In 1830 Irving published his " Chronicles of The Conquest Of Granada," one of the most delightful of his works, an exact history, for such it is admitted to be by thosewho have searched most carefully the ancient records of Spain, yet so full of personal incident, so diversiﬁed with surprising turns of fortune, and these wrought up with such picturesque effect, that, to use an expression of Pope, a young lady might read it by mistake for a romance.
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The Conquest Of Granada
Washington Irving – A Biographical Primer
Conquest Of Granada
Note To The Revised Edition.
The Conquest Of Granada, W. Irving
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
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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).
Although the following Chronicle bears the name of the venerable Fray Antonio Agapida, it is rather a superstructure reared upon the fragments which remain of his work. It may be asked, Who is this same Agapida, who is cited with such deference, yet whose name is not to be found in any of the catalogues of Spanish authors? The question is hard to answer. He appears to have been one of the many indefatigable authors of Spain who have filled the libraries of convents and cathedrals with their tomes, without ever dreaming of bringing their labors to the press. He evidently was deeply and accurately informed of the particulars of the wars between his countrymen and the Moors, a tract of history but too much overgrown with the weeds of fable. His glowing zeal, also, in the cause of the Catholic faith entitles him to be held up as a model of the good old orthodox chroniclers, who recorded with such pious exultation the united triumphs of the cross and the sword. It is deeply to be regretted, therefore, that his manuscripts, deposited in the libraries of various convents, have been dispersed during the late convulsions in Spain, so that nothing is now to be met of them but disjointed fragments. These, however, are too precious to be suffered to fall into oblivion, as they contain many curious facts not to be found in any other historian. In the following work, therefore, the manuscript of the worthy Fray Antonio will be adopted wherever it exists entire, but will be filled up, extended, illustrated, and corroborated by citations from various authors, both Spanish and Arabian, who have treated of the subject. Those who may wish to know how far the work is indebted to the Chronicle of Fray Antonio Agapida may readily satisfy their curiosity by referring to his manuscript fragments, carefully preserved in the Library of the Escurial.
Before entering upon the history it may be as well to notice the opinions of certain of the most learned and devout historiographers of former times relative to this war.
Marinus Siculus, historian to Charles V., pronounces it a war to avenge ancient injuries received by the Christians from the Moors, to recover the kingdom of Granada, and to extend the name and honor of the Christian religion.*
* Lucio Marino Siculo, Cosas Memorabiles de Espana, lib. 20.
Estevan de Garibay, one of the most distinguished Spanish historians, regards the war as a special act of divine clemency toward the Moors, to the end that those barbarians and infidels, who had dragged out so many centuries under the diabolical oppression of the absurd sect of Mahomet, should at length be reduced to the Christian faith.*
* Garibay, Compend. Hist. Espana, lib. 18, c. 22.
Padre Mariana, also a venerable Jesuit and the most renowned historian of Spain, considers the past domination of the Moors a scourge inflicted on the Spanish nation for its iniquities, but the conquest of Granada the reward of Heaven for its great act of propitiation in establishing the glorious tribunal of the Inquisition! No sooner (says the worthy father) was this holy office opened in Spain than there shone forth a resplendent light. Then it was that, through divine favor, the nation increased in power, and became competent to overthrow and trample down the Moorish domination.*
* Mariana, Hist. Espana, lib. 25, c. 1.
Having thus cited high and venerable authority for considering this war in the light of one of those pious enterprises denominated crusades, we trust we have said enough to engage the Christian reader to follow us into the field and stand by us to the very issue of the encounter.
The foregoing introduction, prefixed to the former editions of this work, has been somewhat of a detriment to it. Fray Antonio Agapida was found to be an imaginary personage, and this threw a doubt over the credibility of his Chronicle, which was increased by a vein of irony indulged here and there, and by the occasional heightening of some of the incidents and the romantic coloring of some of the scenes. A word or two explanatory may therefore be of service.*
* Many of the observations in this note have already appeared in
an explanatory article which at Mr. Murray's request, the author
furnished to the London Quarterly Review.
The idea of the work was suggested while I was occupied at Madrid in writing the Life of Columbus. In searching for traces of his early life I was led among the scenes of the war of Granada, he having followed the Spanish sovereigns in some of their campaigns, and been present at the surrender of the Moorish capital. I actually wove some of these scenes into the biography, but found they occupied an undue space, and stood out in romantic relief not in unison with the general course of the narrative. My mind, however, had become so excited by the stirring events and romantic achievements of this war that I could not return with composure to the sober biography I had in hand. The idea then occurred, as a means of allaying the excitement, to throw off a rough draught of the history of this war, to be revised and completed at future leisure. It appeared to me that its true course and character had never been fully illustrated. The world had received a strangely perverted idea of it through Florian's romance of "Gonsalvo of Cordova," or through the legend, equally fabulous, entitled "The Civil Wars of Granada," by Ginez Perez de la Hita, the pretended work of an Arabian contemporary, but in reality a Spanish fabrication. It had been woven over with love-tales and scenes of sentimental gallantry totally opposite to its real character; for it was, in truth, one of the sternest of those iron conflicts sanctified by the title of "holy wars." In fact, the genuine nature of the war placed it far above the need of any amatory embellishments. It possessed sufficient interest in the striking contrast presented by the combatants of Oriental and European creeds, costumes, and manners, and in the hardy and harebrained enterprises, the romantic adventures, the picturesque forays through mountain regions, the daring assaults and surprisals of cliff-built castles and cragged fortresses, which succeeded each other with a variety and brilliancy beyond the scope of mere invention.
