Too much of a good thing. - My longing for a Ramble, Sage resolves.
- A Gallop. - Pure and elastic Atmosphere.-Expansive Plain. - Banks
of the River. - Majestic Basilica of Batalha. - Ghost-like Anglers.
- Retrospections. - The Conventual Bells. -Conversation with the Prior.
- A frugal Collation. - Romantic Fancies. - The Dead Stork and his Mourner.
- Mausoleum of Don Emanuel. - Perverse Architecture. - Departure from
Batalha. - Twilight. - Return to Alcobaça.
ONE may have too much of the good and grand things of this wicked world
after all. I began to be tired of such perpetual gormandizing - the
fumes of banquets and incense - the repetition of pompous rites - the
splendour of illuminated altars and saints and madonnas, in fusty saloons,
under still fustier canopies. My soul longed for an opener expanse -
the canopy of the heavens. So I said to myself, Dr.  Ehrhart
may enjoy his infirmary; Franchi, his endeavours to introduce a purer
taste of costume on the ruler of Alcobaça's temporary theatre;
the Priors, their cards and their devotions; I will place the incomparable
Simon at my Lord Almoner's uninterrupted disposal - they may toss omelets
and season matelottes to their hearts' content, and, this being a day
by courtesy entitled meagre, select the finest fish from their choicest
reservoirs, if they so fancy. I pant like a hart for living waters:
I am determined to follow the course of the river I noticed yesterday,
winding its fresh sparkling stream between aromatic thickets; and should
it lead me along its banks all the way to Batalha, so much the better.
I have not seen half I wanted to see in that holy spot; and what little
I did see floated before me like the shadows of a dream. I must be more
intimately acquainted with the unfinished mausoleum of Don Emanuel,
of which I  have heard and read so much; - in short, I must breathe,
which I can hardly be said to do in this too rich, too luxurious, too
These sage resolves being taken and communicated in due form to my right
reverend companions, and by them to the ruling power of Alcobaça,
(for I did not wish to disturb my Lord Abbot's slumbers, even with the
good news of my having given up Monsieur Simon to his guidance,) I mounted
my Arabian, patted his glossy neck, and whispering in his ear, "Now
we will repair to the desert - you will think of your native wilds,
and I of mine," off I galloped.
The fertile meadows and enclosures immediately round the convent were
soon passed, and so were the chesnut woods hanging on the steeps crowned
by the Moorish castle. My courser in full proof, pampered by the rich
provender he had been so abundantly supplied with, set no bounds to
his exertions, and I had hardly  gained the level on the summit
of the hills towards Aljubarota, before he fairly ran away with me.
The country people, who, to do them justice, appeared very industriously
employed, could not, however, help leaving their work to stare at the
velocity of my scamper, distending their eyes as wide as they could
possibly be distended when they beheld my Arabian on full stretch
"With flying speed outstrip the rapid wind,
And leave the breezes of the morn behind."
The morn itself was most exhilarating: I never breathed in any atmosphere
so pure or so elastic - it seemed to sparkle with life and light. The
azure bloom investing the line of mountains which shelter Leiria was
most beautiful. I longed to transfer their picturesquely-varied outline
to the leaves of my sketch-book; but it was in vain I wished to stop
for that purpose - neither snaffle nor curb could arrest the speed of
 At length, after a most inveterate gallop of at least five miles
right a-head, persuasion effected what force was completely unequal
to. He gave a lively, good-humoured, playful neigh, obeyed my muchloved
voice, and halted. We were standing on an expanse of the smoothest sand,
as firmly bound together as the nicest rolled walks of a regal garden;
here and there patches of anemones and fragrant brushwood, cistus, lavender,
and rosemary, varied the surface in irregular forms, like those of islands
and continents distinctly defined on a map. No object afforded the smallest
indication of human existence - neither the pointed roof of a shepherd's
hovel, nor even a curling smoke. As far as the eye could reach, one
uniform waste of level shrubs extended itself, bathed in the same equal
purple light, and fanned by the same delightful air, impregnated with
the same balsamic odour; an elysium without inhabitants, - unless, 
indeed, the souls of the departed were hovering about this serene and
tranquil region, invisible to mortal eye.
