ROSINANTE TO THE ROAD AGAIN
JOHN DOS PASSOS
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Books by John Dos Passos
NOVELS: Three Soldiers One Man's Initiation
ESSAYS: Rosinante to the Road Again
POEMS: A Pushcart at the Curb (In Preparation)
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ROSINANTE TO THE ROAD AGAIN
JOHN DOS PASSOS
George H. Doran Company Publishers New York
Copyright, 1922, By George H. Doran Company
Printed in the United States of America
I: A Gesture and a Quest, 9 II: The Donkey Boy, 24 III: The Baker of Almorox, 47 IV: Talk by the Road, 71 V: A Novelist of Revolution, 80 VI: Talk by the Road, 101 VII: Cordova No Longer of the Caliphs, 104 VIII: Talk by the Road, 115 IX: An Inverted Midas, 120 X: Talk by the Road, 133 XI: Antonio Machado; Poet of Castile, 140 XII: A Catalan Poet, 159 XIII: Talk by the Road, 176 XIV: Benavente's Madrid, 182 XV: Talk by the Road, 196 XVI: A Funeral in Madrid, 202 XVII: Toledo, 230
ROSINANTE TO THE ROAD AGAIN
I: A Gesture and a Quest
Telemachus had wandered so far in search of his father he had quite forgotten what he was looking for. He sat on a yellow plush bench in the cafe El Oro del Rhin, Plaza Santa Ana, Madrid, swabbing up with a bit of bread the last smudges of brown sauce off a plate of which the edges were piled with the dismembered skeleton of a pigeon. Opposite his plate was a similar plate his companion had already polished. Telemachus put the last piece of bread into his mouth, drank down a glass of beer at one spasmodic gulp, sighed, leaned across the table and said:
"I wonder why I'm here."
"Why anywhere else than here?" said Lyaeus, a young man with hollow cheeks and slow-moving hands, about whose mouth a faint pained smile was continually hovering, and he too drank down his beer.
At the end of a perspective of white marble tables, faces thrust forward over yellow plush cushions under twining veils of tobacco smoke, four German women on a little dais were playing Tannhauser. Smells of beer, sawdust, shrimps, roast pigeon.
"Do you know Jorge Manrique? That's one reason, Tel," the other man continued slowly. With one hand he gestured to the waiter for more beer, the other he waved across his face as if to brush away the music; then he recited, pronouncing the words haltingly:
'Recuerde el alma dormida, Avive el seso y despierte Contemplando Como se pasa la vida, Como se viene la muerte Tan callando: Cuan presto se va el placer, Como despues de acordado Da dolor, Como a nuestro parecer Cualquier tiempo pasado Fue mejor.'
"It's always death," said Telemachus, "but we must go on."
It had been raining. Lights rippled red and orange and yellow and green on the clean paving-stones. A cold wind off the Sierra shrilled through clattering streets. As they walked, the other man was telling how this Castilian nobleman, courtier, man-at-arms, had shut himself up when his father, the Master of Santiago, died and had written this poem, created this tremendous rhythm of death sweeping like a wind over the world. He had never written anything else. They thought of him in the court of his great dust-colored mansion at Ocana, where the broad eaves were full of a cooing of pigeons and the wide halls had dark rafters painted with arabesques in vermilion, in a suit of black velvet, writing at a table under a lemon tree. Down the sun-scarred street, in the cathedral that was building in those days, full of a smell of scaffolding and stone dust, there must have stood a tremendous catafalque where lay with his arms around him the Master of Santiago; in the carved seats of the choirs the stout canons intoned an endless growling litany; at the sacristy door, the flare of the candles flashing occasionally on the jewels of his mitre, the bishop fingered his crosier restlessly, asking his favorite choir-boy from time to time why Don Jorge had not arrived. And messengers must have come running to Don Jorge, telling him the service was on the point of beginning, and he must have waved them away with a grave gesture of a long white hand, while in his mind the distant sound of chanting, the jingle of the silver bit of his roan horse stamping nervously where he was tied to a twined Moorish column, memories of cavalcades filing with braying of trumpets and flutter of crimson damask into conquered towns, of court ladies dancing, and the noise of pigeons in the eaves, drew together like strings plucked in succession on a guitar into a great wave of rhythm in which his life was sucked away into this one poem in praise of death.
Nuestras vidas son los rios Que van a dar en la mar, Que es el morir....
Telemachus was saying the words over softly to himself as they went into the theatre. The orchestra was playing a Sevillana; as they found their seats they caught glimpses beyond people's heads and shoulders of a huge woman with a comb that pushed the tip of her mantilla a foot and a half above her head, dancing with ponderous dignity. Her dress was pink flounced with lace; under it the bulge of breasts and belly and three chins quaked with every thump of her tiny heels on the stage. As they sat down she retreated bowing like a full-rigged ship in a squall. The curtain fell, the theatre became very still; next was Pastora.
Strumming of a guitar, whirring fast, dry like locusts in a hedge on a summer day. Pauses that catch your blood and freeze it suddenly still like the rustling of a branch in silent woods at night. A gipsy in a red sash is playing, slouched into a cheap cane chair, behind him a faded crimson curtain. Off stage heels beaten on the floor catch up the rhythm with tentative interest, drowsily; then suddenly added, sharp click of fingers snapped in time; the rhythm slows, hovers like a bee over a clover flower. A little taut sound of air sucked in suddenly goes down the rows of seats. With faintest tapping of heels, faintest snapping of the fingers of a brown hand held over her head, erect, wrapped tight in yellow shawl where the embroidered flowers make a splotch of maroon over one breast, a flecking of green and purple over shoulders and thighs, Pastora Imperio comes across the stage, quietly, unhurriedly.
In the mind of Telemachus the words return:
Como se viene la muerte Tan callando.
Her face is brown, with a pointed chin; her eyebrows that nearly meet over her nose rise in a flattened "A" towards the fervid black gleam of her hair; her lips are pursed in a half-smile as if she were stifling a secret. She walks round the stage slowly, one hand at her waist, the shawl tight over her elbow, her thighs lithe and restless, a panther in a cage. At the back of the stage she turns suddenly, advances; the snapping of her fingers gets loud, insistent; a thrill whirrs through the guitar like a covey of partridges scared in a field. Red heels tap threateningly.
Decidme: la hermosura, La gentil frescura y tez De la cara El color y la blancura, Cuando viene la viejez Cual se para?
She is right at the footlights; her face, brows drawn together into a frown, has gone into shadow; the shawl flames, the maroon flower over her breast glows like a coal. The guitar is silent, her fingers go on snapping at intervals with dreadful foreboding. Then she draws herself up with a deep breath, the muscles of her belly go taut under the tight silk wrinkles of the shawl, and she is off again, light, joyful, turning indulgent glances towards the audience, as a nurse might look in the eyes of a child she has unintentionally frightened with a too dreadful fairy story.
The rhythm of the guitar has changed again; her shawl is loose about her, the long fringe flutters; she walks with slow steps, in pomp, a ship decked out for a festival, a queen in plumes and brocade....
?Que se hicieron las damas, Sus tocados, sus vestidos, Sus olores? ?Que se hicieron las llamas De los fuegos encendidos De amadores?
And she has gone, and the gipsy guitar-player is scratching his neck with a hand the color of tobacco, while the guitar rests against his legs. He shows all his teeth in a world-engulfing yawn.
When they came out of the theatre, the streets were dry and the stars blinked in the cold wind above the houses. At the curb old women sold chestnuts and little ragged boys shouted the newspapers.
"And now do you wonder, Tel, why you are here?"
They went into a cafe and mechanically ordered beer. The seats were red plush this time and much worn. All about them groups of whiskered men leaning over tables, astride chairs, talking.
"It's the gesture that's so overpowering; don't you feel it in your arms? Something sudden and tremendously muscular."
"When Belmonte turned his back suddenly on the bull and walked away dragging the red cloak on the ground behind him I felt it," said Lyaeus.
"That gesture, a yellow flame against maroon and purple cadences ... an instant swagger of defiance in the midst of a litany to death the all-powerful. That is Spain.... Castile at any rate."
"Is 'swagger' the right word?"
"Find a better."
"For the gesture a medieval knight made when he threw his mailed glove at his enemy's feet or a rose in his lady's window, that a mule-driver makes when he tosses off a glass of aguardiente, that Pastora Imperio makes dancing.... Word! Rubbish!" And Lyaeus burst out laughing. He laughed deep in his throat with his head thrown back.
Telemachus was inclined to be offended.
"Did you notice how extraordinarily near she kept to the rhythm of Jorge Manrique?" he asked coldly.
"Of course. Of course," shouted Lyaeus, still laughing.
The waiter came with two mugs of beer.
"Take it away," shouted Lyaeus. "Who ordered beer? Bring something strong, champagne. Drink the beer yourself."
The waiter was scrawny and yellow, with bilious eyes, but he could not resist the laughter of Lyaeus. He made a pretense of drinking the beer.
Telemachus was now very angry. Though he had forgotten his quest and the maxims of Penelope, there hovered in his mind a disquieting thought of an eventual accounting for his actions before a dimly imagined group of women with inquisitive eyes. This Lyaeus, he thought to himself, was too free and easy. Then there came suddenly to his mind the dancer standing tense as a caryatid before the footlights, her face in shadow, her shawl flaming yellow; the strong modulations of her torso seemed burned in his flesh. He drew a deep breath. His body tightened like a catapult.
"Oh to recapture that gesture," he muttered. The vague inquisitorial woman-figures had sunk fathoms deep in his mind.
Lyaeus handed him a shallow tinkling glass.
"There are all gestures," he said.
Outside the plate-glass window a countryman passed singing. His voice dwelt on a deep trembling note, rose high, faltered, skidded down the scale, then rose suddenly, frighteningly like a skyrocket, into a new burst of singing.