The time of the contest also contributed to heighten the interest. It was not long after the invention of gunpowder, when firearms and artillery mingled the flash and smoke and thunder of modern warfare with the steely splendor of ancient chivalry, and gave an awful magnificence and terrible sublimity to battle, and when the old Moorish towers and castles, that for ages had frowned defiance to the battering-rams and catapults of classic tactics, were toppled down by the lombards of the Spanish engineers. It was one of the cases in which history rises superior to fiction.
The more I thought about the subject, the more I was tempted to undertake it, and the facilities at hand at length determined me. In the libraries of Madrid and in the private library of the American consul, Mr. Rich, I had access to various chronicles and other works, both printed and in manuscript, written at the time by eyewitnesses, and in some instances by persons who had actually mingled in the scenes recorded and gave descriptions of them from different points of view and with different details. These works were often diffuse and tedious, and occasionally discolored by the bigotry, superstition, and fierce intolerance of the age; but their pages were illumined at times with scenes of high emprise, of romantic generosity, and heroic valor, which flashed upon the reader with additional splendor from the surrounding darkness. I collated these various works, some of which have never appeared in print, drew from each facts relative to the different enterprises, arranged them in as clear and lucid order as I could command, and endeavored to give them somewhat of a graphic effect by connecting them with the manners and customs of the age in which they occurred. The rough draught being completed, I laid the manuscript aside and proceeded with the Life of Columbus. After this was finished and sent to the press I made a tour in Andalusia, visited the ruins of the Moorish towns, fortresses, and castles, and the wild mountain-passes and defiles which had been the scenes of the most remarkable events of the war, and passed some time in the ancient palace of the Alhambra, the once favorite abode of the Moorish monarchs. Everywhere I took notes, from the most advantageous points of view, of whatever could serve to give local verity and graphic effect to the scenes described. Having taken up my abode for a time at Seville, I then resumed my manuscript and rewrote it, benefited by my travelling notes and the fresh and vivid impressions of my recent tour. In constructing my chronicle I adopted the fiction of a Spanish monk as the chronicler. Fray Antonio Agapida was intended as a personification of the monkish zealots who hovered about the sovereigns in their campaigns, marring the chivalry of the camp by the bigotry of the cloister, and chronicling in rapturous strains every act of intolerance toward the Moors. In fact, scarce a sally of the pretended friar when he bursts forth in rapturous eulogy of some great stroke of selfish policy on the part of Ferdinand, or exults over some overwhelming disaster of the gallant and devoted Moslems, but is taken almost word for word from one or other of the orthodox chroniclers of Spain.
The ironical vein also was provoked by the mixture of kingcraft and priestcraft discernible throughout this great enterprise, and the mistaken zeal and self-delusion of many of its most gallant and generous champions. The romantic coloring seemed to belong to the nature of the subject, and was in harmony with what I had seen in my tour through the poetical and romantic regions in which the events had taken place. With all these deductions the work, in all its essential points, was faithful to historical fact and built upon substantial documents. It was a great satisfaction to me, therefore, after the doubts that had been expressed of the authenticity of my chronicle, to find it repeatedly and largely used by Don Miguel Lafuente Alcantara of Granada in his recent learned and elaborate history of his native city, he having had ample opportunity, in his varied and indefatigable researches, of judging how far it accorded with documentary authority.
I have still more satisfaction in citing the following testimonial of Mr. Prescott, whose researches for his admirable history of Ferdinand and Isabella took him over the same ground I had trodden. His testimonial is written in the liberal and courteous spirit characteristic of him, but with a degree of eulogium which would make me shrink from quoting it did I not feel the importance of his voucher for the substantial accuracy of my work:
"Mr. Irving's late publication, the 'Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada,' has superseded all further necessity for poetry and, unfortunately for me, for history. He has fully availed himself of all the picturesque and animating movement of this romantic era, and the reader who will take the trouble to compare his chronicle with the present more prosaic and literal narrative will see how little he has been seduced from historic accuracy by the poetical aspect of his subject. The fictitious and romantic dress of his work has enabled him to make it the medium of reflecting more vividly the floating opinions and chimerical fancies of the age, while he has illuminated the picture with the dramatic brilliancy of coloring denied to sober history."*
* Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella, vol. ii. c. 15.
