The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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Those who wish to make themselves understood by a foreigner in his own language should speak with much noise and vociferation, opening their mouths wide. Is it surprising that the English are, in general, the worst linguists in the world, seeing that they pursue a system diametrically opposite? For example, when they attempt to speak Spanish – the most sonorous tongue in existence – they scarcely open their lips, and, putting their hands in their pockets, fumble lazily, instead of applying them to the indispensable office of gesticulation. Well may the poor Spaniards exclaim, These English talk so crabbedly, that Satan himself would not be able to understand them.
Lisbon is a huge ruinous city, still exhibiting, in almost every direction, the vestiges of that terrific visitation of God, the earthquake, which shattered it some eighty years ago. It stands on seven hills, the loftiest of which is occupied by the castle of Saint George, which is the boldest and most prominent object to the eye, whilst surveying the city from the Tagus. The most frequented and busy parts of the city are those comprised within the valley to the north of this elevation.
Here you find the Plaza of the Inquisition, the principal square in Lisbon,2121
With all its ruin and desolation, Lisbon is unquestionably the most remarkable city in the Peninsula, and, perhaps, in the south of Europe.It is not my intention to enter into minute details concerning it; I shall content myself with remarking that it is quite as much deserving the attention of the artist as even Rome itself. True it is that, though it abounds with churches, it has no gigantic cathedral, like St. Peter’s, to attract the eye and fill it with wonder, yet I boldly say that there is no monument of man’s labour and skill, pertaining either to ancient or modern Rome, for whatever purpose designed, which can rival the water-works of Lisbon; I mean the stupendous aqueduct whose principal arches cross the valley to the north-east of Lisbon, and which discharges its little runnel of cool and delicious water into the rocky cistern within that beautiful edifice called the Mother of the Waters, from whence all Lisbon is supplied with the crystal lymph, though the source is seven leagues distant. Let travellers devote one entire morning to inspecting the Arcos and the Mai das agoas, after which they may repair to the English church and cemetery, P?re-la-Chaise in miniature, where, if they be of England, they may well be excused if they kiss the cold tomb, as I did, of the author of “Amelia,”2222
Henry Fielding, born 1707, died at Lisbon, 1754.
[Закрыть] the most singular genius which their island ever produced, whose works it has long been the fashion to abuse in public and to read in secret. In the same cemetery rest the mortal remains of Doddridge, another English author of a different stamp, but justly admired and esteemed.2323
Dr. Philip Doddridge, born 1702, died at Lisbon, 1751.
[Закрыть] I had not intended, on disembarking, to remain long in Lisbon, nor indeed in Portugal; my destination was Spain, whither I shortly proposed to direct my steps, it being the intention of the Bible Society to attempt to commence operations in that country, the object of which should be the distribution of the word of God, for Spain had hitherto been a region barred against the admission of the Bible; not so Portugal, where, since the revolution, the Bible had been permitted both to be introduced and circulated. Little, however, had been accomplished; therefore, finding myself in the country, I determined, if possible, to effect something in the way of distribution, but first of all to make myself acquainted as to how far the people were disposed to receive the Bible, and whether the state of education in general would permit them to turn it to much account. I had plenty of Bibles and Testaments at my disposal, but could the people read them, or would they? A friend of the Society to whom I was recommended was absent from Lisbon at the period of my arrival; this I regretted, as he could have afforded me several useful hints. In order, however, that no time might be lost, I determined not to wait for his arrival, but at once proceed to gather the best information I could upon those points to which I have already alluded. I determined to commence my researches at some slight distance from Lisbon, being well aware of the erroneous ideas that I must form of the Portuguese in general, should I judge of their character and opinions from what I saw and heard in a city so much subjected to foreign intercourse.
My first excursion was to Cintra.2424
The town of Cintra contains about eight hundred inhabitants. The morning subsequent to my arrival, as I was about to ascend the mountain for the purpose of examining the Moorish ruins, I observed a person advancing towards me whom I judged by his dress to be an ecclesiastic; he was in fact one of the three priests of the place. I instantly accosted him, and had no reason to regret doing so; I found him affable and communicative.
After praising the beauty of the surrounding scenery, I made some inquiry as to the state of education amongst the people under his care. He answered that he was sorry to say that they were in a state of great ignorance, very few of the common people being able either to read or write; that with respect to schools, there was but one in the place, where four or five children were taught the alphabet, but that even this was at present closed. He informed me, however, that there was a school at Colhares, about a league distant. Amongst other things, he said that nothing more surprised him than to see Englishmen, the most learned and intelligent people in the world, visiting a place like Cintra, where there was no literature, science, nor anything of utility (coisa que presta). I suspect that there was some covert satire in the last speech of the worthy priest; I was, however, Jesuit enough to appear to receive it as a high compliment, and, taking off my hat, departed with an infinity of bows.
That same day I visited Colhares, a romantic village on the side of the mountain of Cintra, to the northwest. Seeing some peasants collected round a smithy, I inquired about the school, whereupon one of the men instantly conducted me thither. I went upstairs into a small apartment, where I found the master with about a dozen pupils standing in a row; I saw but one stool in the room, and to that, after having embraced me, he conducted me with great civility. After some discourse, he showed me the books which he used for the instruction of the children; they were spelling-books, much of the same kind as those used in the village schools in England. Upon my asking him whether it was his practice to place the Scriptures in the hands of the children, he informed me that long before they had acquired sufficient intelligence to understand them they were removed by their parents, in order that they might assist in the labours of the field, and that the parents in general were by no means solicitous that their children should learn anything, as they considered the time occupied in learning as so much squandered away. He said that, though the schools were nominally supported by the government, it was rarely that the schoolmasters could obtain their salaries, on which account many had of late resigned their employments. He told me that he had a copy of the New Testament in his possession, which I desired to see; but on examining it I discovered that it was only the Epistles by Pereira,3030
In a day or two I made an excursion to Mafra, distant about three leagues from Cintra. The principal part of the way lay over steep hills, somewhat dangerous for horses; however, I reached the place in safety.
