Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

* THERE is her history; the world knows it by heart. There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bupker-Hill; and there they will remaju for ever!

WEBSTER

[blocks in formation]

RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ALHAMBRA.

BY THE AUTHOR OF THE SKETCH BOUK.

as a san

During a summer's residence in the old Moorish palace of the Alhambra, of which I have already given numerous anecdotes to the public, I used to pass much of my time in the beautiful hall of the Abencerrages, beside the fountain celebrated in the tragic story of that devoted race. Here it was, that thirty-six cavaliers of that heroic line were treacherously sacrificed, to appease the jealousy or allay the fears of a tyrant. The fountain which now throws up

its sparkling jet, and sheds a dewy freshness around, ran red with the noblest blood of Granada, and a deep stain on the marble pavement is still pointed out, by the cicerones of the pile, guinary record of the massacre. I have regarded it with the same determined faith with which I have regarded the traditional stains of Rizzio's blood on the floor of the chamber of the unfortunate Mary, at Holyrood. I thank no one for endeavoring to enlighten my credulity, on such points of popular belief. It is like breaking up the shrine of the pilgrim; it is robbing a poor traveller of half the reward of his toils; for, strip travelling of its historical illusions, and what a mere fag you make of it!

For my part, I gave myself up, during my sojourn in the Alhambra, to all the romantic and fabulous traditions connected with the pile. I lived in the midst of an Arabian tale, and shut my eyes, as much as possible, to every thing that called me back to every-day life; and if there is any country in Europe where one can do so, it is in poor, wild, legendary, proud-spirited, romantic Spain ; where the old magnificent barbaric spirit still contends against the utilitarianism of modern civilization.

In the silent and deserted halls of the Alhambra; surrounded with the insignia of regal sway, and the still vivid, though dilapidated traces of oriental voluptuousness, I was in the strong-hold of Moorish story, and every thing spoke and breathed of the glorious days of Granada, when under the dominion of the crescent. When I sat in the hall of the Abencerrages, I suffered my mind to conjure up all that I had read of that illustrious line. In the proudest days of Moslem domination, the Abencerrages were the soul of every thing noble and chivalrous. The veterans of the family, who sat in the royal council, were the foremost to devise those heroic enterprises, which carried dismay into the territories of the Christians; and what the sages of the family devised, the young men of the name were the foremost to execute. In all services of hazard; in all adventurous forays, and hair-breadth hazards; the Abencerrages were sure to win the brightest laurels. In those noble recreations, too, which bear so close an affinity to war; in the tilt and tourney, the riding at the ring, and the daring bull-fight; still the Abencerrages carried off the palm. None could equal them for the splendor of their array, the gallantry of their devices; for their noble bearing, and glorious horsemanship. Their open-handed munificence made them the idols of the populace,

while their lofty magnanimity, and perfect faith, gained them golden opinions from the generous and high-minded. Never were they known to decry the merits of a rival, or to betray the confidings of a friend; and the word of an Abencerrage' was a guarantee that never admitted of a doubt.

And then their devotion to the fair! Never did Moorish beauty consider the fame of her charms established, until she had an Abencerrage for a lover; and never did an Abencerrage prove recreant to his vows. Lovely Granada! City of delights! Who ever bore the favors of thy dames more proudly on their casques, or championed them more gallantly in the chivalrous tilts of the Vivarambla ? Or who ever made thy moon-lit balconies, thy gardens of myrtles and roses, of oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, respond to more tender serenades?

I speak with enthusiasm on this theme; for it is connected with the recollection of one of the sweetest evenings and sweetest scenes that ever I enjoyed in Spain. One of the greatest pleasures of the Spaniards is, to sit in the beautiful summer evenings, and listen to traditional ballads, and tales about the wars of the Moors and Christians, and the buenas andanzas' and 'grandes hechos,' the 'good fortunes' and 'great exploits' of the hardy warriors of yore. It is worthy of remark, also, that many of these songs, or romances, as they are called, celebrate the prowess and magnanimity in war, and the tenderness and fidelity in love, of the Moorish cavaliers, once their most formidable and liated foes. But centuries have elapsed, to extinguish the bigotry of the zealot; and the once detested warriors of Granada are now held up by Spanish poets, as the mirrors of chivalric virtue.

Such was the amusement of the evening in question. A number of us were seated in the Hall of the Abencerrages, listening to one of the most gifted and fascinating beings that I had ever met with in my wanderings. She was young and beautiful; and light and ethereal; full of fire, and spirit, and pure enthusiasm. She wore the fanciful Andalusian dress; touched the guitar with speaking eloquence ; improvised with wonderful facility ; and, as she became excited by her theme, or by the rapt attention of her auditors, would pour forth, in the richest and most melodious strains, a succession of couplets, full of striking description, or stirring narration, and composed, as I was assured, at the moment. Most of these were suggested by the place, and related to the ancient glories of Granada, and the prowess of her chivalry. The Abencerrages were her favorite heroes ; she felt a woman's admiration of their gallant courtesy, and high-souled honor ; and it was touching and inspiring to hear the praises of that generous but devoted race, chanted in this fated hall of their calamity, by the lips of Spanish beauty.

