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ONCE upon a time, a wise raven lived in the top of the Giralda, the Moorish bell tower of the cathedral in Seville, Spain. The raven was old, so old that his head was not black, but gray. The tower, too, is old, and is crowned by the large, bronze figure of Faith which serves as a weather vane. For four centuries, el Girandello, the weather vane, has turned with the wind; and it was four centuries ago, that the raven was living in the tower. All day, he would sit on his perch, with his learned head cocked on one side as he sleepily studied the stonework of the belfry, or alertly discussed weighty matters with his bird comrades and with the wind. At night, he was often deep in talk with his special friend, the owl, who, when tired of roaming through the tops of the giant palm trees or of prowling into out-of-the-way nooks in the cathedral roof, liked to tell of his adventures. For, in night wanderings, the owl sometimes flew near the quiet Guadalquiver which flowed by Seville, and he heard the river murmur tales of the Tower of Gold on its bank; or he peered into the gardens of the Alcazar where Spanish kings had long had their palace, and heard, from the moonbeams, tales which, when repeated, made even the raven’s sober thoughts turn sprightly. What the raven liked best to hear was what the owl, or any one else, could tell of the Giralda itself or of the mighty Cathedral below the tower. For the raven cared for nothing in the world so much as he cared for this tall tower, up whose winding passage, of three hundred feet, men had ridden on horseback, almost to the very top. Yes, with his own eyes he had seen those riders. Before the days of the riders, in the time when the bells of the Giralda summoned the Moors to prayer, there had been, on the spire, four large, gilded, copper balls that shone like golden apples. After an earthquake had thrown down the copper balls, el Girandello was placed on the top of the dome. The raven considered himself the owner of el Girandello and, in truth, of all the Giralda. Who, but himself, had perched on the sills of the twin windows that looked out, high in the tower, over the white-roofed Seville? Who, but himself, had stood upon the helmet on the head of el Girandello? Not the owl!–the raven saw to that! And not another bird of his acquaintance, surely! He knew himself to be the oldest raven in the world; he knew himself to be the wisest raven in the world;–and he certainly owned the whole of the Giralda!

The raven, in short, was entirely satisfied with his belfry and its bells. It was a rectangular belfry, and on the four faces of the rectangular stage, high up, were inscribed the four words: Turris . . . Fortissima . . . Nomen . . . Domini1 The great bells, each christened with holy oil, had their own names. There were Santa Maria and San Juan; there was la Gorda, or The Fat; there was brave San Miguel; there was el Cantor, or The Singer; and there was many another. At times, the bells rang softly through the still air that hovered over the flat-roofed city. At other times, they rang out with such noisy clamor that the vibration penetrated the houses farthest away, and the raven of the Giralda clung to his stone perch as closely as the leaves of the cocoa tree cling to their twigs. The raven liked el Cantor better than all the other bells. He couldn’t sing a note himself, but he liked this singing bell, with its especially clear tone. On spring evenings when the fragrance of orange blossoms and acacias filled the air, The Singer would peal forth such a glad note that the people down in the street would say, “El Cantor is feeling fine tonight”; and the raven, up in the tower, would croak loudly with him, though he never croaked with any other bell.

Now it happened that the wind, even more than the owl, was a friend of the raven. This was not only because the wind was usually a gentle, lovable, sunny-hearted fellow, but because he was always around the tower, day and night, whereas the owl hid all day.

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - Raven Ringing the Bell

When the raven felt like talking, the wind was always on hand to listen. That was a friend worth having! The wind, too, often told capital stories.

One afternoon, the wind told the raven an astonishing tale. The wind had it from the owl who, in turn, had it from the passarinno–that small, gray bird who sings like an angel. To this passarinno, the story had come down from his ancestor, of a much earlier time. That ancestor had told it to the wind of his day, who wafted it to the ears of King Alfonso, the Sage. Perhaps, in the later days, it had grown by traveling (passarinno to owl, owl to wind, wind to raven); for, when Alfonso, in the thirteenth century, wrote the tale in his big book of Cantigas, it wasn’t just like the passarinno’s story to the owl three centuries later. Would you like to hear the tale? Anyone may hear it. To believe the tale as it should be believed, and to understand it aright, you must be able to know the power of melodious sounds, as truly as the blind organist of Seville Cathedral knew that power. If you do not know anything about the music of the trees, or the music of the birds, or the music of the air, you may as well stop reading this story and gather nuts instead. Listen to the tale, if you will; here it is, as the wind told it to the raven.