Perhaps my Arabian beheld objects we are forbidden to gaze at; for he
startel and pawed the ground, and snorted with such vehemence that I
almost expected every moment to see fire flash from his nostrils. By
degrees this violent ferment subsided, and he became calm; what we superciliously
call instinct seemed to point out to him that the region into which
he had been pleased to carry me was totally barren of refreshment, and
upon loosening his bridle, and allowing him to take what route he pleased,
most prudently did he trace back his steps between entangled bushes,
till I found myself under the shade of a forest of pine and chesnut,
through which I descended to the margin of the river I so particularly
wished to explore: and twenty times did I bless myself for having determined
to  follow the banks of this beautiful stream, the scenery they
presented having a cast so novel and uncommon.
A broad path, or rather causeway, perfectly hard and dry, led me between
a gigantic growth of canes, knotted like the bamboo; bulrushes of enormous
size, and osiers, the tallest I had ever seen, waving their fresh green
leaves high above my head, which they completely screened from the sun.
The coolness they diffused, their incessant whispers, and the clear
current of the river rippling among their stems, was so grateful both
to the eye and ear, that I kept listening and lingering on, unwilling
to emerge from this strange wilderness, and almost fancying I beheld
one of those forests of weeds and grasses which, some five or six hundred
thousand years ago, afforded refuge to a stupendous variety of monsters.
Happily no icthyosaurus - no tortoise fifty feet in diameter, with paddles
thrice as  large as the helm of a first-rate man-of-war, oppressed
me with their presence. I saw no living objects, except a shoal of fish,
with scales as bright as silver, swiftly darting under the low arches
formed by the luxuriant vegetation; and lizards as green as emeralds,
ascending the sides of the causeway, and looking at me, I thought, with
kind and friendly eyes.
For more than half a league did I continue along the path, hemmed in
by aquatic plants of extraordinary vigour, springing from the richest
alluvial soil. At length, just as I was beginning to think this world
of reeds and osiers had no termination, the stream took a sudden bend,
which I followed, and making the best of my way through every obstacle,
escaped into an open space and open daylight. Right before me, at the
extremity of an assemblage of hillocks, some bare, some covered with
flowering heaths, but destitute of human or animal inhabitants, 
stood the lofty majestic basilica of Batalha, surrounded by its glorious
huddle of buildings, from this point most picturesquely foreshortened.
I could hardly believe so considerable and striking a group of richly
parapeted walls, roofs, and towers, detached chapels, and insulated
spires, formed parts of one and the same edifice: in appearance it was
not merely a church or a palace I was looking at, but some fair city
of romance, such as an imagination glowing with the fancies of Ariosto
might have pictured to itself under the illusion of a dream.
Keeping my eyes fixed on a prospect which I tried to persuade myself
partook less of the real than the visionary, I traversed an extensive
level of sunburnt turf, and, on the other side of the hillocks bounding
the lawn, again found myself on the banks of the river, which here presented
the loveliest of mirrors - so calm, so pellucid, that I thought it a
thousand  pities no pleasanter objects were reflected from its
surface, than a long line of ghostlike fathers, each with a fishing-rod
projecting from his piebald drapery, angling on with pale and patient
countenances. I did not perceive the melancholy prophet in this rank
and file, - and I was not sorry; I dreaded to encounter his withering
glance, to hear his foreboding voice; for I had been told he often pressed
prophecies upon those least inclined to seek them, and I shrank from
any knowledge of the horrors he might possibly disclose to me. Far from
desiring to catch even the shadow of coming events, I said to myself,
in the nervous language of Dryden,
Seek not to know what must not be reveal'd;
Joys only flow where fate is most conceal'd.
Too busy man would find his sorrows more,
If future fortunes he could know before;
For by that knowledge of his destiny,
He would not live at all, but always die."
Not above one hundred yards from the spot selected by the reverend fathers
for  their quiet recreation, the river, as if tired of being calm
and placid, flowed with a brisker current, and rushing over a ledge
of rocks, became all froth and foam. The light spray occasioned by its
rapid movement refreshed the herbage on its banks so invitingly, that
I leapt off my courser, and allowed him to profit as much as he pleased
by the abundant pasture.
Throwing myself on the solid ground, I kept intensely poring over the
stream, lost and absorbed in the train of interesting yet melancholy
recollections which all that had occurred to me since I first entered
this fair realm of Portugal was so well calculated to excite. I thought
(alas! how vainly now!) of offers I had slighted with so much levity;
of opportunities which, had they been grasped with a decided hand, might
have led to happy results, and stemmed a torrent of evils. Since that
period, the germ of destructiveness, which might  then have been
trodden down, has risen into a tree fraught with poisons, darkening
the wholesome light, and receiving nourishment, through all its innumerably
varied fibres, from the lowest depths of hell.
