It is proper to state that the contents, in large measure, consist of the scattered productions of Irving's pen which it was his intention to have brought together and included in the collective edition of his works. It is illustrative of the wars between the Spaniards and the Moors, and consists of the " Legend of Pelayo," the " Chronicle of Count Fernan Gonzalez," the most illustrious hero of his epoch, who united the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, and the " Chronicle of Fernando the Saint," that renowned champion of the Faith, under whom the greater part ,of Spain was rescued from the Moors. " These old Morisco-Spanish subjects," is the language of one of his published letters, " have a charm that makes me content to write about them at half price. They have so much that is high-minded and chivalrous and quaint and picturesque, and at times half comic, about them." In another letter, written about the same time, in 1847, he remarks : " I have now complete, though not thoroughly finished off, the ' Chronicle of Pelayo,' the ' Chronicle of Count Fernan Gonzalez,' the ' Chronicle of the Dynasty of the Ommiades in Spain,' giving the succession of those brilliant sovereigns from the time that the Moslem Empire in Spain was united under the first and fell to pieces at the death of the last of them ; also the ' Chronicle of Fernando the Saint,' with the reconquest of Seville. .....
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Washington Irving – A Biographical Primer
The Legend Of Don Roderick.
Illustrations Of The Foregoing Legend.
The Cave Of Hercules.
Legend Of The Subjugation Of Spain.
Legend Of Count Julian And His Family
The Legend Of Pelayo
Chronicle Of Fernan Gonzalez, Count Of Castile
Chronicle Of Fernando The Saint
Legend Of Don Munio Sancho De Hinojosa
Spanish Papers, W. Irving
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Washington Irving (1783-1859), American man of letters, was born at New York on the 3rd of April 1783. Both his parents were immigrants from Great Britain, his father, originally an officer in the merchant service, but at the time of Irving's birth a considerable merchant, having come from the Orkneys, and his mother from Falmouth. Irving was intended for the legal profession, but his studies were interrupted by an illness necessitating a voyage to Europe, in the course of which he proceeded as far as Rome, and made the acquaintance of Washington Allston. He was called to the bar upon his return, but made little effort to practice, preferring to amuse himself with literary ventures. The first of these of any importance, a satirical miscellany entitled Salmagundi, or the Whim-Whams andOpinions of Launcelot Langstaff and others, written in conjunction with his brother William and J. K. Paulding, gave ample proof of his talents as a humorist. These were still more conspicuously displayed in his next attempt, A History of New York from theBeginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by “Diedrich Knickerbocker” (2 vols., New York, 1809). The satire of Salmagundi had been principally local, and the original design of “Knickerbocker's” History was only to burlesque a pretentious disquisition on the history of the city in a guidebook by Dr Samuel Mitchell. The idea expanded as Irving proceeded, and he ended by not merely satirizing the pedantry of local antiquaries, but by creating a distinct literary type out of the solid Dutch burgher whose phlegm had long been an object of ridicule to the mercurial Americans. Though far from the most finished of Irving's productions, “Knickerbocker” manifests the most original power, and is the most genuinely national in its quaintness and drollery. The very tardiness and prolixity of the story are skillfully made to heighten the humorous effect.
Upon the death of his father, Irving had become a sleeping partner in his brother's commercial house, a branch of which was established at Liverpool. This, combined with the restoration of peace, induced him to visit England in 1815, when he found the stability of the firm seriously compromised. After some years of ineffectual struggle it became bankrupt. This misfortune compelled Irving to resume his pen as a means of subsistence. His reputation had preceded him to England, and the curiosity naturally excited by the then unwonted apparition of a successful American author procured him admission into the highest literary circles, where his popularity was ensured by his amiable temper and polished manners. As an American, moreover, he stood aloof from the political and literary disputes which then divided England. Campbell, Jeffrey, Moore, Scott, were counted among his friends, and the last-named zealously recommended him to the publisher Murray, who, after at first refusing, consented (1820) to bring out The Sketch Book ofGeoffrey Crayon, Gent. (7 pts., New York, 1819-1820). The most interesting part of this work is the description of an English Christmas, which displays a delicate humor not unworthy of the writer's evident model Addison. Some stories and sketches on American themes contribute to give it variety; of these Rip van Winkle is the most remarkable. It speedily obtained the greatest success on both sides of the Atlantic. Bracebridge Hall, or the Humourists (2 vols., New York), a work purely English in subject, followed in 1822, and showed to what account the American observer had turned his experience of English country life. The humor is, nevertheless, much more English than American. Tales of a Traveller (4 pts.) appeared in 1824 at Philadelphia, and Irving, now in comfortable circumstances, determined to enlarge his sphere of observation by a journey on the continent. After a long course of travel he settled down at Madrid in the house of the American consul Rich. His intention at the time was to translate the Coleccionde los Viajes y Descubrimientos (Madrid, 1825-1837) of Martin Fernandez de Navarrete; finding, however, that this was rather a collection of valuable materials than a systematic biography, he determined to compose a biography of his own by its assistance, supplemented by independent researches in the Spanish archives. His History of the Life and Voyages ofChristopher Columbus (London, 4 vols.) appeared in 1828, and obtained a merited success. The Voyages and Discoveries ofthe Companions of Columbus (Philadelphia, 1831) followed; and a prolonged residence in the south of Spain gave Irving materials for two highly picturesque books, A Chronicle of theConquest of Granada from the MSS. of [an imaginary] FrayAntonio Agapida (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1829), and The Alhambra:a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1832). Previous to their appearance he had been appointed secretary to the embassy at London, an office as purely complimentary to his literary ability as the legal degree which he about the same time received from the university of Oxford.
