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Departure from England— The Bay of Biscay—Corunna-Costumes—Troops
The Hercules Tower—Story of Old Russian George- Visit to the field of Battle-Sketch of the Action and Retreat-Similarity to that of XenophonSir C. Napier-A Fish Market-Appearance of the Country-Zoology-A Brigand's Story—Trade-Cigar Manufactory-Hospital-Hereditary Executioners—The Tomb of Moore-Departure from Spain.
The boats were hoisted to the davits, the anchor catted, and the last cheering note of the sailors' “ Ye ho, my hearties, O!” had ceased on board the Crusader yacht on the evening of the 24th of September, 1837, as her light sails bent to the wind, and she slipt past the white cliffs of the Isle of Wight, to seek for her inmates in warmer climes that health which an English winter cannot afford. A nine-knot breeze soon took us out of the chops of the channel to where the god of the stormy waters holds his court—“ the sleepless Bay of Biscay”—where we rocked and tossed about for the ensuing three days--the wind heading us hourly, and the sea rolling a tremendous swell. Old
THE BAY OF
Neptune seemed to welcome this my first visit to his dominions with all due honours; but notwithstanding the sea-faring philosophy of our own lordly poet,
"My soul did sicken o'er the heaving wave.'
How my spirits sank within me as lying in my
berth on the weather-quarter, every swell broke
the bulwarks, and the scattered wave, splashing over the deck, ran hissing along the vessel's side. What sensations it begets, especially during those dark and dismal hours of night, when, in addition to the elemental war without, the ocean's roar, and the howling wind, each bulk-head and spar would express its sufferings in the most mournful complainings. At times, these hitherto plaintive wailings would wax “ louder, longer, louder still,” till, rising in full chorus, they would become as outrageous and discordant as a menagerie at feeding time; and then would come an interval of rest-a moment of intense stillness, as if the winds and waves took breathing time, and paused to watch the effect of their last effort upon our gallant bark, or mark how they could best apply the succeeding one.
On Wednesday a small bird (one of the flycatchers) hovered about the vessel, at least seventy miles off land : unable to bear up longer, it fluttered a few minutes among the rigging, fell exhausted upon the deck, and died almost immediately. Next day, a dove made its appearance, endeavouring to reach us.
Poor thing! it came, like Noah's of old,
COAST OF GALLICIA.
not with an olive leaf, and the welcome tidings of land, but to tell us, that she, too, could find “no rest for the sole of her foot.” The wind continuing to head us and freshening into a gale, we made but little way, and, to complete our miseries, the mainmast sprung at the deck! This misfortune was remedied during the day, the mast having been fished and rendered secure enough to carry a trisail, under which we made land on the following morning, September 29th, and a more welcome hail never saluted my ears. The sea moderated, and we determined on running into Corunna to refit. How weary one feels on first coming on deck, after a few days' sea-rocking; a lassitude very similar to that experienced in coach travelling. We had perceived it gradually getting warmer for the last two days, and now the difference of climate was much greater than we could have supposed, from so slight a difference of latitude.
The north-west coast of Gallicia, along which now lay our course, is bleak and rugged, though not deserving the term of bold or iron-bound. The famous Hercules light, which forms so striking an object on this coast, soon pointed to where the swollen waves of Biscay give place to the calm and secure waters of the united harbours of Corunna and Ferrol. The numberless wind-mills that crown every eminence, in full work, with their snow-white sails glancing in the sun, carried us back to the days of Quixotte and Spanish knight-errantry. The
sight of them, indeed, always created a smile ; and perhaps it may be here observed, that much of the extravagance we are inclined to impute to the
poor Don, from our notions of the magnitude of windmills at home, is greatly diminished by those of this country being so exceedingly small. Many are constructed solely of wood, and, viewed in the indistinctness of twilight, do not require the imagination of even the hero of Cervantes to transform them into giants.
A most wretched pilot-boat came alongside, from the ragged and noisy crew of which we selected a pilot ; the exact similarity in feature, expression, and coal-black hair to those of a like class on the western coast of Ireland, who boast a Spanish origin, struck me instantly. The only peculiarity in costume of these people, besides the invariable red sash and its accompanying chuchilla, was their prodigious wooden shoes, which, on emergency, would almost serve them to float in. I need hardly inform those who have ever entered a foreign port, that our pilot's first inquiry, on coming aboard, was after the rum bottle. Pilotage here is very high, although but small skill is required. Little is seen of the town before entering the harbour, except one of the forts and a spire or two; but on rounding the point, the whole bursts upon your view, lying principally along the beach and on the water's edge.
Corunna—that name so stamped on the page of
British history—what recollections does it not revive as we ride before these once bristling walls ? Within view are the heights, whence so destructive a fire was poured down upon our gallant countrymen, and the tomb of their renowned leader crowns one of the bastions beside us. After waiting for some hours, the health and excise officers arrived. These officious gentry being satisfied as to the purity of our bills of health, which, as they were in Latin, neither they nor our skipper knew one word of, we were permitted to land.
The harbour is fine, secure and almost land-locked. The town forms a crescent around it, and when seen at a little distance, presents a rather novel appearance, owing to the irregularity of the whitewashed houses, the green windows, verandahs, numerous balconies, together with red-tiled roofs and tall chimneys.
There is little commerce, and but few vessels; those being principally small Spanish brigantines, feluccas, and guarda costas. Two packets sail monthly to the Havannah. There are no docks, those originally commenced having long since been abandoned ; and like all continental fortified cities, the gates are shut at sunset. The streets of Corunna are wider than those of most Spanish towns; the shops poor, the trade inconsiderable, and although containing 20,000 inhabitants, the place has a deserted and desolate appearance.
The town is divided into old and new; the former, situated on the hill surrounding