THE PROPHECY OF TAGUS
In dalliance Roderic the King
Delayed with fair La Cava by the side
Of Tagus' gorge, till clamoring
The river-god from out the tide
Emerged, and in a voice prophetic cried:
«Licentious despot, would you choose
Such hour for weakness! Now when thunders sound
And trumpetings of death confuse!
When clash and shout of Mars astound
Our land, and conflagrations spread around!
»Alas, for thy mere pleasure, how
Our country groans! That lovely one (O day
Unhallowed of her birth!) doth now
On Spain bring weeping and dismay,
To sweep the sceptre of the Goths away!
»Flames, supplications, shouts of war,
Laments of death and anguish and disgrace,
That brief embrace is twining for!
Involving you and all the race
In shame the ages never shall efface!
»A yoke of slavery on the lands,
They till at Constantina, where the stream
Of Ebro, where Sansueña's strands
And Lusitania's reach extreme
On all the spacious Spains, a doom supreme!
»Hark, out of Cadiz raging calls
Count Julian's voice to speak a father's wrongs!
No shame of treachery appals
He conjures up avenging throngs
To waste the kingdom that to you belongs!
»Adown the morn the trumpet's throat
Proclaims the doom! See, on Morocco's shore
What thronging, when his banners float
Upon the winds conspired to pour
So swift on Spain the Moslem conqueror!
»The cruel Arab lifts his lance
And shakes his gleaming challenge to the wind;
Swiftly his light flotillas dance
Upon their way of warfare blind
See all their numbers swarming on my mind!
»The trembling earth is hidden where they tread;
Their sails blot out the intervening sea;
Their clamors strike the heaven with dread;
The sun from out the noon would flee
Before the dust cloud and obscurity!
»Alas, how ardently their prows
Surmount the waves! What sinews bend the oar
As every galley onward plows
And how the deeps must foam and roar,
When they glide hissing on the Spanish shore!
»To Eolus their sails are given
And over Hercules's unguarded straits
Their sharpened prows of steel are driven
Where Neptune, the great father, waits
To grant them ingress by his open gates.
»Alas! poor wretch, that bosom dear
Can still bewitch you? that you draw no sword,
When such calamities you hear?
When even upon the sacred ford
Tarifa falls already to the horde!
»Out in the saddle! Spread your wing
Across the mountains! Spare not on the plain
Your bloody spurs! There brandishing
The goad, come thundering amain
Upon them, Roderic, with blade insane!
»But oh! what travail now prepares,
What years of sweat and carnage are ordained
On him who shield and breastplate bears,
On princeling who might else have reigned,
On horse and rider to destruction chained!
»Thou Stream of Betis, - shalt be dyed
With mingling blood of kinsmen and of foes!
Unto the sea how soon thy tide
With broken wrack of helmets flows,
And surge of corpses kingly in their woes!
»Five days of blood infuriate
The God of war unloosens on the plains,
Where meet the swarming hordes of hate;
The sixth, alas, thy doom ordains!
O land beloved, in barbaric chains!»
Fray Luis de León
Translation by Thomas Walsh