Agnes M Goodall.

Portugal online

. (page 2 of 5)
Online LibraryAgnes M GoodallPortugal → online text (page 2 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


I saw it first in the month of April, when the tomb-
stones were wreathed in masses of pink roses, and
everywhere, growing so thickly that no earth could
be seen, were beautiful white arum-lilies, rising out
of a perfect sea of glistening green leaves. Above
them stood the dark cypresses and light, spreading
Judas-trees, covered with purple-pink blossoms,
which shed a carpet of flowers on the narrow paths
below.

There is a wise old proverb which says, " Do in
Rome as Rome does," and certainly it pays in Lisbon

19 32



Portugal

to do as Lisbon does, and the same applies to any
part of Portugal. When you go shopping you
must remember to wish the shopkeeper ' Good-
day," and if you are a man, to bow and raise your
hat. You are always expected to be polite, and
you receive great politeness in return. Even if you
turn out half the shop, and then go away without
buying anything at all, the attendant shows no
annoyance, but, on the contrary, is sometimes even
profuse in his apologies for not having that
which the signor is in search of. If, however, you
enter in a lofty way as I am sorry to say I have
sometimes seen English people do and, omitting
all form of greeting, roughly demand this article
or that, it is quite possible that even should the
shopkeeper have exactly what you want, he may
tell you he does not stock it, and bow you out of
the door.

The people you see in the streets are mostly small
and dark, and to judge by the way they stand about
talking, sometimes for hours together, they would
not seem to have very much to do. Walking down
the principal streets of the town any afternoon, you
will see little groups of men leaning up against the
walls, or standing on the pavement arm in arm,
blocking the way for other people, and talking
together with much animation. Many are officers
in uniform, from bemedalled generals and admirals

20



More about Lisbon

to subalterns and midshipmen. It looks quite
natural in Lisbon, but would strike us as very odd
indeed in Bond Street or Piccadilly.

One of the prettiest sights in the whole town is
to be seen early in the morning down on the quays
along the river, when the graceful, gaily-painted
fishing-boats come in, and land their cargoes of
shimmering fish. The quays are very wide, and
some of them slope right down to the water's edge.
Here the fish are landed and piled up in heaps,
and a crowd of waiting women set to work to fill
their large flat baskets and take them off for sale
in the market near at hand, or to hawk them round
the town. Some balance the baskets on their
heads, others have them attached to either end of
a long pole, which rests on the shoulder. These
women are most picturesque. They have gaudy
handkerchiefs tied round their heads, beneath small
black " pork-pie ' felt hats ; the sleeves of their
cotton blouses are turned up above the elbows,
and their bare feet show below very full, short,
brightly-coloured petticoats.

These Lisbon fish-wives correspond to our Cock-
neys in their fund of ready wit and good-humoured
repartee. It is sometimes quite amusing to listen
to the banter which passes between the busy workers
on the quays and the fishermen, who shout their
remarks from the much-encumbered decks of the

21



Portugal

boats. There arc other men and women busily
employed, salting and packing some of the fish into
boxes and baskets for transportation inland, and
others are already at work overhauling the nets.

The method of selling milk strikes one as very
odd indeed. Instead of a milk-cart and cans, the
cows and goats go round to the houses, and in the
early morning are to be seen, even in the most busy
streets of the town, being driven slowly along and
milked as required at people's doors.

The electric trams which now run throughout the
town and far into the country contrast strangely
with old-fashioned customs of this kind, for Lisbon
is daily growing more up-to-date, though there
is still a slowness about many proceedings which
makes one sometimes wonder what would happen if
a rush of business, such as goes on in our own large
towns, were to come that way. Southey, in one
of his letters from Portugal, tells an amusing story
of an English sailor who happened to see a fire in
Lisbon. Assistance came late, and the house burnt
slowly. " Confound it all !" cried he ; " there is no
spirit in this country. Why, we should have had a
dozen houses burnt down in London by this time !"



