Castilian Days By John Hay
























































































 - CASTILIAN DAYS

BY JOHN HAY


Published November 1903


PUBLISHERS' NOTE


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CASTILIAN DAYS

BY JOHN HAY

Published November 1903

PUBLISHERS' NOTE

In this Holiday Edition of Castilian Days it has been thought advisable to omit a few chapters that appeared in the original edition. These chapters were less descriptive than the rest of the book, and not so rich in the picturesque material which the art of the illustrator demands. Otherwise, the text is reprinted without change. The illustrations are the fruit of a special visit which Mr. Pennell has recently made to Castile for this purpose.

BOSTON, AUTUMN, 1903

CONTENTS

MADRID AL FRESCO

SPANISH LIVING AND DYING

INFLUENCE OF TRADITION IN SPANISH LIFE

TAUROMACHY

RED-LETTER DAYS

AN HOUR WITH THE PAINTERS

A CASTLE IN THE AIR

THE CITY OF THE VISIGOTHS

THE ESCORIAL

A MIRACLE PLAY

THE CRADLE AND THE GRAVE OF CERVANTES

MADRID AL FRESCO

Madrid is a capital with malice aforethought. Usually the seat of government is established in some important town from the force of circumstances. Some cities have an attraction too powerful for the court to resist. There is no capital of England possible but London. Paris is the heart of France. Rome is the predestined capital of Italy in spite of the wandering flirtations its varying governments in different centuries have carried on with Ravenna, or Naples, or Florence. You can imagine no Residenz for Austria but the Kaiserstadt, - the gemuthlich Wien. But there are other capitals where men have arranged things and consequently bungled them. The great Czar Peter slapped his imperial court down on the marshy shore of the Neva, where he could look westward into civilization and watch with the jealous eye of an intelligent barbarian the doings of his betters. Washington is another specimen of the cold-blooded handiwork of the capital builders. We shall think nothing less of the clarum et venerabile nomen of its founder if we admit he was human, and his wishing the seat of government nearer to Mount Vernon than Mount Washington sufficiently proves this. But Madrid more plainly than any other capital shows the traces of having been set down and properly brought up by the strong hand of a paternal government; and like children with whom the same regimen has been followed, it presents in its maturity a curious mixture of lawlessness and insipidity.

Its greatness was thrust upon it by Philip II. Some premonitory symptoms of the dangerous honor that awaited it had been seen in preceding reigns. Ferdinand and Isabella occasionally set up their pilgrim tabernacle on the declivity that overhangs the Manzanares. Charles V. found the thin, fine air comforting to his gouty articulations. But Philip II. made it his court. It seems hard to conceive how a king who had his choice of Lisbon, with its glorious harbor and unequalled communications; Seville, with its delicious climate and natural beauty; and Salamanca and Toledo, with their wealth of tradition, splendor of architecture, and renown of learning, should have chosen this barren mountain for his home, and the seat of his empire. But when we know this monkish king we wonder no longer. He chose Madrid simply because it was cheerless and bare and of ophthalmic ugliness. The royal kill-joy delighted in having the dreariest capital on earth. After a while there seemed to him too much life and humanity about Madrid, and he built the Escorial, the grandest ideal of majesty and ennui that the world has ever seen. This vast mass of granite has somehow acted as an anchor that has held the capital fast moored at Madrid through all succeeding years.

It was a dreary and somewhat shabby court for many reigns. The great kings who started the Austrian dynasty were too busy in their world conquest to pay much attention to beautifying Madrid, and their weak successors, sunk in ignoble pleasures, had not energy enough to indulge the royal folly of building. When the Bourbons came down from France there was a little flurry of construction under Philip V., but he never finished his palace in the Plaza del Oriente, and was soon absorbed in constructing his castle in cloud-land on the heights of La Granja. The only real ruler the Bourbons ever gave to Spain was Charles III., and to him Madrid owes all that it has of architecture and civic improvement. Seconded by his able and liberal minister, Count Aranda, who was educated abroad, and so free from the trammels of Spanish ignorance and superstition, he rapidly changed the ignoble town into something like a city. The greater portion of the public buildings date from this active and beneficent reign. It was he who laid out the walks and promenades which give to Madrid almost its only outward attraction. The Picture Gallery, which is the shrine of all pilgrims of taste, was built by him for a Museum of Natural Science. In nearly all that a stranger cares to see, Madrid is not an older city than Boston.

There is consequently no glory of tradition here. There are no cathedrals. There are no ruins. There is none of that mysterious and haunting memory that peoples the air with spectres in quiet towns like Ravenna and Nuremberg. And there is little of that vast movement of humanity that possesses and bewilders you in San Francisco and New York. Madrid is larger than Chicago; but Chicago is a great city and Madrid a great village. The pulsations of life in the two places resemble each other no more than the beating of Dexter's heart on the home-stretch is like the rising and falling of an oozy tide in a marshy inlet.

There is nothing indigenous in Madrid. There is no marked local color. It is a city of Castile, but not a Castilian city, like Toledo, which girds its graceful waist with the golden Tagus, or like Segovia, fastened to its rock in hopeless shipwreck.

But it is not for this reason destitute of an interest of its own. By reason of its exceptional history and character it is the best point in Spain to study Spanish life.

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