French saw Spanish property crash coming

Apparently it’s quite well-known, but I only found it this morning in HG Bohn’s A hand-book of proverbs (1855), in the household reading room:

To build castles in the air. Far castelli in aria.–Ital. The French say, Faire des chateaux en Espagne.

It is tempting although perhaps erroneous to believe that this derives from Frankish experiences with the Spanish building industry during the Moorish wars–far-away land grants were made on condition you beat off the incumbent, and then you still had to build your bloody burg. (Is there an analogous expression in Magyar despairing similar awards made on the military frontier with the Ottomans?)

Hector Bizet Berlioz wrote a Waltz sung by the wind in the chimneys of one of my castles in Spain which I do not know but which is apparently:

… nothing more than a long chromatic scale which alternately rises and falls and eventually after 49 bars of meandering peters out on the tonic.

Which is more or less where we’re heading.

Elsewhere Bohn has the following item:

Building is a sweet impoverishing. (It is called the Spanish plague: therefore, as Cato well saith, Optimum est aliena insania frui.)

So perhaps we should have known.

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