Title


[119]

CHAPTER V.

VALLEY OF HATSZEG.

Demsus. -- The Leiter-Wagen. -- Roman Temple -- its Form and probable History. -- Paintings in Wallack Churches. -- Wallack Priests and their Wives. -- Russian Influence over the Members of the Greek Church. -- Origin of the United Greek Church. -- Religious Oppression. -- Education of the Greek Priesthood. -- Village of Várhely. -- The Wallack Women. -- Wallacks and Scotchmen. -- Wallack Vices and Wallack Virtues. -- -The Devil's Dancers. -- Our Host's Family. -- Household Arrangements. -- The Buffalo.

THE next morning, our host offered to drive us over to Demsus, to show us some antiquities there ; and as even he said the road was too bad for our carriage, we were glad to content ourselves with a Leitor-Wagen, so called from the similarity which its sides bear to a ladder. In this part of the world, everything is in so very primitive a state, that these carriages are not only deficient in springs, but they have often not even a particle of iron about them, so that it is impossible to conceive by what means they hold together. They are gifted, however, with the singular power of bending about like a snake; and, as one wheel mounts a bank, while the other falls into a pit, the body [120] accommodates itself, by a few gentle contortions, to these varieties of position, without in any way deranging itself or its contents.

WALLACK CHURCH
A WALLACK CHURCH AT DEMSUS

Trusting ourselves to this conveyance, we followed the low range of sand-stone hills which confine the valley on one side, while, on the other, are the marble cliffs bounding Wallachia, -- as far as Pesteny, where we turned into a lesser valley which led us to Demsus. On a small hill, which overlooks the twenty or thirty cottages which constitute this humble village, stands a stone building now used as a Wallack church. It is small, with a curious half-ruined steeple, its ensemble so bizarre, as to bespeak at once considerable intervals between the periods of the erection of its different parts, and [121] variety in the taste of its architects. It seems to have been originally a Roman temple, the interior of which was about eight yards square, with a semicircular dome, a recess towards the east, aiid a portico to the west. The place of the portico is now supplied by high walls composed of stones, evidently brought from other parts of the building, and more recently converted to their present purpose. Tlie entrance to the body of the temple remains in its original state; it is small, low, and quite simple. In the interior are four large square pillars, supporting an equal number of clumsy round arches, on which again the tower rests. These pillars bear monumental inscriptions,18 and some figures of horses, and are evidently of Roman workmanship; but I must confess, I never saw anything similar in any other Roman temple, nor do I ever remember to have seen before this kind of inscription [122] on pillars. Indeed, in form these pillars mure resemble altars, although from their position and similarity they appear to have been originally intended for the purpose to which they are still applied. It is possible, that in the centre of these four arches the altar had formerly stood, and a square piece of the floor, which is still without pavement, though the rest has its ancient covering of hewn stone, indicates the want of something which had once occupied this spot. In the semicircular recess behind might have stood the statue of the god.

18 Among the most perfect I copied the following : --
D.M.
G • OCTAVIO • NEPOTE
VIX • AN • LXX . IVLIA
VALENTA HERES CON
IVGI PENTISSIMO
FACENDVM PROCV
RAVIT • H • S • E •
------
VALERIA CARA
VIX • AN • XXIX
T • FLAVIVS APER
SCRIBA COL
SARM • CONIVGI
RARISSIMAE

The exterior walls are supported by recent buttresses, in the construction of which the shafts of several pillars have been employed, which, as well as some others which lie near, had probably belonged to the portico. In another part I observed a Corinthian capital reversed, and built into the wall; it appeared rich, and in a pure style, and may serve to determine the order of the architecture. For what purpose an arched passage which runs along the south side was intended, I was quite unable to surmise. By means of the half-broken walls of the semi-circular dome, we mounted to the outside of the tower. Here we found an opening into a small chamber, two yards square and one high, in the body of the tower, and from this there is a very small opening into a circular passage, running round the inside of the little tower between the outer wall and the chimney-like opening, which gives light [123] to the interior. The tower itself is built partly of bricks, partly of stones and pieces of marble from other parts of the building. Tins tower is to me a complete puzzle. It is evidently later than some other parts of the building, yet it is too elegant to be the work of mere barbarians. As for the use to which the chamber and circular passage had been put, I cannot even offer a suggestion. They cannot have been intended, as some one supposes, to have concealed the priest who spoke the oracle, for they would not have enabled him to communicate with the statue; they could scarcely have served as hiding-places for treasure; and there is no mark of the tower having been used in Christian times for a belfry. Besides the inscriptions I have copied, there are fragments of several others, but none of them afford any clue to the history of the building, nor any indication to what god it was dedicated, unless indeed, the D.M. at the head of the first, and the figure of the horse may not suggest Mars as its patron. I am inclined to believe, that the four pillars, the arches, and the tower, were built after the temple itself by such of the descendants of the Romans as remained after the evacuation of Dacia, and when the original building had suffered from the attacks of some of the earlier barbarian invaders. On ascending the tower, we observed two statues of lions much injured, and apparently but rudely carved.