“For, sir,” began the wind,” it was a passarinno who told the owl and the owl told me. The owl had been praising the voice of the passarinno, but the passarinno protested and said,

‘My voice is nothing compared to the voice of my ancestress–the passarinna 2 who entranced the monk.’ Now, pray, explain your words,’ said the owl. The passarinno answered, pleasantly, ‘Sit comfortably and I will tell you all.’ They were in the garden of the Alcazar and were perched on a tall cocoa tree. The owl settled himself on a wide, sweeping leaf, and the passarinno perched himself on a leaf above.

‘My ancestress,’ the passarinno went on, ‘was the most marvelous singer ever known. Her home was in the garden, just outside the Court of Oranges beside the Giralda, and when she was singing she would look up at the tower. But she rarely was heard by anyone, because she chose to live in the unfrequented part of the great garden. One morning a monk came, very slowly, along the path that led to the shrubbery where the passarinna lived, and my ancestress knew at once three things about that monk: first, that he was good; second, that he was old; third, that he was weary. The monk sat down, rather heavily, beside the fountain that was sending a cool, orange-scented, shimmering spray of water into the air. Leaning over the edge of the pool, he bathed his hands in the clear water and bathed his face. The passarinna could plainly see how refreshing, to the tired monk, the water felt; for there came into his face a look like the look on a parched tree when a shower renews it. The weary lines on the monk’s brow passed away, as cloud-bars vanish from the evening sky, leaving fairness and tranquillity. He sat, for some time, with a smile on his face, looking up at the tree tops and at the Giralda beyond. Then, kneeling down–and his knees were not as stiff as when he entered the garden–he prayed aloud that he might be permitted to know what the happiness of Paradise would be like. It was at that moment the passarinna–marvelous ancestress of mine–began to sing.

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - The Monk rose from his knees

‘The monk rose from his knees, and, with a smile on his face, seated himself in the thickest part of the shrubbery, where he could see the passarinna and where the passarinna could see him. That bird of birds sang on and on, now softly, now triumphantly, now wistfully, now ecstatically. There was such charm in her singing, all the leaves forgot to rustle. There was such charm in the melody, the water in the fountain ceased moving–the breezy air was hushed and wondering–the day faded imperceptibly into night, and the stars came nearer earth to hear the song. Still the passarinna sang on and on and on. Still the monk listened happily, with an exalted look in his eyes, and was unaware of the passing of hours or of days. As the passarinna continued her heavenly song, time itself stopped, though life went on. . . . The monk listened, listened in rapture, while joyous satisfaction held his whole being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - There came to the door of the monastery

‘Late one afternoon,’ went on the passarinno, ‘there came to the door of the monastery near the Giralda, an aged, worn-looking man, long-bearded, and in shabby monk’s dress. The prior himself answered his knock and said, “Who are you, poor stranger, and what do you want?”

‘The monk stammered in much confusion, “Good father, I belong here . . . I left the monastery this morning for a walk. . . . I come back–all is changed. I do not understand. The trees look different . . . the monastery is larger . . . you are not my prior . . . nothing is the same. Where am I? . . . What has happened since morning? . .

I heard a bird sing, and I was so entranced with the song I may have stayed away too long.”

‘The prior and the brother monks who had now come to the door looked at one another in surprise, and said, in low tones, “He is evidently not himself. . . . The man does not know what he says.”

‘The prior then spoke to the man, kindly, saying, “What is your name?”

“I am Brother Jubilo,” the monk replied; “I mean, . . . he stammered, “that was my name in the monastery . . . that was what I was called this morning.”

