Billeder på siden






SPAIN and Portugal, from being lately the seat of war, and

the object of contest, have excited the curiosity of all classes, respecting their political, civil, and religious institutions. Some parts of these subjects have been ably illustrated by several learn. ed travellers, and some amusing sketches relative to the same points, have been published by British officers who served in the peninsular war; but none have excelled the writer of these letters in accuracy of description, and liveliness of narration. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that they are the productions of Mr. Robert Southey, the celebrated poet, now known as Robert Southey, esquire, poet-laureat.

Mr. Southey arrived at Corunna, on Sunday Dec. 13th 1795, when he exclaims, Oh the luxury of arriving at Tartarus, if the river Styx be as broad and as rough as the bay of Biscay, and Charon's boat accommodated like the Spanish packet of Senor Don Raimundo Aruspini! When I first went on board, the mate was employed in cutting a cross upon the side of his birth, and the sailors were feasting upon a mess of biscuit, onions, liver, and horse beans, boiled into a brown pap, which they were all pawing out of a bucket. The same taste and cleanliness of cookery were displayed in the

only dinner they afforded us on the passage ; and the same spirit of devotion made them, when the wind blew hard, turn in to bed and to prayers. The weather was bad and I was terrified; but, though I had not a brass heart, the ship had a copper bottom; and on the fifth morning we arrived in sight of cape Finisterre.

“We dropt anchor in the harbour at one o'clock, as hungry as Engüshmen may be supposed to be, after five days imprisonment in a Spanish packet; and with that eagerness to be on shore, which no one can imagine who has never been at sea. We were not, however, permitted to land, till we had received a visit from the custom-house officers. To receive these men in office, it was necessary that Senor Don Raimudo Aruspini should pulchrify his person: after this metamorphosis took place, we were obliged to wait, while these unmerciful visitors drank the captain's porter, bottle after bottle, as fast as he could supply them; and though their official business did not occupy five minutes, it was fire o'clock in the evening before we were suffered to depart, and even then we were obliged to leave our baggage behind us.

Other places attract the eye of a traveller, but Corunna takes his attention by the nose. My head is still giddy from the motion of the ship, is confused by the multiplicity of novel objects ---the dress of the people---the projecting roofs and balconies of the houses--the filth of the streets, so strange and so disgusting to an Englishman: but, what is most strange, is to hear a language which conveys to me only the melancholy reflection, that I am in a land of strangers.

We are at the Navio (the Ship) a POSADA kept by an Italian. Forgive me for using the Spanish name, that I may not commit blasphemy against all English pot-houses. Our dinner was a fowl fried in oil, and served up in an attitude not unlike that of a frog, taken suddenly with the crampWith this we had an omelet of eggs and garlic, fried in the same execrable oil; and our only drink was a meagre wine, price about two-pence the bottle---value worse than nothing, which by comparison, exalts small beer into nectar. In this

? of olives, they poison you with the most villainous oil;

for the fruit is suffered to grow rancid before the juice is expressed.

* You must perceive that I write at such opportunities as can be cauglit from my companions, for the room we sit in serves likewise for the bed-chamber. It is now Monday morning. Oh, the misery of the night! I have been so flead, that a painter would find me an excellent subject for the martyrdom of St Bartholomew. Jacob's pillow of stone was a down cushion, compared to that which bruised my head last night; and my bed had all possible varieties of hill and vale, in whose recesses the Aleas lay safe; for otherwise I should inevitably have broken their bones by rolling over them. Our apartment is indeed furnished with windows; and he who takes the trouble to examine, may convince himself that they have once been glazed. The night air is very cold, and I have only one solitary blamket; but it is a very pretty one, with red and yellow stripes. Add to this catalogue of comforts, that the cats were saying soft things in most vile Spanish; and you may judge what refreshment I have received from sleep.

* At breakfast they brought us our tea on a plate by way of cannister, and some butter of the country, positively not godown-able. This however was followed by some excellent chocolate, and I soon established a plenam in my system.

