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


From the Spanish. San Miguel, the Convent

  • (San Miguel de la Tumba)
    By Gonzalo de Berceo

  • SAN MIGUEL DE LA TUMBA is a convent vast and wide;

    The sea encircles it around, and groans on every side:

    It is a wild and dangerous place, and many woes betide

    The monks who in that burial-place in penitence abide.

    Within those dark monastic walls, amid the ocean flood,

    Of pious, fasting monks there dwelt a holy brotherhood;

    To the Madonna’s glory there an altar high was placed,

    And a rich and costly image the sacred altar graced.

    Exalted high upon a throne, the Virgin Mother smiled,

    And, as the custom is, she held within her arms the Child;

    The kings and wise men of the East were kneeling by her side;

    Attended was she like a queen whom God had sanctified.


    Descending low before her face a screen of feathers hung,—

    A moscader, or fan for flies, ’t is called in vulgar tongue;

    From the feathers of the peacock’s wing ’t was fashioned bright and fair,

    And glistened like the heaven above when all its stars are there.

    It chanced that, for the people’s sins, fell the lightning’s blasting stroke:

    Forth from all four the sacred walls the flames consuming broke;

    The sacred robes were all consumed, missal and holy book;

    And hardly with their lives the monks their crumbling walls forsook.


    But though the desolating flame raged fearfully and wild,

    It did not reach the Virgin Queen, it did not reach the Child;

    It did not reach the feathery screen before her face that shone,

    Nor injure in a farthing’s worth the image or the throne.

    The image it did not consume, it did not burn the screen;

    Even in the value of a hair they were not hurt, I ween;

    Not even the smoke did reach them, nor injure more the shrine

    Than the bishop hight Don Tello has been hurt by hand of mine.