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HERE are few routes in Spain of deeper or
more varied interest than that over which we
are about to pass in the present chapter. The
scenery is peculiarly and characteristically Spanish.
Snow-capped sierras; bare mountain sides on
which not a particle of soil rests; arid, treeless,
waterless plains; rivers of high-sounding historic
names shrunk to narrow streamlets; hills rich in
mineral treasures waiting only human industry
to bring forth their hidden wealth; and vegas
which irrigation has turned into gardens of almost
incredible fertility, succeed one another along the
whole line of travel. Here, too, are scenes famous
in history and romance. We traverse La Mancha,
whose villages have been made "familiar in our
mouths as household words" by the genius of
Cervantes. We cross battle-fields where Moslem
and Christian did such desperate deeds of valour,

the record of which lies on the border-land between history and romance. Where, too, in stern, hard, historic reality Lord Wellington and the British army defeated, one after another, the most skilful generals and the bravest troops which France could send against them. We linger in cities where some of the noblest productions of Roman, Moorish, and Christian art attest the genius of their builders. And we rest at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, whose eternal snows look down upon the fertile huerta of Granada and upon the


fortress and palace of the Alhambra, the fame of whose beauty has gone into all lands.

The general aspect of the district and its inhabitants has been often described, but never with more vivid, graphic, picturesque force than by Washington Irving. The truthfulness and accuracy of the sketch will be recognized by every one who has travelled through La Mancha, Granada, and Andalusia.

"Many are apt to picture Spain to their imaginations as a soft southern region, decked out with all the luxuriant charms of voluptuous Italy. On the contrary, though there are exceptions in some of the maritime provinces, yet, for the greater part, it is a stern, melancholy country, with rugged mountains, and long-sweeping plains, destitute of trees, and indescribably silent and lonesome, partaking of the savage and solitary character of Africa. What adds to this silence and loneliness is the absence of singing-birds, a natural consequence of the want of groves and hedges. The vulture and the eagle are seen wheeling about the mountain-cliffs, and soaring over the plains, and groups of shy bustards stalk about the heaths; but the myriads of smaller birds, which animate the whole face of other countries, are met with in but few provinces in Spain, and in those chiefly among the orchards and gardens which surround the habitations of man.

"In the interior provinces the traveller occasionally traverses great tracts cultivated with grain as far as the eye can reach, waving at times with verdure, at other times naked and sunburnt; but he looks round in vain for the hand that has tilled the soil. At length, he perceives some village on a steep hill or rugged crag, with mouldering battlements and ruined watchtower; a stronghold, in old times, against civil war or Moorish inroad; for the custom among the peasantry of congregating together for mutual protection is still kept up in most parts of Spain, in consequence of the maraudings of roving freebooters. But though a great part of Spain is deficient in the garniture of groves and forests, and the softer charms of ornamental cultivation, yet its scenery is noble in its severity, and in unison with the attributes of its people.

"There is something, too, in the sternly simple features of the Spanish landscape that impresses on the soul a feeling of sublimity. The immense plains of the Castiles and of La Mancha, extending as far as the eye can reach, derive an interest from their very nakedness and immensity, and possess, in some degree, the solemn grandeur of the ocean. In ranging over these boundless wastes, the eye catches sight here and there of a straggling herd of cattle attended by a lonely herdsman, motionless as a statue, with his long slender pike tapering up like a lance into the air; or beholds a long train of mules slowly moving along the waste, like a train of camels in the desert; or a single herdsman, armed with blunderbuss and stiletto, and

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