In the present edition I have endeavored to render the work more worthy of the generous encomium of Mr. Prescott. Though I still retain the fiction of the monkish author Agapida, I have brought my narrative more strictly within historical bounds, have corrected and enriched it in various parts with facts recently brought to light by the researches of Alcantara and others, and have sought to render it a faithful and characteristic picture of the romantic portion of history to which it relates.
OF THE KINGDOM OF GRANADA, AND THE TRIBUTE WHICH IT PAID TO THE CASTILIAN CROWN.
The history of those bloody and disastrous wars which have caused the downfall of mighty empires (observes Fray Antonio Agapida) has ever been considered a study highly delectable and full of precious edification. What, then, must be the history of a pious crusade waged by the most Catholic of sovereigns to rescue from the power of the infidels one of the most beautiful but benighted regions of the globe? Listen, then, while from the solitude of my cell I relate the events of the conquest of Granada, where Christian knight and turbaned infidel disputed, inch by inch, the fair land of Andalusia, until the Crescent, that symbol of heathenish abomination, was cast down, and the blessed Cross, the tree of our redemption, erected in its stead.
Nearly eight hundred years were past and gone since the Arabian invaders had sealed the perdition of Spain by the defeat of Don Roderick, the last of her Gothic kings. Since that disastrous event one portion after another of the Peninsula had been gradually recovered by the Christian princes, until the single but powerful and warlike territory of Granada alone remained under the domination of the Moors.
This renowned kingdom, situated in the southern part of Spain and washed on one side by the Mediterranean Sea, was traversed in every direction by sierras or chains of lofty and rugged mountains, naked, rocky, and precipitous, rendering it almost impregnable, but locking up within their sterile embraces deep, rich, and verdant valleys of prodigal fertility.
In the centre of the kingdom lay its capital, the beautiful city of Granada, sheltered, as it were, in the lap of the Sierra Nevada, or Snowy Mountains. Its houses, seventy thousand in number, covered two lofty hills with their declivities and a deep valley between them, through which flowed the Darro. The streets were narrow, as is usual in Moorish and Arab cities, but there were occasionally small squares and open places. The houses had gardens and interior courts, set out with orange, citron, and pomegranate trees and refreshed by fountains, so that as the edifices ranged above each other up the sides of the hills, they presented a delightful appearance of mingled grove and city. One of the hills was surmounted by the Alcazaba, a strong fortress commanding all that part of the city; the other by the Alhambra, a royal palace and warrior castle, capable of containing within its alcazar and towers a garrison of forty thousand men, but possessing also its harem, the voluptuous abode of the Moorish monarchs, laid out with courts and gardens, fountains and baths, and stately halls decorated in the most costly style of Oriental luxury. According to Moorish tradition, the king who built this mighty and magnificent pile was skilled in the occult sciences, and furnished himself with the necessary funds by means of alchemy.* Such was its lavish splendor that even at the present day the stranger, wandering through its silent courts and deserted halls, gazes with astonishment at gilded ceilings and fretted domes, the brilliancy and beauty of which have survived the vicissitudes of war and the silent dilapidation of ages.
* Zurita, lib. 20, c. 42.
The city was surrounded by high walls, three leagues in circuit, furnished with twelve gates and a thousand and thirty towers. Its elevation above the sea and the neighborhood of the Sierra Nevada crowned with perpetual snows tempered the fervid rays of summer, so that while other cities were panting with the sultry and stifling heat of the dog-days, the most salubrious breezes played through the marble halls of Granada.
The glory of the city, however, was its Vega or plain, which spread out to a circumference of thirty-seven leagues, surrounded by lofty mountains, and was proudly compared to the famous plain of Damascus. It was a vast garden of delight, refreshed by numerous fountains and by the silver windings of the Xenil. The labor and ingenuity of the Moors had diverted the waters of this river into thousands of rills and streams, and diffused them over the whole surface of the plain. Indeed, they had wrought up this happy region to a degree of wonderful prosperity, and took a pride in decorating it as if it had been a favorite mistress. The hills were clothed with orchards and vineyards, the valleys embroidered with gardens, and the wide plains covered with waving grain. Here were seen in profusion the orange, the citron, the fig, and the pomegranate, with great plantations of mulberry trees, from which was produced the finest silk. The vine clambered from tree to tree, the grapes hung in rich clusters about the peasant's cottage, and the groves were rejoiced by the perpetual song of the nightingale. In a word, so beautiful was the earth, so pure the air, and so serene the sky of this delicious region that the Moors imagined the paradise of their Prophet to be situated in that part of the heaven which overhung the kingdom of Granada.
