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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


From the Spanish. Ancient Spanish Ballads. III. The peasant leaves his plough afield

  • “One of the finest of the historic ballads is that which describes Bernardo’s march to Roncesvalles. He sallies forth ‘with three thousand Leonese and more,’ to protect the glory and freedom of his native land. From all sides, the peasantry of the land flock to the hero’s standard.”

  • THE PEASANT leaves his plough afield,

    The reaper leaves his hook,

    And from his hand the shepherd-boy

    Lets fall the pastoral crook.

    The young set up a shout of joy,

    The old forget their years,

    The feeble man grows stout of heart,

    No more the craven fears.

    All rush to Bernard’s standard,

    And on liberty they call;

    They cannot brook to wear the yoke,

    When threatened by the Gaul.

    “Free were we born,” ’t is thus they cry,

    “And willingly pay we

    The duty that we owe our king,

    By the divine decree.

    “But God forbid that we obey

    The laws of foreign knaves,

    Tarnish the glory of our sires,

    And make our children slaves.

    “Our hearts have not so craven grown,

    So bloodless all our veins,

    So vigorless our brawny arms,

    As to submit to chains.

    “Has the audacious Frank, forsooth,

    Subdued these seas and lands?

    Shall he a bloodless victory have?

    No, not while we have hands.

    “He shall learn that the gallant Leonese

    Can bravely fight and fall,

    But that they know not how to yield;

    They are Castilians all.

    “Was it for this the Roman power

    Of old was made to yield

    Unto Numantia’s valiant hosts

    On many a bloody field?

    “Shall the bold lions that have bathed

    Their paws in Libyan gore,

    Crouch basely to a feebler foe,

    And dare the strife no more?

    “Let the false king sell town and tower,

    But not his vassals free;

    For to subdue the free-born soul

    No royal power hath he!”