22



CHAPTER V

PORTUGUESE CHILDREN

PORTUGUESE children are taught to be very respectful
to their parents, and those of the upper classes are
carefully educated. It is the fashionable thing to have
foreign nurses for them English, French, or German
so that they may grow up to be good linguists.
They go out for their daily walks and amuse them-
selves much like English boys and girls, hide-and-
seek being a very favourite game ; and they are just
as fond as we are of hearing fairy-tales. They know
all the old ones " Cinderella," " Beauty and the
Beast," and many others, besides many of the old
Portuguese folk stories and legends, which are
gradually dying out, but which are still firmly
believed in by most of the peasants, and some
of which I will tell you about presently. Girls
generally have foreign governesses as they grow
older, and the boys go to school very early. They
work for long hours and have many examinations
to pass.

In Lisbon the young fellows play football and
tennis, which they have taken from the English ;

23



Portugal

but the Portuguese people arc not naturally given
to playing games. The little ones of the poorer
classes have hardly any education at all, and are
only too often to be seen begging in the streets.

The one event in the year which the town
children look forward to above all others is the
Carnival. In Lisbon this is a great time for them,
though many of the old customs are gradually
disappearing, for, alas ! in Portugal, as elsew r here,
there are many people who think that the old-time
ways are not sufficiently up-to-date. The Carnival
used to last for many days, and all kinds of practical
jokes were played, some of them not at all amusing for
the luckless folk who were the victims. Strings were
tied across the road to trip people up. Water
was squirted at the passers-by, or gloves full of
sand and packets of flour thrown down on them
from the windows. Oftener, however, there would
be pleasanter missiles bouquets, buttonholes, and
bonbons which were caught and returned by the
gay throng. All this is modified nowadays, but a
good deal of frolic still goes on, and it is considered
great fun to pin papers on people's backs " tails '
they are called. Many nice and some nasty
presents and letters are sent anonymously to friends
through the post.

Then, also, there are masquerades, when people
go about in fancy costume, decorated carts are seen

24




OOINQ TO SEE FRlir.



Portuguese Children

in the streets, and the whole town gives itself up to
amusement. Masked balls take place in the theatres,
everyone going in fancy dress, and wearing little
black masks, so that no one is supposed to know
with whom they are dancing, and many of the
" costume balls ' in smart society are given during
the Carnival.

Some other festivals that are particularly looked
forward to by children are St. Anthony's Day, on
June 13 ; St. John the Baptist's Day, on the 24th ;
and St. Peter's Day, on the 29th. Small altars,
decorated with flowers and tiny candles, are placed
on the door-steps by poor children who run after
the passers-by begging for farthings " for the good
Saint "; but it is the children, and not the " good
Saint," who benefit by the contributions.

On the eves of these saints' days all children,
if they can, rich and poor alike, delight in letting
off fireworks, and in the evening crackers and squibs
may be heard on all sides.

At about this time of year the girls have many
superstitions about marriage. They throw thistles on
the large bonfires which are lighted, thinking mean-
while of some lover. These thistles are left out of
doors during the night and the following day, and
if they remain green, they believe they will be
fortunate in their love affairs, but if black and burnt,
oh sorrow ! no love is to be expected from the one

PO. 25 4



Portugal

thought of. It is to be feared that under these
circumstances there must be many disappointments,
unless, indeed, a little mild cheating be resorted to.
There is also an old custom of gathering rushes on
St. John's Eve. Lovers each cut a rush of equal
length, and if in the morning one is found to be
longer than the other, the love of the person who
cut it is supposed to be the more true and lasting.

Certain plants and flowers are looked on as being
lucky, and special virtue is supposed to attach to
them if picked on the morning of St. John the
Baptist's Day. In many parts there are legends
of beautiful enchanted Moorish maidens, who are
doomed to live in deep wells, but are allowed to
appear early on that morning, and ask of those who
come to draw water some boon which may break
the spell that binds them.

St. Anthony is supposed to be the match-maker
among the saints. In the church dedicated to
him in Lisbon there is a letter-box where young
people post letters, asking the Saint to find them
sweethearts, and if their love affairs prosper, they
sometimes post cheques and other thank-offerings
to him in the same little box in church. The priests
read the letters, and also stand proxy for St. Anthony
in the matter of pocketing the money.

