« ПредишнаНапред »
RECOLLECTIONS OF LISBON.
On the first of May, 1818, I sailed in one of the government packets, from the beautiful harbour of Falmouth, for Lisbon. The voyage, though it only lasted eight days, was sufficiently long to excite an earnest desire for our arrival at the port of our destiny. The water which so majestically stretches before us, when seen from a promontory or headland, loses much of its interest and its grandeur when it actually circles round us and shuts us in from the world. The part which we are able to discern from the deck of a vessel, appears of very small diameter, and its aspect in fine weather is so uniform as to weary the eye, which seems to sicken with following the dance of the sun-beams, which alone diversify its surface. There is something painfully restless and shadowy in all around us, which forces on our hearts that feeling of the instability and transitoriness of our nature, which we lose among the moveless grandeurs of the universe. On the sea, all without, instead of affording a resting-place for the soul, is emblematic of the fluctuation of our mortal being. Those who have long been accustomed to it seem accommodated to their lot in feeling and in character; snatch a hasty joy with eagerness wherever it can be found, careless of the future, and borne lightly on the wave of life without fore. thought or struggle. To a landsman there is something inexpressibly sad in the want of material objects which endure. The eye turns disappointed from the glorious panoply of clouds which attend the setting sun, where it has fancied thrones, and golden cities, and temples with their holy shrines far sunken within outer courts of splendour, while it feels that they are but for a moment, gay mockeries of the state of man on earth. Often, during my little voyage, did I, while looking over the side of the vessel on the dark water, think of the beautiful delineation by the most profound of living poets, of the tender imaginations of a mariner who had been reared among the mountains, and in his heart was “half a shepherd on the stormy seas,” who was wont to hear in the piping shrouds “the tones of waterfalls and inland sounds of caves and trees,” and
“When the regular wind
I remember, however, with gratitude two evenings, just after the renewal of the moon, which were rendered singularly lovely by a soft, tender, and penetrating light which seemed scarcely of this world. The moon on its first appearance, before the western lustre had entirely faded away, cast no reflection, however pale, on the waves; but seemed like some princely maiden exposed for the first time to vulgar gaze, gently to shrink back as though she feared some contamination to her pure and celestial beauty from shining forth on so busy and turbulent a sphere. As night advanced, it was a solemn pleasure to stand on the deck of the vessel, borne swiftly along the noiseless sea, and gaze on the farretiring stars in the azure distance. The mind seems, in such a scene, almost to “o'er inform its tenement of clay,”
* See Wordsworth's most affecting pastoral of “The Brothers.”
and to leap beyond it. It dwells not on the changes of the world; for in its high abstraction, all material things seem but passing shadows. Life, with its realities appears like a vanishing dream, and the past a tale scarcely credited. The pulses of mortal existence are almost suspended—“thought is not—in enjoyment it expires." Nothing seems to be in the universe but one's-self and God. No feeling of loneliness has entrance, for the great spirit of Eternal Good seems shedding mildest and selectest influences on all things. On the eighth morning after our departure from Falmouth, on coming as usual on the deck, I found that we were sailing almost close under “the Rock of Lisbon,” which breasts the vale of Cintra. It is a stupendous mountain of rock, extending very far into the sea, and rising to a dizzy height above it. The sides are broken into huge precipices and caverns of various and grotesque forms, are covered with dark moss, or exhibit naked stones blackened with a thousand storms. The top consists of an unequal ridge of apparently shivered rock, sometimes descending in jagged lines, and at others rising into sharp, angular, and pointed pyramids, which seem to strike into the clouds. What a feeling does such a monument excite, shapeless, rugged, and setting all form at defiance—when the heart feels that it has outlived a thousand generations of perishable man, and belongs to an antiquity compared with which the wonders of Egypt are modern It seems like the unhewn citadel of a giant race; the mighty wreck of an older and more substantial world. Leaving the steeps and everlasting recesses of this huge mass, we passed the coasts of Portugal. The fields lying near the shore appeared for the most part barren, though broken into gentle undulations, and adorned with large spreading mansions and neat villages. A pleasant breeze brought us soon to the mouth of the Tagus, where a scene of enchantment, “too bright and fair almost for remembrance,” burst upon my view. We sailed between the two fortresses which guard the entrance of the river, here several miles in width, close to the walls of that on the left, denominated “Fort St. Julian.” The river, seen up to the beautiful castle of Belem, lay before us, not serpentine nor perceptibly contracting, but between almost parallel shores, like a noble
