Page images

gether with the grandeur of the surrounding scenery, and the purity of the atmosphere, render Mexico a magnificent city.

But the furniture and internal decorations of most of the houses ill accord with their external appearances. The closing of the mines, the expulsion of the rich Spanish families, and sixteen years of revolutionary warfare, with all the concomitant miseries, have wrought a melancholy alteration in the fortunes of individuals and in the general state of the country: and in this the capital bears no inconsiderable share. The superb tables, chandeliers, and other articles of furniture, of solid silver, the magnificent mirrors and pictures framed of the same precious metal, have now passed through the mint, and, in the shape of dollars, are circulating over Europe and Asia; and families whose incomes have exceeded half a million per annum, can now scarcely procure the means of a scanty existence.

For a minute description of the public buildings, costume, manufactories, &c. of this splendid capital, we must refer our readers to Mr. Bullock's volume, and to the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly. Among the antiquities' with which he returned enriched, are casts of the great Calendar Stone, called Montezuma's Watch; the Sacrificial Stone on which the human victims were immolated, said to have amounted to 2500 annually; and a colossal statue of the most celebrated of the Mexican deities, which was disinterred for his express accommodation.

Some writers,' says Mr. Bullock, have accused the Spanish authors of exaggeration in their accounts of the religious ceremonies of this, in other respects, enlightened people; but a view of the idol under consideration will of itself be sufficient to dispel any doubt on the subject. It is scarcely possible for the most ingenious artist to have conceived a statue better adapted to the intended purpose; and the united talents and imagination of Brughel and Fuseli would in vain have attempted to improve it. This colossal and horrible monster is hewn out of one solid block of basalt, nine feet high; its outlines giving an idea of a deformed human figure, uniting all that is horrible in the tiger and the rattle-snake: instead of arms, it is supplied with two large serpents, and its drapery is composed of wreathed snakes, interwoven in the most disgusting manner, and the sides terminating in the wings of a vulture. Its feet are those of the tiger, with claws extended in the act of seizing its prey, and between them lies the head of another rattle-snake, which seems descending from the body of the idol. Its decorations accord with its horrid form, having a large necklace composed of human hearts, hands and skulls, and fastened together by the entrails. It has evidently been painted in natural colours, which must have added greatly to the terrible effect it was intended to inspire in its votaries. During the time it was exposed, the court of the University was crowded with people, most of whom expressed the most decided VOL. XXII. N. S.


anger and contempt. Not so, however, all the Indians:-I atten tively marked their countenances; not a smile escaped them, or ever a word-all was silence and attention. In reply to a joke of one of the students, an old Indian remarked: "It is true, we have three very good Spanish gods, but we might still have been allowed to keep a few of those of our ancestors!" And I was informed that chaplets of flowers had been placed on the figure by natives who had stolen thither unseen, in the evening, for that purpose; a proof that, notwithstanding the extreme diligence of the Spanish clergy for three hundred years, there still remains some taint of heathen superstition among the descendants of the original inhabitants. In a week the cast was finished, and the goddess again committed to her place of interment, hid from the profane gaze of the vulgar.'

A very interesting excursion was made by our Traveller to Tezcuco, in old times the seat of Mexican literature, and termed by Mr. B., somewhat facetiously, the Athens of 'America.' At a distance of two leagues from this city, he was informed that there was a place called Bano de Montezuma, which had formerly been used as a bath by that monarch.

