Page images
PDF
EPUB

are carelessly adopted, merely as the shield be obscured, and deeds of high arbitrary and insignificant abbreviations enterprize be rather remembered than of detais, than in pity or sorrow at the achieved. Aud let not this pomp of imperfections which such confusion of knightly metaphor exclude

from accessories in the drama may be sup- the number the muse of the gentler posed to include. Such men as these sex, the poetess who has told us, are, indeed, like the first patriarchs, the in prevailing numbers, all the beautiful free inheritors of the world, and wander- secrets of woman's heart, and drawn ing through all nature, boldly cultivate portraits which, perhaps, alone, of all what they please, and as they please, poetical representations of earthly exwith a tenfold harvest of fruits cellence, are ideal without being imaand flowers. And, as we have just ginary. Felicia Hemans has, indeed, been endeavouring to enforce,--such approved herself a worthy interpreter men as these are the guides and mas- of the inestimable feelings of the ters of mankind in every age ; because female breast, and woman in her pages they lift the standard of human excel (whether we regard the subjects of lence to heights that invite the holy some, or the exquisitely feminine spirit ambition of all succeeding virtue. if which pervades all) is more truly vinnot themselves examples, they can dicated than if her “rights” were proform those creations which supply their claimed by a thousand Mary Wollplace, and can discharge the duties stoncrafts--thus, walking in the true of instruction by a poetical proxy; and, nobility of her own loveliness and therefore, did we affirm that with such purity, and asserting her claims on the apostles of the muse, imagination, which heart with the silent eloquence of perevermore holds the avenues of the petual constancy, dignity, and truth. heart, is found to be only the form of Dare we hope that Ireland will seem reason decked with the roses of a May to the Corinna of the west, in some of queen, or, as it were, mirrored in that those legendary fragments which gave enchanted stream of fable which was to Campbell his almost sweetest lay, to said to reflect the sternest mien in a offer “ Records of Woman” not unworportrait of symmetry and loveliness. thy of being combined with those

Ve were obliged turn over these which preserve to us so many beautiful vague but earnest pages, in order to fowers of female virtue ? verify the thought which we have just We have recalled the memory of cited from the commencement of our sweet music to those who are acquaintobservations, and have thus been led ed with the verse of Mrs. Hemans ; to perceive to how protracted a length and we shall not, by prolonging our we have deduced them. We shall, inharmonious contrast, disturb the therefore, close our disquisitions, which pleasure of their recollections. On a we have not meant to be either very future occasion it is not improbable logical in connection, or very profound that we may return to the merits of in speculation, with a pleasing hope our poetry, and the duties of those who that the advent of genius may soon are to continue and magnify the prerender them utterly inapplicable. We sent era, or to prepare a new one. should imagine that the candour of We are willing to believe that at this criticism can scarcely go farther than hour there exist those who are formed this devoted sacrifice of the pertinency by nature to supply an ennobling aliof our lucubrations to the welfare of ment to the imagination of the age, literature !

and Let it not be understood, however,

“ On earth to make us heirs that there are not writers still occupy- Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays." ing the field, though the armour be somewhat rusted and the arm droop fatigued though the argument of the

W. A. B.

WORDSWORTA

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

my letter.

After having described to you the was a majo in the fullest sense of the
bull-fights here, I see nothing for it, word. A majo is at once a fine gen-
but to keep up the dramatic effect, by tleman of the lower class, and a man
proceeding from a matter of lesser who is peculiarly sensitive on the sub-
interest to something of greater. I ject of his honour.
see nothing for it, I say, but to give The Castilians have a proverb among
you an account of an execution. I them against the Valencians—a pro-
have lately witnessed one, and am verb, in my opinion, wholly without
ready to relate to you the details of it, foundation. It attacks, at once, their
if you have courage enough to read mode of living, their women, and their

courage. I can assure you that the
But just give me leave to tell you cookery of Valencia is most excellent ;
how I came to be present at an execu- that the women are excessively pretty,
tion. I have already remarked that in and, perhaps, have the fairest com-
a strange country one feels it incum- plexions in all Spain ; and I am now
bent on him to see everything; and going to give you a specimen of what
is ever apprehensive that some unfor- sort of fellows the men are.
tunate moment of laziness or fatigue A bull-fight was about to take place.
should cause him to lose some charac- The majo was desirous to be there,
teristic trait of manners. In addition but had not a single real in his purse.
to this, the story of the unfortunate He reckoned, however, on getting
man who suffered, had inspired me admission through a volunteer royalist,
with considerable interest. I wished a friend of his, who was to be on guard
to see the character of his countenance; that day. He was disappointed—thevo-
and, last of all, I was not sorry to have lunteer adhered inflexibly to his orders.
an opportunity of making trial of the The majo entreated-the volunteer was
strength of my nerves.