“The monuments of Spanish jealousy still remain in the old houses; and the balconies of them are fronted with a lattice more thickly barred, than ever was hencoop in England. But jealousy is out of fashion at present; and they tell me, an almost universal depravity of manners has succeeded. The men are a Jew-looking race; the little boys wear the monkey appendage of a tail, and I see infants with more feathers than a fantastic fine lady would wear at a ball. The women soon appear old, and then every feature settles into symmetry of ugliness. If ever Opie paints another witch, he ought to visit Corunna. All ideas that you can form by the help of blear eyes, mahogany complexion, and shrivelled parchment, must fall infinitely short of the life. VOL. IV.

2 N

us, than the lill which we were immediately ascending, and often believed we had attained the summit before we had conquered half the road. On the other side we were presented with a majestic sweep down the mountain, and along the lofty hills that inclose the valley of the Rhine, stretching away to the piny forests rising above the vale of Splugen. After descending a considerable way alınost perpendicularly, but on a firm and well-constructed road, we came in view of that celebrated river which we had lately beheld bearing its thundering mass of waters to the ocean, but which, now just springing from its source, steals placidly along the quiet valley, soft as the first sleep of infancy after it has waked to new existence.'

On the ascent to the glaciers our travellers observed, that the side of the mountain produced a fine short grass; and the peasants were spreading as we passed their scented harvest, to the pleasant, but fleeting sun-beam, eager to improve the precarious blessing, and snatch the golden moments ! Along a fine amphitheatre of mountains, we spied the inhabitants of the various cottages at this pastoral employment, hanging on the steeps like goats, to turn the swath, and leaving us to wonder by what ingenuity the grass was first mowed. These chalets, or mountain cabins, are fitted for the region where they are placed, though of an order of architecture of which Palladio gives no description. They are in general built with the wood of the pine or the larch, but when not in the neighbourhood of forests, are erected with stone. To most of the chalets the mountain itself affords one side ready constructed, as they are usually placed in such situations that when the avalanche rolls from the top, it shall find no resistance from those habitations, shielded by the friendly hill that rises abrupt behind, but passing harmless over the sheltered dwelling, fling at a safe distance its destructive mass.

• The ascent to the glaciers on the opposite side of the valley appeared so romantic, that we regretted for a moment that we had not taken a route, which seemed not only pleasanter, but shorter; our mountain companions, however, silenced our murmurs by assuring us that every step we took, though apparently leading us further from the opposite mountain, would at length

bring us nearer. We had been so often deceived in our ideas of distances in the Alps, which it requires long usage and a mountain-eye to calculate accurately, that we gave up our reason to the care of these Grisons, persuaded that some mountain-miracle would be wrought in our favour.

• The latter part of our journey was extreme toil; at some distance from the top, the mule which had hitherto carried me was left tied to a rock, and our guides supported me up the rugged steep; my fellow-travellers, who were furnished with crampons, little machines buckled to the feet, with points to enable the wearer to keep his hold, purchased their security by excessive fatigue from wearing them.

• We were frequently overcome by the extreme heat, as well as by the difficulty of the path, and often stopped to cool our fever at the torrent which we saw bursting above, from its icy source. No inconvenience, we were told, resulted from taking this cooling draught; though far from being convinced of the truth of this assertion, we were glad to find an excuse in the example of our Grison companions, for quaffing this delicious beverage ; and like our first parent, “ when not deceiv'd, but fondly overcome,” he tasted “ of that fair enticing fruit,” so we, against our better knowledge, scrupled not to drink large libations of this tempting nectarious water.

“With an inexpressible sensation of fatigue like the giddiness of delirium, breathless, and burning with heat, we threw ourselves, some time after mid-day, on the grass, along the icy boundary, from whose base rushed the torrent whence we gathered the icicles that again slackened our excessive thirst. These feelings of parched heat were not the effects of fatigue; we had taken as violent exercise beneath the hot noon-tide rays in the Italian vallies, with less feverish sensations than we now experienced in those regions of winter. After a slight interval of repose, however, we found ourselves restored to that feeling of serene, tranquil delight, for which the philosophers who have written on the theory of the Higher Alps, account, from the purity of the atmosphere at that immense elevation; and which state of soothing happiness Rousseau bas described with his usual eloquence, in a letter to Julia.

« ForrigeFortsæt »