Returning to the United States in 1832, after seventeen years' absence, he found his name a household word, and himself universally honored as the first American who had won for his country recognition on equal terms in the literary republic. After the rush of fêtes and public compliments had subsided, he undertook a tour in the western prairies, and returning to the neighborhood of New York built for himself a delightful retreat on the Hudson, to which he gave the name of “Sunnyside.” His acquaintance with the New York millionaire John Jacob Astor prompted his next important work — Astoria (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1836), a history of the fur-trading settlement founded by Astor in Oregon, deduced with singular literary ability from dry commercial records, and, without labored attempts at word-painting, evincing a remarkable faculty for bringing scenes and incidents vividly before the eye. TheAdventures of Captain Bonneville (London and Philadelphia, 1837), based upon the unpublished memoirs of a veteran explorer, was another work of the same class. In 1842 Irving was appointed ambassador to Spain. He spent four years in the country, without this time turning his residence to literary account; and it was not until two years after his return that Forster's life of Goldsmith, by reminding him of a slight essay of his own which he now thought too imperfect by comparison to be included among his collected writings, stimulated him to the production of his Life of Oliver Goldsmith, with Selections fromhis Writings (2 vols., New York, 1849). Without pretensions to original research, the book displays an admirable talent for employing existing material to the best effect. The same may be said of The Lives of Mahomet and his Successors (New York, 2 vols., 1840-1850). Here as elsewhere Irving correctly discriminated the biographer's province from the historian's, and leaving the philosophical investigation of cause and effect to writers of Gibbon's caliber, applied himself to represent the picturesque features of the age as embodied in the actions and utterances of its most characteristic representatives. His last days were devoted to his Life of George Washington (5 vols., 1855-1859, New York and London), undertaken in an enthusiastic spirit, but which the author found exhausting and his readers tame. His genius required a more poetical theme, and indeed the biographer of Washington must be at least a potential soldier and statesman. Irving just lived to complete this work, dying of heart disease at Sunnyside, on the 28th of November 1859.
Although one of the chief ornaments of American literature, Irving is not characteristically American. But he is one of the few authors of his period who really manifest traces of a vein of national peculiarity which might under other circumstances have been productive. “Knickerbocker's” History of NewYork, although the air of mock solemnity which constitutes the staple of its humor is peculiar to no literature, manifests nevertheless a power of reproducing a distinct national type. Had circumstances taken Irving to the West, and placed him amid a society teeming with quaint and genial eccentricity, he might possibly have been the first Western humorist, and his humor might have gained in depth and richness. In England, on the other hand, everything encouraged his natural fastidiousness; he became a refined writer, but by no means a robust one. His biographies bear the stamp of genuine artistic intelligence, equally remote from compilation and disquisition. In execution they are almost faultless; the narrative is easy, the style pellucid, and the writer's judgment nearly always in accordance with the general verdict of history. Without ostentation or affectation, he was exquisite in all things, a mirror of loyalty, courtesy and good taste in all his literary connexions, and exemplary in all the relations of domestic life. He never married, remaining true to the memory of an early attachment blighted by death.
The principal edition of Irving' s works is the “Geoffrey Crayon,” published at New York in 1880 in 26 vols. His Life and Letters was published by his nephew Pierre M. Irving (London, 1862-1864, 4 vols.; German abridgment by Adolf Laun, Berlin, 1870, 2 vols.) There is a good deal of miscellaneous information in a compilation entitled Irvingiana (New York, 1860); and W. C. Bryant's memorial oration, though somewhat too uniformly laudatory, may be consulted with advantage. It was republished in Studies of Irvine (1880) along with C. Dudley Warner's introduction to the “Geoffrey Crayon” edition, and Mr. G. P. Putnam's personal reminiscences of Irving, which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. See also Washington Irving (1881), by C. D. Warner, in the “American Men of Letters” series; H. R. Haweis, American Humourists (London, 1883).
Spain, or Iberia, as it was called in ancient days, has been a country harassed from the earliest times, by the invader. The Celts, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, by turns, or simultaneously, infringed its territories; drove the native Iberians from their rightful homes, and established colonies and founded cities in the land. It subsequently fell into the all grasping power of Rome, remaining for some time a subjugated province; and when that gigantic empire crumbled into pieces, the Suevi, the Alani, and the Vandals, those barbarians of the north, overran and ravaged this devoted country, and portioned out the soil among them. Their sway was not of long duration. In the fifth century the Goths, who were then the allies of Rome, undertook the reconquest of Iberia, and succeeded, after a desperate struggle of three years duration. They drove before them the barbarous hordes, their predecessors, intermarried, and incorporated themselves with the original inhabitants, and founded a powerful and splendid empire, comprising the Iberian peninsula, the ancient Narbonnaise, afterwards called Gallia Gotica, or Gothic Gaul, and a part of the African coast called Tingitania. A new nation was, in a manner, produced by this mixture of the Goths and Iberians. Sprang from a union of warrior races, reared and nurtured amidst the din of arms, the Gothic Spaniards, if they may so be termed, were a warlike, unquiet, yet high minded and heroic people. Their simple and abstemious habits, their contempt for toil and suffering, and their love of daring enterprise fitted them for a soldier's life. So addicted were they to war that, when they had no external foes to contend with, they fought with one another; and, when engaged in battle, says an old chronicler, the very thunders and lightnings of heaven could not separate them.
For two centuries and a half the Gothic power remained unshaken, and the scepter was wielded by twenty-five successive kings. The crown was elective, in a council of palatines, composed of the bishops and nobles, who, while they swore allegiance to the newly made sovereign, bound him by a reciprocal oath to be faithful to his trust. Their choice was made from among the people, subject only to one condition that the king should be of pure Gothic blood. But though the crown was elective in principle, it gradually became hereditary from usage, and the power of the sovereign grew to be almost absolute. The king was commander in chief of the armies; the whole patronage of the kingdom was in his hands; he summoned and dissolved the national councils; he made and revoked laws according to his pleasure; and, having ecclesiastical supremacy, he exercised a sway even over the consciences of his subjects.
The Goths, at the time of their inroad, were stout adherents to the Arian doctrines; but after a time they embraced the Catholic faith, which was maintained by the native Spaniards free from many of the gross superstitions of the church at Rome, and this unity of faith contributed more than any thing else to blend and harmonize the two races into one. The bishops and other clergy were exemplary in their lives, and aided to promote the influence of the laws and maintain the authority of the state. The fruits of regular and secure government were manifest in the advancement of agriculture, commerce and the peaceful arts; and in the increase of wealth, of luxury, and refinement; but there was a gradual decline of the simple, hardy, and war-like habits that had distinguished the nation in its semi barbarous days.