firm-some reproachful language was The following is the story of my interchanged." To cut the matter short, culprit, I forgot to learn his name : the volunteer repulsed him rudely by a He was a peasant, from the environs blow with the butt-end of his musket of Valencia, in high estimation and in the stomach. The majo went off ; repute among his fellows for his brave but those who observed the deadly and enterprising turn of character. In paleness which overspread his facefact, he was quite the cock of his who noticed a certain violent clenching village. Not one of the young men of his hands, his distended nostrils, danced better, could throw the bar and the expression of his eyes, felt further, or was so much at home in all convinced that something unfortunate the old songs of the country. He was would come of it. by no means quarrelsome, but it was About a fortnight after this occurwell known that it was not a matter of rence, this surly volunteer was one of much difficulty to rouse him. If he a detachment sent in pursuit of some accompanied travellers, as their escort, smugglers. He slept that day at a his carbine on his shoulder, no robber solitary little inn. In the middle of would dare to attack them, even if their the night a voice was heard to call the valises were stuffed with doubloons. volunteer by his name—“ Open the It was quite a sight worth seeing this door, it is a message from your wife." young inan, his velvet jacket on his The volunteer came down half-dressed; shoulder, strutting along the road, and but scarcely had he opened the door bearing himself with an air of the when a carbine was discharged so close haughiiest superiority. In a word, he to him as to set his shirt on fire at the

to see

You are

same moment that a dozen slugs were fatality, and that without laying too lodged in his body. The murderer great a weight on their consciences, disappeared. Who could it have been? his judges could have well restored is the question. No one can guess. him to that society, of which (as the Beyond all doubt it was not the majo orators say) he was intended to have who killed him; for he can produce a been the ornament. But rarely do dozen women, devoted to him, and all judges possess this high and poetical good royalists, who would swear by style of reasoning ; he was condemned the name of their saint, and kiss their to death without a single dissentient thunb upon it, that they had seen him, voice. each at her village, precisely at the One evening, passing accidentally very hour and minute that the murder across the market-place, I happened was committed.

some workmen engaged in Shortly after the majo showed him- erecting, by the light of torches, beams self publicly, with a bold front, and of wood arranged in an extraordinary wearing the calm air of a man who is manner, forming something like the desirous to free himself from a dis. Greek letter II. Soldiers who were agreeable suspicion. Just in the same placed in a circle around them, remanner, at Paris, a man presents him- pulsed any of the bystanders who were self at Tortoni's in the afternoon, after too curious ; and for the following reaa duel, in which he has just winged son: The gibbet, for this was one, is some impertinent fellow.

constructed by means of men who are also to observe, that assassination is bound to render certain services to the the duel of the poor fellows here; state, and the workmen who are put and a duel seriously different in its in requisition cannot, without incurring consequences from ours, inasmuch as the penalty of rebellion, refuse these it is usually followed by two deaths; services. As a sort of compensation whereas, in high life, people oftener the authorities take care that they scratch than kill one another.

perforin their task, which public opiAll went on very well, till a certain nion makes rather disgraceful, as far alguazil, with an over-and-above excess as it is possible, secretly To effect of zeal, (caused, as some say, by his this, they surround them with soldiers, being new in his office; or, according who keep the crowd at a distance, and to others, by his being in love with a they work only at night, so that it girl who exbibited a preference for the becomes impossible to recognize them, majo,) bethought himself of arresting and, accordingly, they avoid on the this amiable young man.

