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

Spain: Biscay (Vizcaya)


By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

IN due observance of an ancient rite,

The rude Biscayans when their children lie

Dead in the sinless time of infancy,

Attire the peaceful corse in vestments white;

And, in like sign of cloudless triumph bright,

They bind the unoffending creature’s brows

With happy garlands of the pure white rose:

This done, a festal company unite

In choral song; and, while the uplifted cross

Of Jesus goes before, the child is borne

Uncovered to his grave. Her piteous loss

The lonesome mother cannot choose but mourn;

Yet soon by Christian faith is grief subdued,

And joy attends upon her fortitude.

YET, yet, Biscayans, we must meet our foes

With firmer soul, yet labor to regain

Our ancient freedom; else ’t were worse than vain

To gather round the bier these festal shows!

A garland fashioned of the pure white rose

Becomes not one whose father is a slave:

O, bear the infant covered to his grave!

These venerable mountains now enclose

A people sunk in apathy and fear.

If this endure, farewell for us all good!

The awful light of heavenly innocence

Will fail to illuminate the infant’s bier;

And guilt and shame from which is no defence

Descend on all that issues from our blood.