Such was the state of Spain when, in the year of Redemption 701, Witiza was elected to the Gothic throne. The beginning of his reign gave promise of happy days to Spain. He redressed grievances, moderated the tributes of his subjects, and conducted himself with mingled mildness and energy in the administration of the laws. In a little while, however, he threw off the mask, and showed himself in his true nature, cruel and luxurious.
Two of his relatives, sons of a preceding king, awakened his jealousy for the security of his throne. One of them, named Favila, duke of Cantabria, he put to death, and would have inflicted the same fate upon his son Pelayo, but that the youth was beyond his reach, being preserved by Providence for the future salvation of Spain. The other object of his suspicion was Theodofredo, who lived retired from court. The violence of Witiza reached him even in his retirement. His eyes were put out, and he was immured within a castle at Cordova. Roderick, the youthful son of Theodofredo, escaped to Italy, where he received protection from the Romans.
Witiza now considering himself secure upon the throne, gave the reins to his licentious passions, and soon, by his tyranny and sensuality, acquired the appellation of Witiza the Wicked. Despising the old Gothic continence, and yielding to the example of the sect of Mahomet, which suited his lascivious temperament, he indulged in a plurality of wives and concubines, encouraging his subjects to do the same. Nay, he even sought to gain the sanction of the church to his excesses, promulgating a law by which the clergy were released from their vows of celibacy, and permitted to marry and to entertain paramours.
The sovereign Pontiff Constantino threatened to depose and excommunicate him, unless he abrogated this licentious law; but Witiza set him at defiance, threatening, like his Gothic predecessor Alaric, to assail the eternal city with his troops, and make spoil of her accumulated treasures. "We will adorn our damsels," said he, "with the jewels of Rome, and replenish our coffers from the mint of St. Peter."
Some of the clergy opposed themselves to the innovating spirit of the monarch, and endeavored from the pulpits to rally the people to the pure doctrines of their faith; but they were deposed from their sacred office, and banished as seditious mischief makers. The church of Toledo continued refractory; the archbishop Sindaredo, it is true, was disposed to accommodate himself to the corruptions of the times, but the prebendaries battled intrepidly against the new laws of the monarch, and stood manfully in defence of their vows of chastity. " Since the church of Toledo will not yield itself to our will," said Witiza, "it shall have two husbands." So saying, he appointed his own brother Oppas, at that time archbishop of Seville, to take a seat with Sindaredo in the episcopal chair of Toledo, and made him primate of Spain. He was a priest after his own heart, and seconded him in all his profligate abuses.
It was in vain the denunciations of the church were fulminated from the chair of St. Peter; Witiza threw off all allegiance to the Roman Pontiff, threatening with pain of death those who should obey the papal mandates. "We will suffer no foreign ecclesiastic, with triple crown," said he, "to domineer over our dominions."
The Jews had been banished from the country during the preceding reign, but Witiza permitted them to return, and even bestowed upon their synagogues privileges of which he had despoiled the churches. The children of Israel, when scattered throughout the earth by the fall of Jerusalem, had carried with them into other lands the gainful arcana of traffic, and were especially noted as opulent money changers and curious dealers in gold and silver and precious stones; on this occasion, therefore, they were enabled, it is said, to repay the monarch for his protection by bags of money, and caskets of sparkling gems, the rich product of their oriental commerce.
The kingdom at this time enjoyed external peace, but there were symptoms of internal discontent. Witiza took the alarm; he remembered the ancient turbulence of the nation, and its proneness to internal feuds. Issuing secret orders, therefore, in all directions, he dismantled most of the cities, and demolished the castles and fortresses that might serve as rallying points for the factious. He disarmed the people also, and converted the weapons of war into the implements of peace. It seemed, in fact, as if the millennium were dawning upon the land, for the sword was beaten into a ploughshare, and the spear into a pruning-hook.
While thus the ancient martial fire of the nation was extinguished, its morals likewise were corrupted. The altars were abandoned, the churches closed, wide disorder and sensuality prevailed throughout the land, so that, according to the old chroniclers, within the compass of a few short years, " Witiza the Wicked taught all Spain to sin."
Woe to the ruler who founds his hope of sway on the weakness or corruption of the people. The very measures taken by Witiza to perpetuate his power ensured his downfall. While the whole nation, under his licentious rule, was sinking into vice and effeminacy, and the arm of war was unstrung, the youthful Roderick, son of Theodofredo, was training up for action in the stern but wholesome school of adversity. He instructed himself in the use of arms; became adroit and vigorous by varied exercises; learned to despise all danger, and inured himself to hunger and watchfulness and the rigor of the seasons.
His merits and misfortunes procured him many friends among the Romans; and when, being arrived at a fitting age, he undertook to revenge the wrongs of his father and his kindred, a host of brave and hardy soldiers flocked to his standard. With these he made his sudden appearance in Spain. The friends of his house and the disaffected of all classes hastened to join him, and he advanced rapidly and without opposition, through an unarmed and enervated land.
Witiza saw too late the evil he had brought upon himself. He made a hasty levy, and took the field with a scantily equipped and undisciplined host, but was easily routed and made prisoner, and the whole kingdom submitted to Don Roderick.
The ancient city of Toledo, the royal residence of the Gothic kings, was the scene of high festivity and solemn ceremonial on the coronation of the victor. Whether he was elected to the throne according to the Gothic usage, or seized it by the right of conquest, is a matter of dispute among historians, but all agree that the nation submitted cheerfully to his sway, and looked forward to prosperity and happiness under their newly elevated monarch. His appearance and character seemed to justify the anticipation. He was in the splendor of youth, and of a majestic presence. His soul was bold and daring, and elevated by lofty desires. He had a sagacity that penetrated the thoughts of men, and a magnificent spirit that won all hearts. Such is the picture which ancient writers give of Don Roderick, when, with all the stern and simple virtues unimpaired, which he had acquired in adversity and exile, and flushed with the triumph of a pious revenge, he ascended the Gothic throne.
