صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

she got hither, but her consternation was so great she could give me no account of her escape. I suppose that when the tremor first began, she ran out of her own house, and finding berself in such imminent danger from the falling stones, retired into the door of mine, which was almost contiguous to hers, for shelter; and when the shock increased, which filled the door with dust and rubbish, ran upstairs into my apartment, which was then open; be it as it might, this was no time for curiosity. I remember the poor creature asked me, in the utmost agony, if I did not think The world was at an end; at the same time she complained of

[graphic]

being choked, and begged, for God's sake, I would procure her a little drink. Upon this I went to a closet where I kept a large jar of water, (which you know is sometimes a pretty scarce commodity in Lisbon,) but finding it broken in pieces, I told her she must not now think of quenching her thirst but saving her life, as the house was just falling on our heads, and if a second shock came, would certainly bury us both. I bade her take hold of my arm, and that I would endeavour to bring her into some place of security.

I shall always look upon it as a particular providence that I happened on this occasion to be undressed; for had I dressed myself as proposed when I got out of bed, in order to breakfast with a friend, I should, in all probability, have run into the street at the beginning of the shock, as the rest of the people in the house did, and, consequently, have had my brains dashed out, as every one of them had. However, the imminent danger I was in did not hinder me from considering that my present dress, only a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

gown and slippers, would render my getting over the ruins almost impracticable: I had, therefore, still presence of mind enough left to put on a pair of shoes and a coat, the first that came in my way, which was everything I saved; and in this dress I hurried downstairs, the woman with me, holding by my arm, and made directly to that end of the street which opens to the Tagus. Finding the passage this way entirely blocked up with the fallen houses to the height of their second stories, I turned back to the other end which led into the main street (the common thorough. fare to the palace), having helped the woman over a vast heap of ruins, with no small hazard to my own life. Just as we were going into this street, as there was one part I could not well climb over without the assistance of my hands as well as feet, I desired her to let go her hold, which she did, remaining two or three feet behind me, at which instant there fell a vast stone from a tottering wall, and crushed both her and the child in pieces. So dismal a spectacle at any other time would have affected me in the highest degree; but the dread I was in of sharing the same fate myself, and the many instances of the same kind which presented themselves all around, were too shocking to make me dwell a moment on this single object.

I had now a long narrow street to pass, with the houses on each side four or five stories high, all very old, the greater part already thrown down, or continually falling, and threatening the passengers with inevitable death at every step, numbers of whom lay killed before me, or what I thought far more deplorable-80 bruised and wounded that they could not stir to help themselves. For my own part, as destruction appeared to me unavoidable, I only wished I might be made an end of at once, and not have my limbs broken, in which case I could expect nothing else but to be left upon the spot, lingering in misery, like these poor unhappy wretches, without receiving the least succour from any person.

As self-preservation, however, is the first law of nature, these sad thoughts did not so far prevail as to make me totally despair. I proceeded on as fast as I conveniently could, though with the utmost caution; and having at length got clear of this horrid passage, I found myself safe and unhurt in the large open space before St. Paul's church, which had been thrown down a few minutes before, and buried a great part of the congregation, that was generally pretty numerous, this being reckoned one of the most populous parishes in Lisbon. Here I stood some time considering what I should do, and not thinking myself safe in this situation, I came to the resolution of climbing over the ruins of the west end of the church, in order to get to the river's side, that I might be removed as far as possible from the tottering houses, in case of a second shock.

This, with some difficulty, I accomplished ; and here I found & prodigious concourse of people of both sexes, and of all ranks and conditions, among whom I observed some of the principal canons of the patriarchal church, in their purple robes and rochets, as these all go in the habits of bishops ; several priests who had run from the altars in their sacerdotal vestments in the midst of their celebrating mass ; ladies half dressed, and some without shoes: all these, whom their mutual dangers had here assembled as to a place of safety, were on their knees at prayers, with the terrors of death in their countenances, every one striking his breast, and crying out incessantly, Miserecordia meu Dios.

Amidst this crowd I could not avoid taking notice of an old venerable priest, in a stole and surplice, who, I apprehend, had escaped from St. Paul's. He was continually moving to and fro among the people, exhorting them to repentance, and endeavouring to comfort them. He told them, with a flood of tears, that God was grievously provoked at their sins, but that if they would call upon the Blessed Virgin, she would intercede for them. Every one now flocked around him, earnestly begging his benediction, and happy did that man think himself who could get near enough to touch the hem of his garment; several, I observed, had little wooden crucifixes and images of saints in their hands, which they offered me to kiss, and one poor Irishman, I remember, held out a St. Antonio to me for this purpose, and when I gently put his arm aside, as giving him to understand that I desired to be excused this piece of devotion, he asked me with some indignation, whether I thought there was a God. I verily believe many of the poor bigoted creatures who saved these useless pieces of wood, left their children to perish. However, you must not imagine that I have now the least inclination to mock at their superstitions. I sincerely pity them, and must own, that a more affecting spectacle was never seen. Their tears, their bitter sighs and lamentations, would have touched the most flinty heart. I knelt down amongst them, and prayed as fervently as the rest, though to a much properer object, the only Being who could hear my prayers to afford me any succour.