This temple is now, and has been from time [124] immemorial, used by the Wallacks as a church, to which circumstance it probably owes its preservation. The semi-circular recess forms the altar, which is adorned by the most - wretched prints of Greek virgins, St. Georges, and other grim saints, and is separated from the rest of the building by a carved wooden screen. The walls, as is common in Greek churches, arc covered with rude frescoes: in the present instance, they are very practical illustrations of the evils of immorality, and if the husbands and wives of Demsus do not obey a certain commandment, it is not for want of knowing how the devil will catch them at their peccadilloes, for it is here painted to the most minute details. T have often been much amused with these pictures in the Wallack churches; for, though too gross for description, they contain so much of that racy, often sarcastic wit proper to llabelais or Chaucer, wrought out witli a minuteness of diabolical detail and fertility of imagination worthy a' Breughel, that it recalls to one's mind the laboured illuminations of our old missals. Notwithstanding its sins against pure taste, there is often much that is good in the church's humour; nor, despite the reverence due to the holy character of the subject, is it possible to repress a smile at the sly malice of the monkish illuminator, when be decks out the pharisee in the robes and jewels of some neighbouring bishop ; or at the prurient imagination of the cloister, when it breaks forth in warm delineation [125] of all the charms and temptations by which sin can lead poor man astray.

As we were looking at the church, the Wallack priest came up and spoke to us. He was dressed in a very white linen shirt, fashioned like that of the common peasant, and fastened round his waist by a leathern belt; loose linen trowsers formed his nether habit, and the rude sandal of the country served as covering for his feet. Except from a somewhat greater neatness of person, and the long black beard which hung down to his breast, the Wallack priest was in no way distinguished from the humblest of his flock. With just enough education to read the service of the church, just enough wealth to make them sympathize with the poor, and just enough religion to enable them to console them in their afflictions, these men exercise a greater power over the simple peasant than the most cunning Jesuit, the most wealthy Episcopalian, or the most rigid Calvinist. This is a strong point in favour of the Wallack priest; but I suspect he owes it more to his position than his character; the sympathy of equality begets affection, for though the rich may pity the poor, none but the poor can sympathise with them, because none other can know their wants and feelings.

I have already said, that the Wallacks belong to the Greek church; and in accordance with its rules, the lower order of the clergy, or the parish-priests, are allowed to marry, though the monks [126] and the higher dignitaries are condemned to celibacy. One effect which results from the strict adherence to the letter of the Gospel in this matter, is to make the priest's wife the happiest woman in the parish; for as he can be but "the husband of one wife," he takes the greatest possible care not to lose her, and in consequence pays a heavy tax in the indulgence of whims and humours, an opposition to which might endanger his partner's safety and condemn him to a state of single misery. The education of a Wallack priest is generally very low, and I have known cases in which the common peasant has been ordained merely on paying the stipulated sum to the bishop. If we may believe the Hungarian nobles, the Wallack priest is characterized by cunning malice, which he employs to maintain his power over the peasant, to enrich himself, and to foment discord between landlord and tenant. The fasts and feasts of the Greek church, which extend to nearly one-third of the year, and during which the peasant is strictly forbidden to labour for his worldly profit, the priest adroitly avails himself of, by assuring him that he may labour in God's service; -- which, being liberally interpreted, means his priest's, -- and so the lazy and superstitious Wallack, who will scarcely move a limb for his own support, willingly wastes the sweat of his brow in tilling the Popa's glebe on feast days, and thus earns his soul's salvation.

The prelates of the Greek church, and the priests [127] officiating in large towns, receive a better education than those of the villages; and, in appearance at least, have an air of greater intelligence and respectability. The dress of the higher class of priests is the same as that so common in Greece and Turkey, -- a long black cloak reaching to the feet, which, with the beard and black locks flowing over the shoulders, are often so arranged as to show no small portion of earthly vanity. I am not fond of priests generally, -- they are apt to have sly fat minds, -- but I took a positive dislike to these fellows, when I saw the looks they directed at the beautiful half-naked Wallack girls, who always stoop down to kiss the Popa's hand whenever they pass him.

