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In the south dimly islanded ;
P. B. SHELLEY.
The valley of Collares affords me a source of perpetual amusement. I have discovered a variety of paths which lead through chestnut copses and orchards to irregular green spots, where self-sown bays and citronbushes hang wild over the rocky margin of a little river, and drop their fruit and blossoms into the stream. You may ride for miles along the banks of this delightful water, catching endless perspectives of Howery thickets, between the stems of poplar and walnut. The scenery is truly Elysian, and exactly such as poets assign for the resort of happy spirits. The mossy fragments of rocks, grotesque pollards, and rustic bridges you meet with at every step, recall Savoy and Switzerland to the imagination; but the exotic cast of the vegetation, the vivid green of the citron, the golden fruitage of the orange, the blossoming myrtle, and the rich fragrance of a turf embroidered with the brightest-colored and most aromatic flowers, allow me, without a stretch of fancy, to believe myself in the garden of the Hesperides, and to expect the dragon under every tree. I by no means like the thought of abandoning these smiling regions, and have been twenty times on the point, this very day, of revoking the orders I have given for my journey. Whatever objections I may have had to Portugal seem to vanish since I have determined to leave it; for such is the perversity of human nature, that objects appear the most estimable precisely at the moment when we are going to leave them.
There was this morning a mild radiance in the sunbeams, and a balsamic serenity in the air, which infused that voluptuous listlessnessthat desire of remaining imparadised in one delightful spot, which, in classical fictions, was supposed to render those who had tasted of the lotus, forgetful of friends and of every tie. My feelings were not dissimilar; I loathed the idea of moving away.
Though I had entered these beautiful orchards soon after sunrise, the clocks of some distant conventual churches had chimed hour after hour, before I could prevail upon myself to quit the spreading odoriferous baytrees under which I had been lying. If shades so cool and fragrant invited to repose, I must observe, that never were paths better calculated to tempt the laziest of beings to a walk, than those that opened on all sides, and are formed of a smooth, dry sand, bound firmly together, composing a surface as hard as gravel. These level paths wind about among a labyrinth of light, elegant fruit-trees : almond, plum, and cherry, something like the groves of Tongo-Taboo, as represented in Cook’s voyages ; and to increase the resemblance, neat, clean fences and low, open sheds, thatched with reeds, appear at intervals, breaking the horizontal line of the perspective. I had now lingered and loitered away pretty nearly the whole morning, and though, as far as scenery could authorize and climate inspire, I might fancy myself an inhabitant of Polynesia, I could not pretend to be sufficiently ethereal to exist without nourishment. In plain English, I was extremely hungry. The pears, quinces, and oranges, which dangled above my head, although fair to the eye, were neither so juicy nor so gratifying to the palate, as might have been expected from their promising appearance.
"More than a mile within the wood,"
and not recollecting by which clue of a path I could get out of it, I remained at least half an hour deliberating which way to turn myself. The sheds and inclosures I have mentioned were put together with care, and even nicety, it is true, but seemed to have no other inhabitants than flocks of bantams, strutting about and destroying the eggs and hopes of many an insect family. These glistening fowls, like their brethren described in Anson's voyages, as ruminating the profound solitudes of the island of Tinian, appeared to have no master. At length, just as I was beginning to wish myself very heartily in a less romantic region, I heard the loud, though not unmusical tones of a powerful female voice, echoing through the arched green avenues; presently a stout, ruddy young peasant, very picturesquely attired in brown and scarlet, came hoydening along, driving a mule before her laden with two enormous panniers of grapes. To ask for a share of this luxurious load, and to compliment the fair driver, was instantaneous on my part--but to no purpose. I was answered by a sly wink: “ We all belong to Senhor José Dias, whose coreal (farm-yard) is half a league distant. There, Senhor, if you fol. low that road and don't puzzle yourself by a straying to the right or left, you will soon reach it, and the bailiff, I dare say, will be proud to give you as many grapes as you please. Good-morning; happy days to you! I must mind my business.”
Seating herself between the tantalizing panniers, she was gone in an instant, and I had the good luck to arrive at the wicket of a rude, dry well, winding up several bushy slopes in a wild, irregular manner. If the outside of this inclosure was rough and unpromising, the interior presented a most cheerful scene of rural opulence: droves of cows and goats milking; ovens, out of which huge savory cakes of bread had just been taken ; ranges of bee-hives and long pillared sheds, entirely tapestried with purple and yellow muscadine grapes half candied, which were hung up to dry. A very good-natured, classical-looking magister pecorum, followed by two well-disciplined, though savage-eyed dogs, whom the least glance of their master prevented from barking, gave me a hearty welcome, and with genuine hospitality not only allowed me the free range of his domain, but set whatever it produced in the greatest perfection before me. A contest took place between two or three curlyhaired, chubby-faced children, who should be first to bring me walnuts fresh from the shell, bowls of milk, and cream cheeses, made after the best of fashions, that of the province of Alemtejo.