Among the subjects of which she treated, was a tale of Moslem honor, and old-fashioned Spanish courtesy, which made a strong im. pression on me. She disclaimed all merit of invention, however, and said she had merely dilated into verse a popular tradition ; and, indeed, I have since found the main facts inserted at the end of Conde's History of the Domination of the Arabs, and the story itself embodied in the form of an episode in the Diana of Montemayor. From these

sources, I have drawn it forth, and endeavored to shape it according to my recollection of the version of the beautiful minstrel; but alas ! what can supply the want of that voice, that look, that form, that action, which gave magical effect to her chant, and held every one rapt in breathless admiration! Should this mere travestie of her inspired numbers ever meet her eye, in her stately abode at Granada, may it meet with that indulgence which belongs to her benignant nature. Happy should I be, if it could awaken in her bosom one kind recollection of the lonely stranger and sojourner, for whose gratification she did not think it beneath her to exert those fascinating powers, which were the delight of brilliant circles; and who will ever recall with enthusiasm the happy evening passed in listening to her strains, in the moon-lit halls of the Alhambra.

GeoFFREY CRAYON.

[blocks in formation]

On the summit of a craggy hill, a spur of the mountains of Ronda, stands the castle of Allora, now a mere ruin, infested by bats and owlets, but in old times one of the strong border holds of the Christians, to keep watch upon the frontiers of the warlike kingdom of Granada, and to hold the Moors in check. It was a post always confided to some well-tried commander; and, at the time of which we treat, was held by Rodrigo de Narvaez, a veteran, famed, both among Moors and Christians, not only for his hardy feats of arms, but also for that magnanimous courtesy, which should ever be entwined with the sterner virtues of the soldier.

The castle of Allora was a mere part of his command; he was Alcayde, or military governor of Antiquera, but he passed most of his time at this frontier post, because its situation on the borders gave more frequent opportunity for those adventurous exploits which were the delight of the Spanish chivalry. His garrison consisted of fifty chosen cavaliers, all well mounted, and well appointed : with these he kept vigilant watch upon the Moslems; patrolling the roads, and paths, and defiles, of the mountains, so that nothing could escape his eye ; and now and then signalizing himself by some dashing foray into the very Vega of Granada.

On a fair and beautiful night in summer, when the freshness of the evening breeze had tempered the heat of day, the worthy Alcayde sallied forth, with nine of his cavaliers, to patrol the neighborhood, and seek adventures. They rode quietly and cautiously, lest they should be overheard by Moorish scout or traveller; and kept along ravines and hollow ways, lest they should be betrayed by the glittering of the full moon upon their armor. Coming to where the road divided, the Alcayde directed five of his cavaliers to take one of the branches, while he, with the remaining four, would take the other. Should either party be in danger, the blast of a horn was to be the signal to bring their comrades to their aid.

The party of five had not proceeded far, when, in passing through a defile, overhung with trees, they heard the voice of a man, singing.

They immediately concealed themselves in a grove, on the brow of a declivity, up which the stranger would have to ascend. The moonlight, which left the grove in deep shadow, lit up the whole person of the wayfarer, as he advanced, and enabled them to distinguish his dress and appearance, with perfect accuracy. He was a Moorish cavalier, and his noble demeanor, graceful carriage, and splendid attire, showed him to be of lofty rank. He was superbly mounted, on a dapple-gray steed, of powerful frame, and generous spirit, and magnificently caparisoned. His dress was a marlota, or tunic, and an Albernoz of crimson damask, fringed with gold. His Tunisian turban, of many folds, was of silk and cotton striped, and bordered with golden fringe. At his girdle hung a scimetar of Damascus steel, with loops and tassels of silk and gold. On his left arm he bore an ample target, and his right hand grasped a long double-pointed lance.

Thus equipped, he sat negligently on his steed, as one who dreamed of no danger, gazing on the moon, and singing, with a sweet and manly voice, a Moorish love ditty.

Just opposite the place where the Spanish cavaliers were concealed, was a small fountain in the rock, beside the road, to which the horse turned to drink; the rider threw the reins on his neck, and continued his song.

The Spanish cavaliers conferred together; they were all so pleased with the gallant and gentle appearance of the Moor, that they resolved not to harm, but to capture him, which, in his negligent mood, promised to be an easy task; rushing, therefore, from their concealment, they thought to surround and seize him. Never were men more mistaken. To gather up his reins, wheel round his steed, brace his buckler, and couch his lance, was the work of an instant; and there he sat, fixed like a castle in his saddle, beside the fountain.

The Christian cavaliers checked their steeds, and reconnoitred him warily, loth to come to an encounter, which must end in his destruction.

The Moor now held a parley: “If you be true knights,' said he, •and seek for honorable fame, come on, singly, and I am ready to meet each in succession; but if you be mere lurkers of the road, intent on spoil, come all at once, and do

your

worst!' The cavaliers communed for a moment apart, when one, advancing singly, exclaimed: Although no law of chivalry obliges us to risk the loss of a prize, when clearly in our power, yet we willingly grant, as a courtesy, what we might refuse as a right. Valiant Moor! defend thyself!'

So saying, he wheeled, took proper distance, couched his lance, and putting spurs to his horse, made at the stranger. The latter met him in mid career, transpierced him with his lance, and threw him headlong from his saddle. A second and a third succeeded, but were unborsed with equal facility, and thrown to the earth, severely wounded. The remaining two, seeing their comrades thus roughly treated, forgot all compact of courtesy, and charged both at once upon the Moor. He parried the thrust of one, but was wounded by the other in the thigh, and, in the shock and confusion, dropped his lance. Thus disarmed, and closely pressed, he pretended to fly, and was hotly pursued. Having drawn the two cavaliers some distance from the spot, he suddenly wheeled short about, with one of those dexterous

« PreviousContinue »