Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

dancings which these houses exhibit, and which are truly surprising. The Opera House, called the Theatre San Carlos, is, except on a few particular occasions, almost deserted. The audiences are usually so thin, that it is not usual to light up the body of the house, except on particular days, when the rare illumination is duly announced in the bills. I visited it fortunately on the birth-day of the king, which is one of the most splendid of its festivals. Its interior is not much smaller than that of Co vent Garden Theatre, though it appears at the first glance much less, from the extreme beauty of the proportions. The form is that of an ellipse, exquisitely turned, intersected at the farther extremity by the stage. The sides are occupied by five tiers of boxes, at least in appearance, for the upper circles, which are appropriated to the populace by way of gallery, are externally uniform with the rest of the theatre. The prevailing colour is white; the ornaments between the boxes, consisting of harps and tasteful devices, are of brown and gold, and elegantly divided into compartments by rims of burnished gold. The middle of the house is occupied by the grand entrance into the pit, the royal box, and the gallery above it, which is in continuation of the higher circle. The royal box is from twelve to fifteen feet in length, and occupies in height the space of three rows of the common boxes. Above are the crown and regal arms in burnished gold, and the sides are supported by statues of the same radiant appearance. Curtains of green silk of a fine texture usually conceal its internal splendours; but on this occasion they were drawn aside at the same moment that the stage was discovered, and displayed the interior illuminated with great brilliancy. This seat of royalty is divided into two stories—a slight gallery being thrown over the back part of it. Its ground is a deep crimson; the top descends towards the back in a beautiful concave, representing a rich veil of ermine. In the front of the lower compartment, behind the seats, is the crown of Portugal figured on deep green velvet; and the sides are adorned with elegant mirrors. The centre of the roof of the theatre is an ellipse, painted to represent the sky with the moon and stars visible; the sides sloping to the upper boxes are of white adorned with gold and crimson. The stage is supported on each side by two pillars of the composite order of white and gold; half in relief, with a brazen statue between each of them. It forms an excellent frame work for a dramatic picture.— The most singular feature of the house is a clock over the centre of the stage, which regularly strikes the hours, without mercy. What a noble invention this for the use of those who contend for the unity of time! How nicely would it enable the French critics to estimate the value of a tragedy at a single glance! How accurately might the time be measured out in which eternal attachments should be formed, conspiracies planned, and states overthrown; how might the passions of the soul be regulated to a minute, and the rise and swell of the great emotions of the heart determined to a hair; with what accuracy might the moments which the heroes have yet to live be counted out like those of culprits at the Old Bailey! What huge criticisms of Corneille and Voltaire would that little instrument supply! What volumes, founded on its movements, would it render superfluous! Even Grecian regularity must yield before it, and criticism triumph, by this invariable standard, at once over Sophocles and Shakspeare.

The scenery was wretched—the singers tolerable—and the band excellent. The ballet took place between the acts of the opera, and was spun out to great length. The dancing consisted partly of wonderful twirlings of the French school, and partly of the more wonderful contortions of the Portuguese; both kinds exceedingly clever, but exhibiting very little of true beauty, grace, or elegance. At the close of the first act, a perfect shower of roses, pinks, and carnations, together with printed sonnets, was poured down from the top of the theatre in honour of his majesty, whose absence, however, even Portuguese loyalty cannot pardon.

The churches are the most remarkable of the public buildings of Lisbon; though plain on the outside, they are exceedingly splendid in the interior. The tutelary saints are richer than many Continental princes, though their treasures are only displayed to excite the reverence or the cupidity of the people on high and festal occasions. The most beautiful, though not the largest of the churches which I have examined, is that of the Estrella, which is lined with finely-varied and highly-polished marble, vaulted over with a splendid and sculptured roof, and adorned, in its gilded recesses, with

beautiful pictures. Were it not, indeed, for the impression made on me by one of the latter, I should scarcely have mentioned this edifice, unable as I am technically to describe it. The piece to which I allude is not, that I can discover, held in particular estimation, or the production of any celebrated artist; but it excited in me feelings of admiration and delight, which can never die away. It represents Saint John in the Isle of Patmos, gazing on the vision in which the angels are pouring forth the vials, and with the pen in his hand, ready to commit to sacred and imperishable record the awful and mysterious scenes opened before him. Never did I behold or imagine such a figure. He is sitting, half entranced with wonder at the revelation disclosed to him, half mournfully conscious of the evils which he is darkly to predict to a fated and unheeding world. The face, in its mere form and colouring, is most beautiful: its features are perfectly lovely, though inclining rather to cherubic roundness than Grecian austerity, and its roseate bloom of youth is gently touched and softened by the feelings attendant on the sad and holy vocation of the beloved disciple. The head is bent forward, in eagerness, anxiety, and reverence; the eyebrows arched in wonder, yet bearing in every line some undefinable expression of pity; the eyes are uplifted, and beaming with holy inspiration, yet mild, soft, angelical; around the exquisitely-formed mouth, sweet tendernesses for the inevitable sorrows of mankind are playing; and the bright chesnut hair, falling in masses over the shoulders, gives to all this expression of high yet soft emotion, a finishing grace and completeness. This figure displays such unspeakable sweetness tempering such prophetic fire; such religious and saintly purity, mingled with so genial a compassion; it is at once so individual and so ideal; so bordering on the celestial, and yet so perfectly within the range of human sympathies; that it is difficult to say, whether the delicious emotions which it inspires partake most of wonder or of love. The image seemed, like sweet music, to sink into the soul, there to remain for ever. To see such a piece is really to be made better and happier. The recollection is a precious treasure for the feelings and the imagination, of which nothing, while they endure, can deprive them.