As political agents and spies of the Russian court, the Wallack priests are said to be made much use of, and I am fully inclined to believe it; for they regard the Archbishop of Moscow as their primate, and the Emperor of Russia as the head of their church. The ritual of the Greek church in Hungary, contains a prayer for the Emperor and King, -- such is the title of the sovereign of Austria, and Hungary, -- the last part only of which the Wallacks however apply to their own monarch, the first being reserved for the Emperor of Russia. This account I have heard, not only of the Wallacks, but also of the Croatian^ and Scla-vonians, among whom the Greek faith is equally predominant, and where the influence of Russia is [128] still farther strengthened by analogy of language. A few years ago, when Austria was supposed to be a little opposed to the aggressive strides of Russia, a Wallack almanack, printed at Bucharest, and extensively circulated in Transylvania, openly called upon the Wallacks of that country to wrest the power from the Hungarian usurpers, and boldly assert their own right to the land of their fathers. It is not, therefore, without reason that Austria has feared this foreign influence in the heart of her dominions, nor without reason that she has endeavoured to counteract it. Unfortunately, however, instead of acting in a frank and liberal spirit equalizing all religions, removing causes of discontent, and undermining the influence of ignorance by the diffusion of knowledge, the spirit of Jesuitical propagandism has been let loose on the country, and that feeling of bitter hatred has in consequence been engendered, which anything like persecution is always sure to beget.

The plan of Government was to form a Catholic Greek, or united Greek church, as it is called, -- that is, a church in almost all doctrinal and essential points like the original Greek, but acknowledging the Roman Pontiff as its head. The marriage of priests and the use of the vernacular tongue in the services of the church were yielded by the politic conclave of the Vatican. The temporal powers were not behindhand in concessions. The members of the Greek church, in Transylvania, had hitherto [129] been excluded from a share in the Government; the Conformists were offered a full participation, not only in the rights but in the favours also, which are showered on the Catholics. By dint of such means, and others somewhat less justifiable, the scheme succeeded to a certain extent, the priest received solid reasons for his compliance with the new doctrines, and sometimes brought over his flock to obedience. In other cases, especially in the valley of Hátszeg, the people refused to change their religion in spite of the priest's apostasy, and declined his offices, while the Government, on the other hand, refused to allow any other to officiate, so that instances have been mentioned to me of villages in which, for thirty years, no Christian ceremony, or sacrament, bad been performed. Men had been born, married, and had died unchristencd, unblessed, unshrived. It is only those who know the sacred character with which the superstitious AVallack clothes his priest, and the importance be attaches to the sacraments of his church, who can appreciate the strength of the feeling which induced him to resist the one, or the cruelty which has been practised in depriving him of the other.

Statistical works on Transylvania are very much rarer than on Hungary, and even those which exist are of less authority; so that it is difficult to say, with accuracy, what the proportion of the WalIacks to the rest of the inhabitants is, or to state the [130] relative numbers belonging to the Greek and tlie united Greek churches. According to the best authority I can command at present, the WaUaokfl amount to about eight hundred and fifty thousand. Now the "Schematismus"19 of the united Greek church of 1835, gives the number of souls professing that creed, at five hundred and fifty-one thousand nine hundred and eighty-nine, so that if conscientiously correct {which I doubt) it would give the majority very much in their favour. The clergy as well as the people of this belief enjoy all the privileges of Catholics, and their bishop has a seat in the chamber. According to the work just quoted, they have at Balásfalva a Lyceum, Gymnasium, and Normal School, with an abundant array of professors in theology and philosophy.

As far as I am aware the members of the pure Greek church of Transylvania, have no place of education for their priesthood, although in Hungary, where they amount to a million and a half, they have a college at Karlowitz, which generally contains about fifty theological students, besides schools, in Neusatz, Miskolez, and Temesvár. Notwithstanding this, even in Hungary, and still more in Transylvania, the common Wallack priest has for the most part no better education than the village [131] school has afforded, and no more learning than is just sufficient to get through the services of the church.

19 Schematismus venerabilis Cleri Græci Ritus Catholicorum Diœceseos Frogarasiensis, in Transylvania, pro anno a Christo nato 1835, ab unione cum Ecclesia Romania 138. Blasii, typis Seminarii Diœcesani.

