Obrázky na stránke

days of the honeymoon their last shilling, starting with beggary for their marriage settlements. The similar outbreaks and waste of an Irish wake are infinitely more rational, for the party is fortunately dead before he is ruined. Open house is kept, even the abhorred Busné are welcomed. This making a marriage feast, and inviting guests from the highways, is strictly oriental and very Jewish. Although poverty comes in at the door of the bridal chamber, love does not fly out of the window. To marry a regular gipsy scarcely seems a prudent speculation in the abstract; many a Christian gentleman might however do worse; for, to the honour of the gipsy and Jew be it remarked, that no people in the world can surpass them in the redeeming social virtues—and oriental, we might add-of parental, marital, filial and brotherly affection, of chastity and fidelity, of hospitality and charity towards their own poor.

However lascivious the behaviour of the female dancers, however fiery the passions which they excite, they themselves are like iced punch at the ball: they would resent to the death any attempt on their persons. However paradoxical it may appear, no women in the world, married or unmarried, are so corporeally chaste as the female gipsies. Those who have seen much of them in Spain need no Borrow to tell them this. The supposition to the contrary is one of the idle errors of the numerous class of very fine pens, who, it is a pity, will write about things which they do not understand. The smaller fry of travellers shoot their longest bows in all that would lead the reader to infer that they were most triumphant lady-killers. Let every one test these boasts of others by their own ill successes. Every puny scribbler, from Sir John Carr to Mr. Inglis, likes particularly to have a shot at the women of Spain: possibly in that climate all may not be icicles on Dian's temple, but the middling and lower classes certainly have nothing to fear in the comparison with those of the countries of their ignorant calumniators. Mr. Borrow has most correctly and justly stated, as regards the Spanish gipsies, that the men are not drunkards, nor the women harlots : there are no two “ characters which they “ detest so much, no appellations which convey greater execra« tion than these.” (Vol. i. p. 19.) “ However incapable they VOL. XIII.-No. XXVI.

2 E

“ seem to be of distinguishing good from evil, they know that “ chastity is a jewel of high price, and that conjugal fidelity is “ capable of occasionally flinging a sunshine even over the “ dreary hours of a life passed in the contempt of almost all 6 laws, whether human or divine.” (Vol. i. p. 332.) “ They are “ willing, indeed, to encourage licentiousness in others from a “ hope of gain. It is one thing to be a procuress, and another “ to be a harlot, though the former has assuredly no reason to “ complain if she be confounded with the latter.” (Vol.i.p.138.)

Valet quod sonat--they are taken at their word, being, as Louis XIV. said of his brother, “ Fanfaron des crimes qu'il ne commet jamais.” Superficial inquirers, who never go to the bottom of the subject, or apply the Baconian probe of experiment, take all this for granted; and the more as the ladies not only do not complain, but rather rejoice at their presumed frail character: it is by its very badness that they get on so well; they encourage the notion-springes to catch woodcocks; they hold out promise to the ear, and break it to the hope. They do not care a rush for the good opinion of the world—what people will think or say; they are not anxious to keep up appearances of innocence, being guilty-just the reverse. They are content to be blown upon, conscious of their own virtue; but they are not Christian ladies, who get very cautious after a trifling faux pas : they are of the sect of Roma. The gipsy child is taught from her cradle that lacha (corporeal chastity) is all and everything: the moral check is strengthened by physical contrivances--the dicle-which prevails likewise among Ethiopian slave-dealers. Mr. Borrow alludes to many ordeals and tests into which we cannot enter; they are strictly Jewish (Deut. xxii, 15). The child grows up with a horror of the white blood, which in her eyes is below that of the very beast. In the rare instance of an unchaste gipsy the offender is put to death without mercy by her male relations, as occurred among the Jews (Deut. xxi. 21).

Europeans can scarcely fathom the influence of caste: it combines the power of religion and fashion. Those who break the laws of God without scruple tremble at the idea of infringing those of caste, the invention of the devil : disobedience is the crime never to be forgiven, and which entails disgrace indelible, loss of social position, of self-respect, of all

that renders life worth having. The caprice of caste extends to mere trifles : take the case of pork, which is not unsavoury in itself, nor is the eating it an act of moral turpitude per se; yet throughout the vast regions of Asia the porcivorous propensities of Europeans are what most offend and disgust: a toadeater is not less an object of universal contempt and avoidance.