Within this favored realm, so prodigally endowed and strongly fortified by nature, the Moslem wealth, valor, and intelligence, which had once shed such a lustre over Spain, had gradually retired, and here they made their final stand. Granada had risen to splendor on the ruin of other Moslem kingdoms, but in so doing had become the sole object of Christian hostility, and had to maintain its very existence by the sword. The Moorish capital accordingly presented a singular scene of Asiatic luxury and refinement, mingled with the glitter and the din of arms. Letters were still cultivated, philosophy and poetry had their schools and disciples, and the language spoken was said to be the most elegant Arabic. A passion for dress and ornament pervaded all ranks. That of the princesses and ladies of high rank, says Al Kattib, one of their own writers, was carried to a height of luxury and magnificence that bordered on delirium. They wore girdles and bracelets and anklets of gold and silver, wrought with exquisite art and delicacy and studded with jacinths, chrysolites, emeralds, and other precious stones. They were fond of braiding and decorating their beautiful long tresses or confining them in knots sparkling with jewels. They were finely formed, excessively fair, graceful in their manners, and fascinating in their conversation; when they smiled, says Al Kattib, they displayed teeth of dazzling whiteness, and their breath was as the perfume of flowers.
The Moorish cavaliers, when not in armor, delighted in dressing themselves in Persian style, in garments of wool, of silk, or cotton of the finest texture, beautifully wrought with stripes of various colors. In winter they wore, as an outer garment, the African cloak or Tunisian albornoz, but in the heat of summer they arrayed themselves in linen of spotless whiteness. The same luxury prevailed in their military equipments. Their armor was inlaid and chased with gold and silver. The sheaths of their scimetars were richly labored and enamelled, the blades were of Damascus bearing texts from the Koran or martial and amorous mottoes; the belts were of golden filigree studded with gems; their poniards of Fez were wrought in the arabesque fashion; their lances bore gay bandaroles; their horses were sumptuously caparisoned with housings of green and crimson velvet, wrought with silk and enamelled with gold and silver. All this warlike luxury of the youthful chivalry was encouraged by the Moorish kings, who ordained that no tax should be imposed on the gold and silver employed in these embellishments; and the same exception was extended to the bracelets and other ornaments worn by the fair dames of Granada.
Of the chivalrous gallantry which prevailed between the sexes in this romantic period of Moorish history we have traces in the thousand ballads which have come down to our day, and which have given a tone and coloring to Spanish amatory literature and to everything in Spain connected with the tender passion.
War was the normal state of Granada and its inhabitants; the common people were subject at any moment to be summoned to the field, and all the upper class was a brilliant chivalry. The Christian princes, so successful in regaining the rest of the Peninsula, found their triumphs checked at the mountain-boundaries of this kingdom. Every peak had its atalaya, or watch-tower, ready to make its fire by night or to send up its column of smoke by day, a signal of invasion at which the whole country was on the alert. To penetrate the defiles of this perilous country, to surprise a frontier fortress, or to make a foray into the Vega and a hasty ravage within sight of the very capital were among the most favorite and daring exploits of the Castilian chivalry. But they never pretended to hold the region thus ravaged; it was sack, burn, plunder, and away; and these desolating inroads were retaliated in kind by the Moorish cavaliers, whose greatest delight was a "tala," or predatory incursion, into the Christian territories beyond the mountains.
A partisan warfare of this kind had long existed between Granada and its most formidable antagonists, the kingdoms of Castile and Leon. It was one which called out the keen yet generous rivalry of Christian and Moslem cavaliers, and gave rise to individual acts of chivalrous gallantry and daring prowess; but it was one which was gradually exhausting the resources and sapping the strength of Granada. One of the latest of its kings, therefore, Aben Ismael by name, disheartened by a foray which had laid waste the Vega, and conscious that the balance of warfare was against his kingdom, made a truce in 1457 with Henry IV., king of Castile and Leon, stipulating to pay him an annual tribute of twelve thousand doblas or pistoles of gold, and to liberate annually six hundred Christian captives, or in default of captives to give an equal number of Moors as hostages,—all to be delivered at the city of Cordova.*
* Garibay, Compend., 1.17, c. 3.
The truce, however, was of a partial nature, with singular reservations. It did not include the Moorish frontier toward Jaen, which was to remain open for the warlike enterprises of either nation; neither did it prohibit sudden attacks upon towns and castles, provided they were mere forays, conducted furtively, without sound of trumpet or display of banners or pitching of camps or regular investment, and that they did not last above three days.*
* Zurita, Anales de Aragon, 1. 20, c. 42; Mariana, Hist. de Espana 1. 25, c. 1; Bleda, Coron. de los Moros, l. 5, c. 3.
Aben Ismael was faithful in observing the conditions of the truce, but they were regarded with impatience by his eldest son, Muley Abul Hassan, a prince of a fiery and belligerent spirit, and fond of casing himself in armor and mounting his war-horse. He had been present at Cordova at one of the payments of tribute, and had witnessed the scoffs and taunts of the Christians, and his blood boiled whenever he recalled the humiliating scene. When he came to the throne in 1465, on the death of his father, he ceased the payment of the tribute altogether, and it was sufficient to put him into a tempest of rage only to mention it.
"He was a fierce and warlike infidel," says the pious Fray Antonio Agapida; "his bitterness against the holy Christian faith had been signalized in battle during the lifetime of his father, and the same diabolical spirit of hostility was apparent in his ceasing to pay this most righteous tribute."