Prosperity, however, is the real touchstone of the human heart; no sooner did Roderick find himself in possession of the crown, than the love of power, and the jealousy of rule were awakened in his breast. His first measure was against Witiza, who was brought in chains into his presence. Roderick beheld the captive monarch with an unpitying eye, remembering only his wrongs and gruelties to his father. "Let the evils he has inflicted on others be visited upon his own head," said he; "As he did unto Theodofredo, even so be it done unto him." So the eyes of Witiza were put out, and he was thrown into the same dungeon at Cordova in which Theodofredo had languished. There he passed the brief remnant of his days in perpetual darkness, a prey to wretchedness and remorse.
Roderick now cast an uneasy and suspicious eye upon Evan and Siseburto, the two sons of Witiza. Fearful lest they should foment some secret rebellion, he banished them the kingdom. They took refuge in the Spanish dominions in Africa, where they were received and harbored by Requila, governor of Tangier, out of gratitude for favors which he had received from their late father. There they remained, to brood over their fallen fortunes, and to aid in working out the future woes of Spain.
Their uncle Oppas, bishop of Seville, who had been made co-partner, by Witiza, in the arch-episcopal chair at Toledo, would have likewise fallen under the suspicion of the king; but he was a man of consummate art, and vast exterior sanctity, and won upon the good graces of the monarch. He was suffered, therefore, to retain his sacred office at Seville; but the see of Toledo was given in charge to the venerable Urbino; and the law of Witiza was revoked that dispensed the clergy from their vows of celibacy.
The jealousy of Roderick for the security of his crown was soon again aroused, and his measures were prompt and severe. Having been informed that the governors of certain castles and fortresses in Castile and Andalusia had conspired against him, he caused them to be put to death and their strong holds to be demolished. He now went on to imitate the pernicious policy of his predecessor, throwing down walls and towers, disarming the people, and thus incapacitating them from rebellion. A few cities were permitted to retain their fortifications, but these were entrusted to alcaydes in whom he had especial confidence; the greater part of the kingdom was left defenseless; the nobles, who had been roused to temporary manhood during the recent stir of war, sunk back into the inglorious state of inaction which had disgraced them during the reign of Witiza, passing their time in feasting and dancing to the sound of loose and wanton minstrelsy. It was scarcely possible to recognize in these idle wassailers and soft voluptuaries the descendants of the stern and frugal warriors of the frozen north; who had braved flood and mountain, and heat and cold, and had battled their way to empire across half a world in arms.
They surrounded their youthful monarch, it is true, with a blaze of military pomp. Nothing could surpass the splendor of their arms, which were embossed and enameled, and enriched with gold and jewels and curious devices; nothing could be more gallant and glorious than their array; it was all plume and banner and silken pageantry, the gorgeous trappings for tilt and tourney and courtly revel; but the iron soul of war was wanting.
How rare it is to learn wisdom from the misfortunes of others. With the fate of Witiza full before his eyes, Don Roderick indulged in the same pernicious errors, and was doomed, in like manner, to prepare the way for his own perdition.
As yet the heart of Roderick, occupied by the struggles of his early life, by warlike enterprises and by the inquietudes of newly gotten power, had been insensible to the charms of women; but in the present voluptuous calm, the amorous propensities of his nature assumed their sway. There arc divers accounts of the youthful beauty who first found favour in his eyes, and was elevated by him to the throne. We follow in our legend the details of an Arabian Chronicler, authenticated by a Spanish poet. Let those who dispute our facts, produce better authority for their contradiction.
Among the few fortified places that had not been dismantled by Don Roderick, was the ancient city of Denia, situated on the Mediterranean coast, and defended on a rock built castle that overlooked the sea.
The Alcayde of the castle, with many of the people of Denia, was one day on his knees in the chapel, imploring the Virgin to allay a tempest which was strewing the coast with wrecks, when a sentinel brought word that a Moorish cruiser was standing for the land. The Alcayde gave orders to ring the alarm bells, light signal fires on the hill tops, and rouse the country, for the coast was subject to cruel maraudings from the Barbary cruisers.
In a little while the horsemen of the neighborhood were seen pricking along the beach, armed with such weapons as they could find, and the Alcayde and his scanty garrison descended from the hill. In the mean time the Moorish bark came rolling and pitching towards the land. As it drew near, the rich carving and gilding with which it was decorated, its silken bandaroles and banks of crimson oars, showed it to be no warlike vessel, but a sumptuous galiot destined for state and ceremony. It bore the marks of the tempest; the masts were broken, the oars shattered, and fragments of snowy sails and silken awnings were fluttering in the blast.
As the galiot grounded upon the sand, the impatient rabble rushed into the surf to capture and make spoil; but were awed into admiration and respect by the appearance of the illustrious company on board. There were Moors of both sexes sumptuously arrayed, and adorned with precious jewels, bearing the demeanor of persons of lofty rank. Among them shone conspicuous a youthful beauty, magnificently attired, to whom all seemed to pay reverence.
Several of the Moors surrounded her with drawn swords, threatening death to any that approached; others sprang from the bark, and throwing themselves on their knees before the Alcayde, implored him, by his honor and courtesy as a knight, to protect a royal virgin from injury and insult.
"You behold before you," said they, " the only daughter of the king of Algiers, the betrothed bride of the son of the king of Tunis. We were conducting her to the court of her expecting bridegroom, when a tempest drove us from our course, and compelled us to take refuge on your coast. Be not more cruel than the tempest, but deal nobly with that which even sea and storm have spared."
The Alcayde listened to their prayers. He conducted the princess and her train to the castle, where every honor due to her rank was paid her. Some of her ancient attendants interceded for her liberation, promising countless sums to be paid by her father for her ransom; but the Alcayde turned a deaf ear to all their golden oilers. " She is a royal captive," said he, "it belongs to my sovereign alone to dispose of her." After she had reposed, therefore, for some days at the castle, and recovered from the fatigue and terror of the seas, he caused her to be conducted, with all her train, in magnificent state to the court of Don Roderick.