‘The oldest monk among those at the door now looked thoughtful. It was to him that the others always turned whenever any knowledge of the past was wanted. “Attend my words,” he suddenly said to the prior. “Three hundred years ago a brother monk, named Jubilo, wandered off and was never again seen. My Father–my brother monks—I am of the opinion that we have before us, this day, a true marvel! I am sure this poor monk and that Jubilo, of three hundred years ago, are the same!”

‘Then the prior, believing, took the monk warmly by the hand and brought him into the monastery, and all rejoiced.’

‘That, ‘said the passarinno to the owl, ‘is the story of my ancestress, the passarinna of long ago. The Giralda knows I speak truth.’

And the wind, as he finished the tale, remarked, “That’s all the story, sir; but the passarinno does speak truth.”

“Truth it is,” replied the raven, “and I’ll keep the story going.”

Then the sunny wind brushed the tail feathers of the raven and blew along his leisurely way, through the streets of Seville.

The raven sat stolidly in his niche, gazing with keen eyes at the city spread out below the Giralda–its flat-roofed houses gleaming in soft colours, from blue and gray to palest pink. He watched the women watering their carnations on the roofs. He saw the motionless, dusky Guadalquiver, in the late afternoon light. His eyes followed the group of boys coming to the Cathedral to practice their solemn dance. Turning his wise, old head, he looked toward the gardens of the Alcazar, then down at the Court of Oranges, and at the roof of the vast Cathedral below him–its parapets, and buttresses. His roving gaze went all over the city until sundown. The bells of the Giralda sent out their evening peal, and el Cantor’s vibrating tone fell softly on the waiting breeze. The raven sturdily croaked, croaked, until el Cantor stopped singing; then, humping himself into a ball, he tucked his head under his feathers and went to sleep.

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - The Raven Sings

From: TOWER LEGENDS

ISBN: 9781907256349

URL: http://abelapublishing.com/tower-legends_p27279490.htm

Also available as an eBook in PDF and ePub

Footnotes

1 The name of the Lord a most steadfast tower.

2 Passarinna (the feminine form of passarinno) is the diminutive of the Old Spanish pasara (in modern Spanish, pajara). The nearest equivalent today is Passerina (sparrow), the painted finch.

Raven of the Giralda - Sevilla_La_Giralda

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The bells of the monks of Burceña were ringing for prayers, and Catharina was weeping bitterly in despair on seeing that the time was fast speeding away, and the hour approached in which Martino was to depart, perhaps never to return, and never more to see him. In vain did she look at the flowing water, waiting to discover the stones which served as a bridge; the stones remained concealed beneath the swollen currents which every moment swept down with greater power and roared with greater fury.

 

“What have I done, Holy Virgin,” she would cry out in her deep sorrow, “that Martino should thus doubt me, and be going away to die in the wars which are destroying the bravest knights and the most honoured youths of Biscay? Some dreadful misunderstanding or some calumny has no doubt taken place which has made us both wretched. A single word from me would at once undeceive Martino and dissuade him from his sad resolve, yet I cannot approach him, nor even speak to him, because the river, wild and swollen, interposes between us. Ah! I would give my life to be able to cross this furious current before the bells of Burceña chime the hour of midnight, and each stroke of the hour tells me that no longer will there be any happiness, either for Martino or myself, in this world!”

 

Thus spoke the hapless Catharina, as she wept at the foot of the chestnut tree, and looked towards the river in hopes of its subsiding, and of discovering the stones, over which she had so often merrily passed, and which now were under water, and then turning towards the house and fields of Iturrioz sought the well-known form of Martino, who, alas! did not appear as was his wont to do, frequenting the river shore to exchange a loving word with his beloved Catharina.

 

Suddenly she heard footsteps behind, and on turning round she saw coming up to her the mysterious visitor of the previous night, he who had sought a shelter at her mother’s house. A hope, wild, because it was founded on an absurdity, beamed over the soul of Catharina.

 

“From this,” she said to herself, “up to Aranguren, which is on the boundary of the valley of Salcedo, there is no bridge whatever, yet this man has crossed the river at no great distance from here. Perhaps some of the gigantic trees growing on the shores have been wrenched by the storm and fallen down across the stream, and, enabled the man to cross over as though it were a bridge.