OF THE EMBASSY OF DON JUAN DE VERA TO DEMAND ARREARS OF TRIBUTE FROM THE MOORISH MONARCH.
The flagrant want of faith of Muley Abul Hassan in fulfilling treaty stipulations passed unresented during the residue of the reign of Henry the Impotent, and the truce was tacitly continued without the enforcement of tribute during the first three years of the reign of his successors, Ferdinand and Isabella of glorious and happy memory, who were too much engrossed by civil commotions in their own dominions, and by a war of succession waged with them by the king of Portugal, to risk an additional conflict with the Moorish sovereign. When, however, at the expiration of the term of truce, Muley Abul Hassan sought a renewal of it, the pride and piety of the Castilian sovereigns were awakened to the flagrant defalcation of the infidel king, and they felt themselves called upon, by their dignity as monarchs and their religious obligations as champions of the faith, to make a formal demand for the payment of arrearages.
In the year of grace 1478, therefore, Don Juan de Vera, a zealous and devout knight, full of ardor for the faith and loyalty to the Crown, was sent as ambassador for the purpose. He was armed at all points, gallantly mounted, and followed by a moderate but well-appointed retinue: in this way he crossed the Moorish frontier, and passed slowly through the country, looking round him with the eyes of a practised warrior and carefully noting its military points and capabilities. He saw that the Moor was well prepared for possible hostilities. Every town was strongly fortified. The Vega was studded with towers of refuge for the peasantry: every pass of the mountain had its castle of defence, every lofty height its watch-tower. As the Christian cavaliers passed under the walls of the fortresses, lances and scimetars flashed from their battlements, and the Moorish sentinels darted from their dark eyes glances of hatred and defiance. It was evident that a war with this kingdom must be a war of posts, full of doughty peril and valiant enterprise, where every step must be gained by toil and bloodshed, and maintained with the utmost difficulty. The warrior spirit of the cavaliers kindled at the thoughts, and they were impatient for hostilities; "not," says Antonio Agapida, "from any thirst for rapine and revenge, but from that pure and holy indignation which every Spanish knight entertained at beholding this beautiful dominion of his ancestors defiled by the footsteps of infidel usurpers. It was impossible," he adds, "to contemplate this delicious country, and not long to see it restored to the dominion of the true faith and the sway of the Christian monarchs."
Arrived at the gates of Granada, Don Juan de Vera and his companions saw the same vigilant preparations on the part of the Moorish king. His walls and towers were of vast strength, in complete repair, and mounted with lombards and other heavy ordnance. His magazines were well stored with the munitions of war; he had a mighty host of foot-soldiers, together with squadrons of cavalry, ready to scour the country and carry on either defensive or predatory warfare. The Christian warriors noted these things without dismay; their hearts rather glowed with emulation at the thoughts of encountering so worthy a foe. As they slowly pranced through the streets of Granada they looked round with eagerness on the stately palaces and sumptuous mosques, on its alcayceria or bazar, crowded with silks and cloth of silver and gold, with jewels and precious stones, and other rich merchandise, the luxuries of every clime; and they longed for the time when all this wealth should be the spoil of the soldiers of the faith, and when each tramp of their steeds might be fetlock deep in the blood and carnage of the infidels.
The Moorish inhabitants looked jealously at this small but proud array of Spanish chivalry, as it paraded, with that stateliness possessed only by Spanish cavaliers, through the renowned gate of Elvira. They were struck with the stern and lofty demeanor of Don Juan de Vera and his sinewy frame, which showed him formed for hardy deeds of arms, and they supposed he had come in search of distinction by defying the Moorish knights in open tourney or in the famous tilt with reeds for which they were so renowned, for it was still the custom of the knights of either nation to mingle in these courteous and chivalrous contests during the intervals of war. When they learnt, however, that he was come to demand the tribute so abhorrent to the ears of the fiery monarch, they observed that it well required a warrior of his apparent nerve to execute such an embassy.
Muley Abul Hassan received the cavalier in state, seated on a magnificent divan and surrounded by the officers of his court, in the Hall of Ambassadors, one of the most sumptuous apartments of the Alhambra. When De Vera had delivered his message, a haughty and bitter smile curled the lip of the fierce monarch. "Tell your sovereigns," said he, "that the kings of Granada, who used to pay tribute in money to the Castilian crown, are dead. Our mint at present coins nothing but blades of scimetars and heads of lances."*
* Garibay, 1. 40, c. 29; Conde, Hist. Arab., p. 4, c. 34.
The defiance couched in this proud reply was heard with secret satisfaction by Don Juan de Vera, for he was a bold soldier and a devout hater of the infidels, and he saw iron war in the words of the Moorish monarch. Being master, however, of all points of etiquette, he retained an inflexible demeanor, and retired from the apartment with stately and ceremonious gravity. His treatment was suited to his rank and dignity: a magnificent apartment in the Alhambra was assigned to him, and before his departure a scimetar was sent to him by the king, the blade of the finest Damascus steel, the hilt of agate enriched with precious stones, and the guard of gold. De Vera drew it, and smiled grimly as he noticed the admirable temper of the blade. "His Majesty has given me a trenchant weapon," said he: "I trust a time will come when I may show him that I know how to use his royal present." The reply was considered a compliment, of course: the bystanders little knew the bitter hostility that lay couched beneath.