A gentleman of the town, Don Trinidad Rosalia, offered to escort us, and in a few minutes we were on horseback: after a smart canter through cultivated grounds, and over a fine plain, bounded by the mountains of the Cordilleras, we approached an hacienda and church; and here I expected to find the bath of which we were in search, in some subterraneous place, but learnt to my surprise that we had to mount a conical mountain called Tescosingo. We employed our horses as far as they could take us, but the unevenness of the ground at last obliged us to dismount, and having fastened them to a nopal tree, we scrambled with great difficulty through bushes and over loose stones, which were in great quantities on all sides, and at last 5 perceived that we were on the ruins of a very large building-the cemented stones remaining in some places covered with stucco, and > forming walks and terraces, but much encumbered with earth fallen~ from above, and overgrown with a wood of nopal, which made it difficult to ascend. In some places the terraces were carried over chasms by solid pieces of masonry; in others cut through the living rock: but, as we endeavoured to proceed in a straight line, our labour was very great, being sometimes obliged to climb on our hands and knees. By the assistance of underwood, however, at length, after passing several buildings and terraces, the stucco of which appeared fresh and of a fine peach colour, we arrived at about two-thirds of the height of the hill, almost exhausted with our exertions; and great indeed was our disappointment when we found that our guide had mistaken the situation, and did not know exactly where we were. Greatly chagrined, we began to retrace our steps; and luckily in a few minutes perceived the object of our search. It was cut in the solid rock, and standing out like a marten's

nest from the side of a house, It is not only an extraordinary bath, but still more extraordinarily placed. It is a beautiful basin about twelve feet long by eight wide, having a well about five feet by four deep in the centre. surrounded by a parapet or rim two feet six inches high, with a throne or chair, such as is represented in ancient pictures to have been used by the kings. There are steps to descend into the basin or bath; the whole cut out of the living porphyry rock with the most mathematical precision, and polished in the most beautiful manner. This bath commands one of the finest prospects in the Mexican valley, including the greater part of the lake of Tezcuco, and the city of Mexico, from which it is distant about thirty miles.

'Night was fast approaching, and the sky portending a thunderstorm, we were obliged to depart; and now I had occasion to regret the hours I had unprofitably lost at the cock-fight. I had just time to make a hurried sketch for a model, and my son to take a slight drawing, when we were reluctantly forced to quit a spot which had been the site of a most singular and ancient residence of the former monarchs of the country. As we descended, our guide showed us in the rock a large reservoir for supplying with water the palace, whose walls still remained eight feet high; and as we examined farther, we found that the whole mountain had been covered with palaces, temples, baths, hanging gardens, &c.; yet this place has never been noticed by any writer.

I am of opinion that these were antiquities prior to the discovery of America, and erected by a people whose history was lost even before the building of the city of Mexico. In our way down we collected specimens of the stucco which covered the terrace, still as hard and beautiful as any found at Portici or Herculaneum. Don T. Rosalia informed us that we had seen but the commencement of the wonders of the place;-that there were traces of buildings to the very top still discernible;-that the mountain was perforated by artificial excavations, and that flight of steps led to one near the top, which he himself had entered, but which no one as yet had had courage to explore, although it was believed that immense riches were buried in it.

We regained our horses, and an hour brought us back to Tezcuco, greatly fatigued indeed, but more lamenting the little time we had been able to give to the most interesting place we had visited ; and which, it is not a little extraordinary, appears to have been unnoticed by the Spanish writers at the conquest, in whom it probably excited as little interest as it does in the present inhabitants of the city of Mexico, not one of whom could I find who had ever seen or even heard of it.'

The pyramids of the Sun and Moon,' near Otumba, form another of the wonders of Mexico. They are especially interesting as indicating an apparent affinity between the aborigines and the Egyptians.

As we approached them,' says Mr. Bullock, the square and

perfect form of the largest became at every step more and more visibly distinct, and the terraces could now be counted. We rode first to the lesser, which is the most dilapidated of the two, and ascended to the top, over masses of fallen stone and ruins of masonry, with less difficulty than we expected. On the summit are the remains of an ancient building, forty-seven feet long and fourteen wide; the walls are principally of unhewn stone, three feet thick and eight feet high; the entrance at the south end, with' three windows on each side, and on the north end it appears to have been divided at about a third of its length. At the front of the building, with the great pyramid before us, and many smaller ones at our feet, we sat down to contemplate the scene of ancient wonders-where the eye takes in the greater part of the vale of Mexico, its lake and city, and commands an extensive view of the plains beneath and the mountains that bound the west of the valley.