Whilst I was watching the constant flow of waters, and giving way to
a tide of regrets in my own bosom equally ceaseless, the full rich tones
of the conventual bells came booming over the watery levels - a summons
the monks dared not disobey. Putting up their fishing-rods, they all
dispersed in silence, with the exception of one, whom I joyfully recognised
upon his nearer approach, and who seemed to feel equal pleasure in recognising
"To what lucky chance," said the Prior, (for it was he who
had advanced to me,) "are we indebted for the renewal of a visit
I scarcely ventured to flatter myself would have taken place so soon
"To the genuine desire," answered I,  "not only
of assuring you once more of my real veneration, but a wish to examine
the mausoleum of Don Emanuel, which I totally neglected in the hurry
of yesterday - You remember how they pushed me along?"
He smiled; and I could not help thinking, from the cast of his countenance,
that a few details of our Alcobaça banquets and compotations
would not have been ill received. Being, however, too discreet to tell
tales out of this pious school, I said nothing of our gay supper, of
my Lord Abbot's epicurean worship, of Monsieur Simon, or of the Poet,
or of "our tragedy," or Senhor Agostinho, (ycleped Donna Inez),
or of Donna Francisca's director, though I had his cursed name on the
tip of my tongue, ready to bolt out with not a few bitter animadversions
upon a species of piety which had deprived me of many and many an hour
of cheerfulness and joy.
 Repressing, upon reflection, every spark of curiosity, as befitted
a holy personage weaned from idle gossip, the good Prior most charitably
observed, "that my horse stood in need of more substantial refection
than he could find on the river banks; and that, although he could not
offer luxuries such as I had been accustomed to, the simple fare his
far from wealthy convent afforded would be served up to me most gladly."
Taking himself my horse by the bridle, he ushered me across the lawn
into the same quadrangular cool and lofty chamber I had supped in before.
A very youthful-looking lay brother received my Arabian into his charge
with great delight, and stroked its mane and kissed its neck in a transport
of childish fondness.
As to me, though I was treated with less enthusiasm, there was no want
of the utmost cordiality in my reception. An immense earthen platter,
containing a sa-  voury mess of fish and rice, vegetables delicately
fried after the Italian fashion, caraffes of wine, baskets of ripe and
fragrant fruit, pomegranates, apricots, and oranges, were neatly arranged
on a marble table, having in its centre a rock of transparent ice, shining
with ten thousand prismatic colours. To this frugal collation I sat
down with the most sincere appetite, and was waited upon with hospitable
glee by the angels of this wilderness - two lay brothers and as many
novices, - all of whom appeared enchanted with an opportunity of making
themselves of some use in this mortal existence. The Prior, crossing
his hands on his bosom, entreated me to dispense with his attentions
for half an hour, the choir service imperatively requiring his presence.
As soon as he had taken his departure, followed by his friars and novices,
I gave myself wholly up to the enjoyment of those romantic fancies the
surrounding  scenery was so admirably well adapted to inspire.
Two stately portals, thrown wide open to catch the breezes, admitted
views of the principal courts and cloisters of this unequalled monument
of the purest taste of the fourteenth century. A tranquil, steady sun-light
overspread their grand broad surfaces. The graceful spire, so curiously
belted with zones of the richest carved work, rose high above the ornamented
parapets, relieved by a soft and mellow evening sky. None of the monks
were moving about; but I heard with a sort of mournful pleasure their
deep and solemn voices issuing from the great porch of the transept
nearest the choir.
The young Egyptian-looking boys in white linen tunics I had noticed
at my first visit were all at their accustomed avocations, dislodging
every atom of dust from the deeply-indented tracery. The flamingo was
there, but I missed the stork, -  and knew but too soon the cause
of his being missed; for, upon ascending the steps before the chapter-house,
I discovered him lying stretched out upon the pavement stiff and dead.
One of the boys stood bending over him in an attitude expressive of
the deepest sorrow. The youth saw I compassionated him, and murmured
out in a low desponding voice: "This poor bird followed me all
the way from my home in Alemtejo - a long distance from Batalha. He
was the joy of my life, and dearly loved by my mother, who is dead.