"There it is again," Telemachus cried. He jumped up and ran out on the street. The broad pavement was empty. A bitter wind shrilled among arc-lights white like dead eyes.
"Idiot," Lyaeus said between gusts of laughter when Telemachus sat down again. "Idiot Tel. Here you'll find it." And despite Telemachus's protestations he filled up the glasses. A great change had come over Lyaeus. His face looked fuller and flushed. His lips were moist and very red. There was an occasional crisp curl in the black hair about his temples.
And so they sat drinking a long while.
At last Telemachus got unsteadily to his feet.
"I can't help it.... I must catch that gesture, formulate it, do it. It is tremendously, inconceivably, unendingly important to me."
"Now you know why you're here," said Lyaeus quietly.
"Why are you here?"
"To drink," said Lyaeus.
"To catch that gesture, Lyaeus," said Telemachus in an over-solemn voice.
"Like a comedy professor with a butterfly-net," roared Lyaeus. His laughter so filled the cafe that people at far-away tables smiled without knowing it.
"It's burned into my blood. It must be formulated, made permanent."
"Killed," said Lyaeus with sudden seriousness; "better drink it with your wine."
Silent they strode down an arcaded street. Cupolas, voluted baroque facades, a square tower, the bulge of a market building, tile roofs, chimneypots, ate into the star-dusted sky to the right and left of them, until in a great gust of wind they came out on an empty square, where were few gas-lamps; in front of them was a heavy arch full of stars, and Orion sprawling above it. Under the arch a pile of rags asked for alms whiningly. The jingle of money was crisp in the cold air.
"Where does this road go?"
"Toledo," said the beggar, and got to his feet. He was an old man, bearded, evil-smelling.
"Thank you.... We have just seen Pastora," said Lyaeus jauntily.
"Ah, Pastora!... The last of the great dancers," said the beggar, and for some reason he crossed himself.
The road was frosty and crunched silkily underfoot.
Lyaeus walked along shouting lines from the poem of Jorge Manrique.
'Como se pasa la vida Como se viene la muerte Tan callando: Cuan presto se va el placer Como despues de acordado Da dolor, Como a nuestro parecer Cualquier tiempo pasado Fue mejor.'
"I bet you, Tel, they have good wine in Toledo."
The road hunched over a hill. They turned and saw Madrid cut out of darkness against the starlight. Before them sown plains, gulches full of mist, and the tremulous lights on many carts that jogged along, each behind three jingling slow mules. A cock crowed. All at once a voice burst suddenly in swaggering tremolo out of the darkness of the road beneath them, rising, rising, then fading off, then flaring up hotly like a red scarf waved on a windy day, like the swoop of a hawk, like a rocket intruding among the stars.
"Butterfly net, you old fool!" Lyaeus's laughter volleyed across the frozen fields.
Telemachus answered in a low voice:
"Let's walk faster."
He walked with his eyes on the road. He could see in the darkness, Pastora, wrapped in the yellow shawl with the splotch of maroon-colored embroidery moulding one breast, stand tremulous with foreboding before the footlights, suddenly draw in her breath, and turn with a great exultant gesture back into the rhythm of her dance. Only the victorious culminating instant of the gesture was blurred to him. He walked with long strides along the crackling road, his muscles aching for memory of it.
II: The Donkey Boy
Where the husbandman's toil and strife Little varies to strife and toil: But the milky kernel of life, With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil!
The path zigzagged down through the olive trees between thin chortling glitter of irrigation ditches that occasionally widened into green pools, reed-fringed, froggy, about which bristled scrub oleanders. Through the shimmer of olive leaves all about I could see the great ruddy heave of the mountains streaked with the emerald of millet-fields, and above, snowy shoulders against a vault of indigo, patches of wood cut out hard as metal in the streaming noon light. Tinkle of a donkey-bell below me, then at the turn of a path the donkey's hindquarters, mauve-grey, neatly clipped in a pattern of diamonds and lozenges, and a tail meditatively swishing as he picked his way among the stones, the head as yet hidden by the osier baskets of the pack. At the next turn I skipped ahead of the donkey and walked with the arriero, a dark boy in tight blue pants and short grey tunic cut to the waist, who had the strong cheek-bones, hawk nose and slender hips of an Arab, who spoke an aspirated Andalusian that sounded like Arabic.
We greeted each other cordially as travellers do in mountainous places where the paths are narrow. We talked about the weather and the wind and the sugar mills at Motril and women and travel and the vintage, struggling all the while like drowning men to understand each other's lingo. When it came out that I was an American and had been in the war, he became suddenly interested; of course, I was a deserter, he said, clever to get away. There'd been two deserters in his town a year ago, Alemanes; perhaps friends of mine. It was pointed out that I and the Alemanes had been at different ends of the gunbarrel. He laughed. What did that matter? Then he said several times, "Que burro la guerra, que burro la guerra." I remonstrated, pointing to the donkey that was following us with dainty steps, looking at us with a quizzical air from under his long eyelashes. Could anything be wiser than a burro?
He laughed again, twitching back his full lips to show the brilliance of tightly serried teeth, stopped in his tracks, and turned to look at the mountains. He swept a long brown hand across them. "Look," he said, "up there is the Alpujarras, the last refuge of the kings of the Moors; there are bandits up there sometimes. You have come to the right place; here we are free men."
The donkey scuttled past us with a derisive glance out of the corner of an eye and started skipping from side to side of the path, cropping here and there a bit of dry grass. We followed, the arriero telling how his brother would have been conscripted if the family had not got together a thousand pesetas to buy him out. That was no life for a man. He spat on a red stone. They'd never catch him, he was sure of that. The army was no life for a man.
In the bottom of the valley was a wide stream, which we forded after some dispute as to who should ride the donkey, the donkey all the while wrinkling his nose with disgust at the coldness of the speeding water and the sliminess of the stones. When we came out on the broad moraine of pebbles the other side of the stream we met a lean blackish man with yellow horse-teeth, who was much excited when he heard I was an American.
"America is the world of the future," he cried and gave me such a slap on the back I nearly tumbled off the donkey on whose rump I was at that moment astride.
"En America no se divierte," muttered the arriero, kicking his feet that were cold from the ford into the burning saffron dust of the road.
The donkey ran ahead kicking at pebbles, bucking, trying to shake off the big pear-shaped baskets of osier he had either side of his pack saddle, delighted with smooth dryness after so much water and such tenuous stony roads. The three of us followed arguing, the sunlight beating wings of white flame about us.
"In America there is freedom," said the blackish man, "there are no rural guards; roadmenders work eight hours and wear silk shirts and earn ... un dineral." The blackish man stopped, quite out of breath from his grappling with infinity. Then he went on: "Your children are educated free, no priests, and at forty every man-jack owns an automobile."
"Ca," said the arriero.
"Si, hombre," said the blackish man.
For a long while the arriero walked along in silence, watching his toes bury themselves in dust at each step. Then he burst out, spacing his words with conviction: "Ca, en America no se hase na' a que trabahar y de'cansar.... Not on your life, in America they don't do anything except work and rest so's to get ready to work again. That's no life for a man. People don't enjoy themselves there. An old sailor from Malaga who used to fish for sponges told me, and he knew. It's not gold people need, but bread and wine and ... life. They don't do anything there except work and rest so they'll be ready to work again...."
Two thoughts jostled in my mind as he spoke; I seemed to see red-faced gentlemen in knee breeches, dog's-ear wigs askew over broad foreheads, reading out loud with unction the phrases, "inalienable rights ... pursuit of happiness," and to hear the cadence out of Meredith's The Day of the Daughter of Hades:
Where the husbandman's toil and strife Little varies to strife and toil: But the milky kernel of life, With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil!
The donkey stopped in front of a little wineshop under a trellis where dusty gourd-leaves shut out the blue and gold dazzle of sun and sky.
"He wants to say, 'Have a little drink, gentlemen,'" said the blackish man.
In the greenish shadow of the wineshop a smell of anise and a sound of water dripping. When he had smacked his lips over a small cup of thick yellow wine he pointed at the arriero. "He says people don't enjoy life in America."
"But in America people are very rich," shouted the barkeeper, a beet-faced man whose huge girth was bound in a red cotton sash, and he made a gesture suggestive of coins, rubbing thumb and forefinger together.
Everybody roared derision at the arriero. But he persisted and went out shaking his head and muttering "That's no life for a man."
As we left the wineshop where the blackish man was painting with broad strokes the legend of the West, the arriero explained to me almost tearfully that he had not meant to speak ill of my country, but to explain why he did not want to emigrate. While he was speaking we passed a cartload of yellow grapes that drenched us in jingle of mulebells and in dizzying sweetness of bubbling ferment. A sombre man with beetling brows strode at the mule's head; in the cart, brown feet firmly planted in the steaming slush of grapes, flushed face tilted towards the ferocious white sun, a small child with a black curly pate rode in triumph, shouting, teeth flashing as if to bite into the sun.
"What you mean is," said I to the arriero, "that this is the life for a man."
He tossed his head back in a laugh of approval.
"Something that's neither work nor getting ready to work?"
"That's it," he answered, and cried, "arrh he" to the donkey.
We hastened our steps. My sweaty shirt bellied suddenly in the back as a cool wind frisked about us at the corner of the road.
"Ah, it smells of the sea," said the arriero. "We'll see the sea from the next hill."
That night as I stumbled out of the inn door in Motril, overfull of food and drink, the full moon bulged through the arches of the cupola of the pink and saffron church. Everywhere steel-green shadows striped with tangible moonlight. As I sat beside my knapsack in the plaza, groping for a thought in the bewildering dazzle of the night, three disconnected mules, egged on by a hoarse shouting, jingled out of the shadow. When they stopped with a jerk in the full moon-glare beside the fountain, it became evident that they were attached to a coach, a spidery coach tilted forward as if it were perpetually going down hill; from inside smothered voices like the strangled clucking of fowls being shipped to market in a coop.
