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THE VALLEY OF ALCANTARA.
footing, and over such a depth, with a Portuguese bravo. While looking over the highest part, and remarking the diminutive appearance of the people in the valley, my guide told me it was the favourite resort of suicides, who come to fling themselves over, and the spot is certainly most inviting to those tired of life, and willing to rush into certain destruction. The view from the top does not so much please as astonish you ; it is only while standing below, and at a little distance, that the grandeur of this stupendous pile breaks fully on the senses. In this situation, a prospect presents itself seldom to be equalled in loveliness; when looking up the valley, through the arches, you behold its deep gorge and precipitous sides crowded with orange groves, quintas, and windmills. The mingled effect of light and shade, mellowed by the declining sun, that threw the shadow of the neighbouring heights across the vale, deepening the green of the different plantations, and again lightly reflected by the red-tiled houses on the road to Cintra, produces a combination of natural and artificial beauty of the rarest description. One object, and one alone, shed a gloom over the face of smiling nature. As we turned through one of the arches, to examine some plants at a little distance, we suddenly came upon the corpse of a man, who had, but a few hours before, thrown himself from the battlement above; and accustomed as I have been from alinost childhood to view death in every shape and
form that lingering disease, or the murderous hand of man can make loathsome, it shall never fade from my recollection, the view of that haggard, horror-stricken face, on which despair and desperation were still marked, in the fixed look, and convulsed feature. He was lying on his back, with the head down hill, and he could not have made the slightest struggle, as the clay was soft, and he lay imbedded in it. He appeared above the lower order, was well dressed, and his clothing, even to his shoes, was perfectly new; a practice common to suicides here. What pride in the man who had not the courage to bear the “stings and arrows of outrageous fortune!”
The body was not mangled, though the fall was so great, and his hair, sprinkled with gray, bespeaking some forty winters, was thrown off a fine and well-formed forehead. Approaching decomposition was already beginning to clear away the wrinkles that had settled on his brow,
“ Ambition's airy hall,
The sun had thrown the shadow of one of the pillars across where he lay, for, although shining equally upon the just and the unjust, it appeared as if disdaining to shed its lustre, or throw one bright beam of hope upon that loathsome, stiffening
I was about touching it, to discover what injury had been sustained, but was prevented by my guide, who assured me that certain imprison
ment would follow. A few yards off sat a group of men and boys, lounging idly in the sun, who treated the matter with perfect indifference, from its every day occurrence here. This was the scene of contention during the late civil struggle. The lines of Lisbon run just above, on which people are still at work. Although the cottages and buildings in the immediate neighbourhood bear the marks of the recent conflict in their shattered walls and roofs, I was delighted to find that not a ball had touched the aqueduct.
We visited the dock-yard and arsenal; in the former was one ship, on the stocks for so many years, that they have put in three new sets of timbers already, and are now negociating a loan of £300 for a further repair. Their naval officers are educated in a model ship, placed in the arsenal. How are the mighty fallen! Think of the days when the Portuguese navy was the terror of the world, and her mariners added rich store of knowledge to their children, and incalculable wealth to their coffers.
The markets of Lisbon are well supplied, particularly those of fruit and fish. Haiks and dogfish are caught in great numbers in the Tagus, and much used for food, but dories and mullet are the favourites. Some of the finest muscatel
grapes to be found are here ; several that I weighed amounted to above 170 grains each !
The bull-fights, in honour of the royal birth,
were over before we arrived ; but all were hasten. ing to Campo Grande, a fair, held a few miles from town, to eat roast chesnuts and porkchops; this lasts for fourteen days. It was a stupid place, without show or amusement, so we made better use of our time by visiting Cintra, the Brighton of Portugal.
The immense suburbs through which we passed, showed this to be a city of much larger size than from the sea we would be inclined to suspect. The roads, paved with enormous blocks of limestone, are execrable ; the carriages have no springs, and are worse appointed than the worst London cab. Shade of M‘Adam! had you been qualified for purgatory, you surely would have been sent to jolt out your period on the Cintra road. The seats of the
of the nobility in the neighbourhood of Lisbon are little better than English farmhouses, with one exception, the delightful residence of the Baron Quintilla, a great friend of the queen's, who has every thing about him fitted up after English style. The country along the road presents the greatest sameness; its brown aspect, without a single spot to relieve the eye, renders the drive of fifteen miles uninteresting and monotonous. Not a hedge-row is to be seen, and but a few vines and dingy olives, with the American aloe, which grows in great luxuriance, bordering the road.
The country appears to be but thinly populated, and the only objects in the landscape
are the water-towers, and numerous small aqueducts running towards the valley of Alcantara. As we approached Cintra, the air became much cooler, and that noble mountain concentrated all our admiration, from having its rugged out.. line thrown in the sharpest relief against a back-ground of the most gorgeous purple which marked the setting glories of the god of day. While yet some miles from our journey's end, our sorry nags got blown, and the sable postillion regaled them with bread steeped in wine, spilling some of the latter over their backs; and then remounting, plied whip and spur with an energy that would have awakened the spirit of Dick Martin, had it been in the neighbourhood ; but all in vain. He again dismounted, and coolly unharnessing each poor brute separately, belaboured him on the road side with a huge club. Again they were put to, and blacky practising every refinement upon the art of “touching them
” and occasionally strengthening his meagre carcass with a pull at the wine-flask, and his more meagre soul by an appeal to the saints, and a variety of crossings, he at length brought us late in the evening to Cintra. See, if possible, this place by moonlight; as by day the barrenness of the surrounding country detracts greatly from the beauty of the
The bold mountain scenerythe lemon and orange groves, and waving rows of cane, with their nodding plume-like tops—the beautiful and