The beautiful Elyata entered Toledo more like a triumphant sovereign than a captive. A chosen band of Christian horsemen, splendidly armed, appeared to wait upon her as a mere guard of honor. She was surrounded by the Moorish damsels of her train, and followed by her own Muslim guards, all attired with the magnificence that had been intended to grace her arrival at the court of Tunis. The princess was arrayed in bridal robes, woven in the most costly looms of the orient; her diadem sparkled with diamonds, and was decorated with the rarest plumes of the bird of paradise, and even the silken trappings of her palfry, which swept the ground, were covered with pearls and precious stones. As this brilliant cavalcade crossed the bridge of the Tagus, all Toledo poured forth to behold it, and nothing was heard throughout the city but praises of the wonderful beauty of the princess of Algiers. King Roderick came forth, attended by the chivalry of his court, to receive the royal captive. His recent voluptuous life had disposed him for tender and amorous affections, and at the first sight of the beautiful Elyata he was enraptured with her charms. Seeing her face clouded with sorrow and anxiety, he soothed her with gentle and courteous words, and conducting her to a royal palace, " behold," said he, "thy habitation, where no one shall molest thee; consider thyself at home in the mansion of thy father, and dispose of any thing according to thy will."
Here the princess passed her time, with the female attendants who had accompanied her from Algiers; and no one but the king was permitted to visit her, who daily became more and more enamored of his lovely captive, and sought by tender assiduity, to gain her affections. The distress of the princess at her captivity was soothed by this gentle treatment. She was of an age when sorrow cannot long hold sway over the heart. Accompanied by her youthful attendants, she ranged the spacious apartments of the palace, and sported among the groves and alleys of its garden. Every day the remembrance of the paternal home grew less and less painful, and the king became more and more amiable in her eyes, and when, at length, he offered to share his heart and throne with her, she listened with downcast looks and kindling blushes, but with an air of resignation.
One obstacle remained to the complete fruition of the monarch's wishes, and this was the religion of the princess. Roderick forthwith employed the archbishop of Toledo to instruct the beautiful Elyata in the mysteries of the Christian faith. The female intellect is quick in perceiving the merits of new doctrines; the archbishop, therefore, soon succeeded in converting, not merely the princess, but most of her attendants, and a day was appointed for their public baptism. The ceremony was performed with great pomp and solemnity, in the presence of all the nobility and chivalry of the court. The princess and her damsels, clad in white, walked on foot to the cathedral, while numerous beautiful children, arrayed as angels, strewed their path with flowers; and the archbishop meeting them at the portal, received them, as it were, into the bosom of the church. The princess abandoned her Moorish appellation of Elyata, and was baptized by the name of Exilona, by which she was thenceforth called, and has generally been known in history.
The nuptials of Roderick and the beautiful convert took place shortly afterwards, and were celebrated with great magnificence. There were jousts, and tourneys, and banquets, and other rejoicings, which lasted twenty days, and were attended by the principal nobles from all parts of Spain. After these were over, such of the attendants of the princess as refused to embrace Christianity and desired to return to Africa, were dismissed with munificent presents; and an embassy was sent to the king of Algiers, to inform him of the nuptials of his daughter, and to proffer him the friendship of King Roderick.
For a time Don Roderick lived happily with his young and beautiful queen, and Toledo was the seat of festivity and splendor. The principal nobles throughout the kingdom repaired to his court to pay him homage, and to receive his commands; and none were more devoted in their reverence than those who were obnoxious to suspicion from their connexion with the late king.
Among the foremost of these was Count Julian, a man destined to be infamously renowned in the dark story of his country's woes. He was of one of the proudest Gothic families, lord of Consuegra and Algeziras, and connected by marriage with Witiza and the Bishop Oppas; his wife, the Countess Frandina, being their sister. In consequence of this connexion, and of his own merits, he had enjoyed the highest dignities and commands, being one of the Espatorios, or royal sword-bearers; an office of the greatest confidence about the person of the sovereign. He had, moreover, been entrusted with the military government of the Spanish possessions on the African coast of the strait, which at that time were threatened by the Arabs of the East, the followers of Mahomet, who were advancing their victorious standard to the extremity of Western Africa. Count Julian established his seat of government at Ceuta, the frontier bulwark and one of the far-famed gates of the Mediterranean Sea. Here he boldly faced, and held in check, the torrent of Muslim invasion.
Don Julian was a man of an active, but irregular genius, and a grasping ambition; he had a love for power and grandeur, in which he was joined by his haughty countess; and they could ill brook the downfall of their house as threatened by the fate of Witiza. They had hastened, therefore, to pay their court to the newly elevated monarch, and to assure him of their fidelity to his interests.
Roderick was readily persuaded of the sincerity of Count Julian; he was aware of his merits as a soldier and a governor and continued him in his important command: honoring him with many other marks of implicit confidence. Count Julian sought to confirm this confidence by every proof of devotion. It was a custom among the Goths to rear many of the children of the most illustrious families in the royal household. They served as pages to the king, and handmaids and ladies of honor to the queen, and were instructed in all manner of accomplishments befitting their gentle blood. When about to depart for Ceuta, to resume his command, Don Julian brought his daughter Florinda to present her to the sovereigns. She was a beautiful virgin that had not as yet attained to womanhood. "I confide her to your protection," said he to the king, " to be unto her as a father; and to have her trained in the paths of virtue. I can leave with you no dearer pledge of my loyalty."
King Roderick received the timid and blushing maiden into his paternal care; promising to watch over her happiness with a parent's eye, and that she should be enrolled among the most cherished attendants of the queen. With this assurance of the welfare of his child. Count Julian departed, well pleased, for his government at Ceuta.