 

Should it be so, this man can tell me, and then I shall be able to cross over and see Martino in time to prevent him from going to the wars.”

 

All this did Catharina turn over in her mind during the brief moments of surprise occasioned by the appearance of the man.

 

“By what part of the river did you cross?” she anxiously asked of the stranger.

 

“I crossed over by the bridge of Aranguren,” he replied,

 

“How could that be, for the bridge of Aranguren stands some three leagues from here?”

 

“By making prodigious efforts!” he cried.

 

“Prodigies indeed! Ah, would that I could work them as you have done!”

 

“Which would you wish to do first?”

 

“I would wish to cross the river.”

 

“In that case it would be necessary to have a bridge to be able to cross the river.”

 

“Most certainly.”

 

“I can make one.”

 

“How? perhaps by felling some of the trees and placing them across on both sides of the river?”

 

“That would be impossible: because the river is very wide, and none of the trees, however high, would reach across to the opposite shore.”

 

“How then?”

 

“By constructing a stone bridge.”

 

“That would take too long a time, for I must cross over, at latest, when the bells of Burceña strike the hour of midnight.”

 

“I can easily erect it by that hour.”

 

“Do it then.”

 

What will you give me if I do?”

 

“My life.”

 

“Your life is not enough payment for me.”

 

“What more do you require?

 

“I must have your soul!”

 

“Well, then, have it, so that you erect the bridge without delay.”

 

Catharina seemed to be under some irresponsible influence when she uttered these words, and knew not what she said. But scarcely had she spoken these wild words than reason asserted itself in her mind, and she clearly comprehended the grave import of her words, and she then wished to recall them, or at least to explain them; but the mysterious stranger had already departed far from that spot; while on the river shores, obscured by the shades of night, which was a very dark one, nothing was heard but the noise of hatchets, pickaxes, spades, saws, and hammers, as though a multitude of workmen, stonemasons, carpenters, and other artificers, were digging, sawing wood, cutting huge blocks of granite and stone, and laying the foundation, erecting the pillars, and forming the arch of the bridge.

 

The idea that this man dressed in black was the evil one began to take possession of the imagination of Catharina, and what more terrified her than the thought of losing her lover was the conviction that she was going to lose her soul. Catharina in her distress cried out to that man, “Do not erect that bridge at the expense of my soul, because I do not wish to give it to you!” But her voice was drowned in the noise of the rushing waters of the Cadagüa, and the uproar of hammers and pickaxes which continued to be heard on the river banks, as though an invisible legion of carpenters and stonemasons were working there; while amid that unearthly roar the hapless girl seemed to hear a voice rising above it all which replied to her, “It is too late! It is too late!”

 

The night advanced, and Catharina amid the gloom saw rising on either side of the river white columns, which were no doubt the base or buttress to sustain the arch of the bridge. A gleam of hope suddenly strengthened the fainting heart of Catharina, and she at once started towards the coast of Castrejana, and on reaching to the foot of the chestnut tree of Altamira, she fell on her knees, and, looking in the direction of the temple of Begoña, she invoked the protection of the Virgin, saying, “Holy Mother of God! save my soul which is in peril of losing its eternal salvation

 

The valley of Ibaizabal was as darksome as the depths of Cadagüa; but scarcely had Catharina said these words of fervent prayer, than it appeared to her that a soft resplendency illumined the valley, which for a thousand years has been protected and watched over by the Mother of God from the heights of the hills of Artagan. What light could it have been? Ah! perchance it was that of hope! Enlightened and strengthened by this light, Catharina descended the slope of Castrejana. The soft light which shone over the valley of the Ibaizabal 3 was spreading also along the valley of the Cadagüa, and by its gleams Catharina saw that the two buttresses which she had seen, or imagined she saw, rising up on both shores of the river, and the erection proceeding on either side, were meeting in the centre to form a perfect arch. Towards the side of Iturrioz there shone a light similar to a flaming torch, which began to descend to the chestnut wood and disappeared among the leafy branches. The heart of Catharina beat fast in anguish. That light appeared to her to indicate that midnight was fast approaching, and Martino must be quitting the paternal home, and was about to forsake, perhaps for ever, his native valley.

