THE Gitanos, abject and vile as they have ever been, have nevertheless found admirers in Spain, individuals who have taken pleasure in their phraseology, pronunciation, and way of life; but above all, in the songs and dances of the females. This desire for cultivating their acquaintance is chiefly prevalent in Andalusia, where, indeed, they most abound; and more especially in the town of Seville, the capital of the province, where, in the barrio or Faubourg of Triana, a large Gitano colon has long flourished, with the denizens of which it is at all times easy to have intercourse, especially to those who are free of their money, and are willing to purchase such a gratification at the expense of dollars and pesetas.
When we consider the character of the Andalusians in general, we shall find little to surprise us in this predilection for the Gitanos. They are an indolent frivolous people, fond of dancing and song, and sensual amusements. They live under the most glorious sun and benign heaven in Europe, and their country is by nature rich and fertile, yet in no province of Spain is there more beggary and misery; the greater part of the land being uncultivated, and producing nothing but thorns and brushwood, affording in itself a striking emblem of the moral state of its inhabitants.
Though not destitute of talent, the Andalusians are not much addicted to intellectual pursuits, at least in the present day. The person in most esteem among them is invariably the greatest MAJO, and to acquire that character it is necessary to appear in the dress of a Merry Andrew, to bully, swagger, and smoke continually, to dance passably, and to strum the guitar. They are fond of obscenity and what they term PICARDIAS. Amongst them learning is at a terrible discount, Greek, Latin, or any of the languages generally termed learned, being considered in any light but accomplishments, but not so the possession of thieves' slang or the dialect of the Gitanos, the knowledge of a few words of which invariably creates a certain degree of respect, as indicating that the individual is somewhat versed in that kind of life or TRATO for which alone the Andalusians have any kind of regard.
In Andalusia the Gitano has been studied by those who, for various reasons, have mingled with the Gitanos. It is tolerably well understood by the chalans, or jockeys, who have picked up many words in the fairs and market-places which the former frequent. It has, however, been cultivated to a greater degree by other individuals, who have sought the society of the Gitanos from a zest for their habits, their dances, and their songs; and such individuals have belonged to all classes, amongst them have been noblemen and members of the priestly order.
Perhaps no people in Andalusia have been more addicted in general to the acquaintance of the Gitanos than the friars, and pre- eminently amongst these the half-jockey half-religious personages of the Cartujan convent at Xeres. This community, now suppressed, was, as is well known, in possession of a celebrated breed of horses, which fed in the pastures of the convent, and from which they derived no inconsiderable part of their revenue. These reverend gentlemen seem to have been much better versed in the points of a horse than in points of theology, and to have understood thieves' slang and Gitano far better than the language of the Vulgate. A chalan, who had some knowledge of the Gitano, related to me the following singular anecdote in connection with this subject.
He had occasion to go to the convent, having been long in treaty with the friars for a steed which he had been commissioned by a nobleman to buy at any reasonable price. The friars, however, were exorbitant in their demands. On arriving at the gate, he sang to the friar who opened it a couplet which he had composed in the Gypsy tongue, in which he stated the highest price which he was authorised to give for the animal in question; whereupon the friar instantly answered in the same tongue in an extemporary couplet full of abuse of him and his employer, and forthwith slammed the door in the face of the disconcerted jockey.
An Augustine friar of Seville, called, we believe, Father Manso, who lived some twenty years ago, is still remembered for his passion for the Gitanos; he seemed to be under the influence of fascination, and passed every moment that he could steal from his clerical occupations in their company. His conduct at last became so notorious that he fell under the censure of the Inquisition, before which he was summoned; whereupon he alleged, in his defence, that his sole motive for following the Gitanos was zeal for their spiritual conversion. Whether this plea availed him we know not; but it is probable that the Holy Office dealt mildly with him; such offenders, indeed, have never had much to fear from it. Had he been accused of liberalism, or searching into the Scriptures, instead of connection with the Gitanos, we should, doubtless, have heard either of his execution or imprisonment for life in the cells of the cathedral of Seville.
Such as are thus addicted to the Gitanos and their language, are called, in Andalusia, Los del' Aficion, or those of the predilection. These people have, during the last fifty years, composed a spurious kind of Gypsy literature: we call it spurious because it did not originate with the Gitanos, who are, moreover, utterly unacquainted with it, and to whom it would be for the most part unintelligible. It is somewhat difficult to conceive the reason which induced these individuals to attempt such compositions; the only probable one seems to have been a desire to display to each other their skill in the language of their predilection. It is right, however, to observe, that most of these compositions, with respect to language, are highly absurd, the greatest liberties being taken with the words picked up amongst the Gitanos, of the true meaning of which the writers, in many instances, seem to have been entirely ignorant. From what we can learn, the composers of this literature flourished chiefly at the commencement of the present century: Father Manso is said to have been one of the last. Many of their compositions, which are both in poetry and prose, exist in manuscript in a compilation made by one Luis Lobo. It has never been our fortune to see this compilation, which, indeed, we scarcely regret, as a rather curious circumstance has afforded us a perfect knowledge of its contents.
