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

Portugal: Coimbra

Ignez de Castro

By Luís de Camões (c. 1524–1580)

(From The Lusiad, Book III)
Translated by William Julius Mickle

WHILE glory thus Alonzo’s name adorned,

To Lisboa’s shores the happy chief returned,

In glorious peace and well-deserved repose

His course of fame and honored age to close.

When now, O king, a damsel’s fate severe,

A fate which ever claims the woful tear,

Disgraced his honors. On the nymph’s lorn head

Relentless rage its bitterest rancor shed;

Yet such the zeal her princely lover bore,

Her breathless corse the crown of Lisboa wore.

’T was thou, O Love, whose dreaded shafts control

The hind’s rude heart, and tear the hero’s soul;

Thou ruthless power, with bloodshed never cloyed,

’T was thou thy lovely votary destroyed.

Thy thirst still burning for a deeper woe,

In vain to thee the tears of beauty flow;

The breast, that feels thy purest flames divine,

With spouting gore must bathe thy cruel shrine.

Such thy dire triumphs!—Thou, O Nymph, the while,

Prophetic of the god’s unpitying guile,

In tender scenes by lovesick fancy wrought,

By fear oft shifted as by fancy brought,

In sweet Mondego’s ever-verdant bowers,

Languished away the slow and lonely hours:

While now, as terror waked thy boding fears,

The conscious stream received thy pearly tears;

And now, as hope revived the brighter flame,

Each echo sighed thy princely lover’s name.

Nor less could absence from thy prince remove

The dear remembrance of his distant love:

Thy looks, thy smiles, before him ever glow,

And o’er his melting heart endearing flow:

By night his slumbers bring thee to his arms,

By day his thoughts still wander o’er thy charms,

By night, by day, each thought thy loves employ,

Each thought the memory or the hope of joy.

Though fairest princely dames invoked his love,

No princely dame his constant faith could move;

For thee alone his constant passion burned,

For thee the proffered royal maids he scorned.

Ah, hope of bliss too high!—the princely dames

Refused, dread rage the father’s breast inflames:

He, with an old man’s wintry eye, surveys

The youth’s fond love, and coldly with it weighs

The people’s murmurs of his son’s delay

To bless the nation with his nuptial day;

(Alas! the nuptial day was passed unknown,

Which but when crowned the prince could dare to own;)

And with the fair one’s blood the vengeful sire

Resolves to quench his Pedro’s faithful fire.

O thou dread sword, oft stained with heroes’ gore,

Thou awful terror of the prostrate Moor,

What rage could aim thee at a female breast,

Unarmed, by softness and by love possessed?

Dragged from her bower by murderous, ruffian hands,

Before the frowning king fair Ignez stands;

Her tears of artless innocence, her air

So mild, so lovely, and her face so fair,

Moved the stern monarch; when with eager zeal

Her fierce destroyers urged the public weal:

Dread rage again the tyrant’s soul possessed,

And his dark brow his cruel thoughts confessed.

O’er her fair face a sudden paleness spread;

Her throbbing heart with generous anguish bled,

Anguish to view her lover’s hopeless woes;

And all the mother in her bosom rose.

Her beauteous eyes, in trembling tear-drops drowned,

To heaven she lifted, but her hands were bound;

Then on her infants turned the piteous glance,

The look of bleeding woe: the babes advance,

Smiling in innocence of infant age,

Unawed, unconscious of their grandsire’s rage;

To whom, as bursting sorrow gave the flow,

The native, heart-sprung eloquence of woe,

The lovely captive thus: “O monarch, hear,

If e’er to thee the name of man was dear,—

If prowling tigers, or the wolfs wild brood,

Inspired by nature with the lust of blood,

Have yet been moved the weeping babe to spare,

Nor left, but tended with a nurse’s care,

As Rome’s great founders to the world were given;

Shalt thou, who wear’st the sacred stamp of Heaven,

The human form divine,—shalt thou deny

That aid, that pity, which e’en beasts supply?

O that thy heart were, as thy looks declare,

Of human mould! superfluous were my prayer;

Thou couldst not then a helpless damsel slay,

Whose sole offence in fond affection lay,

In faith to him who first his love confessed,

Who first to love allured her virgin breast.

