THE PAINTER OF SEVILLE.
By Susan Wilson.
Sebastian Gomez, better known by the name of the Mulatto of Murillo was
one of the most celebrated painters of Spain. There may yet be seen in the
churches of Seville the celebrated picture which he was found painting, by his
master, a St. Anne, and a holy Joseph, which are extremely beautiful, and
others of the highest merit. The incident related occurred about the year 1630
'Twas morning In Seville; and brightly beamed
The early sunlight in one chamber there;
Showing where'er its glowing radiance gleamed,
Rich, varied beauty. 'Twas the study where
Murillo, the famed painter, came to share
With young aspirants his long-cherished art,
To prove how vain must be the teacher's care
"Who strives his unbought knowledge to impart,
The language of the soul, the feeling of the heart.
The pupils came, and glancing 'round,
Mendez upon his canvas found.
Not his own work of yesterday,
But, glowing in the morning ray.
A sketch, so rich, so pure, so bright,
It almost seemed that there were given
To glow before his dazzled sight,
Tints And expression warm from heaven.
'Twas but a sketch-the Virgin's head-
Yet was unearthly beauty shed
Upon the mildly beaming face;
The lip, the eye, the flowing hair,
Had separate, yet blended grace-
A poet's brightest dreams was there!
Murillo entered, and amazed,
On the mysterious painting gazed;
"Whose work is this " .'-speak, tell me!-he
Who to his aid such power can call,"
Exclaimed the teacher eagerly,
"Will yet be master of us all;
Would I had done it!-Ferdinand!
Isturitz, Mendez!-say whose hand
Among ye all? -With half-breathed sigh,
Each pupil answered: 'Twas not I!"
"How came it then? " impatiently
Murillo cried; "but we shall see
Ere long into this mystery.
At the summons came
A bright-eyed slave,
Who trembled at the stern rebuke
His master gave.
For, ordered in that room to sleep,
And faithful guard o'er all to keep,
Murillo bade him now declare
What rash intruder had been there,
And threatened-if he did not tell
The truth at once-the dungeon-cell.
"Thou answerest not, " Murillo said;
(The boy had stood in speechless fear.)
"Speak on! "-At last he raised his head,
And murmured, "No one has been here."
"'Tis false! "Sebastian bent his knee,
And clasped his hand imploringly,
And said: "I swear it, none but me!"
"List! "said his master. "I would know
Who enters here-there have been found
Before, rough sketches strewn around,
By whose bold hand, 'tis yours to show;
See that to-night strict watch you keep,
Nor dare to close your eyes in sleep.
If on to-morrow morn you fail
To answer what I ask,
The lash shall force you-do you hear?
Hence! to your daily task."
'Twas midnight in Seville; and faintly shone
From one small lamp, a dim uncertain ray
Within Murillo's study-all were gone
Who there, in pleasant task or converse gay,
Passed cheerfully the morning hours away.
'Twas shadowy gloom, and breathless silence save,
That to one sad thoughts and torturing fear a prey,
One bright-eyed boy was there, Murillo's little slave.
Almost a child-that boy had seen
Not thrice five Summers yet,
But genius marked the lofty brow,
O'er which his locks of jet
Profusely curled; his cheek's dark hue
Proclaimed the warm blood flowing through
Each throbbing vein, a mingled tide,
To Africa and Spain allied.
"Alas! what fate is mine! "he said,
"The lash, if I refuse to tell
Who sketched those figures-If I do,
Perhaps e'en more-the dungeon-cell!"
He breathed a prayer to heaven for aid;
It came-for soon, in slumber laid,
He slept until the dawning day
Shed on its humble couch its ray.
"I'll sleep no more! "he cried: and now,
Three hours of freedom I may gain
Before my master comes; for then
I shall be but a slave again.
Three blessed hours of freedom! how
Shall I employ them?-ah! e'en now
The figure on that canvas traced
Must be-yes, it must be effaced."
He seized a brush-the morning light
Gave to the head a softened glow;
Gazing enraptured on the sight,
He cried: "Shall I efface it?--No!
That breathing lip! that beaming eye!
Efface them?-I would rather die!' " '
The terror of the humble slave
Gave place to the o'erpowering flow
Of the high feelings nature gave-
Which only gifted spirits know.
He touched the brow-the lip-it seemed
His pencil had some magic power;
The eye with deeper feeling beamed-
Sebastian then forgot the hour!
Forgot his master, and the threat
Of punishment still hanging o'er him;
For with each touch, new beauties met
And mingled in the face before him.
At length 'twas finished, rapturously
He gazed-could aught more beauteous be!-
Awhile absorbed, entranced he stood,
Then started-horror chilled his blood!
His master and the pupils all
Were there, e'en at his side!
The terror-striken slave was mute-
Mercy would be denied,
E'en could he sick it-so he deemed,
And the poor boy half lifeless seemed.
Speechless, bewildered-for a space
They gazed upon that perfect face,
Each with an artist's joy;
At length Murillo silence broke,
And with affected sternness spoke:
"Who is your master boy?"
"You, Senor, " said the trembling slave.
"Nay, who, I mean, instruction gave,
Before that Virgin's head you drew?"
Again he answered: "Only you."
"I gave you none, " Murillo cried!
"But I have heard, " the boy replied
"What you to others said,"
"And more than heard, " in kinder tone,
The painter said: "'tis plainly shown
That you have profited."
"What (to his pupils) is his need?
Reward or punishment?"
"Reward, reward! "they warmly cried
(Sebastian's ear was bent
To catch the sounds he scarce believed,
But with imploring look received.)
"What shall it be? " They spoke of gold
And of a splendid dress;
But still unmoved Sebastian stood,
Silent and motionless.
"Speak! " said Murillo, kindly; "choose
Your own reward-what shall it be?
Name what you wish, I'll not refuse:
Then speak at once and fearlessly."
"Oh! if I dared! " -Sebastian knelt
And feelings he could not control
(But feared to utter even then)
With strong emotion shook his soul.
"Courage! "his master said, and each
Essayed, in kind, half-whispered speech,
To soothe his overpow'ring dread.
He scarcely heard, till some one said,
"Sebastian-ask-you have your choice,
Ask for your freedom! "-At the word,
The suppliant strove to raise his voice:
At first but stifled sobs were heard,
And then his prayer-breathed fervently"Oh! master, make my father free!"
"im and thyself, my noble boy!"
Warmly the painter cried;
Raising Sebastian from his feet,
He pressed him to his side.
"Thy talent rare, and filial love,
E'en more have fairly won;
Still be thou mine by other bonds-
My pupil and my son."
Murillo knew, e'en when the words
Of generous feelings passed his lips,
Sebastian's talents soon must lead
To fame that would his own eclipse;
And, constant to his purpose still,
He joyed to see his pupil gain,
Beneath his care, such matchless skill
As made his name the pride of Spain.