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

Spain: Avila

Santa Teresa

By Luis de Góngora (1561–1627)

Translated by Edward Churton

GOOD measure of the seed that fell

Not on rude thorns or arid stone,

But the kind earth requited well

With plenteous fruit, five score for one,

Was found in this good Saint, whose worth,

Appraised by lawful standard now,

From Avila that gave her birth

Prompts far and near the bedesman’s vow.

For not alone of grain so pure

She gave full measure, just and true,

She brought, the treasure to secure,

The girding cord and sackcloth too.

A saintly patriarch, two in one

She played her part, in both entire,

Now Angelo, half friar, half nun,

Teresa now, half nun, half friar.

In dreams she soared to Carmel’s height,

And saw perchance the bush that bloomed,

Wrapt in a shroud of fiery light

With buds of glory unconsumed.

Thence to the world returning down,

She walked unsandalled evermore;

But in strong tables, firm as stone,

Her reverend Code Reformed she bore.

Or, like the Tishbite’s follower blest,

She tracked the car of heavenly love

That bore him to his endless rest,

And caught his mantle from above:

Thence love-inspired, to earth’s dark ways

She turned, her convent-homes to rear,

In number like the nights and days

In Spain’s star-spangled hemisphere.

Her convent-homes for souls distressed

She reared, celestial sojournings,

Whereto poor mourners flew for rest,

Like bees at eve with weary wings.

With such wise zeal her spirit glowed,

With language meet for gray-haired men,

The counsels from her lips that flowed

Had graced a mitred prelate’s pen.

Twin lights of Avila’s fair town

They live, Tostado, learned sire,

Whose lamp of truth shall ne’er burn down,

And now Teresa’s signal-fire.

In Avila, right nobly born,

She grew, and Nature gave beside

Such beauty as might well adorn

The state of Juno’s bird of pride.

The rose, the lily in her cheek

So graced her crystal form so fair,

That Flattery’s glossing could not speak

Of charms that Nature gave not there.

But in the springtide of her youth,

Proof to the fond, beguiling sin,

The fragile crystal kept the truth,

The firmness of the rock within.

Unheeded round that virgin form

The twines of flaunting flattery played;

They withered, as at touch of worm

The wanton Spring’s waste tendrils fade.

So unbeguiled and fancy-free

She like the bowering cedar grew,

And pilgrims to that sheltering tree

From heat or storm to covert flew.

Her penitential followers pale,

In ashy cowls, might match the crowd,

That to the prophet’s boding wail

At Nineveh in ashes bowed.

Such citizens from Europe wide

Did this good anchorite enroll,

Till mortal urn no more might hide

The flame of her ethereal soul.

O host of penitents so fair,

That drink of Camel’s living springs,

Whose forms the gown of camlet wear

With glory like an angel’s wings;

Religion, spread as soon as born,

All flowering, while its plant was young;

All fruitful on its virgin thorn;

Forgive my too presumptuous song;

Forgive me, if among your swans,

Like the vain daw, I dare to come,

To greet the Saint’s bright sun that dawns

O’er her clear stream and mountain-home;

Forgive me, when her wondrous worth

More than loud trumpet’s voice might need,

If I her praise sound weakly forth

On my poor dull-toned shepherd’s reed.

Good mother, who her twofold flock

Did in one blended rule combine,

As the good dresser from one stock

Rears the twin boughs of one fair vine.

Laborers at every hour she drew

To till her vineyard, man and maid,

To tasks the vain world never knew,

Taught in the convent’s cloistered shade:

To hair-cloth, foe to soft delight,

That with frail flesh so fiercely wars,

Its bristling edge, like file, might bite

E’en through the convent-grating bars;

Or rather, like to horsehair sieves

Sifting the corn-heaps fair and even,

It purges out all husks, and gives

The grain in measure pure for heaven.

Wise virgin! she with livelong toil

The watcher’s lamp so firm to bear,

Has left her store of sacred oil

To sparkle from her sepulchre;

And it shall burn more bright with years,

Unwasted, till the Bridegroom come,

And the good seed she sowed in tears,

Return in sheaves of gladness home.