On the driver's seat one's feet were on the shafts and one had a view of every rag and shoelace the harness was patched with. Creaking, groaning, with wabbling of wheels, grumble of inside passengers, cracking of whip and long strings of oaths from the driver, the coach lurched out of town and across a fat plain full of gurgle of irrigation ditches, shrilling of toads, falsetto rustle of broad leaves of the sugar cane. Occasionally the gleam of the soaring moon on banana leaves and a broad silver path on the sea. Landwards the hills like piles of ash in the moonlight, and far away a cloudy inkling of mountains.
Beside me, mouth open, shouting rich pedigrees at the leading mule, Cordovan hat on the back of his head, from under which sprouted a lock of black hair that hung between his eyes over his nose and made him look like a goblin, the driver bounced and squirmed and kicked at the flanks of the mules that roamed drunkenly from side to side of the uneven road. Down into a gulch, across a shingle, up over a plank bridge, then down again into the bed of the river I had forded that morning with my friend the arriero, along a beach with fishing boats and little huts where the fishermen slept; then barking of dogs, another bridge and we roared and crackled up a steep village street to come to a stop suddenly, catastrophically, in front of a tavern in the main square.
"We are late," said the goblin driver, turning to me suddenly, "I have not slept for four nights, dancing, every night dancing."
He sucked the air in through his teeth and stretched out his arms and legs in the moonlight. "Ah, women ... women," he added philosophically. "Have you a cigarette?"
"Ah, la juventud," said the old man who had brought the mailbag. He looked up at us scratching his head. "It's to enjoy. A moment, a momentito, and it's gone! Old men work in the day time, but young men work at night.... Ay de mi," and he burst into a peal of laughter.
And as if some one were whispering them, the words of Jorge Manrique sifted out of the night:
?Que se hizo el Rey Don Juan? Los infantes de Aragon ?Que se hicieron? Que fue de tanto galan, Que fue de tanta invencion, Como truxeron?
Everybody went into the tavern, from which came a sound of singing and of clapping in time, and as hearty a tinkle of glasses and banging on tables as might have come out of the Mermaid in the days of the Virgin Queen. Outside the moon soared, soared brilliant, a greenish blotch on it like the time-stain on a chased silver bowl on an altar. The broken lion's head of the fountain dribbled one tinkling stream of quicksilver. On the seawind came smells of rotting garbage and thyme burning in hearths and jessamine flowers. Down the street geraniums in a window smouldered in the moonlight; in the dark above them the merest contour of a face, once the gleam of two eyes; opposite against the white wall standing very quiet a man looking up with dilated nostrils—el amor.
As the coach jangled its lumbering unsteady way out of town, our ears still throbbed with the rhythm of the tavern, of hard brown hands clapped in time, of heels thumping on oak floors. From the last house of the village a man hallooed. With its noise of cupboards of china overturned the coach crashed to stillness. A wiry, white-faced man with a little waxed moustache like the springs of a mousetrap climbed on the front seat, while burly people heaved quantities of corded trunks on behind.
"How late, two hours late," the man spluttered, jerking his checked cap from side to side. "Since this morning nothing to eat but two boiled eggs.... Think of that. !Que incultura! !Que pueblo indecente! All day only two boiled eggs."
"I had business in Motril, Don Antonio," said the goblin driver grinning.
"Business!" cried Don Antonio, laughing squeakily, "and after all what a night!"
Something impelled me to tell Don Antonio the story of King Mycerinus of Egypt that Herodotus tells, how hearing from an oracle he would only live ten years, the king called for torches and would not sleep, so crammed twenty years' living into ten. The goblin driver listened in intervals between his hoarse investigations of the private life of the grandmother of the leading mule.
Don Antonio slapped his thigh and lit a cigarette and cried, "In Andalusia we all do that, don't we, Paco?"
"Yes, sir," said the goblin driver, nodding his head vigorously.
"That is lo flamenco," cried Don Antonio. "The life of Andalusia is lo flamenco."
The moon has begun to lose foothold in the black slippery zenith. We are hurtling along a road at the top of a cliff; below the sea full of unexpected glitters, lace-edged, swishing like the silk dress of a dancer. The goblin driver rolls from side to side asleep. The check cap is down over the little man's face so that not even his moustaches are to be seen. All at once the leading mule, taken with suicidal mania, makes a sidewise leap for the cliff-edge. Crumbling of gravel, snap of traces, shouts, uproar inside. Some one has managed to yank the mule back on her hind quarters. In the sea below the shadow of a coach totters at the edge of the cliff's shadow.
"Hija de puta," cries the goblin driver, jumping to the ground.
Don Antonio awakes with a grunt and begins to explain querulously that he has had nothing to eat all day but two boiled eggs. The teeth of the goblin driver flash white flame as he hangs wreath upon wreath of profanity about the trembling, tugging mules. With a terrific rattling jerk the coach sways to the safe side of the road. From inside angry heads are poked out like the heads of hens out of an overturned coop. Don Antonio turns to me and shouts in tones of triumph: "?Que flamenco, eh?"
When we got to Almunecar Don Antonio, the goblin driver, and I sat at a little table outside the empty Casino. A waiter appeared from somewhere with wine and coffee and tough purple ham and stale bread and cigarettes. Over our heads dusty palm-fronds trembled in occasional faint gusts off the sea. The rings on Don Antonio's thin fingers glistened in the light of the one tired electric light bulb that shone among palpitating mottoes above us as he explained to me the significance of lo flamenco.
The tough swaggering gesture, the quavering song well sung, the couplet neatly capped, the back turned to the charging bull, the mantilla draped with exquisite provocativeness; all that was lo flamenco. "On this coast, senor ingles, we don't work much, we are dirty and uninstructed, but by God we live. Why the poor people of the towns, d'you know what they do in summer? They hire a fig-tree and go and live under it with their dogs and their cats and their babies, and they eat the figs as they ripen and drink the cold water from the mountains, and man-alive they are happy. They fear no one and they are dependent on no one; when they are young they make love and sing to the guitar, and when they are old they tell stories and bring up their children. You have travelled much; I have travelled little—Madrid, never further,—but I swear to you that nowhere in the world are the women lovelier or is the land richer or the cookery more perfect than in this vega of Almunecar.... If only the wine weren't quite so heavy...."
"Then you don't want to go to America?"
"!Hombre por dios! Sing us a song, Paco.... He's a Galician, you see."
The goblin driver grinned and threw back his head.
"Go to the end of the world, you'll find a Gallego," he said. Then he drank down his wine, rubbed his mouth on the back of his hand, and started droningly:
'Si quieres qu'el carro cante mojale y dejel'en rio que despues de buen moja'o canta com'un silbi'o.'
(If you want a cart to sing, wet it and soak it in the river, for when it's well soaked it'll sing like a locust.)
"Hola," cried Don Antonio, "go on."
'A mi me gusta el blanco, !viva lo blanco! !muera lo negro! porque el negro es muy triste. Yo soy alegre. Yo no lo quiero.'
(I like white; hooray for white, death to black. Because black is very sad, and I am happy, I don't like it.)
"That's it," cried Don Antonio excitedly. "You people from the north, English, Americans, Germans, whatnot, you like black. You like to be sad. I don't."
"'Yo soy alegre. Yo no lo quiero.'"
The moon had sunk into the west, flushed and swollen. The east was beginning to bleach before the oncoming sun. Birds started chirping above our heads. I left them, but as I lay in bed, I could hear the hoarse voice of the goblin driver roaring out:
'A mi me gusta el blanco, !viva lo blanco! !muera lo negro!'
At Nerja in an arbor of purple ipomoeas on a red jutting cliff over the beach where brown children were bathing, there was talk again of lo flamenco.
"In Spain," my friend Don Diego was saying, "we live from the belly and loins, or else from the head and heart: between Don Quixote the mystic and Sancho Panza the sensualist there is no middle ground. The lowest Panza is lo flamenco."
"But you do live."
"In dirt, disease, lack of education, bestiality.... Half of us are always dying of excess of food or the lack of it."
"What do you want?"
"Education, organization, energy, the modern world."
I told him what the donkey-boy had said of America on the road down from the Alpujarras, that in America they did nothing but work and rest so as to be able to work again. And America was the modern world.
And lo flamenco is neither work nor getting ready to work.
That evening San Miguel went out to fetch the Virgin of Sorrows from a roadside oratory and brought her back into town in procession with candles and skyrockets and much chanting, and as the swaying cone-shaped figure carried on the shoulders of six sweating men stood poised at the entrance to the plaza where all the girls wore jessamine flowers in the blackness of their hair, all waved their hats and cried, "!Viva la Virgen de las Angustias!" And the Virgin and San Miguel both had to bow their heads to get in the church door, and the people followed them into the church crying "!Viva!" so that the old vaults shivered in the tremulous candlelight and the shouting. Some people cried for water, as rain was about due and everything was very dry, and when they came out of the church they saw a thin cloud like a mantilla of white lace over the moon, so they went home happy.
Wherever they went through the narrow well-swept streets, lit by an occasional path of orange light from a window, the women left behind them long trails of fragrance from the jessamine flowers in their hair.
Don Diego and I walked a long while on the seashore talking of America and the Virgin and a certain soup called ajo blanco and Don Quixote and lo flamenco. We were trying to decide what was the peculiar quality of the life of the people in that rich plain (vega they call it) between the mountains of the sea. Walking about the country elevated on the small grass-grown levees of irrigation ditches, the owners of the fields we crossed used, simply because we were strangers, to offer us a glass of wine or a slice of watermelon. I had explained to my friend that in his modern world of America these same people would come out after us with shotguns loaded with rock salt. He answered that even so, the old order was changing, and that as there was nothing else but to follow the procession of industrialism it behooved Spaniards to see that their country forged ahead instead of being, as heretofore, dragged at the tail of the parade.
"And do you think it's leading anywhere, this endless complicating of life?"