WALLACK HOUSES
WALLACK HOUSES

In rambling over the scattered village of Várhely in search of traces of former times, we had ample opportunities of observing the state of its present occupants. The houses of the Wallacks are as simple as possible. They generally consist of only one small room, in which old and young, men and women, are indiscriminately mixed, and not unfrequently too the pigs and fowls come in for their share of the accommodation. The material of the building is usually the unhewn stems of trees lined inside with mud, and covered with a very high roof, composed of straw, thrown carelessly on, and frequently retained in its place by branches of trees [132] hung across it. I need not point out to the reader the difference between this hovel and the many-chambered dwelling of the Magyar, the white walls and careful thatch of which would do honour to a cottage orné of the Isle of Wight. Under the overhanging roof are laid out in summer the beds of the whole family, sometimes shaded by a decent curtain; and before the door is generally that semifluid mass yclept a puddle, where the pigs and children indulge in their siesta. As we passed one door, a group of urchins were quarrelling with their unclean companions for the enjoyment of a large melon, which was fast disappearing in the struggle, while an old woman sat listlessly watching the strife. I shall not easily forget the figure this woman presented. With no sort of covering save the linen shift, which was open as low as the waist, its whiteness strangely contrasting with the colour of the body it should have concealed, -- the blear eye and vacant gaze of extreme age, the clotted masses of hair bound with a narrow fillet round the head, the fleshless legs, and the long pendulous breasts exposed without any idea of shame, presented a picture, the horrors of which I have rarely seen equalled. And to such a state is the Wallack woman, so beautiful in the freshness of youth, reduced before she has arrived at what we should call a middle age. This is as much owing to hard labour, as to bad nourishment and exposure to the sun. The very early [133] marriages, too, common among the Wallacks, aid this premature decline. Girls frequently marry at thirteen or fourteen, and the men rarely later than eighteen. I remember Baron B------ coming in laughing one day at a request which a boy of fourteen had just made to be allowed to marry, a request to which he had of course not assented. If a peasant is asked what he wants a wife for, he usually answers to comb him and keep him clean.

DRESS OF WALLACK WOMEN
WALLACK WOMEN

The Wallack woman is never by any chance seen idle. As she returns from market it is her breast that is bulged out with the purchases of the day;20 it is her head that bears the water from the village well; she dyes the wool or flax, spins the thread, weaves the web, and makes the dresses of her family. In harvest she joins the men in cutting the corn, and though less strong, she is more active and willing at the task. She uses the spindle and distaff as the princesses of Homer did, and as they are still used in the Campagna of Rome, and they are scarcely ever out of her hand. You may see her at the market suckling her child, higgling for her eggs and butter, and twirling her spindle at the same time, with a dexterity really astonishing. As far as cleanliness goes, however, she is a bad [134] housewife; nor does her labour produce great effects. Among the German settlers it is a proverb, "to be as busy as a Wallack woman, and do as little." The dress, which I have already described, is with some variations everywhere the same. The apron has sometimes little or no fringe, and at other times is little else than fringe. In winter they commonly wear the same thick pantaloons as the men, cover themselves with a guba, or pelzröckel, and wrap up the feet in cloth sandals. One of the figures in the sketch above, is that of a young girl about sixteen, in full costume, and rather tidily dressed. Her chemise was embroidered with blue at the sleeves and neck; her fringed aprons, [135] of green and red, were bound round tbe waist by a woollen belt, but the pride of her costume was the richly embroidered sheep-skin jacket. The hair was rather curiously arranged; it was parted at the side and plaited, one plait hanging behind, while the other was brought coquettisbly across the forehead. It is wonderful what variety one sees in this particular, -- every village seems to have its fashion.

20 Nothing can be more ludicrous than the appearance these women sometimes present. The front of the chemise is always open, and, among other purposes, serves that of a pocket. A woman coming from market often fills it with cabbages, meat, and perhaps a dozen other articles, thus forming altogether a most astounding protuberance.

The pattern of the aprons, in which greens and reds, blues and blacks, are tbe most common colours, reminded me very strongly of the Scotch plaid, especially at the borders, where the colours often cross and form the exact tartan patterns: but I was still more struck when I observed the well-known shepherd's plaid, the common black and white check. I bought one piece of this kind, and Scotchmen to whom I have shown it, at once claimed it as their own. It is generally of very coarse texture, being spun from the long wool of the common sheep, and is loosely woven. The dyes which the Wallacks manage to give their cloths, are celebrated for their brilliancy and durability. The mention of Scotch plaids reminds me that I have seen some author, I think Herodotus, quoted as an authority, that the Agathyrsje, said to have been the ancient inhabitants of Dacia, owned the same origin as the Picts of Scotland. Without entering into such a knotty discussion, I merely throw out for the consideration of Gaelic antiquaries the facts, [136] that the Wallacks wear the tartan, that the Wallacks love the bagpipe, and that the Wallacks drink an inordinate quantity of sliwowitz, alias mountain dew, -- the which I hold to be strong marks of similarity of taste, if not of identity of origin.