The church at Belem, a fortified place on the Tagus, three or four miles from Lisbon, where the kings and royal family of Portugal have, for many generations, been interred, must not be forgotten. It is one of the most ancient buildings in the kingdom, having originally been erected by the Romans, and splendidly adorned by the Moorish sovereigns. Formed of white stone, it is now stained to a reddish brown by the mere influence of years, and frowns over the water "cased in the unfeeling armour of old time." Its shape is oblong, its sides of gigantic proportions, and its massive appearance most grand and awe-inspiring. The principal entrance is by a deep archway, reaching to a great height and circular within, ornamented above and around with the most crowded, venerable, and yet fantastic devices—martyrs and heroes of chivalry—swords and crosiers—monarchs and saints—crosses and sceptres—"the roses and flowers of kings" and the sad emblems of mortality—all wearing the stamp of deep antiquity, all appearing carved out of one eternal rock, and promising by their air of solid grandeur to survive as many stupendous changes as those which have already left them unshaken. The interior of this venerable edifice is not less awe-breathing or substantial. Eight huge pillars of barbaric architecture, and covered all over with strange figures and grotesque ornaments in relievo, support the roof, which is white, ponderous, and of a noble simplicity, being only divided into vast square compartments by the beams which cross it. Such a pile, devoted to form the last resting-place of a line of kings who have, each in his brief span of time, held the fate of millions at his pleasure, cannot fail to excite solemn and pensive thought. And yet what are the feelings thus excited, to those meditations to which trie great repository of the illustrious deceased in England invites us! Here we think of nothing but the perishableness of man in his best estate—the emptiness of human honours —the low and frail nature of all the distinctions of earth. A race of monarchs occupy but a narrow vault: they were kings, and now are dust; and this idea forced home upon us, makes us feel that the most potent and enduring of worldly things—thrones, dynasties, and the peaceable succession of high families—are but as feeble shadows. We learn only to feel our weakness. But in the sacred place where all that could perish of our orators, philosophers, and poets, is reposing, we feel our mortality only to lend us a stronger and more ethereal sense of our eternal being. Life and death seem met together, as in a holy fane, in peaceful concord. While we feel that the mightiest must yield to the stern law of necessity, we know that the very monuments which record the decay of their outward frame, are so many proofs and symbols that they shall never really expire. We feel that those whose remembrance is thus extended beyond the desolating power of the grave, over whose fame death and mortal accidents have no power, are not themselves destroyed. And when we recollect the more indestructible monuments of their genius, those works, which live not only in the libraries of the studious, but in the hearts and imaginations of men; we are conscious at once, that the spirit which conceived, and the souls which appreciate and love them, are not of the earth, earthy. Our thoughts are not wholly of humiliation and sorrow! but stretch forward, with a pensive majesty, into the permanent and the immortal.

Having inspected the city, I was naturally anxious to visit the celebrated Jlqueduct, which is carried across a deep valley two or three miles from Lisbon. Having passed the suburbs, and reached the open country, I saw, at a sudden turn in the pathway, the mighty object of my wanderings. I found myself on the summit of a gently-sloping declivity, at a little distance from the foot of which a hill rose to an equal height, with a bold and luxuriant sweep. It is across the expanse thus formed, that the stupendous bridge runs, in two straight lines from each eminence, which form an obtuse angle in the centre. The whole is supported by thirty-six arches, which, as the ground from each extremity sinks, increase in height, or rather depth, till in the middle of the pile, the distance to which they ascend from the vale is fearful. This huge structure is composed of dark gray stone, the deep colour of which gives to its massiveness an air of the sternest grandeur. The water is conveyed across the level thus formed, through a chain of building which occupies its centre, and appears almost like a line of solid and unbroken rock. Above this erection, turrets of still greater height, and of the same materials, are reared at regular intervals, and crown the whole. The road is thus divided into two passes, which are secured by high ridges of stone, in the long, uninterrupted

« ПредишнаНапред »