Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Cordova


By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)

Translated by C. G. Leland

IN Cordova’s grand cathedral

Stand the pillars thirteen hundred;

Thirteen hundred giant pillars

Bear the cupola, that wonder.

And on walls and dome and pillars,

From the top to bottom winding,

Flow the Arabic Koran proverbs,

Quaintly and like flowers twining.

Moorish monarchs once erected

This fair pile to Allah’s glory;

But in the wild dark whirl of ages

Many a change has stolen o’er it.

On the minaret, where the Mollah

Called to prayer amid the turrets,

Now the Christian bells are ringing

With a melancholy drumming.

On the steps where once the Faithful

Sung the praises of the Prophet,

Now the mass’s worn-out wonder

To the world the bald priests offer.

What a turning, what a twisting,

By the puppets in odd draping!

What a bleating, steaming, ringing,

Round the foolish, flashing tapers!

In Cordova’s grand cathedral

Stands Almanzor ben Abdullah,

Silently the pillars eying,

And these words in silence murmuring:

“O ye strong and giant pillars,

Once adorned in Allah’s glory,

Now ye serve, and deck while serving,

The detested faith now o’er us!

“But if to the times ye ’re suited,

And ye calmly bear the burden,

Surely it becomes the weaker

Of such lore to be a learner.”

So Almanzor ben Abdullah

Smiled and bowed with cheerful motion,

O’er the decorated font-stone

In the minster of Cordova.

HASTILY from the cathedral,

Headlong on his wild horse riding,

Went the knight, his ringlets waving,

And with them his feathers flying,

On the way to Alcolea,

All along the Guadalquivir,

By the perfumed golden orange

And the almond’s snow-white glitter.

Onward flies the joyous rider,

Whistling, singing, gayly laughing;

And the birds with merry music,

And the waterfall, sing after.

In the castle Alcolea

Dwells fair Clara de Alvarez.

She is free now, since her father

Wages battle in Navarra.

In the distance drums and trumpets

Sound a welcome to Almanzor,

And he sees the castle-tapers

Gleaming through the forest-shadows.

In the castle Alcolea

Twelve fair dames are gayly dancing;

Twelve gay knights are dancing with them,

Best of all Almanzor dances.

As if whirled by gay caprices,

Round the hall he gayly flutters,

And by him to every lady

Sweetest flattery is uttered.

Isabella’s pretty fingers

Then are kissed, and then he leaves her;

Next he stands before Elvira,

In her dark eyes archly peeping.

Laughingly he asks Lenora

If to-day he strikes her fancy;

And he shows the golden crosses

Richly broidered in his mantle.

And he vows to every lady,

“In my heart you live, believe me”;

And “As true as I ’m a Christian!”

Thirty times he swore that evening.

IN the castle Alcolea

Mirth and music cease their ringing;

Lords and ladies are departed,

And the tapers are extinguished.

Donna Clara and Almanzor,

Only they alone still linger:

On them shines a single taper,

With its light wellnigh extinguished.

On her chair the dame is seated,

On her footstool he is dozing;

Till his head, with slumber weary,

On the knees he loves reposes.

Now she pours attar of roses

Cautiously, from golden vial,

On the brown locks of Almanzor,

And she hears him deeply sighing.

Ever cautiously the lady

Presses kisses sweet and loving

On the brown locks of Almanzor;

But his brow is clouded over.

Ever cautiously the lady

Weeps in floods, with anguish yearning,

On the brown locks of Almanzor;

And his lip with scorn is curling.

And be dreams again he ’s standing

In the minster at Cordova,

Bending with his brown locks dripping,

Gloomy voices murmuring o’er him.

And he hears the giant pillars

Their impatient anger murmur;

Longer they will not endure it,

And they tremble, and they totter,

And they wildly crash together.

Deadly pale are priest and people.

Down the cupola comes thundering,

And the Christian gods are grieving.