, we found ourselves at the Cuesta del Espinal, or hill of the thorn tree, at about two leagues from Cordova; we could just descry the walls of the city, upon which the last beams of the descending luminary were resting. As the neighbourhood in which we were was, according to the account of my guide, generally infested with robbers, we used our best endeavours to reach the town before the night should have entirely closed in. We did not succeed, however, and before we had proceeded half the distance, pitchy darkness overtook us. Throughout the journey we had been considerably delayed by the badness of our horses, especially that of my attendant, which appeared to pay no regard to whip or spur: his rider also was no horseman, it being thirty years, as he at length confessed to me, since he last mounted in a saddle. Horses soon become aware of the powers of their riders, and the brute in question was disposed to take great advantage of the fears and weakness of the old man. There is a remedy, however, for most things in this world. I became so wearied at last at the snails pace at which we were proceeding, that I fastened the bridle of the sluggish horse to the crupper of mine; then sparing neither spur nor cudgel, I soon forced my own horse into a kind of trot, which compelled the other to make some use of his legs. He twice attempted to fling himself down, to the great terror of his aged rider, who frequently entreated me to stop and permit him to dismount. I, however, took no notice of what he said, but continued spurring and cudgelling with unabated activity, and with such success, that in less than half an hour we saw lights close before us, and presently came to a river and a bridge, which crossing, we found ourselves at the gate of Cordova, without having broken either our horses knees or our own necks.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31