In these my babes shalt thou thine image see,

And still tremendous hurl thy rage on me?

Me, for their sakes, if yet thou wilt not spare,

O, let these infants prove thy pious care!

Yet pity’s lenient current ever flows

From that brave breast where genuine valor glows;

That thou art brave let vanquished Afric tell,

Then let thy pity o’er mine anguish swell;

Ah! let my woes, unconscious of a crime,

Procure mine exile to some barbarous clime;

Give me to wander o’er the burning plains

Of Lybia’s deserts, or the wild domains

Of Scythia’s snow-clad rocks and frozen shore;

There let me, hopeless of return, deplore.

Where ghastly horror fills the dreary vale,

Where shrieks and howlings die on every gale,

The lion’s roaring, and the tiger’s yell,

There with mine infant race consigned to dwell,

There let me try that piety to find,

In vain by me implored from human-kind:

There in some dreary cavern’s rocky womb,

Amid the horrors of sepulchral gloom,

For him whose love I mourn, my love shall glow,

The sigh shall murmur, and the tear shall flow:

All my fond wish, and all my hope, to rear

These infant pledges of a love so dear,—

Amidst my griefs a soothing, glad employ,

Amidst my fears a woful, hopeless joy.”

In tears she uttered. As the frozen snow,

Touched by the spring’s mild ray, begins to flow,

So just began to melt his stubborn soul,

As mild-rayed pity o’er the tyrant stole:

But destiny forbade. With eager zeal,

Again pretended for the public weal,

Her fierce accusers urged her speedy doom;

Again dark rage diffused its horrid gloom

O’er stern Alonzo’s brow: swift at the sign,

Their swords unsheathed around her brandished shine.

O foul disgrace, of knighthood lasting stain,

By men of arms an helpless lady slain!

Thus Pyrrhus, burning with unmanly ire,

Fulfilled the mandate of his furious sire:

Disdainful of the frantic matron’s prayer,

On fair Polyxena, her last fond care,

He rushed, his blade yet warm with Priam’s gore,

And dashed the daughter on the sacred floor;

While mildly she her raving mother eyed,

Resigned her bosom to the sword, and died.

Thus Ignez, while her eyes to Heaven appeal,

Resigns her bosom to the murdering steel:

That snowy neck, whose matchless form sustained

The loveliest face, where all the Graces reigned,

Whose charms so long the gallant prince inflamed,

That her pale corse was Lisboa’s queen proclaimed,—

That snowy neck was stained with spouting gore;

Another sword her lovely bosom tore.

The flowers, that glistened with her tears bedewed,

Now shrunk and languished with her blood imbrued.

As when a rose, erewhile of bloom so gay,

Thrown from the careless virgin’s breast away,

Lies faded on the plain, the living red,

The snowy white, and all its fragrance fled;

So from her cheeks the roses died away,

And pale in death the beauteous Ignez lay.

With dreadful smiles, and crimsoned with her blood,

Round the wan victim the stern murderers stood,

Unmindful of the sure, though future hour,

Sacred to vengeance and her lover’s power.

O sun, couldst thou so foul a crime behold,

Nor veil thine head in darkness,—as of old

A sudden night unwonted horror cast

O’er that dire banquet, where the sire’s repast

The son’s torn limbs supplied? Yet you, ye vales,

Ye distant forests, and ye flowery dales,

When, pale and sinking to the dreadful fall,

You heard her quivering lips on Pedro call;

Your faithful echoes caught the parting sound,

And “Pedro! Pedro!” mournful, sighed around.

Nor less the wood-nymphs of Mondego’s groves

Bewailed the memory of her hapless loves:

Her griefs they wept, and to a plaintive rill

Transformed their tears, which weeps and murmurs still:

To give immortal pity to her woe,

They taught the rivulet through her bowers to flow;

And still through violet beds the fountain pours

Its plaintive wailing, and is named Amours.

Nor long her blood for vengeance cried in vain:

Her gallant lord begins his awful reign.

In vain her murderers for refuge fly;

Spain’s wildest hills no place of rest supply.

The injured lover’s and the monarch’s ire,

And stern-browed justice, in their doom conspire;

In hissing flames they die, and yield their souls in fire.