"Of course," he answered.
"Where does anything lead? At least it leads further than lo flamenco."
"But couldn't the point be to make the way significant?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Work," he said.
We had come to a little nook in the cliffs where fishing boats were drawn up with folded wings like ducks asleep. We climbed a winding path up the cliff. Pebbles scuttled underfoot; our hands were torn by thorny aromatic shrubs. Then we came out in a glen that cut far into the mountains, full of the laughter of falling water and the rustle of sappy foliage. Seven stilted arches of an aqueduct showed white through the canebrakes inland. Fragrances thronged about us; the smell of dry thyme-grown uplands, of rich wet fields, of goats, and jessamine and heliotrope, and of water cold from the snowfields running fast in ditches. Somewhere far off a donkey was braying. Then, as the last groan of the donkey faded, a man's voice rose suddenly out of the dark fields, soaring, yearning on taut throat-cords, then slipped down through notes, like a small boat sliding sideways down a wave, then unrolled a great slow scroll of rhythm on the night and ceased suddenly in an upward cadence as a guttering candle flares to extinction.
"Something that's neither work nor getting ready to work," and I thought of the arriero on whose donkey I had forded the stream on the way down from the Alpujarras, and his saying: "Ca, en America no se hose na'a que trabahar y de'cansar."
I had left him at his home village, a little cluster of red and yellow roofs about a fat tower the Moors had built and a gaunt church that hunched by itself in a square of trampled dust. We had rested awhile before going into town, under a fig tree, while he had put white canvas shoes on his lean brown feet. The broad leaves had rustled in the wind, and the smell of the fruit that hung purple bursting to crimson against the intense sky had been like warm stroking velvet all about us. And the arriero had discoursed on the merits of his donkey and the joys of going from town to town with merchandise, up into the mountains for chestnuts and firewood, down to the sea for fish, to Malaga for tinware, to Motril for sugar from the refineries. Nights of dancing and guitar-playing at vintage-time, fiestas of the Virgin, where older, realer gods were worshipped than Jehovah and the dolorous Mother of the pale Christ, the toros, blood and embroidered silks aflame in the sunlight, words whispered through barred windows at night, long days of travel on stony roads in the mountains.... And I had lain back with my eyes closed and the hum of little fig-bees in my ears, and wished that my life were his life. After a while we had jumped to our feet and I had shouldered my knapsack with its books and pencils and silly pads of paper and trudged off up an unshaded road, and had thought with a sort of bitter merriment of that prig Christian and his damned burden.
"Something that is neither work nor getting ready to work, to make the road so significant that one needs no destination, that is lo flamenco," said I to Don Diego, as we stood in the glen looking at the seven white arches of the aqueduct.
He nodded unconvinced.
III: The Baker of Almorox
The senores were from Madrid? Indeed! The man's voice was full of an awe of great distances. He was the village baker of Almorox, where we had gone on a Sunday excursion from Madrid; and we were standing on the scrubbed tile floor of his house, ceremoniously receiving wine and figs from his wife. The father of the friend who accompanied me had once lived in the same village as the baker's father, and bought bread of him; hence the entertainment. This baker of Almorox was a tall man, with a soft moustache very black against his ash-pale face, who stood with his large head thrust far forward. He was smiling with pleasure at the presence of strangers in his house, while in a tone of shy deprecating courtesy he asked after my friend's family. Don Fernando and Dona Ana and the Senorita were well? And little Carlos? Carlos was no longer little, answered my friend, and Dona Ana was dead.
The baker's wife had stood in the shadow looking from one face to another with a sort of wondering pleasure as we talked, but at this she came forward suddenly into the pale greenish-gold light that streamed through the door, holding a dark wine-bottle before her. There were tears in her eyes. No; she had never known any of them, she explained hastily—she had never been away from Almorox—but she had heard so much of their kindness and was sorry.... It was terrible to lose a father or a mother. The tall baker shifted his feet uneasily, embarrassed by the sadness that seemed slipping over his guests, and suggested that we walk up the hill to the Hermitage; he would show the way.
"But your work?" we asked. Ah, it did not matter. Strangers did not come every day to Almorox. He strode out of the door, wrapping a woolen muffler about his bare strongly moulded throat, and we followed him up the devious street of whitewashed houses that gave us glimpses through wide doors of dark tiled rooms with great black rafters overhead and courtyards where chickens pecked at the manure lodged between smooth worn flagstones. Still between white-washed walls we struck out of the village into the deep black mud of the high road, and at last burst suddenly into the open country, where patches of sprouting grass shone vivid green against the gray and russet of broad rolling lands. At the top of the first hill stood the Hermitage—a small whitewashed chapel with a square three-storied tower; over the door was a relief of the Virgin, crowned, in worn lichened stone. The interior was very plain with a single heavily gilt altar, over which was a painted statue, stiff but full of a certain erect disdainful grace—again of the Virgin. The figure was dressed in a long lace gown, full of frills and ruffles, grey with dust and age.
"La Virgen de la Cima," said the baker, pointing reverently with his thumb, after he had bent his knee before the altar. And as I glanced at the image a sudden resemblance struck me: the gown gave the Virgin a curiously conical look that somehow made me think of that conical black stone, the Bona Dea, that the Romans brought from Asia Minor. Here again was a good goddess, a bountiful one, more mother than virgin, despite her prudish frills.... But the man was ushering us out.
"And there is no finer view than this in all Spain." With a broad sweep of his arm he took in the village below, with its waves of roofs that merged from green to maroon and deep crimson, broken suddenly by the open square in front of the church; and the gray towering church, scowling with strong lights and shadows on buttresses and pointed windows; and the brown fields faintly sheened with green, which gave place to the deep maroon of the turned earth of vineyards, and the shining silver where the wind ruffled the olive-orchards; and beyond, the rolling hills that grew gradually flatter until they sank into the yellowish plain of Castile. As he made the gesture his fingers were stretched wide as if to grasp all this land he was showing. His flaccid cheeks were flushed as he turned to us; but we should see it in May, he was saying, in May when the wheat was thick in the fields, and there were flowers on the hills. Then the lands were beautiful and rich, in May. And he went on to tell us of the local feast, and the great processions of the Virgin. This year there were to be four days of the toros. So many bullfights were unusual in such a small village, he assured us. But they were rich in Almorox; the wine was the best in Castile. Four days of toros, he said again; and all the people of the country around would come to the fiestas, and there would be a great pilgrimage to this Hermitage of the Virgin.... As he talked in his slow deferential way, a little conscious of his volubility before strangers, there began to grow in my mind a picture of his view of the world.
First came his family, the wife whose body lay beside his at night, who bore him children, the old withered parents who sat in the sun at his door, his memories of them when they had had strong rounded limbs like his, and of their parents sitting old and withered in the sun. Then his work, the heat of his ovens, the smell of bread cooking, the faces of neighbors who came to buy; and, outside, in the dim penumbra of things half real, of travellers' tales, lay Madrid, where the king lived and where politicians wrote in the newspapers,—and Francia—and all that was not Almorox.... In him I seemed to see the generations wax and wane, like the years, strung on the thread of labor, of unending sweat and strain of muscles against the earth. It was all so mellow, so strangely aloof from the modern world of feverish change, this life of the peasants of Almorox. Everywhere roots striking into the infinite past. For before the Revolution, before the Moors, before the Romans, before the dark furtive traders, the Phoenicians, they were much the same, these Iberian village communities. Far away things changed, cities were founded, hard roads built, armies marched and fought and passed away; but in Almorox the foundations of life remained unchanged up to the present. New names and new languages had come. The Virgin had taken over the festivals and rituals of the old earth goddesses, and the deep mystical fervor of devotion. But always remained the love for the place, the strong anarchistic reliance on the individual man, the walking, consciously or not, of the way beaten by generations of men who had tilled and loved and lain in the cherishing sun with no feeling of a reality outside of themselves, outside of the bare encompassing hills of their commune, except the God which was the synthesis of their souls and of their lives.
Here lies the strength and the weakness of Spain. This intense individualism, born of a history whose fundamentals lie in isolated village communities—pueblos, as the Spaniards call them—over the changeless face of which, like grass over a field, events spring and mature and die, is the basic fact of Spanish life. No revolution has been strong enough to shake it. Invasion after invasion, of Goths, of Moors, of Christian ideas, of the fads and convictions of the Renaissance, have swept over the country, changing surface customs and modes of thought and speech, only to be metamorphosed into keeping with the changeless Iberian mind.
And predominant in the Iberian mind is the thought La vida es sueno: "Life is a dream." Only the individual, or that part of life which is in the firm grasp of the individual, is real. The supreme expression of this lies in the two great figures that typify Spain for all time: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; Don Quixote, the individualist who believed in the power of man's soul over all things, whose desire included the whole world in himself; Sancho, the individualist to whom all the world was food for his belly. On the one hand we have the ecstatic figures for whom the power of the individual soul has no limits, in whose minds the universe is but one man standing before his reflection, God. These are the Loyolas, the Philip Seconds, the fervid ascetics like Juan de la Cruz, the originals of the glowing tortured faces in the portraits of El Greco. On the other hand are the jovial materialists like the Archpriest of Hita, culminating in the frantic, mystical sensuality of such an epic figure as Don Juan Tenorio. Through all Spanish history and art the threads of these two complementary characters can be traced, changing, combining, branching out, but ever in substance the same. Of this warp and woof have all the strange patterns of Spanish life been woven.
In trying to hammer some sort of unified impression out of the scattered pictures of Spain in my mind, one of the first things I realize is that there are many Spains. Indeed, every village hidden in the folds of the great barren hills, or shadowed by its massive church in the middle of one of the upland plains, every fertile huerta of the seacoast, is a Spain. Iberia exists, and the strong Iberian characteristics; but Spain as a modern centralized nation is an illusion, a very unfortunate one; for the present atrophy, the desolating resultlessness of a century of revolution, may very well be due in large measure to the artificial imposition of centralized government on a land essentially centrifugal.