The beautiful daughter of Count Julian was received with great favour by the Queen Exilona and admitted among the noble damsels that attended upon her person. Here she lived in honor and apparent security, and surrounded by innocent delights. To gratify his queen, Don Roderick had built for her rural recreation a palace without the walls of Toledo, on the banks of the Tagus. It stood in the midst of a garden, adorned after the luxurious style of the East. The air was perfumed by fragrant shrubs and flowers; the groves resounded with the song of the nightingale, while the gush of fountains and water-falls, and the distant murmur of the Tagus, made it a delightful retreat during the sultry days of summer. The charm of perfect privacy also reigned throughout the place, for the garden walls were high, and numerous guards kept watch without to protect it from all intrusion.
In this delicious abode, more befitting an oriental voluptuary than a Gothic king, Don Roderick was accustomed to while away much of that time which should have been devoted to the toilsome cares of government. The very security and peace which he had produced throughout his dominions by his precautions to abolish the means and habitudes of war had effected a disastrous change in his character. The hardy and heroic qualities which had conducted him to the throne, were softened in the lap of indulgence. Surrounded by the pleasures of an idle and effeminate court, and beguiled by the example of his degenerate nobles, he gave way to a fatal sensuality that had lain dormant in his nature during the virtuous days of his adversity. The mere love of female beauty had first enamored him of Exilona, and the same passion, fostered by voluptuous idleness, now betrayed him into the commission of an act fatal to himself and Spain. The following is the story of his error as gathered from an old chronicle and legend.
In a remote part of the palace was an apartment devoted to the queen. It was like an eastern harem, shut up from the foot of man, and where the king himself but rarely entered. It had its own courts, and gardens, and fountains, where the queen was wont to recreate herself with her damsels, as she had been accustomed to do in the jealous privacy of her father's palace.
One sultry day, the king, instead of taking his siesta, or mid-day slumber, repaired to this apartment to seek the society of the queen. In passing through a small oratory, he was drawn by the sound of female voices to a casement overhung with myrtles and jessamines. It looked into an interior garden or court, set out with orange trees, in the midst of which was a marble fountain, surrounded by a grassy bank, enameled with flowers.
It was the high noontide of a summer day, when, in sultry Spain, the landscape trembles to the eye, and all nature seeks repose, except the grasshopper, that pipes his lulling note to the herdsman as he sleeps beneath the shade.
Around the fountain were several of the damsels of the queen, who, confident of the sacred privacy of the place, were yielding in that cool retreat to the indulgence prompted by the season and the hour. Some lay asleep on the flowery bank; others sat on the margin of the fountain, talking and laughing, as they bathed their feet in its limpid waters, and King Roderick beheld delicate limbs shining through the wave, that might rival the marble in whiteness.
Among the damsels was one who had come from the Barbary coast with the queen. Her complexion had the dark tinge of Mauritania, but it was clear and transparent, and the deep rich rose blushed through the lovely brown. Her eyes were black and full of fire, and flashed from under long silken eyelashes.
A sportive contest arose among the maidens, as to the comparative beauty of the Spanish and Moorish forms; but the Mauritanian damsel revealed limbs of voluptuous symmetry that seemed to defy all rivalry.
The Spanish beauties were on the point of giving up the contest, when they bethought themselves of the young Florinda, the daughter of Count Julian, who lay on the grassy bank, abandoned to a summer slumber. The soft glow of youth and health mantled on her cheek; her fringed eyelashes scarcely covered their sleeping orbs; her moist and ruby lips were lightly parted, just revealing a gleam of her ivory teeth, while her innocent bosom rose and fell beneath her bodice, like the gentle swelling and sinking of a tranquil sea. There was a breathing tenderness and beauty in the sleeping virgin, that seemed to send forth sweetness like the flowers around her.
"Behold," cried her companions exultingly, " the champion of Spanish beauty!"
In their playful eagerness they half disrobed the innocent Florinda before she was aware. She awoke in time, however, to escape from their busy hands; but enough of her charms had been revealed to convince the monarch that they were not to be rivaled by the rarest beauties of Mauritania.
From this day the heart of Roderick was inflamed with a fatal passion. he gazed on the beautiful Florinda with fervid desire, and sought to read in her looks whether there was levity or wantonness in her bosom; but the eye of the damsel ever sunk beneath his gaze, and remained bent on the earth in virgin modesty.
It was in vain he called to mind the sacred trust reposed in him by Count Julian, and the promise he had given to watch over his daughter with paternal care; his heart was vitiated by sensual indulgence, and the consciousness of power had rendered him selfish in his gratifications.
Being one evening in the garden where the queen was diverting herself with her damsels, and coming to the fountain where he had beheld the innocent maidens at their sport, he could no longer restrain the passion that raged within his breast. Seating himself beside the fountain, he called Florinda to him to draw forth a thorn which had pierced his hand. The maiden knelt at his feet, to examine his hand, and the touch of her slender fingers thrilled through his veins. As she knelt, too, her amber locks fell in rich ringlets about her beautiful head, her innocent bosom palpitated beneath the crimson bodice, and her timid blushes increased the effulgence of her charms.
Having examined the monarch's hand in vain, she looked up in his face with artless perplexity.
'' Senior," said she, " I can find no thorn, nor any sign of wound."
Don Roderick grasped her hand and pressed it to his heart. " It is here, lovely Florinda!" said he, " It is here! and thou alone canst pluck it forth!"
" My lord!" exclaimed the blushing and astonished maiden.
" Florinda!" said Don Roderick, " dost thou love me?"
" Senior," said she, " my father taught me to love and reverence you. He confided me to your care as one who would be as a parent to me, when he should be far distant, serving your majesty with life and loyalty. May God incline your majesty ever to protect me as a father." So saying, the maiden dropped her eyes to the ground, and continued kneeling: but her countenance had become deadly pale, and as she knelt she trembled.
" Florinda," said the king, " either thou dost not, or thou wilt not understand me. , I would have thee love me, not as a father, nor as a monarch, but as one who adores thee. Why dost thou start? No one shall know our loves; and, moreover, the love of a monarch inflicts no degradation like the love of a common man — riches and honours attend upon it. I will advance thee to rank and dignity, and place thee above the proudest females of my court. Thy father, too, shall be more exalted and endowed than any noble in my realm."