In appearance, the common Wallack presents a decided difference from either Magyar, Sclave, or German. In height, I should say, that he was below the medium, and generally rather slightly built and thin. His features are often fine, the nose arched, the eyes dark, the hair long, black, and wavy, but the expression too often one of fear and cunning to be agreeable. I seldom remember to have seen among them the dull heavy look of the Sclavack, but still more rarely the proud self-respecting carriage of the Magyar. Seventeen hundred years' subjection has done its work; and I can readily believe that many of the vices attributed to the Wallacks are possessed by them, -- for they are the vices of slaves. They are not, however, without their redeeming qualities.

In examining the characteristics of the Wallack, if I appear somewhat as his apologist, it is because I did not find him so bad as he was described to me, and because it is natural to interest oneself rather in defending the weak than in strengthening the strong.

The Wallack is generally considered treacherous, revengeful, and entirely deficient in gratitude. If [137] once insulted, he is said to carry the recollection of it till opportunity favours his weakness and enables him to accomplish his revenge. This is rather his misfortune than his fault, If stronger, like other people, he would revenge himself without waiting.

Cowardice is another fault very commonly attributed to the Wallack. I remember Count S------ saying, he believed every other European, except the Neapolitan and Wallack, might be made to fight. It is certain that nothing depresses the courage so surely as subjection, and so long a period of it as these people have endured cannot have been without effect; yet the Wallack peasant is a bold and successful smuggler, and no one is more ready to attack a wolf or bear; but it is hard to persuade any, except very stupid men, to fight without a better object than that of adding to the glory of those they do not love. A long succession of ill treatment has rendered them timid and suspicious. A few years ago, a German Count settled among the Wallacks, and with the kindest intentions endeavoured to excite them to industry by giving rewards to those who best cultivated their laud. For this purpose, all the peasants of the village were assembled together with due solemnity, but no sooner did their seigneur appear among them than the whole assemblage, as though seized with a panic, started off, and could never be got together again. They were firmly persuaded that some trick was to be played upon them; as for any one doing [138] them a service for their own sakes, experience had not taught them to think such a thing possible. The treatment of the peasantry, however, improves every year with the improved knowledge of their masters. I knew an old Countess in Transylvania who used to lament tliat "times were sadly changed, -- peasants were no longer so respectful as they used to be;" -- she could remember walking to church on the backs of the peasants who knelt down in the mud to allow her to pass over them without soiling her shoes. She could also remember, though less partial to the recollection, a rising of the peasantry, when nothing but the kindness with which her mother had generally treated them, saved her from the cruel death which many of her neighbours met with.

The Magyar peasant holds the Wallacks in the most sovereign contempt. He calls them a "people who let their shirts hang out," from the manner in which they wear that article of clothing over the lower part of their dress; and classes them with Jews and Gipsies. Even when living in the same village, the Magyar never intermarries with the Wallack.

That the Wallack is idle and drunken it would be very difficult to deny. Even in the midst of harvest you will see him lying in the sun sleeping all the more comfortably because he knows he ought to be working. His corn is always the last cut, and it is very often left to shell on [139] the ground for want of timely gathering; yet scarcely a winter passes that he is not starving with hunger. If he has a waggon to drive, he is generally found asleep at the bottom of it; if he has a message to carry, ten to one but he gets drunk on the way, and sleeps over the time in which it should be executed. But if it be difficult to deny these faults, it is easy to find a palliation for them. The half-forced labour with which the Hungarian peasants pay their rent, has the natural tendency to produce not only a disposition, but a determination to do as little as possible in any given time. Add to this, that at least a third of the year is occupied by feasts and fasts, when, by their religion, labour is forbidden them; that the double tithes of the church and landlord check improvement; that the injustice with which they have been treated has destroyed all confidence in justice, and every sentiment of security; and it will not then be difficult to guess why they are idle. The weakness of body induced by bad nourishment, and still more by the fasts of the Greek church, which are maintained with an austerity of which Catholicism has no idea, and which often reduces them to the last degree of debility, and sometimes even causes death, is another very efficient cause. I have often heard this alluded to by land-owners, who have declared, that with the best will the Wallack could not perform the same amount [140] of labour as the well-fed German or Magyar. An English labourer, of that sturdy independent caste which is not yet, thank God, extinct among us, observed to his travelled master who was telling him with how much less food the poor on the Continent were contented, "Look ye, sir, them foreign chaps may eat and drink less than we do, but I'll warrant they work less too. Them as does not live well, can't work well." Never did philosophy utter a more certain truth.

Another cause for laziness may be found in the paucity of the Wallack's wants, and in the ease with which they are supplied. The earth, almost spontaneously, affords him maize for his polenta, -- or mamaliga, as he calls it, -- and his wife manufactures from the wool and hemp of his little farm all that is required for his household use and personal clothing.

