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


From the Spanish. Vida de San Millan

By Gonzalo de Berceo

AND when the kings were in the field,—their squadrons in array,—

With lance in rest they onward pressed to mingle in the fray;

But soon upon the Christians fell a terror of their foes,—

These were a numerous army,—a little handful those.

And while the Christian people stood in this uncertainty,

Upward to heaven they turned their eyes, and fixed their thoughts on high;

And there two figures they beheld, all beautiful and bright,

Even than the pure new-fallen snow their garments were more white.

They rode upon two horses more white than crystal sheen,

And arms they bore such as before no mortal man had seen;

The one, he held a crosier,—a pontiff’s mitre wore;

The other held a crucifix,—such man ne’er saw before.

Their faces were angelical, celestial forms had they,—

And downward through the fields of air they urged their rapid way;

They looked upon the Moorish host with fierce and angry look,

And in their hands, with dire portent, their naked sabres shook

The Christian host, beholding this, straightway take heart again;

They fall upon their bended knees, all resting on the plain,

And each one with his clenchèd fist to smite his breast begins,

And promises to God on high he will forsake his sins.

And when heavenly knights drew near unto the battle-ground,

They dashed among the Moors and dealt unerring blows around;

Such deadly havoc there they made the foremost ranks along,

A panic terror spread unto the hindmost of the throng.

Together with these two good knights, the champions of the sky,

The Christians rallied and began to smite full sore and high;

The Moors raised up their voices and by the Koran swore

That in their lives such deadly fray they ne’er had seen before.

Down went the misbelievers,—fast sped the bloody fight,—

Some ghastly and dismembered lay, and some half dead with fright:

Full sorely they repented that to the field they came,

For they saw that from the battle they should retreat with shame.

Another thing befell them,—they dreamed not of such woes,—

The very arrows that the Moors shot from their twanging bows

Turned back against them in their flight and wounded them full sore,

And every blow they dealt the foe was paid in drops of gore.


Now he that bore the crosier, and the papal crown had on,

Was the glorified Apostle, the brother of Saint John;

And he that held the crucifix, and wore the monkish hood,

Was the holy San Millan of Cogolla’s neighborhood.