A house in Seville is the reward of those beloved by the gods. In Toledo you are made reflective, perchance a little melancholy, while in Granada you are infected by the spirit of a past long dead. But in fair, sunlit Seville you live in the present as well as in the past; and your heart
is made light by the pervasive gaiety of the people and the cheerfulness of the streets and plazas.
Climb the beautiful Giralda–the brown tower of the Moors that rises above the cathedral dome–and look around upon the vegas, and away to the blue mountains of the horizon, and you will know why Borrow was moved to shed “tears of rapture,” when he gazed upon this delightful land of the Blessed Virgin and the happy city, with its minarets, its palm-shaded squares, its luxuriant gardens, and broad stream, winding between green banks to the distant marshes, where rice and cotton grow, and the flamingo and heron fly over sparkling lagoons amid a tropical jungle.
Seville in spring is gay to hilarity. The great fair and the Easter ceremonials and _fêtes_ attract thousands to the capital of Andalusia at the season when the banks of the Guadalquivir are white with the bloom of the orange-trees, and hundreds of nightingales make the evening breezes melodious; when the heat is bearable, the sky a deep azure, and the whole town festive, and bright with the costumes of many provinces. No blight of east wind depresses in early spring, and rarely indeed is the promise of roses and fruit threatened by frost in this region of perennial mildness and sunlight. “Only once have I seen ice in Seville,” said to me a middle-aged native of the place. It is only the winter floods, those great _avenidas_, that are readed in Seville; for now and then the river swells out of normal bounds, and spreads into the streets and alleys.
Seville is a white city in most of its modern parts. Lime-wash is used profusely everywhere, and the effect is cool and cleanly; but we wish sometimes that the natural colour of the stonework had been left free from the _brocha del blanquedor_, or the whitewasher’s brush. Nevertheless, this whiteness hides dirt and dinginess. There are no squalid slums in Seville. The poor are there in swarms, but their poverty is not ugly and obvious, and for the greater part they are clad in cotton that is often washed.
This is the town of beautiful southern doñas: the true types of Andalusian loveliness may be seen here in the park, on the promenade, and at the services in the cathedral–women with black or white mantillas, olive or pale in complexion, with full, dark eyes, copious raven hair, short and rather plump in form, but always charming in their carriage. More picturesque and often more lovely in features are the working girls, those vivacious, intelligent daughters of the people, whose dark hair is adorned with a carnation or a rose.
The lightheartedness of Seville has expression in music, dancing, and merry forgatherings each evening in the _patios_, when the guitar murmurs sweetly, and the click of the castanets sets the blood tingling. Everyone in Seville dances. The children dance almost as soon as they learn to toddle. In the _cafés_ you will see the nimblest dancers of Spain, and follow the intricate movements of the bolero, as well as the curious swaying and posturings of the older Moorish dances. These strange dramatic dances must be seen, and to witness them you should visit the Novedades at the end of Calle de las Sierpes.
Fashionable Seville delights in driving, and some of the wealthiest residents drive a team of gaily-decked, sleek-coated mules, with bells jangling on their bridles. Beautiful horses with Arab blood may be seen here. Even the asses are well-bred and big. But one sees also many ill-fed and sadly over-driven horses and mules. These people, so affectionate in their family life, so kindly in their entertainment of foreigners, and so graciously good-natured, have not yet learned one of the last lessons of humane civilisation–compassion for the animals that serve them.
Society in Seville takes its pleasure seriously, but the seriousness is
not the dullness that attends the Englishman’s attempts at hilarity. The
Spaniard is less demonstrative than the Frenchman, less mercurial than
the Italian. Notwithstanding, the crowd at the races, at the battle of
flowers, or watching the religious processions, or at the opera, is
happy in its quiet intentness. The enthusiasm for bullfighting is
perhaps the strongest visible emotion in Seville, the Alma Mater of the
champions of the arena. At the _corrida_ the Sevillian allows himself
to become excited. He loses his restraint, he shouts himself hoarse,
waves his hat, and thrashes the wooden seats with his cane in the
ecstasy of his delight, when a great performer plunges his sword into
the vital spot of the furious bull that tears the earth with its foot,
and prepares for a charge.
Bullfights, gorgeous ecclesiastic spectacles, and dancing–these are the
recreations of rich and poor alike in Seville to-day. In this city of
pleasure you will see the _majo_, the Andalusian dandy, as he struts up
and down the Sierpes–the only busy street of shops–spruce,
self-conscious, casting fervent glances at the señoras accompanied by
their duennas. Go into the meaner alleys and market streets, and you
will see the very vagrants that Murillo painted, tattered wastrels who
address one another as Señor, and hold licences to beg. Cross the Bridge
of Isabella to the suburb of Triana, and you will find a mixed and
curious population of mendicants, thieves, desperadoes, and a colony of
Gitanos, who live by clipping horses, hawking, fortune-telling, dancing
Peep through the delicate trellises of the Moorish gates of the patios,
and you will see fountains, and flowers, and palms, and the slender
columns supporting galleries, as in the Alhambra and other ancient
buildings. Very delightful are these cool courtyards, with their canvas
screens, ensuring shade at noonday, their splash of water, and their
scent of roses clustering on columns and clothing walls. Some of these
courtyards are open to the visitor, and one of the finest is the Casa de
Pilatos in the Plaza de Pilatos.
A pleasant garden within a court is that of my friend, Don J.
Lopez-Cepero, who lives in the old house of Murillo, and allows the
stranger to see his fine collection of pictures. Here Murillo died, in
1682, and some of his paintings are treasured in the gallery. The house
is Number Seven, Plaza de Alfaro.