On his return to Cordova, Don Juan de Vera delivered the reply of the Moor, but at the same time reported the state of his territories. These had been strengthened and augmented during the weak reign of Henry IV. and the recent troubles of Castile. Many cities and strong places contiguous to Granada, but heretofore conquered by the Christians, had renewed their allegiance to Muley Abul Hassan, so that his kingdom now contained fourteen cities, ninety-seven fortified places, besides numerous unwalled towns and villages defended by formidable castles, while Granada towered in the centre as the citadel.
The wary Ferdinand, as he listened to the military report of Don Juan de Vera, saw that the present was no time for hostilities with a warrior kingdom so bristled over with means of defence. The internal discords of Castile still continued, as did the war with Portugal: under these circumstances he forbore to insist upon the payment of tribute, and tacitly permitted the truce to continue; but the defiance contained in the reply of Muley Abul Hassan remained rankling in his bosom as a future ground of war; and De Vera's description of Granada as the centre of a system of strongholds and rock-built castles suggested to him his plan of conquest—by taking town after town and fortress after fortress, and gradually plucking away all the supports before he attempted the capital. He expressed his resolution in a memorable pun or play upon the name of Granada, which signifies a pomegranate. "I will pick out the seeds of this pomegranate one by one," said the cool and crafty Ferdinand.
NOTE.—In the first edition of this work the author recounted a characteristic adventure of the stout Juan de Vera as happening on the occasion of this embassy; a further consultation of historical authorities has induced him to transfer it to a second embassy of De Vera's, which the reader will find related in a subsequent chapter.
DOMESTIC FEUDS IN THE ALHAMBRA—RIVAL SULTANAS—PREDICTIONS CONCERNING BOABDIL, THE HEIR TO THE THRONE—HOW FERDINAND MEDITATES WAR AGAINST GRANADA, AND HOW HE IS ANTICIPATED.
Though Muley Abul Hassan was at peace in his external relations, a civil war raged in his harem, which it is proper to notice, as it had a fatal effect upon the fortunes of the kingdom. Though cruel by nature, he was uxorious and somewhat prone to be managed by his wives. Early in life he had married his kinswoman, Ayxa (or Ayesha), daughter of his great-uncle, the sultan Mohammed VII., surnamed El Hayzari, or the Left-handed. She was a woman of almost masculine spirit and energy, and of such immaculate and inaccessible virtue that she was generally called La Horra, or the Chaste. By her he had a son, Abu Abdallah, or, as he is commonly named by historians, Boabdil. The court astrologers, according to custom, cast the horoscope of the infant, but were seized with fear and trembling as they regarded it. "Allah Akbar! God is great!" exclaimed they; "he alone controls the fate of empires. It is written in the book of fate that this child will one day sit upon the throne, but that the downfall of the kingdom will be accomplished during his reign." From that time the prince had been regarded with aversion by his father, and the prediction which hung over him and the persecutions to which he became subjected procured him the surname of El Zogoybi, or the Unfortunate. He grew up, however, under the protection of his valiant-hearted mother, who by the energy of her character long maintained an undisputed sway in the harem, until, as her youth passed away and her beauty declined, a formidable rival arose.
In one of the forays of the Moorish chivalry into the Christian territories they had surprised a frontier fortress commanded by Sancho Ximenes de Solis, a noble and valiant cavalier, who fell in bravely defending it. Among the captives was his daughter Isabella, then almost in her infancy, who was brought to Granada, delicately raised, and educated in the Moslem faith.* Her Moorish captors gave her the name of Fatima, but as she grew up her surpassing beauty gained her the surname of Zoraya, or the Morning Star, by which she has become known in history. Her charms at length attracted the notice of Muley Abul Hassan, and she soon became a member of his harem. Some have spoken of her as a Christian slave whom he had made his concubine; but others, with more truth, represent her as one of his wives, and ultimately his favorite sultana; and indeed it was often the case that female captives of rank and beauty, when converted to the faith of Islam, became united to the proudest and loftiest of their captors.
* Cronica del Gran Cardinal, cap. 71.