 

Catharina looked steadfastly before her, never removing her eyes from the bridge, which now was almost finished, and nothing was wanting for its completion but the key-stone. Suddenly a form was seen ascending the almost finished bridge. It was the form of a beauteous lady, who carried in her hand a branch of lovely white lilies, and as she reached to the open gap between the two sides of the arch she laid the stem across the opening and disappeared, leaving a luminous trail, which extended to a great distance, until it eventually became lost in the depths of the valley of Ibaizabal.

 

When Catharina turned her gaze away from the east, where that singular vision had disappeared, and looked towards the bridge which was constructed in such a, marvellous manner, she saw the man in the black suit holding in his hands an enormous block of stone, which he carried as easily as though it were a light ball, and running up along the arch was about to place the heavy slab in the opening and thus complete the bridge. However, in spite of all the efforts of the artificer to fix the slab or block in the opening, the slab did not fit in. The man hammered desperately at the stone, accompanying, each blow with an oath, but the stone resisted all his efforts, as though it were prevented fitting in by a strong bar of iron laid beneath. And the man in black redoubled his furious efforts as he heard the sound of the bells of the monastery of Burceña vibrating through the valley announcing the midnight hour, and on hearing the chimes he uttered a cry of desperation, and cast himself headlong into the river, and was carried away in the furious currents and disappeared altogether. At the moment when he flung himself into the seething waters a sound was heard on the bridge like the noise of a branch snapping in two, and in that instant the key-stone, or huge slab which the man in black had been unable to fit in, fell gently into its place, and the bridge remained perfect; while a huge cataract of water now descended roaring along the windings of Alonsótegui, carrying down towards the Zubileta all the scaffolding and temporary erections employed in building the bridge. Catharina then rapidly crossed over by the bridge which had been so marvellously constructed, and ran to the chestnut wood of Iturrioz.

 

Half an hour later a number of youths, clad in mail and armed with war weapons, ascended along the Cadagüa, lamenting that Martino de Iturrioz should prefer the effeminate blandishments of love to the manly and glorious exercise of war.

 

Martino, leading Catharina by the hand, accompanied her to the house of Castrejana, where he bade her an affectionate farewell, passed over the Devil’s Bridge, sped across the lands, and returned to the house of Iturrioz.

THE END

 

NOTE: Between the joints of the enormous blocks of stone which constitutes the key-stone and the lateral slabs of the bridge, there used to spring up every year some beautiful white lilies, which the damsels of the valley of Ibaizabal gathered on the morning of St. John’s Day, and these flowers were called Cataloros, a name derived from the Basque word Catalenlorac, which means “flowers of Catharina,” but owing to the great fall of rain and inundation which occurred on the 22nd of September, 1523, the foundations of the bridge were shaken and the buttresses unsafe, and it was found necessary to substitute smaller stones to replace the massive key-stone, which it was feared would fall down and destroy one of the noblest and most elegant bridges of the Basque provinces.

 

 

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From LEGENDS and POPULAR TALES of the BASQUE PEOPLE by Mariana Monteiro

ISBN: 978-1-907256-32-5

URL: http://www.AbelaPublishing.com/Basque.html

 

Legends and popular tales of the Basque people

 

 

The rain, which had partly subsided during the night, quite ceased at daybreak, and the traveller rose early, saying that he must try and cross the river before the currents should swell it, and he be unable to cross over. Catharina had a great wish to ask him why he had attempted to destroy her beautiful lily, but she did not dare to do so, as there was something in the face and looks and voice of the stranger which instilled fear and terror–she knew not why. Catharina and her mother besought him to stay a few moments until they prepared breakfast for him, but he insisted on departing at once and asked what he was indebted to them for the supper and accommodation.

 

“You owe us nothing but a good will,” both the women replied.

