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?)
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.
- Mysterious Zaragoza nights
Between-wars texts about Zaragoza by Germans who appear never to have visited the place.
- Spain, a nation of whores, soldiers and fools?
Spanish entries from the 1811 Dictionary of the vulgar tongue, with some fanciful etymological speculation and a mercifully brief bout of
- Rhyme vs reason
Restif de la Bretonne goes one step beyond Shakespeare and says that poetry is the language of Gods and beasts, and
- Parasitical beatles and snails get their just desserts
Most people think that the kermes oak, Quercus coccifera, is actually holly because it’s a prickly evergreen tree that round here
- “Where’s the baldie?”
Apparently a bunch of American academics came to Barcelona recently on their annual beano and, rumours about Baldie Tours having spread,