In the first place, there is the matter of language. Roughly, four distinct languages are at present spoken in Spain: Castilian, the language of Madrid and the central uplands, the official language, spoken in the south in its Andalusian form; Gallego-Portuguese, spoken on the west coast; Basque, which does not even share the Latin descent of the others; and Catalan, a form of Provencal which, with its dialect, Valencian, is spoken on the upper Mediterranean coast and in the Balearic Isles. Of course, under the influence of rail communication and a conscious effort to spread Castilian, the other languages, with the exception of Portuguese and Catalan, have lost vitality and died out in the larger towns; but the problem remains far different from that of the Italian dialects, since the Spanish languages have all, except Basque, a strong literary tradition.
Added to the variety of language, there is an immense variety of topography in the different parts of Spain. The central plateaux, dominant in modern history (history being taken to mean the births and breedings of kings and queens and the doings of generals in armor) probably approximate the warmer Russian steppes in climate and vegetation. The west coast is in most respects a warmer and more fertile Wales. The southern huertas (arable river valleys) have rather the aspect of Egypt. The east coast from Valencia up is a continuation of the Mediterranean coast of France. It follows that, in this country where an hour's train ride will take you from Siberian snow into African desert, unity of population is hardly to be expected.
Here is probably the root of the tendency in Spanish art and thought to emphasize the differences between things. In painting, where the mind of a people is often more tangibly represented than anywhere else, we find one supreme example. El Greco, almost the caricature in his art of the Don Quixote type of mind, who, though a Greek by birth and a Venetian by training, became more Spanish than the Spaniards during his long life at Toledo, strove constantly to express the difference between the world of flesh and the world of spirit, between the body and the soul of man. More recently, the extreme characterization of Goya's sketches and portraits, the intensifying of national types found in Zuloaga and the other painters who have been exploiting with such success the peculiarities—the picturesqueness—of Spanish faces and landscapes, seem to spring from this powerful sense of the separateness of things.
In another way you can express this constant attempt to differentiate one individual from another as caricature. Spanish art is constantly on the edge of caricature. Given the ebullient fertility of the Spanish mind and its intense individualism, a constant slipping over into the grotesque is inevitable. And so it comes to be that the conscious or unconscious aim of their art is rather self-expression than beauty. Their image of reality is sharp and clear, but distorted. Burlesque and satire are never far away in their most serious moments. Not even the calmest and best ordered of Spanish minds can resist a tendency to excess of all sorts, to over-elaboration, to grotesquerie, to deadening mannerism. All that is greatest in their art, indeed, lies on the borderland of the extravagant, where sublime things skim the thin ice of absurdity. The great epic, Don Quixote, such plays as Calderon's La Vida es Sueno, such paintings as El Greco's Resurreccion and Velasquez's dwarfs, such buildings as the Escorial and the Alhambra—all among the universal masterpieces—are far indeed from the middle term of reasonable beauty. Hence their supreme strength. And for our generation, to which excess is a synonym for beauty, is added argumentative significance to the long tradition of Spanish art.
Another characteristic, springing from the same fervid abundance, that links the Spanish tradition to ours of the present day is the strangely impromptu character of much Spanish art production. The slightly ridiculous proverb that genius consists of an infinite capacity for taking pains is well controverted. The creative flow of Spanish artists has always been so strong, so full of vitality, that there has been no time for taking pains. Lope de Vega, with his two thousand-odd plays—or was it twelve thousand?—is by no means an isolated instance. Perhaps the strong sense of individual validity, which makes Spain the most democratic country in Europe, sanctions the constant improvisation, and accounts for the confident planlessness as common in Spanish architecture as in Spanish political thought.
Here we meet the old stock characteristic, Spanish pride. This is a very real thing, and is merely the external shell of the fundamental trust in the individual and in nothing outside of him. Again El Greco is an example. As his painting progressed, grew more and more personal, he drew away from tangible reality, and, with all the dogmatic conviction of one whose faith in his own reality can sweep away the mountains of the visible world, expressed his own restless, almost sensual, spirituality in forms that flickered like white flames toward God. For the Spaniard, moreover, God is always, in essence, the proudest sublimation of man's soul. The same spirit runs through the preachers of the early church and the works of Santa Teresa, a disguise of the frantic desire to express the self, the self, changeless and eternal, at all costs. From this comes the hard cruelty that flares forth luridly at times. A recent book by Miguel de Unamuno, Del Sentimiento Tragico de la Vida, expresses this fierce clinging to separateness from the universe by the phrase el hambre de inmortalidad, the hunger of immortality. This is the core of the individualism that lurks in all Spanish ideas, the conviction that only the individual soul is real.
In the Spain of to-day these things are seen as through a glass, darkly. Since the famous and much gloated-over entrance of Ferdinand and Isabella into Granada, the history of Spain has been that of an attempt to fit a square peg in a round hole. In the great flare of the golden age, the age of ingots of Peru and of men of even greater worth, the disease worked beneath the surface. Since then the conflict has corroded into futility all the buoyant energies of the country. I mean the persistent attempt to centralize in thought, in art, in government, in religion, a nation whose every energy lies in the other direction. The result has been a deadlock, and the ensuing rust and numbing of all life and thought, so that a century of revolution seems to have brought Spain no nearer a solution of its problems. At the present day, when all is ripe for a new attempt to throw off the atrophy, a sort of despairing inaction causes the Spaniards to remain under a government of unbelievably corrupt and inefficient politicians. There seems no solution to the problem of a nation in which the centralized power and the separate communities work only to nullify each other.
Spaniards in face of their traditions are rather in the position of the archaeologists before the problem of Iberian sculpture. For near the Cerro de los Santos, bare hill where from the ruins of a sanctuary has been dug an endless series of native sculptures of men and women, goddesses and gods, there lived a little watchmaker. The first statues to be dug up were thought by the pious country people to be saints, and saints they were, according to an earlier dispensation than that of Rome; with the result that much Kudos accompanied the discovery of those draped women with high head-dresses and fixed solemn eyes and those fragmentary bull-necked men hewn roughly out of grey stone; they were freed from the caked clay of two thousand years and reverently set up in the churches. So probably the motives that started the watchmaker on his career of sculpturing and falsifying were pious and reverential.
However it began, when it was discovered that the saints were mere horrid heathen he-gods and she-gods and that the foreign gentlemen with spectacles who appeared from all the ends of Europe to investigate, would pay money for them, the watchmaker began to thrive as a mighty man in his village and generation. He began to study archaeology and the style of his cumbersome forged divinities improved. For a number of years the statues from the Cerro de los Santos were swallowed whole by all learned Europe. But the watchmaker's imagination began to get the better of him; forms became more and more fantastic, Egyptian, Assyrian, art-nouveau influences began to be noted by the discerning, until at last someone whispered forgery and all the scientists scuttled to cover shouting that there had never been any native Iberian sculpture after all.
The little watchmaker succumbed before his imagining of heathen gods and died in a madhouse. To this day when you stand in the middle of the room devoted to the Cerro de los Santos in the Madrid, and see the statues of Iberian goddesses clustered about you in their high head-dresses like those of dancers, you cannot tell which were made by the watchmaker in 1880, and which by the image-maker of the hill-sanctuary at a time when the first red-eyed ships of the Phoenician traders were founding trading posts among the barbarians of the coast of Valencia. And there they stand on their shelves, the real and the false inextricably muddled, and stare at the enigma with stone eyes.
So with the traditions: the tradition of Catholic Spain, the tradition of military grandeur, the tradition of fighting the Moors, of suspecting the foreigner, of hospitality, of truculence, of sobriety, of chivalry, of Don Quixote and Tenorio.
The Spanish-American war, to the United States merely an opportunity for a patriotic-capitalist demonstration of sanitary engineering, heroism and canned-meat scandals, was to Spain the first whispered word that many among the traditions were false. The young men of that time called themselves the generation of ninety-eight. According to temperament they rejected all or part of the museum of traditions they had been taught to believe was the real Spain; each took up a separate road in search of a Spain which should suit his yearnings for beauty, gentleness, humaneness, or else vigor, force, modernity.
The problem of our day is whether Spaniards evolving locally, anarchically, without centralization in anything but repression, will work out new ways of life for themselves, or whether they will be drawn into the festering tumult of a Europe where the system that is dying is only strong enough to kill in its death-throes all new growth in which there was hope for the future. The Pyrenees are high.
It was after a lecture at an exhibition of Basque painters in Madrid, where we had heard Valle-Melan, with eyes that burned out from under shaggy grizzled eyebrows, denounce in bitter stinging irony what he called the Europeanization of Spain. What they called progress, he had said, was merely an aping of the stupid commercialism of modern Europe. Better no education for the masses than education that would turn healthy peasants into crafty putty-skinned merchants; better a Spain swooning in her age-old apathy than a Spain awakened to the brutal soulless trade-war of modern life.... I was walking with a young student of philosophy I had met by chance across the noisy board of a Spanish pension, discussing the exhibition we had just seen as a strangely meek setting for the fiery reactionary speech. I had remarked on the very "primitive" look much of the work of these young Basque painters had, shown by some in the almost affectionate technique, in the dainty caressing brush-work, in others by that inadequacy of the means at the painter's disposal to express his idea, which made of so many of the pictures rather gloriously impressive failures. My friend was insisting, however, that the primitiveness, rather than the birth-pangs of a new view of the world, was nothing but "the last affectation of an over-civilized tradition."
