Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Admiral Guarinos

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

Spain: Roncesvalles

The Admiral Guarinos

By Spanish Ballad

Translated by J. G. Lockhart

THE DAY of Roncesvalles was a dismal day for you,

Ye men of France, for there the lance of King Charles was broke in two.

Ye well may curse that rueful field, for many a noble peer,

In fray or fight, the dust did bite, beneath Bernardo’s spear.

There captured was Guarinos, King Charles’s admiral;

Seven Moorish kings surrounded him, and seized him for their thrall;

Seven times, when all the chace was o’er, for Guarinos lots they cast;

Seven times Marlotes won the throw, and the knight was his at last.


With iron bands they bound his hands. That sore unworthy plight

Might well express his helplessness, doomed nevermore to fight.

Again, from cincture down to knee, long bolts of iron he bore,

Which signified the knight should ride on charger nevermore.

Three times alone, in all the year, it is the captive’s doom,

To see God’s daylight bright and clear, instead of dungeon-gloom;

Three times alone they bring him out, like Samson long ago,

Before the Moorish rabble-rout to be a sport and show.

On three high feasts they bring him forth, a spectacle to be,

The feast of Pasque, and the great day of the Nativity,

And on that morn, more solemn yet, when the maidens strip the bowers,

And gladden mosque and minaret with the first fruits of the flowers.

Days come and go of gloom and show. Seven years are come and gone,

And now doth fall the festival of the holy Baptist John;

Christian and Moslem tilts and jousts, to give it homage due;

And rushes on the paths to spread they force the sulky Jew.

Marlotes, in his joy and pride, a target high doth rear,

Below the Moorish knights must ride and pierce it with the spear;

But ’t is so high up in the sky, albeit much they strain,

No Moorish lance so far may fly, Marlotes’ prize to gain.

Wroth waxed King Marlotes, when he beheld them fail,

The whisker trembled on his lip, and his cheek for ire was pale;

And heralds proclamation made, with trumpets, through the town,—

“Nor child shall suck, nor man shall eat, till the mark be tumbled down.”

The cry of proclamation, and the trumpet’s haughty sound,

Did send an echo to the vault where the Admiral was bound.

“Now, help me God!” the captive cries, “what means this din so loud?

O Queen of Heaven! be vengeance given on these thy haters proud!

“O, is it that some Pagan gay doth Marlotes’ daughter wed,

And that they bear my scorned fair in triumph to his bed?

Or, is it that the day is come,—one of the hateful three,

When they, with trumpet, fife, and drum, make heathen game of me?”

These words the jailer chanced to hear, and thus to him he said,

“These tabours, Lord, and trumpets clear, conduct no bride to bed;

Nor has the feast come round again, when he that has the right

Commands thee forth, thou foe of Spain, to glad the people’s sight.

“This is the joyful morning of John the Baptist’s day,

When Moor and Christian feast at home each in his nation’s way;

But now our king commands that none his banquet shall begin,

Until some knight, by strength or sleight, the spearman’s prize do win.”

Then out and spake Guarinos, “O, soon each man should feed,

Were I but mounted once again on my own gallant steed.

O, were I mounted as of old, and harnessed cap-a-pee,

Full soon Marlotes’ prize I ’d hold, whate’er its price may be.

“Give me my horse, mine old gray horse, so be he is not dead,

All gallantly caparisoned, with plate on breast and head,

And give me the lance I brought from France, and if I win it not,

My life shall be the forfeiture,—I ’ll yield it on the spot.”


They have girded on his shirt of mail, his cuisses well they ’ve clasped,

And they ’ve barred the helm on his visage pale, and his hand the lance hath grasped,

And they have caught the old gray horse, the horse he loved of yore,

And he stands pawing at the gate,—caparisoned once more.

When the knight came out the Moors did shout, and loudly laughed the king,

For the horse he pranced and capered, and furiously did fling;

But Guarinos whispered in his ear, and looked into his face,

Then stood the old charger like a lamb, with a calm and gentle grace.

O, lightly did Guarinos vault into the saddle-tree,

And slowly riding down made halt before Marlotes’ knee;

Again the heathen laughed aloud,—“All hail, sir knight,” quoth he,

“Now do thy best, thou champion proud. Thy blood I look to see.”

With that Guarinos, lance in rest, against the scoffer rode,

Pierced at one thrust his envious breast, and down his turban trode.

Now ride, now ride, Guarinos,—nor lance nor rowel spare,—

Slay, slay, and gallop for thy life.—The land of France lies there!