The soft eye of Florinda kindled at these words. " Senior," said she, " the line I spring from can receive no dignity by means so vile; and my father would rather die than purchase rank and power by the dishonor of his child. But I see," continued she, " that your majesty speaks in this manner only to try me. You may have thought me light and simple, and unworthy to attend upon the queen. I pray your majesty to pardon me, that I have taken your pleasantry in such serious part."
In this way the agitated maiden sought to evade the addresses of the monarch, but still her cheek was blanched, and her lip quivered as she spake.
The king pressed her hand to his lips with fervour. " May ruin seize me," cried he, " if I speak to prove thee. My heart, my kingdom, are at thy command. Only be mine, and thou shalt rule absolute mistress of myself and my domains."
The damsel rose from the earth where she had hitherto knelt, and her whole countenance glowed with virtuous indignation. "My lord," said she, "I am your subject, and in your power; take my life if it be your pleasure, but nothing shall tempt me to commit a crime which would be treason to the queen, disgrace to my father, agony to my mother, and perdition to myself." With these words she left the garden, and the king, for the moment, was too much awed by her indignant virtue to oppose her departure.
We shall pass briefly over the succeeding events of the story of Florinda, about which so much has been said and sung by chronicler and bard: for the sober page of history should be carefully chastened from all scenes that might inflame a wanton imagination; leaving them to poems and romances, and such like highly seasoned works of fantasy and recreation.
Let it suffice to say, that Don Roderick pursued his suit to the beautiful Florinda, his passion being more and more inflamed by the resistance of the virtuous damsel. At length, forgetting what was due to helpless beauty, to his own honor as a knight, and his word as a sovereign, he triumphed over her weakness by base and unmanly violence.
There are not wanting those who affirm that the hapless Florinda lent a yielding ear to the solicitations of the monarch, and her name has been treated with opprobrium in several of the ancient chronicles and legendary ballads that have transmitted, from generation to generation, the story of the woes of Spain. In very truth, however, she appears to have been a guiltless victim, resisting, as far as helpless female could resist, the arts and intrigues of a powerful monarch, who had nought to check the indulgence of his will, and bewailing her disgrace with a poignancy that shows how dearly she had prized her honor.
In the first paroxysm of her grief she wrote a letter to her father, blotted with her tears and almost incoherent from her agitation. " Would to God, my father," said she, "that the earth had opened and swallowed me ere I had been reduced to write these lines. I blush to tell thee, what it is not proper to conceal. Alas, my father! thou hast entrusted thy lamb to the guardianship of the lion. Thy daughter has been dishonored, the royal cradle of the Goths polluted, and our lineage insulted and disgraced. Hasten, my father, to rescue your child from the power of the spoiler, and to vindicate the honor of your house."
When Florinda had written these lines, she summoned a youthful esquire, who had been a page in the service of her father. "Saddle thy steed," said she, " and if thou dost aspire to knightly honor, or hope for lady's grace; if thou hast fealty for thy lord, or devotion to his daughter, speed swiftly upon my errand. Rest not, halt not, spare not the spur, but hie thee day and night until thou reach the sea; take the first bark, and haste with sail and oar to Ceuta, nor pause until thou give this letter to the count my father." The youth put the letter in his bosom. "Trust me, lady," said he, " I will neither halt, nor turn aside, nor cast a look behind, until I reach Count Julian." He mounted his fleet steed, sped his way across the bridge, and soon left behind him the verdant valley of the Tagus.
The heart of Don Roderick was not so depraved by sensuality, but that die wrong he had been guilty of toward the innocent Florinda, and the disgrace he had inflicted on her house, weighed heavy on his spirits, and a cloud began to gather on his once clear and unwrinkled brow.
Heaven, at this time, say the old Spanish chronicles, permitted a marvelous intimation of the wrath with which it intended to visit the monarch and his people, in punishment of their sins; nor are we, say the same orthodox writers, to startle and withhold our faith when we meet in the page of discreet and sober history with these signs and portents, which transcend the probabilities of ordinary life; for the revolutions of empires and the downfall of mighty kings are awful events, that shake the physical as well as the moral world, and are often announced by forerunning marvels and prodigious omens.
With such like cautious preliminaries do the wary but credulous historiographers of yore usher in a marvelous event of prophecy and enchantment, linked in ancient story with the fortunes of Don Roderick, but which modern doubters would fain hold up as an apocryphal tradition of Arabian origin.
Now, so it happened, according to the legend, that about this time, as King Roderick was seated one day on his throne, surrounded by his nobles, in the ancient city of Toledo, two men of venerable appearance entered the hall of audience. Their snowy beards descended to their breasts, and their gray hairs were bound with ivy. They were arrayed in white garments of foreign or antiquated fashion, which swept the ground, and were cinctured with girdles, wrought with the signs of the zodiac, from which were suspended enormous bunches of keys of every variety of form. Having approached the throne and made obeisance: " Know, O king," said one of the old men, " that in days of yore, when Hercules of Lybia, surnamed the strong, had set up his pillars at the ocean strait, he erected a tower near to this ancient city of Toledo. He built it of prodigious strength, and finished it with magic art, shutting up within it a fearful secret, never to be penetrated without peril and disaster. To protect this terrible mystery he closed the entrance to the edifice with a ponderous door of iron, secured by a great lock of steel, and he left a command that every king who should succeed him should add another lock to the portal; denouncing woe and destruction on him who should eventually unfold the secret of the tower.
The guardianship of the portal was given to our ancestors, and has continued in our family, from generation to generation, since the days of Hercules. Several kings, from time to time, have caused the gate to be thrown open, and have attempted to enter, but have paid dearly for their temerity. Some have perished within the threshold, others have been overwhelmed with horror at tremendous sounds, which shook the foundations of the earth, and have hastened to reclose the door and secure it with its thousand locks. Thus, since the days of Hercules, the inmost recesses of the pile have never been penetrated by mortal man, and a profound mystery continues to prevail over this great enchantment. This, O king, is all we have to relate; and our errand is to entreat thee to repair to the tower and affix thy lock to the portal, as has been done by all thy predecessors." Having thus said, the ancient men made a profound reverence and departed from the presence chamber.