Whilst at Seville, chance made us acquainted with a highly extraordinary individual, a tall, bony, meagre figure, in a tattered Andalusian hat, ragged capote, and still more ragged pantaloons, and seemingly between forty and fifty years of age. The only appellation to which he answered was Manuel. His occupation, at the time we knew him, was selling tickets for the lottery, by which he obtained a miserable livelihood in Seville and the neighbouring villages. His appearance was altogether wild and uncouth, and there was an insane expression in his eye. Observing us one day in conversation with a Gitana, he addressed us, and we soon found that the sound of the Gitano language had struck a chord which vibrated through the depths of his soul. His history was remarkable; in his early youth a manuscript copy of the compilation of Luis Lobo had fallen into his hands. This book had so taken hold of his imagination, that he studied it night and day until he had planted it in his memory from beginning to end; but in so doing, his brain, like that of the hero of Cervantes, had become dry and heated, so that he was unfitted for any serious or useful occupation. After the death of his parents he wandered about the streets in great distress, until at last he fell into the hands of certain toreros, or bull-fighters, who kept him about them, in order that he might repeat to them the songs of the AFICION. They subsequently carried him to Madrid, where, however, they soon deserted him after he had experienced much brutality from their hands. He returned to Seville, and soon became the inmate of a madhouse, where he continued several years. Having partially recovered from his malady, he was liberated, and wandered about as before. During the cholera at Seville, when nearly twenty thousand human beings perished, he was appointed conductor of one of the death-carts, which went through the streets for the purpose of picking up the dead bodies. His perfect inoffensiveness eventually procured him friends, and he obtained the situation of vendor of lottery tickets. He frequently visited us, and would then recite long passages from the work of Lobo. He was wont to say that he was the only one in Seville, at the present day, acquainted with the language of the Aficion; for though there were many pretenders, their knowledge was confined to a few words.
From the recitation of this individual, we wrote down the Brijindope, or Deluge, and the poem on the plague which broke out in Seville in the year 1800. These and some songs of less consequence, constitute the poetical part of the compilation in question; the rest, which is in prose, consisting chiefly of translations from the Spanish, of proverbs and religious pieces.
BRIJINDOPE. - THE DELUGE (65)
A POEM: IN TWO PARTS
PART THE FIRST
I with fear and terror quake, Whilst the pen to write I take; I will utter many a pray'r To the heaven's Regent fair, That she deign to succour me, And I'll humbly bend my knee; For but poorly do I know With my subject on to go; Therefore is my wisest plan Not to trust in strength of man. I my heavy sins bewail, Whilst I view the wo and wail Handed down so solemnly In the book of times gone by. Onward, onward, now I'll move In the name of Christ above, And his Mother true and dear, She who loves the wretch to cheer. All I know, and all I've heard I will state - how God appear'd And to Noah thus did cry: Weary with the world am I; Let an ark by thee be built, For the world is lost in guilt; And when thou hast built it well, Loud proclaim what now I tell: Straight repent ye, for your Lord In his hand doth hold a sword. And good Noah thus did call: Straight repent ye one and all, For the world with grief I see Lost in vileness utterly. God's own mandate I but do, He hath sent me unto you. Laugh'd the world to bitter scorn, I his cruel sufferings mourn; Brawny youths with furious air Drag the Patriarch by the hair; Lewdness governs every one: Leaves her convent now the nun, And the monk abroad I see Practising iniquity. Now I'll tell how God, intent To avenge, a vapour sent, With full many a dreadful sign - Mighty, mighty fear is mine: As I hear the thunders roll, Seems to die my very soul; As I see the world o'erspread All with darkness thick and dread; I the pen can scarcely ply For the tears which dim my eye, And o'ercome with grievous wo, Fear the task I must forego I have purposed to perform. - Hark, I hear upon the storm Thousand, thousand devils fly, Who with awful howlings cry: Now's the time and now's the hour, We have licence, we have power To obtain a glorious prey. - I with horror turn away; Tumbles house and tumbles wall; Thousands lose their lives and all, Voiding curses, screams and groans, For the beams, the bricks and stones Bruise and bury all below - Nor is that the worst, I trow, For the clouds begin to pour Floods of water more and more, Down upon the world with might, Never pausing day or night. Now in terrible distress All to God their cries address, And his Mother dear adore, - But the time of grace is o'er, For the Almighty in the sky Holds his hand upraised on high. Now's the time of madden'd rout, Hideous cry, despairing shout; Whither, whither shall they fly? For the danger threat'ningly Draweth near on every side, And the earth, that's opening wide, Swallows thousands