Zoraya soon acquired complete ascendancy over the mind of Muley Abul Hassan. She was as ambitious as she was beautiful, and, having become the mother of two sons, looked forward to the possibility of one of them sitting on the throne of Granada. These ambitious views were encouraged, if not suggested, by a faction which gathered round her inspired by kindred sympathies. The king's vizier, Abul Cacim Vanegas, who had great influence over him, was, like Zoraya, of Christian descent, being of the noble house of Luque. His father, one of the Vanegas of Cordova, had been captured in infancy and brought up as a Moslem.* From him sprang the vizier, Abul Cacim Vanegas, and his brother, Reduan Vanegas, likewise high in rank in the court of Muley Abul Hassan, and they had about them numerous and powerful connections, all basking in court favor. Though Moslems in faith, they were all drawn to Zoraya by the tie of foreign and Christian descent, and sought to elevate her and her children to the disparagement of Ayxa la Horra and her son Boabdil. The latter, on the other hand, were supported by the noble and once-potent family of the Abencerrages and by Aben Comixa, alcayde of the Alhambra; and between these two factions, headed by rival sultanas, the harem of Muley Abul Hassan became the scene of inveterate jealousies and intrigues, which in time, as will be shown, led to popular commotions and civil wars.**
* Cura de los Palacios, Hist. de los Reyes Catol., cap. 56.
* *It is to be noted that several historians have erroneously represented Zoraya as the mother of Boabdil, instead of Ayxa la Horra, and the Abencerrages as the opponents of Boabdil, instead of his strenuous adherents. The statement in the text is according to the mostreliable authorities.
While these female feuds were threatening Muley Abul Hassan with trouble and disaster at home, his evil genius prompted him to an enterprise which involved him in tenfold danger from abroad. The reader has already been apprised of a singular clause in the truce existing between the Christians and the Moors, permitting hasty dashes into each other's territories and assaults of towns and fortresses, provided they were carried on as mere forays and without the parade of regular warfare. A long time had elapsed, however, without any incursion of the kind on the part of the Moors, and the Christian towns on the frontiers had, in consequence, fallen into a state of the most negligent security. In an unlucky moment Muley Abul Hassan was tempted to one of these forays by learning that the fortress of Zahara, on the frontier between Ronda and Medina Sidonia, was but feebly garrisoned and scantily supplied, and that its alcayde was careless of his charge. This important post was built on the crest of a rocky mountain, with a strong castle perched above it upon a cliff, so high that it was said to be above the flight of birds or drift of clouds. The streets and many of the houses were mere excavations wrought out of the living rock. The town had but one gate, opening to the west and defended by towers and bulwarks. The only ascent to this cragged fortress was by roads cut in the rock, so rugged in many places as to resemble broken stairs. In a word, the impregnable security of Zahara had become so proverbial throughout Spain that a woman of forbidding and inaccessible virtue was called a Zaharena. But the strongest fortress and sternest virtue have weak points, and require unremitting vigilance to guard them: let warrior and dame take warning from the fate of Zahara.
EXPEDITION OF MULEY ABUL HASSAN AGAINST THE FORTRESS OF ZAHARA.
In the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and eighty-one, and but a night or two after the festival of the most blessed Nativity, the inhabitants of Zahara were sunk in profound sleep the very sentinel had deserted his post, and sought shelter from a tempest which had raged for three nights in succession, for it appeared but little probable that an enemy would be abroad during such an uproar of the elements. But evil spirits work best during a storm. In the midst of the night an uproar rose within the walls of Zahara more awful than the raging of the storm. A fearful alarm-cry, "The Moor! the Moor!" resounded through the streets, mingled with the clash of arms, the shriek of anguish, and the shout of victory. Muley Abul Hassan, at the head of a powerful force, had hurried from Granada, and passed unobserved through the mountains in the obscurity of the tempest. While the storm pelted the sentinel from his post and bowled round tower and battlement, the Moors had planted their scaling-ladders and mounted securely into both town and castle. The garrison was unsuspicious of danger until battle and massacre burst forth within its very walls. It seemed to the affrighted inhabitants as if the fiends of the air had come upon the wings of the wind and possessed themselves of tower and turret. The war-cry resounded on every side, shout answering shout, above, below, on the battlements of the castle, in the streets of the town; the foe was in all parts, wrapped in obscurity, but acting in concert by the aid of preconcerted signals. Starting from sleep, the soldiers were intercepted and cut down as they rushed from their quarters, or if they escaped they knew not where to assemble or where to strike. Wherever lights appeared the flashing scimetar was at its deadly work, and all who attempted resistance fell beneath its edge.
In a little while the struggle was at an end. Those who were not slain took refuge in the secret places of their houses or gave themselves up as captives. The clash of arms ceased, and the storm continued its howling, mingled with the occasional shout of the Moorish soldiery roaming in search of plunder. While the inhabitants were trembling for their fate, a trumpet resounded through the streets summoning them all to assemble, unarmed, in the public square. Here they were surrounded by soldiery and strictly guarded until daybreak. When the day dawned it was piteous to behold this once-prosperous community, who had laid down to rest in peaceful security, now crowded together without distinction of age or rank or sex, and almost without raiment, during the severity of a wintry storm. The fierce Muley Abul Hassan turned a deaf ear to all their prayers and remonstrances, and ordered them to be conducted captives to Granada. Leaving a strong garrison in both town and castle, with orders to put them in a complete state of defence, he returned, flushed with victory, to his capital, entering it at the head of his troops, laden with spoil and bearing in triumph the banners and pennons taken at Zahara.