Don Roderick remained for sometime lost in thought after the departure of the men; he then dismissed all his court excepting the venerable Urbino, at that time archbishop of Toledo. The long white beard of this prelate bespoke his advanced age, and his overhanging eyebrows showed him a man full of wary council.
"Father," said the king, "I have an earnest desire to penetrate the mystery of this tower." The worthy prelate shook his hoary head, "beware my son," said he, "there are secrets hidden from man for his good. Your predecessors for many generations have respected this mystery, and have increased in might and empire. A knowledge of it, therefore, is not material to the welfare of your kingdom. Seek not then to indulge a rash and unprofitable curiosity, which is interdicted under such awful menaces."
"Of what importance," cried the king, "are the menaces of Hercules, the Lybian? was he not a pagan; and can his enchantments have ought avail against a believer in our holy faith? Doubtless in this tower are locked up treasures of gold and jewels, amassed in days of old, the spoils of mighty kings, the riches of the pagan world. My coffers are exhausted; I have need of supply; and surely it would be an acceptable act in the eyes of heaven, to draw forth this wealth which lies buried under profane and necromantic spells, and consecrate it to religious purposes."
The venerable archbishop still continued to remonstrate, but Don Roderick heeded not his council, for he was led on by his malignant star. "Father," said he, "it is in vain you attempt to dissuade me. My resolution is fixed. Tomorrow I will explore the hidden mystery, or rather the hidden treasures of this tower."
The morning sun shone brightly upon the cliff-built towers of Toledo, when King Roderick issued out of the gate of the city at the head of a numerous train of courtiers and cavaliers, and crossed the bridge that bestrides the deep rocky bed of the Tagus. The shining cavalcade wound up the road that leads among the mountains, and soon came in sight of the necromantic tower.
Of this renowned edifice marvels are related by the ancient Arabian and Spanish chroniclers, "and I doubt much." adds the venerable Agapida, "whether many readers will not consider the whole as a cunningly devised fable, sprung from an oriental imagination; but it is not for me to reject a fact which is recorded by all those writers who are the fathers of our national history; a fact too, which is as well attested as most of the remarkable events in the story of Don Roderick. None but light and inconsiderate minds," continues the good friar, "do hastily reject the marvelous. To the thinking mind the whole world is enveloped in mystery, and every thing is full of type and portent. To such a mind the necromantic tower of Toledo will appear as one of those wondrous monuments of the olden time; one of those Egyptian and Chaldaic piles, storied with hidden wisdom and mystic prophecy, which have been devised in past ages, when man yet enjoyed an intercourse with high and spiritual natures, and when human foresight partook of divination."
This singular tower was round and of great height and grandeur, erected upon a lofty rock, and surrounded by crags and precipices. The foundation was supported by four brazen lions, each taller than a cavalier on horseback. The walls were built of small pieces of jasper and various colored marbles, not larger than a man's hand; so subtilely joined, however, that, but for their different hues they might be taken for one, entire stone. They were arranged with marvelous cunning so as to represent battles and warlike deeds of times and heroes long since passed away, and the whole surface was so admirably polished that the stones were as lustrous as glass, and reflected the rays of the sun with such resplendent brightness as to dazzle all beholders.
King Roderick and his courtiers arrived wondering and amazed at the foot of the rock. Here there was a narrow arched way cut through the living stone; the only entrance to the tower. It was closed by a massive iron gate, covered with rusty locks of divers workmanship and in the fashion of different centuries, which had been affixed by the predecessors of Don Roderick. On either side of the portal stood the two ancient guardians of the tower, laden with the keys appertaining to the locks.
The king alighted, and approaching the portals, ordered the guardians to unlock the gate. The hoary headed men drew back with terror. " Alas!'' cried they, " what is it your majesty requires of us. Would you have the mischiefs of this tower unbound, and let loose to shake the earth to its foundations?"
The venerable archbishop Urbino likewise implored him not to disturb a mystery which had been held sacred from generation to generation within the memory of man, and which even Caesar himself, when sovereign of Spain, had not ventured to invade. The youthful cavaliers, however, were eager to pursue the adventure, and encouraged him in his rash curiosity.
" Come what come may," exclaimed Don Roderick, " I am resolved to penetrate the mystery of this tower." So saying, he again commanded the guardians to unlock the portal. The ancient men obeyed with fear and trembling, but their hands shook with age, and when they applied the keys the locks were so rusted by time, or of such strange workmanship, that they resisted their feeble efforts, whereupon the young cavaliers pressed forward and lent their aid. Still the locks were so numerous and difficult, that with all their eagerness and strength a great part of the day was exhausted before the whole of them could be mastered.
When the last bolt had yielded to the key, the guardians and the reverend archbishop again entreated the king to pause and reflect. " Whatever is within this tower," said they, " is as yet harmless and lies bound under a mighty spell: venture not then to open a door which may let forth a flood of evil upon the land." But the anger of the king was roused, and he ordered that the portal should be instantly thrown open. In vain, however, did one after another exert his strength, and equally in vain did the cavaliers unite their forces, and apply their shoulders to the gate; though there was neither bar nor bolt remaining, it was perfectly immovable.
The patience of the king was now exhausted, and he advanced to apply his hand; scarcely, however, did he touch the iron gate, when it swung slowly open, uttering, as it were, a dismal groan, as it turned reluctantly upon its hinges.
A cold, damp wind issued forth, accompanied by a tempestuous sound. The hearts of the ancient guardians quaked within them, and their knees smote together; but several of the youthful cavaliers rushed in, eager to gratify their curiosity, or to signalize themselves in this redoubtable enterprise. They had scarcely advanced a few paces, however, when they recoiled, overcome by the baleful air, or by some fearful vision. Upon this, the king ordered that fires should be kindled to dispel the darkness, and to correct the noxious and long imprisoned air; he then led the way into the interior; but, though stout of heart, he advanced with awe and hesitation.
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