« AnteriorContinuar »
our new existence? Our duty is to remember, not the man nor the despot, but the second founder of our great city.”
It is so everywhere— the monuments of the genius of Napoleon are ineffaceable; but what monuments remain to the miserable French, Spanish and Neapolitan Bourbons, for whose sake the young, the brave, the true-hearted agonized and died at Waterloo? Had I been a Prussian or an Englishman, I suppose my feelings at Waterloo would have been different; as an American, an impartial judge, I came away from Waterloo with, it is true, a great admiration of the fighting quality of the British sol
with more respect for the soldierly talent of Arthur, Duke of Wellington, but, withal, infinitely more contempt for the British statesman whose stupid and servile attachment to a despicable herd of petty tyrants kept the world at war for years, only at last, that, as a French picture of the time depicted it, a troop of pigs should enter the Tuileries while an eagle flew away.
ANTWERP AND ITS CATHEDRAL.
ARTLY from choice, partly through accident, I tarried
three or four days in the venerable city of Antwerp. In that time I saw this quaint old place to its oldest and queerest nooks and corners; I almost lived in its cathedral, and I witnessed the pageants in honor of the three-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the famous painter, Peter Paul Rubens.
Antwerp is a brave old town, one of the ancient "free cities,” or communes; where were invented and practiced arts of all kinds; where, in their infancy in this world, flourished two famous things, to wit, printing and liberty; where the merchants were princes; where every man labored faithfully in the calling wherein God had placed him; where, when the tocsin sounded, the burghers mr stered, each man under the banner of his tradethe draper under his, and the fuller under his, and did battle for freedom; for, in the thirteenth century, when the world was in bondage, it was written in the city ordinances of Antwerp, “In the town and liberty of Antwerp all men are free; there are no slaves." And besides, to make all this more interesting to an American, the brave story of Antwerp has been told last and best by our own countryman, the late lamented Motley.
When you go to Antwerp, it seems as if Alva and Farnese were men of yesterday; as if the Emperor Charles had recently abdicated; as if the town had been just rebuilt after the destruction of the “Spanish Fury." You meet the burghers on the street with solid, sober faces, the exact counterparts of those you see in the old Flemish pictures; old women wear head-dresses like those worn three hundred years ago; there are black old streets that look as they did when Columbus sailed to discover America; you go into a certain old room, and see a printed proclamation from William the Silent, looking as if the Lester Crawford of Antwerp had just posted it there. The highest officer of the town is yet called the burgomaster, just as he has been time out of mind. They have a king in Belgium, but you hear but little about him at Antwerp; the burgomaster and the aldermen and the town clerk rule there.
What makes this seem most strange is, that Antwerp is not a decrepit or decaying town; it is a flourishing seaport, and keeps pace with the times, and has street railroads, and boulevards, and a park, and gas, and daily papers; yet, as I tell you, there are the men and women with faces three hundred years old; and there are houses that have forgotten their own ages; and there is the burgomaster as of old, and the narrow houses of the guilds, with high gables coming up to a point by successive steps like stairs; and there are the old Dutch names for the streets and places — everything queer and old and solid and Dutch, all mixed with new things, as in the Grand Place, where is the Joiners' House, the front covered with carvings showing how the carpenters and joiners' trade was carried on centuries ago; and near, on another house, is the sign “Machianen Howe,” showing that the New Man, the Yankee, has arrived with his sewing machine. And speaking of America, one is carried back, when in Antwerp, to the days when New York was not New York, but New Am
sterdam. You see names yet common in our greatest American city, and Hoboken is a suburb of Antwerp.
In Antwerp most of the educated people speak French, but all, high and low, speak “Flamand" — Dutch, in fact, differing little from that spoken in Holland; a language that looks like English in print, and sounds like a mixture of German and English. Though not as vivacious as the French, the Antwerpers are a talkative people, and cheerful withal, and eat as if the safety of the “town and liberty of Antwerp” depended upon it.
There is a modern park in the town, but the ancient "plats" are the principal resorts; these are paved with stone and surrounded by high houses. Here the men and women of Antwerp have gathered always. There are two great rallying-places, the Grand Place in front of the town hall, surrounded by the houses of the trades, and there is the Place Verte- though there is nothing green there except some rows of young trees - and towering above the Place Verte, and above the trees and all the houses, and looking down on all the green and flat kingdom of Belgium, is the glory of the town, the cathedral of Notre Dame.
The tower, so the Antwerpers say, is the highest in the world. I do not know; I only know that it seemed to grow higher every time I looked at it, and was highest when I saw it last. I wandered down by the Steen - the old prison, where they show you terrible dungeons where the Spaniards tortured prisoners and killed them—and I went far out among the docks and ships, but every time I turned about there was the great, gray, gothic spire, all covered with carved and curious things in stone, rising story on story, up and up like a flame of fire, till, when the day was dull and the clouds hung low, the gray tower seemed to mingle with the gray sky. Often and often I found myself standing in front of the great portal, leaning over back to look up at that old builder's miracle, and I looked until my head swam and it seemed as if the spire might all at once come down with a crash.
The spire has a great clock, and it has, moreover, a chime of bells, and there is the great bell “Carolus,” named for the Emperor Charles V, who was the bell's godfather when it was baptized; and there is the great bell “Maria,” which rang first over four hundred years ago. “Carolus” weighs 16,000 pounds, and “Maria” 11,000 pounds; and he who hears those bells roaring and clanging in the dim night-time will not forget it-no, not till he dies, for their voice is like the voice of doom, and makes one think of the Judgment Day.
When you look from the entrance of this church to the high altar, it is like looking down a road in the woods, for it is more than three hundred feet, and the six rows of pillars make one think of a beech or oak forest.
There are in this cathedral countless pictures, some of them worth their weight in gold. There are many altars, and so vast is the edifice that several masses may be said at once before considerable congregations without confusion. On Sunday, it seemed that a service was held somewhere in the church at every hour. You can walk around these congregations in the great space without disturbing any one; but coming in just as the church was lighted, on a dim, rainy evening, I sat down and looked at the priest, who spoke from the pulpit of carved wood, representing human figures and birds, peacocks and doves and eagles, all carved out of the heart of oak, and as natural as life. I looked at the priest, though I understood not a word he said, for he spoke