On stepping over the threshold I was confronted by a short, stout man, between sixty and seventy years of age, dressed in a blue jerkin and grey trousers, without shirt or waistcoat. He looked at me sternly, and inquired in the French language what was my pleasure. I apologized for intruding upon him, and stated that, being informed he occupied the situation of schoolmaster, I had come to pay my respects to him and to beg permission to ask a few questions respecting the seminary. He answered, that whoever told me he was a schoolmaster lied, for that he was a friar of the convent, and nothing else. “It is not, then, true,” said I, “that all the convents have been broken up and the monks dismissed?” “Yes, yes,” said he with a sigh, “it is true; it is but too true.” He then was silent for a minute, and, his better nature overcoming his angry feelings, he produced a snuff-box and offered it to me. The snuff-box is the olive-branch of the Portuguese, and he who wishes to be on good terms with them must never refuse to dip his finger and thumb into it when offered. I took, therefore, a huge pinch, though I detest the dust, and we were soon on the best possible terms. He was eager to obtain news, especially from Lisbon and Spain. I told him that the officers of the troops at Lisbon had, the day before I left that place, gone in a body to the queen, and insisted upon her either receiving their swords or dismissing her Ministers; whereupon he rubbed his hands, and said that he was sure matters would not remain tranquil at Lisbon. On my saying, however, that I thought the affairs of Don Carlos were on the decline (this was shortly after the death of Zumalacarregui),3232
I asked the boy whether he or his parents were acquainted with the Scripture, and ever read it; he did not, however, seem to understand me. I must here observe that the boy was fifteen years of age, that he was in many respects very intelligent, and had some knowledge of the Latin language; nevertheless he knew not the Scripture even by name, and I have no doubt, from what I subsequently observed, that at least two-thirds of his countrymen are on that important point no wiser than himself. At the doors of village inns, at the hearths of the rustics, in the fields where they labour, at the stone fountains by the wayside where they water their cattle, I have questioned the lower class of the children of Portugal about the Scripture, the Bible, the Old and New Testament, and in no one instance have they known what I was alluding to, or could return me a rational answer, though on all other matters their replies were sensible enough; indeed, nothing surprised me more than the free and unembarrassed manner in which the Portuguese peasantry sustain a conversation, and the purity of the language in which they express their thoughts, and yet few of them can read or write; whereas the peasantry of England, whose education is in general much superior, are in their conversation coarse and dull almost to brutality, and absurdly ungrammatical in their language, though the English tongue is upon the whole more simple in its structure than the Portuguese.
On my return to Lisbon I found our friend – , who received me very kindly. The next ten days were exceedingly rainy, which prevented me from making any excursions into the country: during this time I saw our friend frequently, and had long conversations with him concerning the best means of distributing the Gospel. He thought we could do no better for the present than put part of our stock into the hands of the booksellers of Lisbon, and at the same time employ colporteurs to hawk the books about the streets, receiving a certain profit on every copy they sold. This plan was agreed upon, and forthwith put in practice, and with some success. I had thoughts of sending colporteurs into the neighbouring villages, but to this our friend objected. He thought the attempt dangerous, as it was very possible that the rural priesthood, who still possessed much influence in their own districts, and who were for the most part decided enemies to the spread of the Gospel, might cause the men employed to be assassinated or ill-treated.
I determined, however, ere leaving Portugal, to establish dep?ts of Bibles in one or two of the provincial towns. I wished to visit the Alemtejo, which I had heard was a very benighted region. The Alemtejo3333
On the afternoon of the 6th of December I set out for Evora, accompanied by my servant. I had been informed that the tide would serve for the regular passage-boats, or felouks, as they are called, at about four o’clock; but on reaching the side of the Tagus opposite to Aldea Gallega, between which place and Lisbon the boats ply, I found that the tide would not permit them to start before eight o’clock. Had I waited for them I should have probably landed at Aldea Gallega about midnight, and I felt little inclination to make my entr?e in the Alemtejo at that hour; therefore, as I saw small boats which can push off at any time lying near in abundance, I determined upon hiring one of them for the passage, though the expense would be thus considerably increased. I soon agreed with a wild-looking lad, who told me that he was in part owner of one of the boats, to take me over. I was not aware of the danger in crossing the Tagus at its broadest part, which is opposite Aldea Gallega, at any time, but especially at close of day in the winter season, or I should certainly not have ventured. The lad and his comrade, a miserable-looking object, whose only clothing, notwithstanding the season, was a tattered jerkin and trousers, rowed until we had advanced about half a mile from the land; they then set up a large sail, and the lad, who seemed to direct everything, and to be the principal, took the helm and steered. The evening was now setting in; the sun was not far from its bourne in the horizon; the air was very cold, the wind was rising, and the waves of the noble Tagus began to be crested with foam. I told the boy that it was scarcely possible for the boat to carry so much sail without upsetting, upon which he laughed, and began to gabble in a most incoherent manner. He had the most harsh and rapid articulation that has ever come under my observation in any human being; it was the scream of the hyena blended with the bark of the terrier, though it was by no means an index of his disposition, which I soon found to be light, merry, and anything but malevolent; for when I, in order to show him that I cared little about him, began to hum “Eu que sou contrabandista,”3434
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