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out of the very cliffs of the main rock, with nothing, to appearance, but a soil or bed of stone for their nurture. But though some few naturalists may assert, that the nitre in the stone may afford a due proportion of nourishment to trees and vegetables, these, in my opinion, were all too beautiful, their bark, leaf, and flowers, carried too fair a face of health, to allow them even to be foster-children of rock and stone only.
Upon this hill, or, if you please, grove of rocks, are thirteen hermits' cells, the last of which lies near the very summit. You gradually advance to every one, from bottom to top, by a winding ascent; which to do otherwise would be impossible, by reason of the steepness. But though there is a winding ascent to every cell, as I have said, I would yet set at defiance the most observant, if a stranger, to find it feasible to visit them in order, if not precautioned to follow the poor borigo, or old ass, that, with panniers hanging on each side of him, mounts regularly and daily up to every particular cell. The manner is as follows:
In the panniers there are thirteen partitions; one for every cell. At the hour appointed, the servant having placed the panniers on his back, the ass, of himself, goes to the door of the convent at the foot of the hill, where every partition is supplied with their several allowances of victuals and wine; which, as soon as he has received, without an further attendance, or any guide, he mounts and takes the cells gradually in their due course, till he reaches the very uppermost; where, having discharged his duty, he descends the same way, lighter by the load he carried up. This the poor stupid drudge fails not to do, day and night, at the stated hours.
Two gentlemen who had joined me on the road, alike led by curiosity, seemed alike delighted, that the end of it was so well answered. I could easily discover in their countenances a satisfaction, which, if it did not give a sanction to my own, much confirmed it, while they seemed to allow with me, that these reverend solitaries were truly happy men: I then thought them such; and a thousand times since, reflecting within myself, have wished, bating their errors and superstitions, myself as happily stationed. For what can be wanting to a happy life, where all things necessary are provided without care; where the days, without anxiety or troubles, may be gratefully passed away, with an innocent variety of diverting and pleasing objects, and where their sleeps and slumbers are never interrupted with any thing more offensive than murmuring springs, natural cascades, or the various songs of birds.
But their courtesy to strangers is no less engaging than their solitude. A recluse life, for the fruits of it, generally speaking, produce moroseness; pharisaical pride too often sours the temper; and a mistaken opinion of their own merit too naturally
leads such men into a contempt of others; but, on the contrary, these good men (for I must call them as I thought them) seemed to me the very emblems of innocence.
In particular, I remember one of those reverend old men, when we were taking leave at the door of his cell, to which, out of his great civility, he accompanied us, finding by the air of our faces, as well as our expressions, that we thought ourselves pleasingly entertained, to divert us afresh, advanced a few paces from the door, when, giving a whistle with his mouth, a surprising flock of little birds, variegated, and of different colours, immediately flocked around him. Here you would see some alighting upon his shoulders, some on his awful beard, others took refuge on his snow-like head, and many feeding and more endeavouring to feed out of his mouth; each appearing emulous, and under an innocent contention, how best to express their love and respect to their no less pleased master.
Nor did the other cells labour under any deficiency of variety; every one boasting in some particular that might distinguish it in something equally agreeable and entertaining. Nevertheless, crystal springs spouting from the solid rock were, from the highest to the lowest, common to them all; and, in most of them they had little brass cocks, out of which, when turned, issued the most cool chrystalline flow of excellent pure water. And, yet what more affected me, and which I found near more cells than one, was the natural cascades of the same transparent element; these falling from one rock to another, in that warm, or rather hot climate, gave not more delightful astonishment to the eye, than they afforded grateful refreshment to the whole man. The streams falling from these, soften, from a rougher tumultuous noise, into such affecting murmurs, by distance, the intervention of groves, or neighbouring rocks, that it were impossible to see or hear them, and not be charmed.
Neither are those groves grateful only in a beautiful verdure, nature renders them otherwise delightful, in loading them with clusters of berries of a perfect scarlet colour, which, by a beautiful intermixture, strike the eye with additional delight. In short, it might perplex a person of the nicest taste, to distinguish or determine, whether the neatness of their cells within, or the beauteous varieties without, most exhaust his admiration, nor is the whole, in my opinion, a little advantaged by the frequent view of some of these pyramidical pillars, which seem, as weary of their own weight, to recline, and seek support from others in the neighbourhood.
When I mentioned the outside beauties of their cells, I must be thought to have forgotten to particularize the glorious prospects presented to your eye from every one of them, but espe
cially from that nearest the summit; a prospect by reason of the purity of the air, so extensive, and so very entertaining, that to dilate upon it properly to one that never saw it, would baffle credit; and naturally to depict it would confound invention. I therefore shall only say, that on the Mediterranean side, after an agreeable interval of some fair leagues, it will set at defiance the strongest optics; and although Barcelona bounds it on the land, the eyes are feasted with the delights of such an intervening champaign (where nature does not only smile but riot), that the sense must be very temperate, or very weak, that can be soon or easily satisfied.
Having thus taken a view of their refreshing springs, their grateful groves, and solitary shades under single trees, whose clusters proved that even rocks were grown fruitful; and having run over all the variety of pleasures in their several pretty cells, decently set off with gardens round them, equally fragrant and beautiful, we were brought down again to the convent, which, though on a small ascent, lies very near the foot of this terrestrial paradise, there to take a survey of their sumptuous hall, much more sumptuous chapel, and its adjoining repository, and feast our eyes with wonders of a different nature, and yet as entertaining as any, or all, we had seen before.
