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Ten minutes ago I overheard an elderly female inquire if Mont Blanc was visible from Lima? "Not without a good glass," jocosely replied a young man belonging to the same party, giving a significant glance at one of his companions. Now, the distance between Lima and Mont Blanc must be, at least, six thousand miles, so that a very peculiar glass indeed would be required.
The untravelled have usually a somewhat confused notion of foreign countries, and cannot keep them sufficiently separated; the negro in Africa is too closely connected with the West Indies; and the snowy peaks of South America mingle imperceptibly with the glaciers of Switzerland.
One or two loud talkers have been drawing the company into a narrow circle, of which they and the superintendent formed the centre. Generally speaking, visitors are shy in attracting attention by asking questions.
Lima was founded in the valley, and by the river Rimac, three hundred years ago, by Francisco Pizarro, a Spaniard. Tales have often been spread in the country parts of England, that London streets were paved with gold and silver; but though this was not true of London, it would have been in a degree true if applied to Lima; for when one of its viceroys entered the city, the streets he passed through were covered with ingots of silver. Some estimate may be formed of the wealth of its religious establishments, from the fact, that more than a ton and a half of silver was taken from them at one time.
The population of Lima is about 60,000; a fourth of them are Creoles and Europeans: they are much given to show and splendour; jewels, equipages, and retinues are their delight. A little more industry and cleanliness, with a great deal less luxury and dissipation, would add to their comfort and enjoyment. The interiors of some of the better kind of houses are splendidly furnished; and beautiful papers, costly silks, and magnificent gildings, profusely adorn them. The city is surrounded on all sides, except that next the river, with a wall from fifteen to twenty feet high, and nine thick. This wall has thirty-four bastions, and seven principal gates. It was originally built to defend the place from the attacks of the Indians.
The mountains that rise majestically round, some pointed and covered with snow, give a beauty and sublimity to the scene, while the blue mists that, here and there, partly enshroud them, resemble scattered clouds. Lima is not, now, what it has been; for two or three centuries it flourished, but repeated earthquakes destroyed more than half its houses and public edifices, especially the fatal "shaking of the earth in 1746." When the hand of the Almighty is stretched out against a city, it is shaken to its very foundations.
The struggle for independence, though successful, has decreased its population and wealth; but, in all probability, these it will rapidly regain.
I must now give a rapid glance at the widespread canvass around me.
Who would suppose that the church and convent of San Augustin yonder, with that gorgeous front of twisted pillars, arches, recesses, and figures—who would imagine that all the imposing edifices around it were nothing more than lath and plaster! Yet so it is. They look like buildings of massive stone, yet wood-work and cement compose them all: indeed, the meaner buildings are little better than walls and roofs of mud. In a climate where a shower of rain would excite wonder, these frail erections stand for years uninjured.
To the right of the Monastery de las Nazarenas, in the extreme distance, I catch a glimpse of the great Pacific Ocean, whose mighty waters roll over nearly half the world.
Churches, convents, monasteries, and sanctuaries, seem to crowd upon me in every direction. The convent of Santo Domingo is very attractive.
The merry couple there, dancing on the flat roof of the house, with the group beside them, attract the eye of every spectator; and the guitar-player, in his broad-brimmed hat and white garments, comes in for his share of attention. To the left of the river Rimac, but scarcely distinguishable, is the circus for the bull-fights—the cruel sport that the Spaniard loves; and Lima was founded by Spaniards.
The procession to the cathedral is imposing; the white-robed priests, the coloured flags, and the long line of soldiery, can scarcely be viewed without emotion; while the kneeling figures offering homage to the canopied host, as it passes by, excite a feeling of compassion and regret, that useless ceremonies, wafers, and crucifixes, should receive the reverence of immortal souls; and that God, who has forbidden all idolatry, and who should be worshipped in spirit and in truth, should be forgotten. To point the finger of scorn, or to indulge in bitterness or sport, against such ceremonies as we disapprove, would be alike unkind and unchristian; but it cannot be wrong to breathe a prayer that all superstition and idolatry may be done away, and that in simplicity and godly sincerity all may worship the Father and his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, that Lamb of God that alone taketh away the sins of the world.
While Lima is a goodly picture to gaze on, what are its associations? Those who have pondered on the history of the conquest of Peru too well know.
Unhappy Spain may, even now, be enduring God's righteous retribution. National sins bring down national punishment; and the internal broils, the distracted councils, and civil wars of that unhappy country may be an expression of Divine displeasure for the unexampled cruelties and oppressions practised by Spaniards in South America.
There has flowed a crimson tide in Peru, for which all its splendour cannot atone. An accusing cry has gone up from Mexico to heaven, that all its gold cannot arrest!
Tens of thousands of the people of these countries were ruthlessly pillaged, and savagely slaughtered, in what is called "the conquests of Spain." No marvel that our poet laureate, when indignantly reflecting on the butcheries of Pizarro, should have proposed for a monument at Truxillo words similar to these:—
"Pizarro here was born! A greater name
Such were Pizarro's deeds, and wealth, and fame, And glory, his rewards among mankind. O reader! though thy earthly lot be low, Be poor and wretched; though thou earn'st thy bread By daily labour; thank the God that made thee,
Thou art not such as he!"
It becomes us not, sinners as we are, to indulge in bitterness against those who are the most