As long as

inorrow the risk of being called galhe satisfied himself with threats, his lows-builders. rival but laughed at him, but when, at At Valencia an old Gothic tower is last, he was going to seize him by the used as the prison. The style of its collar, he gave him a beef's tongue to architecture is noble, especially the swallow-an expression, in that country, front, which overlooks the river. It for a stab of a knife. But does even stands at one of the extreme points of the law of self-defence, give authority the city, and serves as a gate. It is for thus making an alguazil's place called la Puerta de los Serranos. Froin vacant ?

the platform, on top of it, the eye The alguazils are of great conse- traces the course of the Guadalquivir, quence in Spain, almost of as much as the five bridges which cross it ; the constables in England. To ill-use public walks of Valencia, and the one is a hanging matter. Accordingly smiling country which lies all around. the majo was forth with apprehended. It is rather à mournful gratification, lodged in prison and tried, and con- that of looking out upon the green demned, after a long procedure, for fields when one is enclosed with four the forms of justice are still more te- walls ; but in truth it nevertheless is a dious here than with us.

positive enjoyment, and those prisoners Now, if you are disposed to take a must feel obliged to the gaoler who good-natured view of all the circum- allows them occasionally to take the stances you will agree with me that air on this platform. For prisoners this man hardly deserved his lot; that the most trifling pleasure has its price. he was the victim of an unfortunate It was out of this prison that the

VOL. IV.

0

culprit should proceed, and from behind, but sufficiently near to lose thence through the most populous nothing of what was about to be said streets in the town, mounted upon an or done, when the criminal should ass, to the market place, where he was come forward with his confessor. to take his leave of this world.

Never shall I forget the countenance At an early hour I found myself of this man. He was tall and emacibefore the Puerta de los Serranos, ated, and appeared about thirty years with a Spanish friend, who was good of age. His forehead was loity, his enough to accompany me, I expected hair thick, black as a raven, and as to have found a considerable crowd straight as the hairs of a brush. His eyes assembled since the morning, but I was large, but sunken, seemed unusually mistaken. The artizans continued to brilliant. His feet were bare, and he work undisturbedly in their shops; was clothed in a long black dress, upon the peasants left the town quietly after which was embroidered, just over the having sold their vegetables ; there place of his heart, a blue and red cross. was no indication that any extraordi- This is the mark of the brotherhood of nary event was about to take place, suffering. The collar of his shirt, except perhaps a dozen dragoons plaited like a ruft, fell down over his drawn up near the gate of the prison. shoulders and chest. A whitish cord, This want of anxiety, in the Valencians which was easily distinguishable on to witness executions, should not, I am the black stuff of his dress, went of opinion, be attributed to excessive several times round his body, and fassensibility. Neither am I certain if I tened with knots, bound his arms and ought to think, with my conductor, hands in the attitude one assumes in that they have been so well accustomed praying. Between his hands he held to this sort of sight that it no longer a little crucifix, and an image of the has any attractions for them. It is Virgin. His confessor was short, fat, probable rather that this indifference and red-faced, with the air of a man arises from the industrious habits of who was once a jovial fellow, but who the people of Valencia. The love of had some time given up such a life. labour and of gain, distinguishes them Behind the culprit was a man, pale, not only among the people of all the lank, of a mild and timid cast of counother provinces of Spain, but even tenance.

He wore a brown vest, among those of all Europe.

with black breeches and stockings. I At eleven o'clock the gate of the should have taken him for a notary, or prison was thrown open ; forthwith a an alguazil in undress, but that he had tolerably numerous procession of Fran- on his liead a large grey hat, with a ciscan monks presented themselves. broad Jeaf, such as picadors wear in the They were preceded by a large cru- bull-fights. At the sight of the crucifix carried by a penitent, supported citix he took off his hat respectfully, by two acolytes, each having a lan- and I then observed a little ladder, in tern fixed at the end of a great ivory, fastened to the crown of his hat, stick, by way of handle.