 

“Very well, I am much obliged to you, and wish you very good health,” said the stranger, and he departed, fording the Cadagüa along some enormous stones laid across, which then stood in the place of a bridge, and on the very spot where at the present day stands the bridge of Castrejana.

 

The fears of the stranger were well founded that he might find the river quickly impassable, for when he forded it the water was already beginning to cover the huge stones.

 

Catharina looked out from the side of the house which faced the river, and divided her attention between the traveller, who was hastening to take the road to Iturrioz, and Martino, who was mending a broken paling at the further end of the garden, and through which some goats had made their way into the field. This paling was on the side of the high road along which the stranger had to pass. This unknown visitor stopped to speak to Martino as he passed him. The distance and the noise of the river rushing down prevented Catharina from hearing what they said, but she noticed that Martino grew wrathful, and looked towards the house of Castrejana with menacing gestures. We know not whether it was from want of water in the house, or to have a chat with Martino, that Catharina lifted a pitcher to her head, and, telling her mother that she was going for water before the river should become so swollen that it would be impossible to cross it, she started off; but on reaching to the bank she had to turn back, as the water completely hid the stones, and the current was fearfully rapid.

 

A little later, Catharina, with a basket of vegetables on her head and the branch of white lilies in her hand started from home, taking the road to Bilbao, as she did every morning, to sell her goods in the market; but this morning she did not trip along with a light heart, nor did she sing as usual, but went her way silently and sad. In going and returning from Bilbao, on passing Altamira, she always stopped singing and knelt at the foot of the giant chestnut tree from whence could be descried the church of Begoña. On that morning she knelt as usual, and prayed more fervently than ever, and she even wept while she prayed. What change was this that had been worked in poor Catharina? She could not tell; but she felt in her heart a deep sadness as though some great misfortune was threatening her.

 

She reached the market-place of Bilbao, and while she sold her vegetables she watched her lily so that no one should break her branch. Many persons, charmed by the lovely flowers, wanted to purchase them, but Catharina would reply that she could not part with her flowers at any price, because she had brought them with her, not for sale, but to take them to the church of Begoña and deck the Virgin’s altar with them as her offering.

 

When she had finished her sale, she went to the church, placed her beautiful lilies on the altar of Our Lady, and crossing again the Ibaizabal by the only bridge which then existed–which is the one called now the bridge of Saint Anthony–she went towards Castrejana. The river Cadagüa continued rising, because during the morning it had rained in torrents all over the Encartaciones.

 

Catharina kept looking towards the fields and house of Iturrioz, but did not see Martino. What was her surprise and terror, when the sun was sinking behind the mountains, to perceive the youth ascending the slope towards Baracaldo, above Zubileta, which is on the opposite bank of the Cadagüa, and that he was furnished with weapons, and clad in a coat of mail such as was worn by warriors in that epoch by various bands.

 

The bands called Onhacino and Gamboino were not then devastating the seigniority of Biscay and the Encartaciones, but were contending without ceasing against the districts of Castile, particularly on all the land along the Ebro from Puentelarra to Valdivielso, commanded by the Salazares and Velascos, and they had constantly in Biscay agents who were charged to enlist men, who, allured with flattering promises of much glory and renown, had found to their cost nothing certain but a probable grave amid the rocks.

 

Catharina ran to the river shore and waited for Martino to reach the opposite margin; and in truth Martino did arrive, but it was to fling a folded parchment fastened to a stone across the water to Catharina, and continued to walk towards the house of Iturrioz, while Catharina in dismay read the following lines which had been written by Martino upon the folded parchment:

 

“I would sooner die far from hence, fighting against the enemies of the Salazares, than die here combating against your faithlessness and want of love. At midnight I join other young men beneath the chestnut tree of Iturrioz, and with them shall depart to the suburbs of Castile, where I hope death or absence will make me forget you.”

 

Tomorrow Chapter IV – the final chapter in this story…………………

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From LEGENDS and POPULAR TALES of the BASQUE PEOPLE by Mariana Monteiro

ISBN: 978-1-907256-32-5

URL: http://www.AbelaPublishing.com/Basque.html

 

Popular Legends and Tales of the Basque People

 

 

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