Many Hungarians, I know, hold that it would be impossible to cultivate, were rents substituted for Robot, especially where the peasantry are Wallacks ; but only let commerce open a fair market and introduce desirable objects of purchase, and the Wallack will scarcely belie principles of which all ages and nations have proved the truth. There is no want of enterprise among them, for nothing pleases them more than a little commercial speculation. Should a peculiarly fine season have sent a better crop than usual, the Wallack will load his little waggon, harness his oxen, provide himself [141] with his maize loaf and bit of bacon, and sot off for some distant market where he thinks lie can turn his produce to account. It is true, he sleeps on the top of his load the whole way, perhaps he drinks a good part of the money before he gets back, probably a Jew cheats him out of the rest of it in exchange for some worthless trinkets for liis wife, -- still the spirit of commercial enterprise is there, little as its benefits are felt.

When the new road was cutting between Orsova and Moldova, there was no difficulty in finding Wallack workmen at eightpence per day, though they were employed at a labour to which they were unaccustomed, which prevented them from returning to their houses, obliged their wives to bring them food from a great distance, and exposed them to many inconveniences attendant on the nature of the undertaking. Regular payment has great attractions ; and, if successful in. one case, there is every reason to believe it would be so in others where the circumstances are still more favourable.

When I hear the Wallack peasant accused of want of gratitude, I am apt to lose patience, for he has had so very little opportunity of indulging in that feeling, that it is rather the fault of his oppressors than of himself, if it be totally eradicated from his nature. But I question the fact: in some cases, his conduct bears the appearance of ingratitude, merely because he suspects the motive with which a benefit is conferred; but [142] when understood, it is felt and acknowledged. An intimate friend of mine, who, during the prevalence of the cholera which raged so fearfully in Transylvania in 1836, remained in his village, and who, aided by his lady, rendered every assistance which it was possible, both by medicine and personal advice, to the poor around him, had occasion, after the cessation of the disease, and at the commencement of harvest to leave home for a short time. He hastened back, anxious to provide for the exigencies of the season, which require the greatest exertions on the part of the master in this country, and on his arrival he was astonished to find everything finished. The peasants had collected together of their own accord, and agreed to join their labour, cut his corn, and get in his harvest before he came back, to show their gratitude for his kindness to them in the hour of need.

Ignorant as the Wallack peasant may be, he can distinguish between the man who merely wishes to benefit him and the man who really does so. Every landlord knows, that to gain his Wallack peasants' hearts, it is only necessary that he should look in upon their feasts, and accept their invitations to marriages and funerals; in short, it is only necessary that he should appear to be interested in what really interests them, and he is certain of their love.

The intractable obstinacy, which is often charged against these people because they refuse instruction [143] and decline well-meant but injudicious efforts to improve them, often arises from the affection they entertain for their national language and religion, and from the fear that such means are employed only to rob them of these their only treasures. A gentleman, who was desirous of improving his peasantry, established a school, appointed and paid a master, and ordered that all the children should attend. His chief object was to teach the Magyar language, an object very desirable, and one which, by judicious management, might be effected in time; but, unfortunately, in the present instance, this was the first thing begun with. On revisiting his estate, after half a year's absence, he found his school-room entirely deserted, and the schoolmaster declaring that he could get no one to come to him. On remonstrating with them, the peasants, with that stupid air which the countryman can assume so well when he wishes to conceal his cunning, answered, that they were afraid their children might become wiser than themselves, and cease to obey them. In all probability, the priest had become alarmed, excited the fears of his flock, and forbidden them the school. A little prudence, personal attention, and foresight, would easily overcome such obstacles.

One of the Wallack's most prominent virtues is, his love for his parents, and his respect and care for them in their old age. They would consider it a disgrace to allow any one else to support their aged and poor, while they could do it themselves; and I [144] certainly do not remember to have seen any beggars among them. The idiot is here, as with all the peasants of Hungary, considered a privileged person, and is allowed to make himself at home in every cottage.

There is among the Wallacks, a peculiar tenacity to localities, which, besides having maintained them in this land, where Romans, Goths, Vandals, and Huns, in vain tried to gain a permanent footing, still attaches them, notwithstanding the injuries and injustice to which they are exposed, so forcibly to their native villages, that if a possibility of existence remains, they rarely quit them. This tenacity is an important fact, and ought to make the Magyars very cautious how they attempt to force prematurely any reform in language, religion, or customs, on such a people. They may, perhaps, be led, -- no one yet has been able to drive them. Rude as he is, the Wallack feels deeply; he loves the land his fathers tilled, the house his fathers lived in, the soil where their bones have found a resting-place. Such sentiments may sometimes interfere with the schemes of the improver, or the profits of the speculator ; but, utilitarian as I am, I should be sorry to see this stuff of the heart bartered for such gains as theirs: I hate the pseudo-philosophy winch cannot appreciate the utility of sentiment and beauty.