In the midst of our devotions, the second great shock came on, little less violent than the first, and completed the ruin of those buildings which had been already much shattered. The consternation now became so universal, that the shrieks and cries of Miserecordia could be distinctly heard from the top of St. Catherine's Hill, at a considerable distance off, whither a vast number of people had likewise retreated; at the same time we could hear the fall of the parish church there, whereby many persons were killed on the spot, and others mortally wounded. You may judge of the force of this shock, when I inform you it was so violent that I could scarce keep on my knees; but it was attended with some circumstances still more dreadful than the former. On a sudden I heard a general outcry, "The sea is coming in, we shall be all lost.” Upon this, turning my eyes towards the river, which in that place is near four miles broad, I could perceive it heaving and swelling in a most unaccountable manner, as no wind was stirring. In an instant there appeared, at some small distance, a large body of water, rising as it were like a mountain. It came

on foaming and roaring, and rushed towards the shore with such impetuosity, that we all immediately ran for our lives as fast as possible ; many were actually swept away, and the rest above their waist in water at a good distance from the banks. For my own part, I had the narrowest escape, and should certainly have been Tost, had I not grasped a large beam that lay on the ground, till the water returned

to its channel, which it did almost at thesame instant, with equal rapidity. As there now appeared at least as much danger from the sea as the land, and I scarce knew whither to retire for shelter, I took a sudden resolution of returning back, with my clothes all dripping, to the area of St. Paul's. Here I stood some time, and observed the ships tumbling and tossing about as in a violent storm; some had broken their cables, and were carried to the other side of the Tagus; others were whirled round with incredible swiftness ; several large boats were turned keel upwards ; and all this without any wind, which seemed the more astonishing. It was at the time of which I am now speaking, that the fine new quay, built entirely of rough marble, at an immense expense, was entirely swallowed up, with all the people on it who had fled thither for safety, and had reason to think themselves out of danger in such a place: at the same time, a great number of boats and small vessels, anchored near it (all likewise full of people, who had retired thither for the same purpose), were all swallowed up, as in a whirlpool, and never more appeared.

This last dreadful incident I did not see with my own eyes, as it passed three or four stones' throws from the spot where I then was, but I had the account as here given from several masters of ships, who were anchored within two or three hundred yards of the quay, and saw the whole catastrophe. One of them in particular informed me, that when the second shock came on, he could perceive the whole city waving backwards and forwards, like the sea when the wind first begins to rise; that the agitation of the earth was so great, even under the river, that it threw up his large anchor from the mooring, which swam, as he termed it, on the surface of the water; that immediately upon this extraordinary concussion, the river rose at once near twenty feet, and in a moment subsided; at which instant he saw the quay, with the whole concourse of people upon it, sink down, and at the same time every one of the boats and vessels that were near it, were drawn into the cavity, which he supposed instantly closed upon them, inasmuch as not the least sign of a wreck was ever seen afterwards. This account you may give full credit to, for as to the loss of the vessels, it is confirmed by everybody; and with regard to the quay, I went myself a few days after to convince myself of the truth, and could not find even the ruins of a place, where I had taken so many agreeable walks, as this was the common rendezvous of the factory in the cool of the evening. I found it all deep

some parts scarcely to be fathomed. This is the only place I could learn which was swallowed up in or about Lisbon, though I saw many large cracks and fissures in

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

water, and

different parts ; and one odd phenomenon I must not omit, which was communicated to me by a friend who has a house and winecellars on the other side of the river, viz., that the dwelling-house, being first terribly shaken, which made all the family run out, there presently fell down a vast high rock near it; that upon this the river rose and subsided in the manner already mentioned, and immediately a great number of small fissures appeared in several contiguous pieces of ground, from whence there spouted out, like a jet d'eau, a large quantity of fine white sand to a prodigious height. It is not to be doubted the bowels of the earth must have been excessively agitated to cause these surprising effects; but whether the shocks were owing to any sudden explosion of various minerals mixing together, or to air pent up, and struggling for vent, or to a collection of subterraneous waters forcing a passage, God only knows. As to the fiery eruptions then talked off, I believe they are without foundation, though it is certain, I heard several complaining of strong sulphurous smells, a dizziness in their heads, a sickness in their stomachs, and difficulty of respiration, not that I felt any such symptoms myself.

I had not been long in the area of St. Paul's, when I felt the third shock, which though somewhat less violent than the two former, the sea rushed in again, and retired with the same rapidity, and I remained up to my knees in water, though I had gotten upon a small eminence at some distance from the river, with the ruins of several intervening houses to break its force. At this time I took notice the waters retired so impetuously, that some vessels were left quite dry, which rode in seven fathom water; the river thus continued alternately rushing on and retiring several times together, in such sort, that it was justly dreaded Lisbon would now meet the same fate which a few years before had befallen the city of Lima ; and no doubt had this place lain open to the sea, and the force of the waves not being somewhat broken by the winding of the bay, the lower parts of it at least would have been totally destroyed.

The master of a vessel which arrived here just after the 1st of November, assured me, that he felt the shock above forty leagues at sea so sensibly, that he really concluded he had struck upon a rock, till he threw out the lead, and could find no bottom, nor could he possibly guess at the cause, till the melancholy sight of this desolate city left him no room to doubt of it. The two first shocks, in fine, were so violent, that several pilots were of opinion the situation of the bar, at the mouth of the Tagus, was changed. Certain it is, that one vessel, attempting to pass through the usual channel, foundered, and another struck on the sands, and was at first given over for lost, but at length got through. There was another great shock after this, which pretty much affected the river, but I think not so violently as the preceding, though several persons assured me, that as they were riding on horseback in the great road leading to Belem, one side of which lies open to the

D

« السابقةمتابعة »