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Chapter Thirteen – Rejas y Patios

Rejas y Patios

JUST as the streets of Seville look like passages and courtyards, the windows of the apartments look like bird-cages handing on the walls. You must know that they are all provided with a lattice and they project beyond the houses: these lattices are called rejas, and sometimes they are such beautiful specimens of metal-work in spirals, palmetas and wands, with all kinds of twisted and criss-cross patterns, that the proper thing to do would certainly be to sing a serenade beneath them about sus ojitos negros or mi triste corazón (m-brum brum, m-brum brum, with guitar accompaniment). Oiga, niña :

Para cantarte mis penas
hago hablar a mi guitarra
si no entiendes lo que dice-e
no digas que tienes alma

For you have no idea how it adds to the attractiveness of a niña like that, when she is behind a lattice like a rare bird.

Altogether it would appear that embossed lattices from a speciality of national Spanish art; never could I produce any verbal embossings and twirlings to match a church lattice, while as for secular lattices, instead of a doorway there is a fine lattice leading into every house, the windows twinkle with lattices, and tendrils of flowers hand from latticed balconies; for which reason Sevilla as a whole looks like a harem, like a cage, or – no wait a bit – it looks as if across it were stretched chords, upon which your eyes strum an amorous refrain to your enchantment.

A Sevillan lattice is not a lattice which encloses, but one which forms a frame; it is a decorative framework affording a glimpse of the house. Ah, my friends, those delightful glimpses of Sevillan patios, of white anterooms inlaid with faience, or an open courtyard bestrewn with flowers and palms, of a tiny paradise where human families dwell!

House after house wafts upon you the shadowy coolness of its patio; and however poor it may be, the brick paving there is arrayed with a tiny green jungle of flower-pots containing an aspidistra or two, oleander, myrtle and speedwell, and oozy dracaena and some sort of cheap and heavenly asparagus; and not only that, but from the walls are suspended flower-pots with tradescantia, liliaceae and cordyline, and panicum, and bird-cages, while in the yard an old mammy takes her ease in a wicker-chair; but there are also patios bordered with arcades and paved with majolica were a faience fountain gurgles, and latania and chamaerops spread their fans, and musa and coconut and kentia and phoenix arch their long leaves from a dense foliage of philodendron, aralia, klivia and yucca and evonym, to say nothing of the ferns, mesembryanthemum, begonias and camellias and all the other curly, feathery, spiky and bulky forms of leafage in paradise lost.

All this is arranged in flower-pots in a tiny yard, and every house gives you the surprising impression of a palace when you peep through the shapely lattice into its patio which recalls paradise and denotes home.

Home and family. In every part of the world there are houses and dwellings, but there are two regions in Europe where the people have set up homes in the really full, traditional and poetical sense of the word. One is old-time England, overgrown with ivy, a place of fireside, arm-chairs and books; and the other is Spain with the charming latticed glimpse of woman’s realm, family life, the blossoming heart of the house.

This lush, sweltering land has no family fireside; it has the family patio where you can see the good people’s homely comfort, their children, their daily festival. And I wager that it is a good thing to be a woman here, for she is crowned with the great glory and high honour of the household patio, amid a splendour of palms, laurels and myrtle.

I believe that the beauty of the home is the special and potent glorification of woman; it declares her rule, exalts her renown and surrounds her throne. And by woman, I do not mean you, big-eyed muchacho, but your mama, the old, bearded lady in the wicker-chair – it is in her honour that I write this.