It is not only the children who make merry on
the eves of these three saints' days. In Lisbon

26



Portuguese Children

the common people spend the night at the Praga
da Figueira the market-place which is beauti-
fully decorated with flowers and fruit, some hanging
in bunches on sticks. Men and women buy pots
of " Majarico " a sweet-smelling plant, in the
middle of which is stuck a large paper pink with
some sweet love-verse, and these pinks are presented
and accepted with pleasure by both men and women.
Farther north, and especially at Coimbra and
Figueira, these festivals are most remarkable. There
are bonfires and music ; the men and women dress
in the picturesque costumes of the country, the
women wearing, as on all festive occasions, a great
deal of very handsome gold jewellery, for they
spend most of their earnings on these quaint orna-
ments, and are very proud of them. There is much
guitar-playing by the men, and all join in the
popular Portuguese dances, " Ver-de-Gaio ' and
others, and sing the most lovely romantic songs.



27 42



CHAPTER VI

COUNTRY DANCES, SONGS, AND LEGENDS

THE peasants are very fond of dance and song,
particularly in Northern Portugal. At harvest-time,
and in the month of May, they delight in gather-
ings where old-fashioned Oriental-looking dances
take place. They are slow and sedate, consisting
quite as much of movements of the body, arms,
and hands, as of the feet, and must have been
taken from the Moors. You seldom hear any
laughter at these da?icas, though in the ordinary
way the northern Portuguese are cheery and light-
hearted enough.

The music which accompanies them is also usually
of a weird Oriental nature, in a minor key, like many
of the national airs and ballads, but each district
has its own peculiar songs, and these have often a
great charm and sweetness about them, more especi-
ally in the mountainous districts, where the Moors
never penetrated, and where the peasants retain
more of their ancient Roman and Gothic origin.

" When the Portuguese labourer has done his
long day's work, he does not lean against a post and

28



Country Dances, Songs, and Legends

smoke a pipe, nor does he linger in the wine-shop ;
but if it be a holiday or a Sunday, and in a rural
district, he puts on a clean shirt, with a large gold
or silver stud as a neck fastening, and his newest
hat, varying in shape according to locality, but
always of black felt, and of the kind one sees in
pictures of Spanish life. He throws over his
shoulder a black cloth cloak with a real gold or silver
clasp. He takes his favourite ox-goad in his hand,
as tall as himself, straight as an arrow, well-rounded,
and polished, and bound with brass. He slings his
mandolin round his neck, and makes his way to the
nearest fashionable threshing-floor the peasant's
drawing-room. As he passes along, strumming
careless chords and humming snatches of strange
airs, the girls and lads stop their labour and accom-
pany him, lovers will interrupt their love-making
to follow too, or continue their courting to the
rhythmic tinkling of the mandolin. When the music
and its following arrives at the dancing place, and
the partners are all ranged in a circle, the dance
will begin, with the strangest, slowest, most old-
fashioned steps, the like whereof has not been danced
under a civilized roof for centuries. The musician,
or the three or four of them whose mandolins make
the orchestra, dance in the round with the others,
and, when the time arrives, turn and set to their
partners like the other dancers."

29



Portugal

The above is taken from the writings of an
Englishman who spent many years of his life in
Portugal, and knew the country well.

There is still a great deal of superstition among
the peasants, and some of the quaint legends of
vampires, spirits, and fairies in which they firmly
believe are most strange. Stories of Moorish
maidens are very general. If, wandering through the
forests, a man happens to hear an echo of his own
voice, he thinks it is that of a Moorish maid, and,
being a good Roman Catholic, crosses himself
devoutly to keep off harm.

In one place they tell of a huge and terrible
dragon, who did all sorts of dreadful things, and
terrorized the entire neighbourhood. At last a
brave and chivalrous youth set out to try and
destroy it, but while he lay in wait for the monster
in the heart of a dark wood, he was overcome by
sleep, and awoke, to his horror, to find himself in the
coils of the monster itself, and the horrible creature
in the act of kissing him on the lips. But as it did
so the spell was broken, and instead of a dragon, he
found he was being embraced by a most beautiful
Moorish maiden, with whom he fell in love on the
spot, and they were married, and lived happily ever
after.

In another place there is a story of one of these
maidens whom some wicked spirit had turned into

30



Country Dances, Songs, and Legends

a stone, and quite unconscious of what it really
was, a farmer was in the habit of using this particular
stone as a weight on his harrow. One day, to his
great surprise, he heard a voice in the air above him
telling him to break off one corner of the stone and
take it home, and then to throw the rest into a deep
pool in the river, which flowed near at hand. He
did as he was bidden, and as the stone splashed into
the water, he heard a peal of joyful unearthly
laughter, as the Moorish maid once more resumed
her human form ; and on returning to his house
the farmer found that the piece of stone he had left
there had been changed into pure gold, which made
him rich for life.