like a cockade. He was the executioner. cifix, the size of life, was made of As he stepped out from the doorpasteboard, painted, with a singular way, the criminal, who had been closeness of imitation of reality. The obliged to stoop his head in passing Spaniardz, who endeavour to make through the wicket, drew himself up religion a thing of awe, excel in re- to his full height, opened his eyes presenting wounds, bruises, and traces widely, took in the entire crowd with of the tortures endured by their mar- a rapid glance, and breathed heavily. tyrs. Upon this crucifix, which was to It seemed to me that he drank in the figure at a tragic spectacle, they had fresh air with a pleasure caused by his not spared to exhibit blood, putrid having been long immured in a conmatter, and livid contusions. It was fined and narrow dungeon. The expresthe most hideous piece of anatomy that sion of his countenance was singular. could well be imagined. The bearer It was not that of fear, but rather uneaof this horrible figure stopped in front siness. He seemed resigned, yet of the gate. The soldiers were drawn without any bravado or affectation of up at a little distance; about a hundred courage. I could not help thinking inquisitive spectators were grouped that I would wish, on a similar occa

The cru

sion, to be able to carry as steady a the criminal, whose duty it was to countenance.

remain with him to the last moment. His confessor desired him to kneel They then placed him on a mat, down before the crucifix; he obeyed, which the hangman drew after him a and kissed the feet of this frightful little, but without violence, and as if image. At this moment all that stood by tacit agreement between the passive by were moved, and kept a deep person and his executioner. It is a silence. The confessor perceiving it, mere matter of form, for the purpose raised his hands to disengage them of seeming to carry into effect the from his long sleeves, which would letter of the sentence—“to be hanged, have impeded his oratorical gesture, after having been drawn upon a hurdle.” and began to deliver a discourse which This done, the unfortunate man was had probably served him more than placed on an ass, which the hangman once before on a similar occasion, with led by the halter ; at either side of a loud and vehement voice, but, never- him walked one of the Franciscans, theless monotonous, from the regular preceded by two long files of monks repetition of the same intonations. He of this order, and of laymen, who form pronounced each word distinctly. His part of the brotherhood of desamparoaccent was tolerably pure, and he spoke dos. The banners and the crucifix in good Castilian, which the criminal were not forgotten : behind the ass probably understood but imperfectly. came a notary and two alguazils dressHe began each sentence in a shrill ed in black, silk breeches and stockings, tone of voice, which, as he proceeded, swords at their side, and mounted on went into a falsetto ; but he finished poor horses, wretchedly equipped ; a always in a low and deep tone. troop of cavalry brought up the rere.

In substance, he told the criminal, As the procession went slowly on, the whom he always addressed by the monks chanted litanies in an indistinct name of brother—“you have deserved voice, and men in cloaks made a circuit the death you are about to suffer, and through the crowd, holding out silver have even been treated with lenity in plates to the spectators, and asking being condemned to the gallows; for alms for the unfortunate man (por el your crimes have been enormous.” pobre). This money serves to have Here he said a few words about the masses said for the repose of his soul; murders he had committed, but dwelt and for this reason, to a good Catholic, at greater length on the state of irreli- who is about to make his mortal exit by gion in which the penitent had passed way of the gallows, it must be a great his youth, and which alone had hurried consolation to see the plates rapidly him to his ruin. “But what,” continued filled with money. Every body gives the confessor, “ is your justly-deserved something. Heretic as I am, I gave my punishment to what this Saviour (point- little offering with seeming respect. ing to the image) endured for you ?” In truth, I like these ceremonies of The poor man looked down most de- the Catholic church, and I wish I had voutly upon the wooden god, and raised faith in them. Upon an occasion such his eyes from the image to heaven. as this, they have the advantage of The people bowed their heads, and the making a much deeper impression on confessor commenced a long-winded the crowd than our cart, our police, peroration, which, however, had more and the rest of the mean, pitiful train sense than the exordium. He told him, which attended our executions. Lastly, that the mercy of God was infinite, and and it is for this reason especially that that sincere repentance alone could I like these crosses and processions, avail to disarm his just anger.

they must contribute powerfully to The criminal looked up, and fixed alleviate the last sufferings of a criminal. his eyes on the priest with an air a This funeral pomp in some measure little fierce, and said to him, “ Father, flatters one's vanity, a feeling which it would have sufficed to tell me I was attends us to the last moment of our about to go into glory: let us proceed.” existence. Then the monks, whom he

The confessor returned into the has been taught to reverence from inprison, quite satisfied with his sermon. fancy, and who now offer up prayers for Two Franciscans took his place beside him—their hymns—the voices of the

« PreviousContinue »