"Spain," he said, "is the most civilized country in Europe. The growth of our civilization has never been interrupted by outside influence. The Phoenicians, the Romans—Spain's influence on Rome was, I imagine, fully as great as Rome's on Spain; think of the five Spanish emperors;—the Goths, the Moors;—all incidents, absorbed by the changeless Iberian spirit.... Even Spanish Christianity," he continued, smiling, "is far more Spanish than it is Christian. Our life is one vast ritual. Our religion is part of it, that is all. And so are the bull-fights that so shock the English and Americans,—are they any more brutal, though, than fox-hunting and prize-fights? And how full of tradition are they, our fiestas de toros; their ceremony reaches back to the hecatombs of the Homeric heroes, to the bull-worship of the Cretans and of so many of the Mediterranean cults, to the Roman games. Can civilization go farther than to ritualize death as we have done? But our culture is too perfect, too stable. Life is choked by it."
We stood still a moment in the shade of a yellowed lime tree. My friend had stopped talking and was looking with his usual bitter smile at a group of little boys with brown, bare dusty legs who were intently playing bull-fight with sticks for swords and a piece of newspaper for the toreador's scarlet cape.
"It is you in America," he went on suddenly, "to whom the future belongs; you are so vigorous and vulgar and uncultured. Life has become once more the primal fight for bread. Of course the dollar is a complicated form of the food the cave man killed for and slunk after, and the means of combat are different, but it is as brutal. From that crude animal brutality comes all the vigor of life. We have none of it; we are too tired to have any thoughts; we have lived so much so long ago that now we are content with the very simple things,—the warmth of the sun and the colors of the hills and the flavor of bread and wine. All the rest is automatic, ritual."
"But what about the strike?" I asked, referring to the one-day's general strike that had just been carried out with fair success throughout Spain, as a protest against the government's apathy regarding the dangerous rise in the prices of food and fuel.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"That, and more," he said, "is new Spain, a prophecy, rather than a fact. Old Spain is still all-powerful."
Later in the day I was walking through the main street of one of the clustered adobe villages that lie in the folds of the Castilian plain not far from Madrid. The lamps were just being lit in the little shops where the people lived and worked and sold their goods, and women with beautifully shaped pottery jars on their heads were coming home with water from the well. Suddenly I came out on an open plaza with trees from which the last leaves were falling through the greenish sunset light. The place was filled with the lilting music of a grind-organ and with a crunch of steps on the gravel as people danced. There were soldiers and servant-girls, and red-cheeked apprentice-boys with their sweethearts, and respectable shop-keepers, and their wives with mantillas over their gleaming black hair. All were dancing in and out among the slim tree-trunks, and the air was noisy with laughter and little cries of childlike unfeigned enjoyment. Here was the gospel of Sancho Panza, I thought, the easy acceptance of life, the unashamed joy in food and color and the softness of women's hair. But as I walked out of the village across the harsh plain of Castile, grey-green and violet under the deepening night, the memory came to me of the knight of the sorrowful countenance, Don Quixote, blunderingly trying to remould the world, pitifully sure of the power of his own ideal. And in these two Spain seemed to be manifest. Far indeed were they from the restless industrial world of joyless enforced labor and incessant goading war. And I wondered to what purpose it would be, should Don Quixote again saddle Rosinante, and what the good baker of Almorox would say to his wife when he looked up from his kneading trough, holding out hands white with dough, to see the knight errant ride by on his lean steed upon a new quest.
IV: Talk by the Road
Telemachus and Lyaeus had walked all night. The sky to the east of them was rosy when they came out of a village at the crest of a hill. Cocks crowed behind stucco walls. The road dropped from their feet through an avenue of pollarded poplars ghostly with frost. Far away into the brown west stretched reach upon reach of lake-like glimmer; here and there a few trees pushed jagged arms out of drowned lands. They stood still breathing hard.
"It's the Tagus overflowed its banks," said Telemachus.
Lyaeus shook his head.
They stood with thumping hearts on the hilltop looking over inexplicable shimmering plains of mist hemmed by mountains jagged like coals that as they looked began to smoulder with dawn. The light all about was lemon yellow. The walls of the village behind them were fervid primrose color splotched with shadows of sheer cobalt. Above the houses uncurled green spirals of wood-smoke.
Lyaeus raised his hands above his head and shouted and ran like mad down the hill. A little voice was whispering in Telemachus's ear that he must save his strength, so he followed sedately.
When he caught up to Lyaeus they were walking among twining wraiths of mist rose-shot from a rim of the sun that poked up behind hills of bright madder purple. A sudden cold wind-gust whined across the plain, making the mist writhe in a delirium of crumbling shapes. Ahead of them casting gigantic blue shadows over the furrowed fields rode a man on a donkey and a man on a horse. It was a grey sway-backed horse that joggled in a little trot with much switching of a ragged tail; its rider wore a curious peaked cap and sat straight and lean in the saddle. Over one shoulder rested a long bamboo pole that in the exaggerating sunlight cast a shadow like the shadow of a lance. The man on the donkey was shaped like a dumpling and rode with his toes turned out.
Telemachus and Lyaeus walked behind them a long while without catching up, staring curiously after these two silent riders.
Eventually getting as far as the tails of the horse and the donkey, they called out: "Buenos dias."
There turned to greet them a red, round face, full of little lines like an over-ripe tomato and a long bloodless face drawn into a point at the chin by a grizzled beard.
"How early you are, gentlemen," said the tall man on the grey horse. His voice was deep and sepulchral, with an occasional flutter of tenderness like a glint of light in a black river.
"Late," said Lyaeus. "We come from Madrid on foot."
The dumpling man crossed himself.
"They are mad," he said to his companion.
"That," said the man on the grey horse, "is always the answer of ignorance when confronted with the unusual. These gentlemen undoubtedly have very good reason for doing as they do; and besides the night is the time for long strides and deep thoughts, is it not, gentlemen? The habit of vigil is one we sorely need in this distracted modern world. If more men walked and thought the night through there would be less miseries under the sun."
"But, such a cold night!" exclaimed the dumpling man.
"On colder nights than this I have seen children asleep in doorways in the streets of Madrid."
"Is there much poverty in these parts? asked Telemachus stiffly, wanting to show that he too had the social consciousness.
"There are people—thousands—who from the day they are born till the day they die never have enough to eat."
"They have wine," said Lyaeus.
"One little cup on Sundays, and they are so starved that it makes them as drunk as if it were a hogshead."
"I have heard," said Lyaeus, "that the sensations of starving are very interesting—people have visions more vivid than life."
"One needs very few sensations to lead life humbly and beautifully," said the man on the grey horse in a gentle tone of reproof.
"Perhaps," said the man on the grey horse turning towards Telemachus his lean face, where under scraggly eyebrows glowered eyes of soft dark green, "it is that I have brooded too much on the injustice done in the world—all society one great wrong. Many years ago I should have set out to right wrong—for no one but a man, an individual alone, can right a wrong; organization merely substitutes one wrong for another—but now ... I am too old. You see, I go fishing instead."
"Why, it's a fishing pole," cried Lyaeus. "When I first saw it I thought it was a lance." And he let out his roaring laugh.
"And such trout," cried the dumpling man. "The trout there are in that little stream above Illescas! That's why we got up so early, to fish for trout."
"I like to see the dawn," said the man on the grey horse.
"Is that Illescas?" asked Telemachus, and pointed to a dun brown tower topped by a cap of blue slate that stood guard over a cluster of roofs ahead of them. Telemachus had a map torn from Baedecker in his pocket that he had been peeping at secretly.
"That, gentlemen, is Illescas," said the man on the grey horse. "And if you will allow me to offer you a cup of coffee, I shall be most pleased. You must excuse me, for I never take anything before midday. I am a recluse, have been for many years and rarely stir abroad. I do not intend to return to the world unless I can bring something with me worth having." A wistful smile twisted a little the corners of his mouth.
"I could guzzle a hogshead of coffee accompanied by vast processions of toasted rolls in columns of four," shouted Lyaeus.
"We are on our way to Toledo," Telemachus broke in, not wanting to give the impression that food was their only thought.
"You will see the paintings of Dominico Theotocopoulos, the only one who ever depicted the soul of Castile."
"This man," said Lyaeus, with a slap at Telemachus's shoulder, "is looking for a gesture."
"The gesture of Castile."
The man on the grey horse rode along silently for some time. The sun had already burnt up the hoar-frost along the sides of the road; only an occasional streak remained glistening in the shadow of a ditch. A few larks sang in the sky. Two men in brown corduroy with hoes on their shoulders passed on their way to the fields.
"Who shall say what is the gesture of Castile?... I am from La Mancha myself." The man on the grey horse started speaking gravely while with a bony hand, very white, he stroked his beard. "Something cold and haughty and aloof ... men concentrated, converging breathlessly on the single flame of their spirit.... Torquemada, Loyola, Jorge Manrique, Cortes, Santa Teresa.... Rapacity, cruelty, straightforwardness.... Every man's life a lonely ruthless quest."
Lyaeus broke in:
"Remember the infinite gentleness of the saints lowering the Conde de Orgaz into the grave in the picture in San Tomas...."
"Ah, that is what I was trying to think of.... These generations, my generation, my son's generation, are working to bury with infinite tenderness the gorgeously dressed corpse of the old Spain.... Gentlemen, it is a little ridiculous to say so, but we have set out once more with lance and helmet of knight-errantry to free the enslaved, to right the wrongs of the oppressed."
They had come into town. In the high square tower church-bells were ringing for morning mass. Down the broad main street scampered a flock of goats herded by a lean man with fangs like a dog who strode along in a snuff-colored cloak with a broad black felt hat on his head.
"How do you do, Don Alonso?" he cried; "Good luck to you, gentlemen." And he swept the hat off his head in a wide curving gesture as might a courtier of the Rey Don Juan.
The hot smell of the goats was all about them as they sat before the cafe in the sun under a bare acacia tree, looking at the tightly proportioned brick arcades of the mudejar apse of the church opposite. Don Alonso was in the cafe ordering; the dumpling-man had disappeared. Telemachus got up on his numbed feet and stretched his legs. "Ouf," he said, "I'm tired." Then he walked over to the grey horse that stood with hanging head and drooping knees hitched to one of the acacias.