'We soon arrived at the foot of the largest pyramid, and began to ascend. It was less difficult than we expected, though, the whole way up, lime and cement are mixed with fallen stones. The terraces are perfectly visible, particularly the second, which is about thirtyeight feet wide, covered with a coat of red cement eight or ten inches thick, composed of small pebble-stones and lime. In many places, as you ascend, the nopal trees have destroyed the regularity of the steps, but no where injured the general figure of the square, which is as perfect in this respect as the great pyramid of Egypt. We every where observed broken pieces of instruments like knives, arrow and spear heads, &c. of obsidian, the same as those found on the small hills of Chollula; and, on reaching the summit, we found a flat surface of considerable size, but which has been much broken and disturbed. On it was probably a temple or other building-report says, a statue covered with gold. We rested some time on the summit, enjoying one of the finest prospects imaginable, in which the city of Mexico is included. Here I found fragments of small statues and earthenware, and, what surprised me more, oyster-shells, the first that I had seen in Mexico; they are a new species, and I have brought specimens home. In descending I also found some ornamental pieces of earth. enware, the pattern one of which is in relief, much resembling those of China, the other has a grotesque human face. On the north-east side, at about half way down, at some remote period, an opening has been attempted. This should have been from the south to the north, and on a level with the ground, or only a few feet above it; as all the remains of similar buildings have been found to have their entrances in that direction. Dr. Oteyza, who has given us the measure of these pyramids, makes the base of the largest six hundred and forty-five feet in length, and one hundred and seventy-one in perpendicular height. I should certainly consider that the latter measurement is considerably too little, and that the altitude is about half the breadth. As to the age of the pyramids, and the people by whom they were erected, all must be a matter of mere conjecture; no one whom I could meet with in Mexico knew or cared any thing about them. None of the inhabitants had even been to see them, though, from the

[ocr errors]

cathedral, both of them, as well as Tescosingo, containing the bath of Montezuma, are distinctly visible.

Yet no person in that neighbourhood could give me the least information respecting these wonderful structures:-on asking an old Indian woman we met near the pyramids, if she could tell who made them, she replied," Si Signior, St. Francisco.". ."............

The result of this little excursion of three days has thoroughly convinced me of the veracity of the Spanish writers, whose account of the cities, their immense population, their riches, and progress of the arts among the Mexicans, are doubted by those who have never seen the country. I firmly believe all that the intelligent and indefatigable Abbé Clavigero has related of his countrymen. Had Monsieur de Pauw, or our better informed countryman Robertson, passed one hour in Tezcuco, Tezcosingo, or Huexotla, they would never have supposed for a moment that the palace of Montezuma in Mexico was a clay cottage, or that the account of the immense population was a fiction.'

[ocr errors]

Mr. Bullock draws a very favourable picture of the Mexican Indians, characterising them as a simple, innocent, happy people,' moreover as cleanly, and right good Roman Catholics. He witnessed the celebration of the fête of one of their patron saints, in the Indian village of Tilotepec; and never shall I forget,' he says, the scenery of this place, nor the happiness and simplicity of the multitudes by whom its streets were thronged.' The procession consisted of seve ral thousand Indians, perfectly clean, orderly, and welldressed, preceded by four trumpeters, the clergy, with the statue of the Virgin and a band of fiddlers, bringing up the rear. The patron saint was borne by eight Indian girls, followed by four hundred women, four a-breast, each with a lighted taper. The evening concluded with fire-works and merriment, to which pulque and a pleasant liquor prepared from the dregs of newly distilled spirits' somewhat contributed. But none were rude-all was happiness and pleasure.' How far advanced are these poor Indians above the common people of England! Our folks would infallibly have got drunk in honour of their saint, and been most rudely jolly. But it is consoling to think, that the Arcadia of the poets is not a mere fiction, being realized in the valleys of Mexico; and under circumstances, too, adapted to shew that the poets are right in their views of human nature, and that the philosophers and divines are wrong. Here is a people in whom it would indeed be folly to be wise, so blissful is their ignorance; they stand in need neither of a good government, nor of political freedom, nor of religious knowledge, but, destitute of all these, are, thanks to the Virgin and the saints, innocent and happy without them.

This is a digression, however, and it is too late to return to

« PreviousContinue »