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"Has anything fallen into your hands since I last saw you?" I said to Don Sanchez
Balthazar, a Spanish artist, engaged by the government
to restore the old Moorish palace at

"No," he said, quite innocently, beating
some crimson madder to a wet, oily,
delicious paste with his palette-knife, "nothing
but the gout;" and then, after this effort of
dry Spanish wit, he squeezed out a sapphire worm of cobalt, and proceeded, without looking
at me, to paint in a scud of April sky, with
here and there a swan's breast of snow-cloud,
vaporous and luxurious. Don Balthazar,
for a man of a brown, burnt-up country
is a great artist; though he does not paint, as well as I could see, with what some foolish English rhapsodist has called "the dust of

His large, bare, whitewashed studio was on
the ground-floor of the "house of Cæsar,"
once the house of a Roman prætor; but
re-built in the eleventh century (not long after
our Norman annexation), by Jalubi, an Arab
architect of Toledo, for the Moorish sultan,
Abdoo Rahmen, "the defender of the religion
of God," who ruleda second Haroon Al
Raschidover this fair city of sweet air and
sweeter oranges: The city that the historians
brag was built by Hercules, restored by
Julius Caesar, lost by Roderic, and
conquered by Saint Ferdinand; the first mart
of South American gold, and the chief scene
of Soult's plunderies.

But all that is neither here nor there; for
I come to talk with Don Balthazar (his
name always sounds to me like the name of a
lover in one of Cimarosa's old operas) about
the old Spanish Ballads; for which the country,
without books, is so famous, and of which
Don Balthazar has such a wealth; delighting
to croon over his easel all the verses about
the sword-strokes of the brave Admiral
Guarinos, and the gallant escape of Gayferos,
who made his captive lady leap down from the
Moorish tower behind him on his fiery roan.

I have listened by the hour. Don Somebody
or the other, outside the walls of
Xeres, tore up a young olive tree to bruise
and utterly discomfit the recreant Moors,
and was henceforward called "The Pounder."
Again Don Arnaldos, riding by the
seashore, suddenly saw a magic galley, invisibly
steered, bear towards him. But I know if
I begin now, bluntly on the subject, he will
instantly freeze up; for he is a strange snail
of a man; and, if you touch his shell, even
by accident, he is into his shell for all day.
So I must let him sing what he pleases
without saying anything, and then lead him
quietly into the main street of my subject, by
the side alley, of a discussion on Spanish art,
a subject his tongue is sure to run away with,
him on. Hear him.

I know that is a verse from a ballad about
Bavieça, the Cid's horse, by a certain Don
Fulano; the blameful neglect of whom by
Grimm, Depping, and indeed all ballad
collectors, is one special subject of fiery
indignation with the grave Andalusian Don.
What he sang here and elsewhere, I have
tumbled into rough verse:

"The froth dripp'd from his bridle-chains, the froth
      spilt down his knee,
There were blobs of snow on the creature's hide,
      that was black as black could be."

"There were trails of foam blown spattering back,
      white on the housing red,
There were blotches of gore on his saddle-tree, and
      on his chanfron'd head."

"Three yellow heads with shaven crowns, and
      scalp-locks floating dark,
Hung down beside the stirrup-steel, their eyes were
      staring stark."

Some scumble required a more worn brush,
which he selected from the quiver-full in his
left palette hand. Balthazar then quickened
to the freer measure of an old sailor's
ballad, as old at least as our Henry the

"Ye men that row the galleys,
     I see my lady fair:
She gazes at the fountain
     That leaps with pleasure there."

"O, galleys bound for Tunis,
     Spread out your wings of oars,
And bear me to my captive love
     Who lies among the Moors."

"Ye men that row the galleys,
     Pull madly at each oar,
I see the Moorish palace
     Upon the sandy shore,"