There is also a great belief in witches bruxas
they call them. The fishermen often think they
see them at night on the crests of the waves. They
say they are quite accustomed to them, that the
lapping of the water is the murmur of their
songs, and they are not at all afraid of them, as
these water-witches are considered quite harmless.
The land bruxas are, however, much more dreaded,
and it is strange in a land of otherwise sensible
people to hear of the queer customs which are still
in vogue, and are supposed to avert the evil they
might otherwise do. On May Day a piece of red
wool is tied round the necks of all the young animals
on a farm : mules, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs, etc

31



Portugal

Old horseshoes are nailed to the house-doors, and
a slip of broom is stuck into every stable-door.
Every cart, plough, or ox-yoke in the place is also
decorated with broom, which is considered par-
ticularly efficacious against the dreaded spells of
the bruxas.

Some animals are looked on as " lucky," particu-
larly the oxen, and the most superstitious peasant
will believe himself to be quite safe from all danger
of charms or magic when standing among them.

Of all the birds the house- mart ins are the most
cherished, for the legend still survives that they fly
to heaven every day to wash our Lord's feet, and
it would be thought most unlucky to in any way
destroy their nests or young.







-



:



CHAPTER VII

COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK

THE Portuguese peasants, dark-faced and unshaven,
often look such ruffians that at first, when you meet
them on some lonely country track, you would not
be at all surprised if they brandished a knife over
your head with the blood-curdling challenge of
" Your money or your life !"

But in reality they are nice civil fellows, anxious
to please in any way they can, friendly and full of
natural politeness. Do you ask your way in broken
sentences, your scanty Portuguese vocabulary helped
out with signs and gesticulations, the Portuguese
workman will take the greatest trouble, first of all
to discover your meaning, and then to help you
and make himself understood, even going out of
his way to accompany you to some point of vantage,
from whence he may the more easily direct you.
Then, with a smile, a bow, and lifted hat, he
will go on his way ready to act the good Samaritan
to the next comer.

Would you like to imagine you are going for a
walk in Portugal, and that you see all the quaint

PO. 33 5



Portugal

.

I US 4

.Ik- - . v -. -. "

. ... .it th. :hc

. . : -

lits i j b Id

m..-. - ;

.: all the . in

Tender spring < s e-il

ig green

. . . . .-.

I E in th . - -

the . untillcd

.. . - \ . d gent ..n-blv.
and many tha: I km :.. : ; woi'. id CU
. . 90 much : able in our g lens ..: .
Tall. dels, slendei white HI-..-

and lar^. .... lies, i . lup:.'.-. rchids,

E .-.dioli, blue and yellow i: ses, mall. ~.

an.. : .. 5 : and cli:~ ttfi t si US-

^

bush.- c -.vild- i sweet - /.ling honey -

la<tir_ . . ::d the . > .. : the Urge,
rose-like white fio\\c:s o: :!:. cistus itself, with .1
han. : . ; dark brown blotch on each leaf. lv i^htest
of all are the fie/ - : blue convolvulus, looki:
though a p:..\ .^f sumr. had lost its. :id

had been caught and held prisoner in th g
Down th. vallei rlows a little brook clc.



:al. whi. B es bubbling and gurgling aloiu
. . .....

54



Country Ways and Country Folk

gliding shyly round the big rocks as though it
wondered what it would find on the other side,
and then, grown bolder, leaping with a sparkle
and a splash over some tiny waterfall into a deeper
pool below. There is an old moss-gro-.vn bridge
with maidenhair ferns peeping out from between
the stones. We cross over, and before long the
footpath comes out into the dusty road.

Presently we meet a girl on a donkey, sitting
sideways on a funny-looking affair which does service
for a saddle, and which half smothers her small
mount. She has got her best shawl on, and her
brightest orange handkerchief tied over her head,
and because the sun is hot (and perhaps still more
because she is going to visit some friends, and wishes
to appear smart), she is holding up an old green
umbrella.