The Zincali are by no means a sensual people, and both sexes are of a remarkably cold temperament, although the metaphorically lava-blood of India flows in their veins. Their ruling passion is theft, which, like money-getting among the Jews, absorbs minor passions. The repugnance of a Gitána to a Busné suitor is thus forcibly expressed in one of the many instances cited by Mr. Borrow : “ You are a fool, foreigner ! “ you know nothing of the ways of our people : there is a gulf “ between us which neither can pass.” (Vol. i. p. 349.) The parents consider it next to impossible that their daughters should be seduced by any Busné, and trust them alone in their company, while they observe many curious precautions against suitors of their own caste. Mr. Borrow mentions one case of an intermarriage between a Gitána and a Spaniard. He is visited at Madrid by a patriot and liberal, one Chaleco of Valdepeñas. We cannot stain our pages with the confessions of the cold blooded atrocities perpetrated on women and children by this Christino philanthropist. This reformer was a hybrid: his father was a Spaniard :

“ How came your mother,' inquired Mr. Borrow, ‘being a good calli, to marry one of a different blood ?'Chaleco. It was no fault of hers; there was no remedy. In her infancy she lost her parents, who were executed, and she was abandoned by all, till my father, taking compassion on her, brought her up and educated her : at last he made her his wife, though three times her age. She, however, remembered her blood, and hated my father, and taught me to hate him likewise, and avoid him. When a boy I used to stroll about the plains, that I might not see my father; and my father would follow me, and beg me to look upon him, and would ask me what I wanted, and I would reply, Father, the only thing I want is to see you dead.'”-Vol.i. p. 294.

It is fortunate for humanity that gipsy parents discountenance alliances which produce such upas fruit as Chaleco. Mr. Borrow found at Tarifa an isolated Zincalo family : the mother intended sending her son to Cordova, to take a wife

of the blood, as Jacob was sent to Padan-Aram. She preferred seeing her children “ sold to the Moors rather than married to the Busné!” This same affectionate mother had been entrusted with a sick child of a family of consequence: she inflicted a private injury on the poor infant, which grew up to be an idiot. The vulgar idea that gipsies kidnap children, to bring them up as their own, is set at rest by Mr. Borrow; it is loaves, not babies, that are scarce among them : they loathe the tender pledges of Busné loves like the young of serpents. Whenever they did steal children in Spain, it was to sell them as slaves to the Moors; in England, to the planters on the Delaware. They are devotedly attached to their own offspring; for even “ thugs and gipsies,” says Mr. Borrow, “ have their moments of gentleness.” This, we suspect, is a permanent, not a capricious feeling. A lioness robbed of her whelps is a favourite image in modern poetry, and expresses maternal love and despair. She is not the only mother who dotes on what the rest of the world thinks cubs. “ Dice el sapo a sus chiquitos, ' ven aca, mis angelitos !'”– the old toad says to its toadlings, “come hither, my cherubs !

—too beautiful to live.” If true love, connubial endearments, and the social affections did not exist among stoats, vipers, Laras, De Cliffords, sentimental pirates and melodious highwaymen, their races would become extinct. There is honour among thieves. The gipsies are like a republic of wolves, who do not eat each other up, except when very hard pressed. The war which mankind wages against them concentrates their gentle feelings on the few beings whom they do not hate, and by whom they are not hated. Their affections, from never going outside their tents, are very domestic. They are so unaccustomed to kindness from strangers that they bite those who would stroke them, like curs, who, from long habits of being beaten, cannot disassociate the idea of the hand from a stick. In their own domestic kennel these mistakes do not occur; they wag their tails and lick each other very like the rest of Spanish mankind.

A love for the song, dance and music is, as we have seen, common to the black and the white blood. The Zincali, although they cannot read or write, have, like the bulk of Spaniards, who are in the same predicament, a sort of float

ing unwritten literature ; it assumes the oriental and Spanish form of tales and ballads. “ It is in their songs,” says Mr. Borrow, “ that the character of a people is to be read with the greatest certainty.” Now that of the gipsies is not undeniable, and the exponent smacks of the Newgate Calendar put into verse, or of Captain Macheath's melodies when singing in fetters. Thieves by instinct, of course they are plagiarists, and have borrowed from the Castilian muse both ideas and prosody, as naturally as they would have filched her linen from a hedge.

Our author has made a vast collection of these compositions. He prints a hundred and odd stanzas, accompanying the originals with a translation; these elegant extracts are unique in their kind, and curious on that account. We are thankful for what he has given us, and still more for what he has not. The erratic couplets have little connexion with each other; the quality of the gipsy mind is wandering: it cannot be fixed, or dwell long on any one subject. They scarcely can comprehend an abstract idea; they are creatures of the impulse of the moment, without method, perseverance, or continuity, except in caste. At the same time, it must be remembered that these stanzas never formed parts of a whole, like the rhapsodies of Homer; much of this want of connexion is attributable to the compiler, not to the composers. Mr. Borrow has dotted down these catches and snatches just where they were poured forth. His honey is the produce of innumerable weeds and flowers; he has strung his pearls on one string hap-hazard, and with no reference to their individual shape or size. The couplets closely resemble in form and style the seguedillas, or ballads of Spain, which are now familiar to all men as those in our own streets. These gipsy songs are mostly extemporaneous, struck off in ventas, and perishing at their birth; they, to use a pretty metaphor of their own," are countless as sparks from the forge; more than a “ hundred lovely daughters I see produced at one time, fiery as “ roses; in a moment they expire gracefully circumvolving."

Those flowerets, which Mr. Borrow will not willingly let die, are not unlike our popular ballads which are sung about assize-time; they run upon cattle-lifting; the new drop, stabbing a busné under the fifth rib, or, gipsicè, “ pouring forth

« PredošláPokračovať »