United to a very strong religious feeling, which they manifest sufficiently by the exertions they make to obtain suitable places of worship, they possess a mass of superstition which mixes itself [145] up with every action of their lives. Many of their beliefs and superstitious observances strongly resemble those of some other nations ; whether from direct communication, or because similarity of circumstances produces similarity of ideas, I leave others to decide. The notion of hidden treasures being concealed under old castles, in tombs, and such like places, is very common; and, as in Tartary and Circassia, the peasants here believe them to be guarded by some evil spirit. In the old castle of Gyalu, formerly a fortress of Rákótzy, now rendered a very agreeable residence by Count Bánffy, it has always been said that the treasures of that unfortunate prince were buried. A few years since, some of the servants obtained permission to dig under the great gateway, where rumour located the hidden wealth, and to search for it, and they proceeded accordingly with their task ; but on the second day, or rather night, -- for they worked in darkness, -- something so mysterious and horrible took place, that one of the men died of fright soon after, and the others begged permission to be sent away, though nothing could ever draw from them the cause of their alarm, or induce them to recommence their search.

Like the Turks, the Wallacks ornament their burial places by planting a tree at the head and another at the foot of every grave ; but, instead of the funereal cypress, they plant the swetschen or plum, from which they make their brandy, -- a very [140] literal illustration "of seeking consolation from the tomb." For the death of near relations, they mourn by going bare-headed for a certain time; -- a severe test of sincerity in a couutry where the excesses of heat and cold are so great as here.

The village-well is still, all over Hungary, the favourite gossiping spot for matrons and maids. There is a custom which I often noticed among the Wallacks, of throwing over a small quantity of the water from the full pitcher before it is carried away. It appears that this is done to appease the spirit of the well, who might otherwise make her pure draught an evil-bearing potion. Has this not some analogy to the Roman libations to their gods? The analogy, if it be one, is strengthened by the classically formed earthen vessels which the Wallacks commonly use, and which are often exceedingly elegant.

The only occupation in which the Wallack shows any peculiar talent, is that of a carpenter; here, I believe, he is allowed to excel. His house frequently bears proof of his taste in this particular in the wooden ornaments about the gates, windows, and roof; and it is rarely the church and cross are not adorned with the rude carvings of the Wallack's knife. Domestic manufactures, too, assume an importance unknown amongst more civilized people. The Wallack grows his own flax, his wife spins it into yarn, weaves it into cloth, dyes it of various colours, cuts it out, and works it up into clothes for [147] her family. The wool goes through nearly the same processes; and is made to serve for leg-wrappings, aprons, jackets, and cloaks. The sheepskin cap and sandals are mostly of home fabrication, so that this ignorant peasant has more knowledge of the ways and means of procuring for himself what is necessary for his existence and happiness than half the wise men of Europe: that he should not, however, be a perfect master of so many trades is scarely wonderful.

Várhely contains some sad specimens of essays in the millwright's art. Along the brook, which bounds one side of the village, we observed a number of small wooden buildings placed across the stream, and rising considerably above its surface. One of these boxes, about eight feet square, we entered, and found it a very primitive mill, managed by two girls. The wheel was horizontal, and placed in the middle of the stream, and below the mill; the water falling about one foot on the somewhat spoonshaped paddles. I do not know whether the reader ever noticed the wheel in a patent chimney-top, because the idea might have been borrowed from a Várhely mill, so similar are they in form.

The chief amusement of the Wallacks, after sleeping and smoking, is dancing to the bagpipe or fiddle. On the Sunday evening, a dozen men will collect together, and, joining arms, dance in a circle, alternately advancing and retiring, beating [148] time with the feet, clapping the hands, and singing. The women in the moan time stand round, waiting till one or more of the men start out from the circle, seize their fair prey, whirl her round for some time in a rude waltz, and then, leaving her, return to the circle, dance again the same round, and again, as the fancy seizes, choose another fair one for the waltz.

The Wallack is a most resolute keeper of feasts, and he very often at these times contracts debts, -- which are always scrupulously paid, -- to enable him to entertain with becoming honour his friends of the neighbouring villages, On such occasions, oxen and sheep are roasted whole; wine and brandy flow in rivulets; the seigneur is invited in the good old fashion to come and sanction by his presence his peasants' sports ; and for three whole days a scene of wild revelry, which often ends a little à l'Irlandaise, is kept up, with a vigour of which one would scarcely have believed them capable.

