Of Spain In General
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHAT TO FIND AND WHAT NOT TO LOOK FOR THERE
Various as are the objects worth observing in Spain, many of which are to be seen there only, it may be as well to mention what is not to be seen, for there is no such loss of time as finding this out oneself, after weary chase and wasted hour. Those who expect to meet with well-garnished arsenals, libraries, restaurants, charitable or literary institutions, canals, railroads, tunnels, suspension-bridges, steam-engines, omnibuses, manufactories, poly-technic galleries, pale-ale breweries, and similar appliances and appurtenances of a high state of political, social, and commercial civilization, had bet-ter stay at home. In Spain there are no turnpike-trust meetings, no quarter-sessions, no courts of justice, according to the real meaning of that word, no treadmills, no boards of guardians, no chairmen, directors, masters-extraordinary of the court of chancery, no assistant poor-law commissioners. There are no anti-tobacco-teetotal-ternperance-meetings, no auxiliary-missionary-propagating societies, nothing in the blanket and lying-in asylum line, nothing, in short, worth a revising barrister of three years' standing's notice, unless he be partial to the study of the laws of bankruptcy. Spain is no country for the political economist, beyond affording an example of the de-cline of the wealth of nations, and offering a wide topic on errors to be avoided, as well as for experimental theories, plans of reform and amelioration. IN Spain, Nature reigns; she has there lavished her utmost prodigality of soil and climate, which Spaniards have for the last four centuries been endeavoring to counteract by a culpable neglect of agricultural speeches and dinners, and a non-distribution of prizes for the biggest boars, asses, and laborers with largest families.
Those who aspire to the romantic, the poetical, the sentimental, the artistic, the antiquarian, the classical, in short, to any of the sublime and beautiful lines, will find both in the past and present state of Spain, subjects enough in wandering with lead-pencil and notebook through this singular country, which hovers between Europe and Africa, between civilization and barbarism; this land of the green valley and barren mountain, of the boundless plain and the broken sierra; those Elysian gardens of the vine, the olive, the orange, and the aloe; those trackless, vast, silent, uncultivated wastes, the heritage of the wild bee; in flying from the dull uniformity, the polished monotony of Europe, to the racy freshness of that original, unchanged country, where antiquity treads on the heels of to-day, where Paganism disputes the very altar with Christianity, where indulgence and luxury contend with privation and poverty, where a want of all that is generous or merciful is blended with the most devoted heroic virtues, where the most cold-blooded cruelty is linked with the fiery passions of Africa, where ignorance and erudition stand in violent and Striking contrast.
There let the antiquarian pore over the stirring memorials of many thousand years, the vestiges of Phoenician enterprise, of Roman magnificence, of Moorish elegance, in that storehouse of ancient customs, that repository of all elsewhere long for-gotten and passed by; there let him gaze upon those classical monuments, unequalled almost in Greece or Italy, and on those fairy Alladin palaces, the creatures of Oriental gorgeousness and imagination, with which Spain alone can enchant the dull European; there let the man of feeling dwell on the poetry of her envy-disarming decay, fallen from her high estate, the dignity of a dethroned monarch, borne with unrepining self-respect, the last consolation of the innately noble, which no adversity can take away; let the lover of art feed his eyes with the mighty masterpieces of ideal Italian art, when Raphael and Titian strove to decorate the palaces of Charles, the great emperor of the age of Leo X.
Let him gaze on the living nature of Velazquez and Murillo, whose paintings are truly to be seen in Spain alone; let the artist sketch frowning forms of the castle, the pomp and splendor of the cathedral, where God is worshiped in a manner as nearly befitting his glory as the arts and wealth of finite man can reach. Let him dwell on the Gothic gloom of the cloister, the feudal turret, the vasty Escurial, the rock-built aleazar of imperial Toledo, the sunny towers of stately Seville, the eternal snows and lovely vega of Granada; let the geologist clamber over mountains of marble, and metalpregnant sierras; let the botanist cull from the wild hothouse of nature plants unknown, unnumbered, matchless in color and breathing the aroma of the sweet south; let all, learned and unlearned, listen to the song, the guitar, the castanet; or join in the light fandango and spirit-stirring bull-fight; let all mingle with the gay, good-humored, temperate peasantry, free, manly, and independent, yet courteous and respectful; let all live with the noble, dignified, high-bred, self-respecting Spaniard; let all share in their easy, courteous society; let all admire their dark-eyed women, so frank and natural, to whom the voice of all ages and nations has conceded the palm of attraction, to whom Venus has bequeathed her magic girdle of grace and fascination; let allóbut enough on starting on this expedition, "where," as Don Quixote said, "there are opportunities, brother Sancho, of putting our hands into what are called adventures up to our elbows."