Immediately on our descent, a priest presented himself at the door of the convent, ready to show us the hidden rarities. And though, as I understood, hardly a day passes without the resort of some strangers, to gratify their curiosity with the wonders of the place, yet is there, on every such occasion, a superior concourse of natives ready to see over again, out of mere bigotry and superstition, what they have seen perhaps a hundred times before. I could not avoid taking notice, however, that the priest treated these constant visitants with much less ceremony, or more freedom, if you please, than any of the strangers of what nation soever; or, indeed, he seemed to take as much pains to disoblige those, as he did pleasure in obliging us.
The hall was neat, large, and stately; but being plain and unadorned with more than decent decorations suitable to such a society, I hastened to the other.
When we entered the chapel, our eyes were immediately attracted by the image of Our Lady of Montserrat (as they call it), which stands over the altar piece. It is about the natural stature, but as black and shining as ebony itself. Most would imagine it made of that material; though her retinue and adorers will allow nothing of the matter. On the contrary, tradition, which with them is, on some occasions, more than tantamount to religion, he assured them, and they relate it as an undoubted matter of fact, that her present colour, if I may so call it, proceeded
from her concealment, in the time of the Moors, between those two rocks on which the chapel is founded, and that her long lying in that dismal place changed her once lovely white into its present opposite.
As the custom of this place, (which is likewise allowed to be a distinguished piece of civility to strangers), when we approach the black lady (who, I should have told you, bears a child in her arms, but whether maternally black, or of the mulatto kind, I protest I did not mind), the priest, in great civility, offers you her arm to salute; at which juncture, I, like a true blue protestant, mistaking my word of command, fell foul of the fair lady's face. The displeasure in his countenance (for he took more notice of the rudeness than the good lady herself), convinced me of my error; however, as a greater token of his civility, having admitted no Spaniards along with my companions and me, it passed off the better; and his after civilities manifested that he was willing to reform my ignorance by his complaisance. To demonstrate which, upon my telling him that I had a set of beads which I must entreat him to consecrate for me, he readily, nay eagerly complied, and having hung them on her arm for about half or somewhat short of a whole minute, he returned me the holy baubles with a great deal of address, and most evident satisfaction. The reader, will be apt to admire this curious piece of superstition of mine, till I have told him, that even rigid protestants have, in this country, thought it but prudent to do the like; and likewise having so done, to carry them about their persons, or in their pockets; for experience has convinced us of the necessity of this most catholic precaution; since those who have here, travelling or otherwise come, to their ends, whether by accident, sickness, or the course of nature, not having these sanctifying seals found upon them, have ever been refused Christian burial, under a superstitious imagination, that the corpse of a heretic will infect every thing near it.
Two instances of this kind fell within my knowledge; one before I went to Montserrat, the other after. The first was of one Slunt, who had been bombadier at Monjouick, but being killed while we lay at Campilio, a priest, whom I advised upon the matter, told me, that if he should be buried where any corn grew, his body would not only be taken up again, but ill treated, in revenge of the destruction of so much corn, which the people would on no account be persuaded to touch; for which reason we took care to have him laid in a very deep grave, on a very barren spot of ground. The other was one Captain Bush, who was a prisoner with me on the surrender of Denia; who being sent, as I was afterwards told, to St. Clemente la Mancha, there died; and, as I was afterwards informed, though he was privately and by night,
buried in a corn field, he was taken out of his grave by these superstitious people, as soon as they could discover the place where his body was deposited. But I return to the convent at Mont
If you ascend from the lowest cell to the very summit, the last of all the thirteen, you will perceive a continual contention between pleasure and devotion; and at last, perhaps, find yourself at a loss to decide which deserves the pre-eminence: for you are not here to take cells in the vulgar acceptation, as the little dormitories of solitary monks; no, neatness, use, and contrivance, appear in every one of them; and though in an almost perfect equality, yet in such perfection, that you will find it difficult to discover in any one of them, any thing wanting to the pleasure of life. If you descend to the convent near the foot of that venerable hill, you may see more, much more of the riches of the world, but less, far less appearance of a celestial treasure. Perhaps it might be the sentiment of a heretic, but that awe and devotion, which I found in my attendant from cell to cell, grew languid, and was lost in mere empty bigotry, and foggy superstition when I came below.
Before I leave this emblem of the beatific vision, I must correct something like a mistake as to the poor borigo. I said at the beginning that his labour was daily, but the Sunday is to him a day of rest, as it is to the hermits, his masters, a day of reflection: for, to save the poor faithful brute the hard drudgery of that day, the thirteen hermits, if health permit, descend to their cœnobium, as they call it, that is, to the hall of the convent, where they dine in common with the monks of the order, who are Benedictines. After seven days variety of such innocent delight (the space allowed for the entertainment of strangers), I took my leave of this pacific hermitage, to pursue the more boisterous duties of my calling.
TAKING OF THE VEIL.
FROM THE SAME.
Being now pretty well recovered of my wounds, I was, by orrier of the Governor of Valencia, removed to Sainte Clemente de la Mancha, a town somewhat more inland, and consequently esteemed more secure, than a seaport. Here I remained under a sort of pilgrimage. To me as a stranger, devested of acquaintance or friend (for at that instant I was sole prisoner there), at first it appeared such, though in a very small compass of time I luckily found it made quite otherwise by an agreeable conversation. Sainte Clemente de la Mancha is rendered famous by the renowned Don Michael Cervantes, who, in his facetious but satiri