"I wonder what his name is." He stroked the horse's scrawny face. "Is it Rosinante?"
The horse twitched his ears, straightened his back and legs and pulled back black lips to show yellow teeth.
"Of course it's Rosinante!"
The horse's sides heaved. He threw back his head and whinnied shrilly, exultantly.
V: A Novelist of Revolution
Much as G. B. S. refuses to be called an Englishman, Pio Baroja refuses to be called a Spaniard. He is a Basque. Reluctantly he admits having been born in San Sebastian, outpost of Cosmopolis on the mountainous coast of Guipuzcoa, where a stern-featured race of mountaineers and fishermen, whose prominent noses, high ruddy cheek-bones and square jowls are gradually becoming known to the world through the paintings of the Zubiaurre, clings to its ancient un-Aryan language and its ancient song and customs with the hard-headedness of hill people the world over.
From the first Spanish discoveries in America till the time of our own New England clipper ships, the Basque coast was the backbone of Spanish trade. The three provinces were the only ones which kept their privileges and their municipal liberties all through the process of the centralizing of the Spanish monarchy with cross and faggot, which historians call the great period of Spain. The rocky inlets in the mountains were full of shipyards that turned out privateers and merchantmen manned by lanky broad-shouldered men with hard red-beaked faces and huge hands coarsened by generations of straining on heavy oars and halyards,—men who feared only God and the sea-spirits of their strange mythology and were a law unto themselves, adventurers and bigots.
It was not till the Nineteenth century that the Carlist wars and the passing of sailing ships broke the prosperous independence of the Basque provinces and threw them once for all into the main current of Spanish life. Now papermills take the place of shipyards, and instead of the great fleet that went off every year to fish the Newfoundland and Iceland banks, a few steam trawlers harry the sardines in the Bay of Biscay. The world war, too, did much to make Bilboa one of the industrial centers of Spain, even restoring in some measure the ancient prosperity of its shipping.
Pio Baroja spent his childhood on this rainy coast between green mountains and green sea. There were old aunts who filled his ears up with legends of former mercantile glory, with talk of sea captains and slavers and shipwrecks. Born in the late seventies, Baroja left the mist-filled inlets of Guipuzcoa to study medicine in Madrid, febrile capital full of the artificial scurry of government, on the dry upland plateau of New Castile. He even practiced, reluctantly enough, in a town near Valencia, where he must have acquired his distaste for the Mediterranean and the Latin genius, and, later, in his own province at Cestons, where he boarded with the woman who baked the sacramental wafers for the parish church, and, so he claims, felt the spirit of racial solidarity glow within him for the first time. But he was too timid in the face of pain and too sceptical of science as of everything else to acquire the cocksure brutality of a country doctor. He gave up medicine and returned to Madrid, where he became a baker. In Juventud-Egolatria ("Youth-Selfworship") a book of delightfully shameless self-revelations, he says that he ran a bakery for six years before starting to write. And he still runs a bakery.
You can see it any day, walking towards the Royal Theatre from the great focus of Madrid life, the Puerta del Sol. It has a most enticing window. On one side are hams and red sausages and purple sausages and white sausages, some plump to the bursting like Rubens's "Graces," others as weazened and smoked as saints by Ribera. In the middle are oblong plates with pates and sliced bologna and things in jelly; then come ranks of cakes, creamcakes and fruitcakes, everything from obscene jam-rolls to celestial cornucopias of white cream. Through the door you see a counter with round loaves of bread on it, and a basketful of brown rolls. If someone comes out a dense sweet smell of fresh bread and pastry swirls about the sidewalk.
So, by meeting commerce squarely in its own field, he has freed himself from any compromise with Mammon. While his bread remains sweet, his novels may be as bitter as he likes.
The moon shines coldly out of an intense blue sky where a few stars glisten faint as mica. Shadow fills half the street, etching a silhouette of roofs and chimneypots and cornices on the cobblestones, leaving the rest very white with moonlight. The facades of the houses, with their blank windows, might be carved out of ice. In the dark of a doorway a woman sits hunched under a brown shawl. Her head nods, but still she jerks a tune that sways and dances through the silent street out of the accordion on her lap. A little saucer for pennies is on the step beside her. In the next doorway two guttersnipes are huddled together asleep. The moonlight points out with mocking interest their skinny dirt-crusted feet and legs stretched out over the icy pavement, and the filthy rags that barely cover their bodies. Two men stumble out of a wineshop arm in arm, poor men in corduroy, who walk along unsteadily in their worn canvas shoes, making grandiloquent gestures of pity, tearing down the cold hard facades with drunken generous phrases, buoyed up by the warmth of the wine in their veins.
That is Baroja's world: dismal, ironic, the streets of towns where industrial life sits heavy on the neck of a race as little adapted to it as any in Europe. No one has ever described better the shaggy badlands and cabbage-patches round the edges of a city, where the debris of civilization piles up ramshackle suburbs in which starve and scheme all manner of human detritus. Back lots where men and women live fantastically in shelters patched out of rotten boards, of old tin cans and bits of chairs and tables that have stood for years in bright pleasant rooms. Grassy patches behind crumbling walls where on sunny days starving children spread their fleshless limbs and run about in the sun. Miserable wineshops where the wind whines through broken panes to chill men with ever-empty stomachs who sit about gambling and finding furious drunkenness in a sip of aguardiente. Courtyards of barracks where painters who have not a cent in the world mix with beggars and guttersnipes to cajole a little hot food out of soft-hearted soldiers at mess-time. Convent doors where ragged lines shiver for hours in the shrill wind that blows across the bare Castilian plain waiting for the nuns to throw out bread for them to fight over like dogs. And through it all moves the great crowd of the outcast, sneak-thieves, burglars, beggars of every description,—rich beggars and poor devils who have given up the struggle to exist,—homeless children, prostitutes, people who live a half-honest existence selling knicknacks, penniless students, inventors who while away the time they are dying of starvation telling all they meet of the riches they might have had; all who have failed on the daily treadmill of bread-making, or who have never had a chance even to enjoy the privilege of industrial slavery. Outside of Russia there has never been a novelist so taken up with all that society and respectability reject.
Not that the interest in outcasts is anything new in Spanish literature. Spain is the home of that type of novel which the pigeonhole-makers have named picaresque. These loafers and wanderers of Baroja's, like his artists and grotesque dreamers and fanatics, all are the descendants of the people in the Quijote and the Novelas Ejemplares, of the rogues and bandits of the Lazarillo de Tormes, who through Gil Blas invaded France and England, where they rollicked through the novel until Mrs. Grundy and George Eliot packed them off to the reform school. But the rogues of the seventeenth century were jolly rogues. They always had their tongues in their cheeks, and success rewarded their ingenious audacities. The moulds of society had not hardened as they have now; there was less pressure of hungry generations. Or, more probably, pity had not come in to undermine the foundations.
The corrosive of pity, which had attacked the steel girders of our civilization even before the work of building was completed, has brought about what Gilbert Murray in speaking of Greek thought calls the failure of nerve. In the seventeenth century men still had the courage of their egoism. The world was a bad job to be made the best of, all hope lay in driving a good bargain with the conductors of life everlasting. By the end of the nineteenth century the life everlasting had grown cobwebby, the French Revolution had filled men up with extravagant hopes of the perfectibility of this world, humanitarianism had instilled an abnormal sensitiveness to pain,—to one's own pain, and to the pain of one's neighbors. Baroja's outcasts are no longer jolly knaves who will murder a man for a nickel and go on their road singing "Over the hills and far away"; they are men who have not had the willpower to continue in the fight for bread, they are men whose nerve has failed, who live furtively on the outskirts, snatching a little joy here and there, drugging their hunger with gorgeous mirages.
One often thinks of Gorki in reading Baroja, mainly because of the contrast. Instead of the tumultuous spring freshet of a new race that drones behind every page of the Russian, there is the cold despair of an old race, of a race that lived long under a formula of life to which it has sacrificed much, only to discover in the end that the formula does not hold.
These are the last paragraphs of Mala Hierba ("Wild Grass"), the middle volume of Baroja's trilogy on the life of the very poor in Madrid.
"They talked. Manuel felt irritation against the whole world, hatred, up to that moment pent up within him against society, against man....
"'Honestly,' he ended by saying, 'I wish it would rain dynamite for a week, and that the Eternal Father would come tumbling down in cinders.'
"He invoked crazily all the destructive powers to reduce to ashes this miserable society.
"Jesus listened with attention.
"'You are an anarchist,' he told him.
"'Yes. So am I.'
"'Since I have seen the infamies committed in the world; since I have seen how coldly they give to death a bit of human flesh; since I have seen how men die abandoned in the streets and hospitals,' answered Jesus with a certain solemnity.
"Manuel was silent. The friends walked without speaking round the Ronda de Segovia, and sat down on a bench in the little gardens of the Virgen del Puerto.
"The sky was superb, crowded with stars; the Milky Way crossed its immense blue concavity. The geometric figure of the Great Bear glittered very high. Arcturus and Vega shone softly in that ocean of stars.
"In the distance the dark fields, scratched with lines of lights, seemed the sea in a harbor and the strings of lights the illumination of a wharf.
"The damp warm air came laden with odors of woodland plants wilted by the heat.
"'How many stars,' said Manuel. 'What can they be?'
"'They are worlds, endless worlds.'
"'I don't know why it doesn't make me feel better to see this sky so beautiful, Jesus. Do you think there are men in those worlds?' asked Manuel.
"'Perhaps; why not?'
"'And are there prisons too, and judges and gambling dens and police?... Do you think so?'
"Jesus did not answer. After a while he began talking with a calm voice of his dream of an idyllic humanity, a sweet pitiful dream, noble and childish.
"In his dream, man, led by a new idea, reached a higher state.