Next, we meet another donkey, but he is a less
prosperous beast than his brother who has just gone
by. Thin and tired, he droops his head, and his
ears lop sideways in a depressed way ; and no wonder,
for hanging on either side of his pack-saddle are
huge baskets filled with earth, and piled above them
and across his poor little back are great bundles
and sacks stuffed with green fodder. Perched,
goodness knows how, on top of all, sits an old
country-woman. There is hardly any donkey to
be seen, except the head and legs, and a few inches

35 5-2



Portugal

above the tail. We wonder how he can get along
at all, but his mistress won't let him dawdle ; and
as her ruthless stick comes down with a crack on
the few available inches, we feel we would give
anything to save his poor thinly-covered bones.

Sights of this kind are the one thing that would
make English boys and girls miserable in Portugal.
Kind as the people are to one another and to their
children, their poor animals are often most brutally
overladen, overworked, and beaten. No one seems
to think that animals need kindness and considera-
tion, no one minds seeing acts of cruelty.

But let us w r alk on and try to forget that poor
patient little donkey. What is this coming down
the road in a cloud of dust ? A horseman, cantering
along with his heavy overcoat flying out behind
him. He is riding a pretty little bay horse, hardly
bigger than a pony, with fine legs and muzzle, long
tail and mane, great big eyes looking about him,
and ears pricked well forward. What a strange
figure the rider makes ! He is sitting on a very high
saddle covered with flapping goat-skins, and his feet
disappear into the quaintest of stirrups, veritable
wooden boxes, handsomely ornamented with brass-
work. He has a brightly-coloured striped rug, with
many tassels, rolled up and thrown across the front
of his saddle, and various other odds and ends are
swinging about. He is a young farmer, and thinks

36



Country Ways and Country Folk

himself rather a fine fellow, with his broad-brimmed
felt hat, wide, magenta-coloured sash, and thick
black overcoat or cloak, with fur collar and scarlet
lining. It has, however, not struck him to shave
since last Sunday week, and his appearance is that
of the villain in a play.



37



CHAPTER VIII

COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK (continued)

NEXT we pass a string of heavily-laden mules,
and now a farm-cart drawn by big, sleepy-looking
oxen. The Portuguese have seen no reason to
change the build of their farm-carts since the old
days of the Roman occupation. The wheels have
no spokes, they are almost solid, and instead
of turning round on the axle as ours do, the axle
is fixed in and revolves with them. The body of
the cart is just a flat board with upright sticks round
the edge, against which side planks can be propped
if required. When first you see these odd-looking
carts, they strike you as having come out of some
prehistoric picture-book.

Away on the right a field is being ploughed, and
the plough, like the cart, is of the same pattern as
those used by the Romans a very primitive affair.
Just a wooden spike shod with iron, which scratches
shallow furrows in the earth. It is being drawn by
a great big ox and a very small donkey. The
ploughman has a little boy to help him, who carries
a long pole with which to clear away the earth that

38



Country Ways and Country Folk

clogs the plough. Man and boy have been at work
since very early morning, and they will go on till
six or seven in the evening. All day long, hour
after hour, they sing a monotonous kind of chant
in a minor key, only about two lines, repeated over
and over again, and it sounds as though tnere were
no real words to it. It is just such a tune, or want
of tune, as may be heard any day on the east coast
of Africa, sung by native boat-boys.

It is a legacy from the early days when the country
was held by the Moors. The Southern Portuguese
more especially have retained many Moorish cus-
toms, and the peasants have a very distinctly Moorish
type of face, with the inscrutable expression which
may so often be seen among Eastern peoples.

There are many Arab wells or shadufs in the
country. A beam is placed horizontally between
two pillars, and on this is balanced a long pole, to
one end of which a weight (very often a large stone)
is attached, and to the other, by means of a rope,
a bucket. A pull on the rope lets the bucket down
into the well ; when full the rope is let go, and the
weight at the other end raises the water.

With a few exceptions, in some of the larger towns,
nearly all the shops are Eastern-looking. They
have no smart plate-glass windows in which to show
off their pretty merchandise ; often they have hardly
any window at all, but just a big doorway, through

39



Portugal

which you look into a dark passage, where the various
goods for sale hang on the walls and from the ceiling.

The Portuguese have many other Eastern ways : for
instance, if they wish to send you farther from them,
they make a sign with the hand which we should
take to be beckoning you nearer, and if they want


2 4 5

Online LibraryAgnes M GoodallPortugal → online text (page 2 of 5)