The Wallacks, especially those of this neighbourhood, have a custom of which I never heard elsewhere. A party of idle young fellows sell themselves, as they say, to the devil, for a term of three, five, or seven years, -- the number must be unequal, or the devil will not hold the bargain, -- engaging to dance without ceasing during the whole of that period, except when they sleep; in consideration of which, they expect their infernal purchaser will supply them with food and wine liberally, and [149] render them irresistible among the rustic belles. Accordingly, dressed in their gayest attire, these merry vagabonds start out from their native village, and literally dance through the country. Everywhere they are received with open arms; the men glad of an excuse for jollity, the women anxious, perhaps, to prove their power, all unite to feed and fête the devil's dancers; so that it is scarcely wonderful there should be willing slaves to so merry a servitude. When their time is up, they return home and become quiet peasants for the rest of their lives.

We had now spent two or three days at Várhely, and it was quite time we should relieve the hospitable family who had received us from the burthen of our visit. When we found it so late on the second day, that we could scarcely get to the next place before dark hour, I desired the servant to intimate our wish to trespass on them for another night. A smile lit up the old lady's countenance as she came in, and assured us as eloquently as words which we did not understand, and looks that we did, could do, that we were welcome to stay as long as we pleased. It was a constant cause of regret to us that we could only communicate with these good people through the servant, for they frequently came and sat with us; and indeed the pretty little daughter was generally at work in our apartment the whole afternoon. Though frugal, our fare had been good ; and our supper of this evening [150] may serve as a sample. First, came on a paprika hendel, -- not a stewed fowl with red pepper, such as is often served up at more polished tables, -- but a large tureen of rich greasy soup, red with paprika, and flavoured by a couple of fowls cut up and swimming in it. After this, came a dish made of broken barley and milk, forming a thickish paste, and, though not tempting in appearance, very good. Some remarkably fine potatoes, boiled in their jackets, and some fresh butter, followed by a dessert of plums, apples, pears, and grapes, concluded the meal. Meat we had only once, for in these small villages where no rich proprietor lives, butcher's meat cannot always be obtained. Wine or beer, as I have said, they had absolutely none; and, but for the thoughtfulness of the lady of the Mosaic, we should have been condemned to water.

Here, as well as in other parts of Transylvania, we enjoyed the luxury of buffalo's cream with our coffee. Paris must hide her head for very shame, -- she has no idea of the luxury of true café à la crème. In the first place, the buffalo's milk is much richer than that of the cow, and then the method of preparing it here is perfect. Over-night, a little three-legged earthen pot, a labos, is placed over a very slow fire, and, as the cream rises to the surface and clots, it is gently moved on one side with a spoon to allow more to rise on the vacant space. This is placed aside, and the next morning is boiled for use ; of course, the clot is the best [151] part, and a good house-wife divides it out with great exactness. Buffaloes, rarely seen in Hungary, are exceedingly common here, and their slow movements seem to suit the Wallack precisely. Their power is reckoned equal to that of twice as many oxen, but their pace is only half as fast. In hot weather, the sight of water renders them beyond all control, and many amusing tales are told of carriages lodged in the middle of rivers, spite of driver, whip, or goad. When excited, the fury of the buffalo is said to be terrific, he tramples to death the object of his rage, and a year rarely happens in which some peasants do not fall victims to these shapeless monsters.

During our sojourn at Várhely, we observed a deficiency of what is considered, in every other part of Europe, the most necessary article of bedroom furniture, and for which it was rather perplexing to find a substitute. It is odd enough, that among the old-fashioned and primitive of the Transylvanians, an idea of shame is attached to the employment of such articles within the precincts of the buildings they inhabit. This might be accounted for by the circumstance that the bedrooms were always formerly, and even still are among the less wealthy, used as sitting-rooms; but it would appear that it springs from a deeper feeling, for the Magyars have a sense of cleanliness and of decency connected with such matters which the traveller will search for in vain over the rest [152] of continental Europe, and which even we should consider hyperdelicate. None have more prejudices, if such they can be called, on matters of decency, than the Hungarian peasants. Certain duties, which the delicate English house-maid does not consider below her, the Magyar girl cannot be brought to perform; so that in many houses, where what the old people call dirty German customs are introduced -- for everything a greybeard thinks dirty or immoral he calls German, -- a gipsy girl is kept expressly to execute the duties necessarily arising therefrom. This poor creature, in consequence, is regarded as unclean by the rest of the servants.

From the evidently straitened circumstances of this family, we were anxious in some way to repay them for the trouble wo had given them, and the servant said he thought it would be most acceptable in money. They received what we offered without shame or pretended hesitation. I was not less pleased with this, than with the kindness and courtesy of their whole conduct towards us. At first, when asked for a night's lodging, they would not hear of anything in the way of remuneration ; but when we had stayed some days with them, and had put them to considerable expense, and when they saw that we were rich enough to pay, they then no longer hesitated to receive it.

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 P.S.




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