in its womb, Who would 'scape the dreadful doom. Of dear hope exists no gleam, Still the water down doth stream; Ne'er so little a creeping thing But from out its hold doth spring: See the mouse, and see its mate Scour along, nor stop, nor wait; See the serpent and the snake For the nearest highlands make; The tarantula I view, Emmet small and cricket too, All unknowing where to fly, In the stifling waters die. See the goat and bleating sheep, See the bull with bellowings deep. And the rat with squealings shrill, They have mounted on the hill: See the stag, and see the doe, How together fond they go; Lion, tiger-beast, and pard, To escape are striving hard: Followed by her little ones, See the hare how swift she runs: Asses, he and she, a pair. Mute and mule with bray and blare, And the rabbit and the fox, Hurry over stones and rocks, With the grunting hog and horse, Till at last they stop their course - On the summit of the hill All assembled stand they still; In the second part I'll tell Unto them what there befell. PART THE SECOND When I last did bid farewell, I proposed the world to tell, Higher as the Deluge flow'd, How the frog and how the toad, With the lizard and the eft, All their holes and coverts left, And assembled on the height; Soon I ween appeared in sight All that's wings beneath the sky, Bat and swallow, wasp and fly, Gnat and sparrow, and behind Comes the crow of carrion kind; Dove and pigeon are descried, And the raven fiery-eyed, With the beetle and the crane Flying on the hurricane: See they find no resting-place, For the world's terrestrial space Is with water cover'd o'er, Soon they sink to rise no more: 'To our father let us flee!' Straight the ark-ship openeth he, And to everything that lives Kindly he admission gives. Of all kinds a single pair, And the members safely there Of his house he doth embark, Then at once he shuts the ark; Everything therein has pass'd, There he keeps them safe and fast. O'er the mountain's topmost peak Now the raging waters break. Till full twenty days are o'er, 'Midst the elemental roar, Up and down the ark forlorn, Like some evil thing is borne: O what grief it is to see Swimming on the enormous sea Human corses pale and white, More, alas! than I can write: O what grief, what grief profound, But to think the world is drown'd: True a scanty few are left, All are not of life bereft, So that, when the Lord ordain, They may procreate again, In a world entirely new, Better people and more true, To their Maker who shall bow; And I humbly beg you now, Ye in modern times who wend, That your lives ye do amend; For no wat'ry punishment, But a heavier shall be sent; For the blessed saints pretend That the latter world shall end To tremendous fire a prey, And to ashes sink away. To the Ark I now go back, Which pursues its dreary track, Lost and 'wilder'd till the Lord In his mercy rest accord. Early of a morning tide They unclosed a window wide, Heaven's beacon to descry, And a gentle dove let fly, Of the world to seek some trace, And in two short hours' space It returns with eyes that glow, In its beak an olive bough. With a loud and mighty sound, They exclaim: 'The world we've found.' To a mountain nigh they drew, And when there themselves they view, Bound they swiftly on the shore, And their fervent thanks outpour, Lowly kneeling to their God; Then their way a couple trod, Man and woman, hand in hand, Bent to populate the land, To the Moorish region fair - And another two repair To the country of the Gaul; In this manner wend they all, And the seeds of nations lay. I beseech ye'll credence pay, For our father, high and sage, Wrote the tale in sacred page, As a record to the world, Record sad of vengeance hurl'd. I, a low and humble wight, Beg permission now to write Unto all that in our land Tongue Egyptian understand. May our Virgin Mother mild Grant to me, her erring child, Plenteous grace in every way, And success. Amen I say.
THE PESTILENCE I'm resolved now to tell In the speech of Gypsy-land All the horror that befell In this city huge and grand. In the eighteenth hundred year In the midst of summertide, God, with man dissatisfied, His right hand on high did rear, With a rigour most severe; Whence we well might understand He would strict account demand Of our lives and actions here. The dread event to render clear Now the pen I take in hand. At the dread event aghast, Straight the world reform'd its course; Yet is sin in greater force, Now the punishment is past; For the thought of God is cast All and utterly aside, As if death itself had died. Therefore to the present race These memorial lines I trace In old Egypt's tongue of pride. As the streets you wander'd through How you quail'd with fear and dread, Heaps of dying and of dead At the leeches' door to view. To the tavern O how few To regale on wine repair; All a sickly aspect wear. Say what heart such sights could brook - Wail and woe where'er you look - Wail and woe and ghastly care. Plying fast their rosaries, See the people pace the street, And for pardon God entreat Long and loud with streaming eyes. And the carts of various size, Piled with corses, high in air, To the plain their burden bear. O what grief it is to me Not a friar or priest to see In this city huge and fair.
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