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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.

Spain: Consuegra

Pedro the Cruel and the Prior of St. John’s

By Luis de Góngora (1561–1627)

Translated by Edward Churton

DON DIEGO or Padilla,—Heaven forgive him now he ’s dead!—

Led apart the king Don Pedro, and in secret guise he said:

“In Consuegra stands a castle; fairer ne’er was raised with stones;

Fitter ’t were the king should hold it, than the Prior of St. John’s.

Bid the Prior, good king, to supper; let him find, ere night be gone,

Such a feast as King Alfonso gave at Toro to Don John:

When the Prior—he ’s worth no pity—shorter by the head shall be,

If the castle want a tenant, grant the fief, dread lord, to me.”

“While these twain stood thus at council, lo! the simple Prior drew near.

“Heaven,” he said, “preserve your Highness long the royal crown to wear!”

“Welcome, gentle Prior, O, welcome: tell the truth, good sir, to me;

That same Castle of Consuegra,—tell me whose the place may be.”

“Yours, my liege, both town and castle; yours they are by sovereign right.”

“Then, good Prior, be here to supper; you shall be my guest to-night.”

“I attend my sovereign’s pleasure, and with right good-will shall come;

But another charge now waits me: monks, who seek with me a home,

Here as strangers need a lodging; let me to their comfort see.”

“Granted in Heaven’s name, good Prior; but be sure you sup with me.”

First the Prior would seek the kitchen; for his trusty cook was there,

Brought to guard his master’s eating,—men may die of poisoned fare;—

Like a comrade he bespoke him; none his purpose guessed but he:

“Friend, since friends have all in common, change awhile your dress with me.

Thus attired, at cool of even, ere the summer sun go down,

You may lounge with lords and ladies through the walks of this fair town.”

Then the Prior alone in stable sought his mule oft tried at need:

“Good gray mule, once more to aid me thou must prove thy best of speed:

Thrice my life thy help has rescued: if thy course this night thou hold,

Thy brave hoofs, for steel too noble, shall be shod with beaten gold.”

On her back be threw the saddle, drew the girths with silent haste,

And, as evening shades were closing, on his lonely road he past.

When he came to Azoguejo, market good for corn and hay,

As the provender she scented, loudly did the gray mule bray.

But her master could not tarry: on he rode; his mule so fleet,

As the midnight cocks were crowing, passed Toledo’s bridge and street.

Ere the cock again was crowing, while the dawn was yet in gloom,

To the Castle of Consuegra weary man and beast had come.

There he found his guards all watching: “Guards,” he said, “in whose true hands

Rests Consuegra keep and castle, tell me who the place commands.”

“Town and castle own one master; street or turret, walls and stones,

And the men that dwell within them, are the Prior’s of St. John’s.”

Glad at heart the weary Prior did his vassals’ answer hear:

“Then unbar the gates, my children; for behold, your lord is here.”

When the warders saw their master, peering out with jealous care,

Softly they let down the drawbridge, holding still the gates ajar.

“Take my mule,” the Prior commanded; “treat her well, I charge you all:

But for her no more your master had regained Consuegra’s hall.

Treat her well: and for the watching, leave that care for once to me;

I will keep the lantern-chamber, till the adventure’s end I see.

I will watch; and watch, my warders: wrath and treachery, armed with death,

Fain would pay with traitors’ guerdon those true hearts that keep their faith.”

Scarce these words the Prior had ended, lo! the king, good man, drew near;

When he saw the place well guarded, how he questioned you shall hear:

“Tell me, warders of the castle,—Heaven requite your faithful care!—

Tell me whose you call this fortress, whose it is, and whose ye are.”

“Town and castle own one master; street or turret, walls and stones,

And the men that dwell within them, are the Prior’s of St. John’s.”

“Then unbar the gates, my vassals: for behold, your lord am I.”

“Stand apart, good king, we charge you: royal lips should scorn to lie.

Stand apart; the Prior is with us: home he came ere dawn of day.”

“May the glanders choke his mule then, mule with coat of silver-gray!

Seven good steeds that beast has cost me; ’t is the eighth I now bestride;

Seven relays! and yet I could not catch the Prior on his night-ride.

Yet, good Prior, your word can bid them open to their lord and yours;

’T is no more than right to pay me for my pains of boots and spurs.

By my crown I swear, I never harm will do to thine or thee.”

“My good king, I know thou wilt not: for the game rests now with me.”