"No more hatreds, no more rancours. Neither judges, nor police, nor soldiers, nor authority. In the wide fields of the earth free men worked in the sunlight. The law of love had taken the place of the law of duty, and the horizons of humanity grew every moment wider, wider and more azure.
"And Jesus continued talking of a vague ideal of love and justice, of energy and pity; and those words of his, chaotic, incoherent, fell like balm on Manuel's ulcerated spirit. Then they were both silent, lost in their thoughts, looking at the night.
"An august joy shone in the sky, and the vague sensation of space, of the infinity of those imponderable worlds, filled their spirits with a delicious calm."
Spain is the classic home of the anarchist. A bleak upland country mostly, with a climate giving all varieties of temperature, from moist African heat to dry Siberian cold, where people have lived until very recently,—and do still,—in villages hidden away among the bare ribs of the mountains, or in the indented coast plains, where every region is cut off from every other by high passes and defiles of the mountains, flaming hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, where the Iberian race has grown up centerless. The pueblo, the village community, is the only form of social cohesion that really has roots in the past. On these free towns empires have time and again been imposed by force. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Catholic monarchy wielded the sword of the faith to such good effect that communal feeling was killed and the Spanish genius forced to ingrow into the mystical realm where every ego expanded itself into the solitude of God. The eighteenth century reduced God to an abstraction, and the nineteenth brought pity and the mad hope of righting the wrongs of society. The Spaniard, like his own Don Quixote, mounted the warhorse of his idealism and set out to free the oppressed, alone. As a logical conclusion we have the anarchist who threw a bomb into the Lyceum Theatre in Barcelona during a performance, wanting to make the ultimate heroic gesture and only succeeding in a senseless mangling of human lives.
But that was the reduction to an absurdity of an immensely valuable mental position. The anarchism of Pio Baroja is of another sort. He says in one of his books that the only part a man of the middle classes can play in the reorganization of society is destructive. He has not undergone the discipline, which can only come from common slavery in the industrial machine, necessary for a builder. His slavery has been an isolated slavery which has unfitted him forever from becoming truly part of a community. He can use the vast power of knowledge which training has given him only in one way. His great mission is to put the acid test to existing institutions, and to strip the veils off them. I don't want to imply that Baroja writes with his social conscience. He is too much of a novelist for that, too deeply interested in people as such. But it is certain that a profound sense of the evil of existing institutions lies behind every page he has written, and that occasionally, only occasionally, he allows himself to hope that something better may come out of the turmoil of our age of transition.
Only a man who had felt all this very deeply could be so sensitive to the new spirit—if the word were not threadbare one would call it religious—which is shaking the foundations of the world's social pyramid, perhaps only another example of the failure of nerve, perhaps the triumphant expression of a new will among mankind.
In Aurora Roja ("Red Dawn"), the last of the Madrid trilogy, about the same Manuel who is the central figure of Mala Hierba, he writes:
"At first it bored him, but later, little by little, he felt himself carried away by what he was reading. First he was enthusiastic about Mirabeau; then about the Girondins; Vergniau Petion, Condorcet; then about Danton; then he began to think that Robespierre was the true revolutionary; afterwards Saint Just, but in the end it was the gigantic figure of Danton that thrilled him most....
"Manuel felt great satisfaction at having read that history. Often he said to himself:
"'What does it matter now if I am a loafer, and good-for-nothing? I've read the history of the French Revolution; I believe I shall know how to be worthy....'
"After Michelet, he read a book about '48; then another on the Commune, by Louise Michel, and all this produced in him a great admiration for French Revolutionists. What men! After the colossal figures of the Convention: Babeuf, Proudhon, Blanqui, Bandin, Deleschize, Rochefort, Felix Pyat, Vallu.... What people!
"'What does it matter now if I am a loafer?... I believe I shall know how to be worthy.'"
In those two phrases lies all the power of revolutionary faith. And how like phrases out of the gospels, those older expressions of the hope and misery of another society in decay. That is the spirit that, for good or evil, is stirring throughout Europe to-day, among the poor and the hungry and the oppressed and the outcast, a new affirmation of the rights and duties of men. Baroja has felt this profoundly, and has presented it, but without abandoning the function of the novelist, which is to tell stories about people. He is never a propagandist.
"I have never hidden my admirations in literature. They have been and are Dickens, Balzac, Poe, Dostoievski and, now, Stendhal...." writes Baroja in the preface to the Nelson edition of La Dama Errante ("The Wandering Lady"). He follows particularly in the footprints of Balzac in that he is primarily a historian of morals, who has made a fairly consistent attempt to cover the world he lived in. With Dostoievski there is a kinship in the passionate hatred of cruelty and stupidity that crops out everywhere in his work. I have never found any trace of influence of the other three. To be sure there are a few early sketches in the manner of Poe, but in respect to form he is much more in the purely chaotic tradition of the picaresque novel he despises than in that of the American theorist.
Baroja's most important work lies in the four series of novels of the Spanish life he lived, in Madrid, in the provincial towns where he practiced medicine, and in the Basque country where he had been brought up. The foundation of these was laid by El Arbol de la Ciencia ("The Tree of Knowledge"), a novel half autobiographical describing the life and death of a doctor, giving a picture of existence in Madrid and then in two Spanish provincial towns. Its tremendously vivid painting of inertia and the deadening under its weight of intellectual effort made a very profound impression in Spain. Two novels about the anarchist movement followed it, La Dama Errante, which describes the state of mind of forward-looking Spaniards at the time of the famous anarchist attempt on the lives of the king and queen the day of their marriage, and La Ciudad de la Niebla, about the Spanish colony in London. Then came the series called La Busca ("The Search"), which to me is Baroja's best work, and one of the most interesting things published in Europe in the last decade. It deals with the lowest and most miserable life in Madrid and is written with a cold acidity which Maupassant would have envied and is permeated by a human vividness that I do not think Maupassant could have achieved. All three novels, La Busca, Mala Hierba, and Aurora Roja, deal with the drifting of a typical uneducated Spanish boy, son of a maid of all work in a boarding house, through different strata of Madrid life. They give a sense of unadorned reality very rare in any literature, and besides their power as novels are immensely interesting as sheer natural history. The type of the golfo is a literary discovery comparable with that of Sancho Panza by Cervantes.
Nothing that Baroja has written since is quite on the same level. The series El Pasado ("The Past") gives interesting pictures of provincial life. Las Inquietudes de Shanti Andia ("The Anxieties of Shanti Andia"), a story of Basque seamen which contains a charming picture of a childhood in a seaside village in Guipuzcoa, delightful as it is to read, is too muddled in romantic claptrap to add much to his fame. El Mundo es Asi ("The World is Like That") expresses, rather lamely it seems to me, the meditations of a disenchanted revolutionist. The latest series, Memorias de un Hombre de Accion, a series of yarns about the revolutionary period in Spain at the beginning of the nineteenth century, though entertaining, is more an attempt to escape in a jolly romantic past the realities of the morose present than anything else. Cesar o Nada, translated into English under the title of "Aut Caesar aut Nullus" is also less acid and less effective than his earlier novels. That is probably why it was chosen for translation into English. We know how anxious our publishers are to furnish food easily digestible by weak American stomachs.
It is silly to judge any Spanish novelist from the point of view of form. Improvisation is the very soul of Spanish writing. In thinking back over books of Baroja's one has read, one remembers more descriptions of places and people than anything else. In the end it is rather natural history than dramatic creation. But a natural history that gives you the pictures etched with vitriol of Spanish life in the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century which you get in these novels of Baroja's is very near the highest sort of creation. If we could inject some of the virus of his intense sense of reality into American writers it would be worth giving up all these stale conquests of form we inherited from Poe and O. Henry. The following, again from the preface of La Dama Errante, is Baroja's own statement of his aims. And certainly he has realized them.
"Probably a book like la Dama Errante is not of the sort that lives very long; it is not a painting with aspirations towards the museum but an impressionist canvas; perhaps as a work it has too much asperity, is too hard, not serene enough.
"This ephemeral character of my work does not displease me. We are men of the day, people in love with the passing moment, with all that is fugitive and transitory and the lasting quality of our work preoccupies us little, so little that it can hardly be said to preoccupy us at all."
VI: Talk by the Road
"Spain," said Don Alonso, as he and Telemachus walked out of Illescas, followed at a little distance by Lyaeus and the dumpling-man, "has never been swept clean. There have been the Romans and the Visigoths and the Moors and the French—armed men jingling over mountain roads. Conquest has warped and sterilised our Iberian mind without changing an atom of it. An example: we missed the Revolution and suffered from Napoleon. We virtually had no Reformation, yet the Inquisition was stronger with us than anywhere."
"Do you think it will have to be swept clean?" asked Telemachus.
"He does." Don Alonso pointed with a sweep of an arm towards a man working in the field beside the road. It was a short man in a blouse; he broke the clods the plow had left with a heavy triangular hoe. Sometimes he raised it only a foot above the ground to poise for a blow, sometimes he swung it from over his shoulder. Face, clothes, hands, hoe were brown against the brown hillside where a purple shadow mocked each heavy gesture with lank gesticulations. In the morning silence the blows of the hoe beat upon the air with muffled insistence.
"And he is the man who will do the building," went on Don Alonso; "It is only fair that we should clear the road."
"But you are the thinkers," said Telemachus; his mother Penelope's maxims on the subject of constructive criticism popped up suddenly in his mind like tickets from a cash register.
"Thought is the acid that destroys," answered Don Alonso.
Telemachus turned to look once more at the man working in the field. The hoe rose and fell, rose and fell. At a moment on each stroke a flash of sunlight came from it. Telemachus saw all at once the whole earth, plowed fields full of earth-colored men, shoulders thrown back, bent forward, muscles of arms swelling and slackening, hoes flashing at the same moment against the sky, at the same moment buried with a thud in clods. And he felt reassured as a traveller feels, hearing the continuous hiss and squudge of well oiled engines out at sea.