While preparations were making for jousts and other festivities in honor of this victory over the Christians, the captives of Zahara arrived—a wretched train of men, women, and children, worn out with fatigue and haggard with despair, and driven like cattle into the city gates by a detachment of Moorish soldiery.
Deep was the grief and indignation of the people of Granada at this cruel scene. Old men, who had experienced the calamities of warfare, anticipated coming troubles. Mothers clasped their infants to their breasts as they beheld the hapless females of Zahara with their children expiring in their arms. On every side the accents of pity for the sufferers were mingled with execrations of the barbarity of the king. The preparations for festivity were neglected, and the viands which were to have feasted the conquerors were distributed among the captives.
The nobles and alfaquis, however, repaired to the Alhambra to congratulate the king; for, whatever storms may rage in the lower regions of society, rarely do any clouds but clouds of incense rise to the awful eminence of the throne. In this instance, however, a voice rose from the midst of the obsequious crowd, and burst like thunder upon the ears of Abul Hassan. "Woe! woe! woe! to Granada!" exclaimed the voice; "its hour of desolation approaches. The ruins of Zahara will fall upon our heads; my spirit tells me that the end of our empire is at hand." All shrank back aghast, and left the denouncer of woe standing alone in the centre of the hall. He was an ancient and hoary man in the rude attire of a dervise. Age had withered his form without quenching the fire of his spirit, which glared in baleful lustre from his eyes. He was (say the Arabian historians) one of those holy men termed santons who pass their lives in hermitages in fasting, meditation, and prayer until they attain to the purity of saints and the foresight of prophets. "He was," says the indignant Fray Antonio Agapida, "a son of Belial, one of those fanatic infidels possessed by the devil who are sometimes permitted to predict the truth to their followers, but with the proviso that their predictions shall be of no avail."
The voice of the santon resounded through the lofty hall of the Alhambra, and struck silence and awe into the crowd of courtly sycophants. Muley Abul Hassan alone was unmoved: he eyed the hoary anchorite with scorn as he stood dauntless before him, and treated his predictions as the ravings of a maniac. The santon rushed from the royal presence, and, descending into the city, hurried through its streets and squares with frantic gesticulations. His voice was heard in every part in awful denunciation: "The peace is broken! exterminating war is commenced. Woe! woe! woe to Granada! its fall is at hand! desolation will dwell in its palaces; its strong men will fall beneath the sword, its children and maidens be led into captivity. Zahara is but a type of Granada!"
Terror seized upon the populace, for they considered these ravings as the inspirations of prophecy. Some hid themselves in their dwellings as in a time of general mourning, while some gathered together in knots in the streets and squares, alarming each other with dismal forebodings and cursing the rashness and cruelty of the king.
The Moorish monarch heeded not their murmurs. Knowing that his exploit must draw upon him the vengeance of the Christians, he now threw off all reserve, and made attempts to surprise Castellan and Elvira, though without success. He sent alfaquis also to the Barbary powers, informing them that the sword was drawn, and inviting the African princes to aid him with men and supplies in maintaining the kingdom of Granada and the religion of Mahomet against the violence of unbelievers.
While discontent exhaled itself in murmurs among the common people, however, it fomented in dangerous conspiracies among the nobles, and Muley Abul Hassan was startled by information of a design to depose him and place his son Boabdil upon the throne. His first measure was to confine the prince and his mother in the Tower of Comares; then, calling to mind the prediction of the astrologers, that the youth would one day sit on the throne of Granada, he impiously set the stars at defiance. "The sword of the executioner," said he, "shall prove the fallacy of those lying horoscopes, and shall silence the ambition of Boabdil."
The sultana Ayxa, apprised of the imminent danger of her son, concerted a plan for his escape. At the dead of the night she gained access to his prison, and, tying together the shawls and scarfs of herself and her female attendants, lowered him down from a balcony of the Alhambra to the steep rocky hillside which sweeps down to the Darro. Here some of her devoted adherents were waiting to receive him, who, mounting him on a swift horse, spirited him away to the city of Guadix, in the Alpuxarras.
EXPEDITION OF THE MARQUES OF CADIZ AGAINST ALHAMA.
Great was the indignation of King Ferdinand when he heard of the storming of Zahara, though the outrage of the Moor happened most opportunely. The war between Castile and Portugal had come to a close; the factions of Spanish nobles were for the most part quelled. The Castilian monarchs had now, therefore, turned their thoughts to the cherished object of their ambition, the conquest of Granada. The pious heart of Isabella yearned to behold the entire Peninsula redeemed from the domination of the infidel, while Ferdinand, in whom religious zeal was mingled with temporal policy, looked with a craving eye to the rich territory of the Moor, studded with wealthy towns and cities. Muley Abul Hassan had rashly or unwarily thrown the brand that was to produce the wide conflagration. Ferdinand was not the one to quench the flames. He immediately issued orders to all the adelantados and alcaydes of the frontiers to maintain the utmost vigilance at their several posts, and to prepare to carry fire and sword into the territories of the Moors.
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