I shall never see her again in this world, nor hear the cheering cry
of this our fond household bird, calling me up in the morning: he will
receive no more crumbs from my hand - he will keep faithfully by my
side no longer. I have no one now in this grand place who loves me!"
And he burst into a flood of bitter tears, and it was a relief to my
 own heart - a great relief - to join in his mourning.
The Prior, who happened to come up at the moment, could not at first
imagine what had affected me; but when I pointed to the boy and the
lifeless stork, he entered into my feelings with his characteristic
benevolence, and spoke words of comfort to the poor weeping child, with
such true parental kindness as seemed to assure him he had still a friend.
Touched to the heart, the boy fell on his knees, and kissed the pavement
and his stork at the same time. I left him extending his arms to the
good Prior in an act of supplication, which I learnt afterwards had
not been treated with cold indifference.
And now the Prior, with his wonted solemn and courteous demeanour, offering
to be himself my guide to the mausoleum of Don Emanuel, we traversed
a wilderness of weeds, - this part of the conventual  precincts
being much neglected, - and entered a dreary area, surrounded by the
roofless, unfinished cluster of chapels, on which the most elaborately
sculptured profusion of ornaments had been lavished, as often happens
in similar cases, to no very happy result. I cannot in conscience persuade
myself to admire such deplorable waste of time and ingenuity - "the
quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles" of a corrupt, meretricious
architecture; and when the good Prior lamented pathetically the unfinished
state of this august mausoleum, and almost dropped a tear for the death
of Emanuel its founder, as if it had only occurred a week ago, I did
not pretend to share his affliction; for had the building been completed
according to the design we are favoured with by that dull draftsman
Murphy, most preciously ugly would it have been; - ponderous and lumpish
in the general effect, exuberantly light and fantastic in the detail,
 it was quite a mercy that it was never finished. Saxon crinklings
and cranklings are bad enough; the preposterous long and lanky marrow-spoon-shaped
arches of the early Norman, still worse; and the Moorish horse-shoe-like
deviations from beautiful curves, little better.
I have often wondered how persons of correct taste could ever have tolerated
them, and batten on garbage when they might enjoy the lovely Ionic so
prevalent in Greece, the Doric grandeur of the Parthenon, and the Corinthian
magnificence of Balbec and Palmyra. If, however, you wish to lead a
quiet life, beware how you thwart established prejudices. I began to
perceive, that to entertain any doubts of the supreme excellence of
Don Emanuel's scollops and twistifications amounted to heresy. Withdrawing,
therefore, my horns of defiance, I reserved my criticisms for some future
display to a more intelligent auditor, and chimed in  at length
with the Prior's high-flown admiration of all this fillagree, and despair
for its non-completion; so we parted good friends. My Arabian was brought
out, looking bright and happy; I bade a most grateful adieu to the Prior
and his attendant swarm of friars and novices, and before they had ceased
staring and wondering at the velocity with which I was carried away
from them, I had reached a sandy desert above a mile from Batalha.
Night was already drawing on - the moon had not yet risen - a dying
glow, reflected from the horizon above the hills, behind which the sun
had just retired, was thrown over the whole landscape. "Era già
l' hora" - it was that soothing, solemn hour, when by some occult,
inexplicable sympathy, the interior spirit, folded up within itself,
inclines to repel every grovelling doubt of its divine essence, and
feels, even without seeking to feel it, the consciousness of immortality.
 The dying glow had expired; a sullen twilight, approaching to
blackness, prevailed: I kept wandering on, however, not without some
risk of being soon acquainted with the mysteries of a future world;
for had not my horse been not only the fleetest, but the surest of foot
of his high-born tribe, he must have stumbled, and in dangerous places,
for such abounded at every step. As good fortune would have it, all
the perils of the way were got over; the grand outline of the colossal
monastery and its huge church emerged from the surrounding gloom; innumerable
lights, streaming from the innumerable casements, cast a broad gleam
over the great platform, where my Lord Almoner and his guests were walking
to and fro, enjoying the fresh evening air, and waiting my return, they
were pleased to say, with trembling anxiety.
The first question I was asked upon entering the grand illuminated saloon
 was, how I had fared, and whether I did not feel half-dead for
want of refreshment. "We, for our parts," exclaimed my Lord
Abbot, "have been the happiest of the happy: your great Simon has
surpassed even my expectations. And now, to another proof of his transcendent
skill, now to supper."