avenue of crystal. It was studded with vessels of every region, as the sky is sprinkled with stars, which rested on a bosom of waters so calm as scarcely to be curled by the air which wasted us softly onwards. On both sides, the shore rose into a series of hills on the right side; wild, abrupt, mazy, and tangled, and on the left, covered with the freshest verdure and interspersed with luxuriant trees. Noble seats appeared crowning the hills and sloping on their sides; and in the spaces between the elevated spots, glimpses were caught of sweet valleys winding among scattered woods, or of princely domes and spires in the richness of the distance. All wore, not the pale livery of an opening spring, but the full bloom of maturest summer. The transition to such a seen, sparkling in the richest tints of sunshine and overhung by a cloudless sky of the deepest blue, from the scanty and just-budding foliage of Cornwall, as I left it, was like the change of a Midsummer Night's Dream; a sudden admission into fairy worlds. As we glided up the enchanted channel, the elevations on the left became overspread with magnificent buildings, like mingled temples and palaces, rising one above another into segments of vast amphitheatres, and interspersed with groves of the fullest yet most delicate green. Close to the water lay a barbaric edifice, of rich though fantastic architecture, a relic of Moorish grandeur, now converted into the last earthly abode of the monarchs of Portugal. Hence the buildings continued to thicken over the hills and to assume a more confused, though scarcely less romantic aspect, till we anchored in front of the most pupulous part of Lisbon. The city was stretched beyond the reach of the eye, on every side, upon the ascents and summits of very lofty and steep elevations. The white houses, thickly intersected with windows, mostly framed with green and white latticework, seemed to have their foundations on the tops of others: terraces appeared lifted far above the lofty buildings, and other edifices rose above them; gardens looked as suspended by magic in the clouds, and the whole scene wore an aspect of the most gorgeous confusion—“all bright and glittering in the smokeless air.” We landed, and the enchantment vanished, at least for a season. Very narrow streets, winding in ceaseless turnings over steep ascents and declivities, paved only with sharp flints, and filthy beyond compare now seemed to form the interior of the promised elysium. Nature and the founders of the city appeared to have done their best to render the spot a paradise, and modern generations their worst to reduce it to a sink of misery. Lisbon, like ancient Rome, is built on at least seven hills. It is fitted by situation to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Seated, or rather enthroned on such a spot, commanding a magnificent harbour, and overlooking one of the noblest rivers of Europe, it might be more distinguished for external beauty than Athens in the days of her freedom. Now it seems rather to be the theatre in which the two great powers of deformity and loveliness are perpetually struggling for the mastery. The highest admiration and the most sickening disgust alternately prevail in the mind of the beholder. Never was there so strange an intermixture of the mighty and the mean—of the pride of wealth and the abjectness of poverty—of the memorials of greatness and the symbols of low misery—of the filthy and the romantic. I will dwell, however, on the fair side of the picture; as I envy not those who delight in exhibiting the frightful or the gloomy, in the moral or the natural world. Often after traversing dark and wretched streets, at a sudden turn, a prospect of inimitable beauty bursts on the eye of the spectator. He finds himself, perhaps, on the brink of a mighty hollow scooped out by nature amidst hills, all covered to the tops with edifices, save where groves of the freshest verdure are interspersed; or on one side, a mountain rises into a cone far above the city, tufted with woods and crowned with some castellated pile, the work of other days. The views fronting the Tagus are still more extensive and grand. On one of these I stumbled a few evenings after my arrival, which almost suspended the breath with wonder. I had laboured through a steep and narrow street almost choked with dirt, when a small avenue on one side, apparently more open, tempted me to step aside to breathe the fresher air. I found myself on a little plot of ground, hanging apparently in the air, in the front of one of the churches. I stood against a column of the portico absorbed in delight and wonder. Before me lay a large portion of the city—houses descended beneath houses, sinking almost precipitously to a fearful depth beneath me, whose frame-works, covered over with vines of delicate green, broke