Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Cid and the Leper

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

Spain: Compostella (Santiago)

The Cid and the Leper

By Spanish Ballad

Translated by J. G. Lockhart

HE has ta’en some twenty gentlemen, along with him to go,

For he will pay that ancient vow he to Saint James doth owe;

To Compostella, where the shrine doth by the altar stand,

The good Rodrigo de Bivar is riding through the land.

Where’er he goes, much alms he throws to feeble folk and poor;

Beside the way for him they pray, him blessings to procure;

For, God and Mary Mother, their heavenly grace to win,

His hand was ever bountiful: great was his joy therein.

And there, in middle of the path, a leper did appear;

In a deep slough the leper lay, none would to help come near.

With a loud voice he thence did cry, “For God our Saviour’s sake,

From out this fearful jeopardy a Christian brother take.”

When Roderick heard that piteous word, he from his horse came down;

For all they said, no stay he made, that noble champion;

He reached his hand to pluck him forth, of fear was no account,

Then mounted on his steed of worth, and made the leper mount.

Behind him rode the leprous man; when to their hostelrie

They came, he made him eat with him at table cheerfully;

While all the rest from that poor guest with loathing shrunk away,

To his own bed the wretch he led, beside him there he lay.

All at the mid-hour of the night, while good Rodrigo slept,

A breath came from the leprous man, it through his shoulders crept;

Right through the body, at the breast, passed forth that breathing cold;

I wot he leaped up with a start, in terrors manifold.

He groped for him in the bed, but him he could not find;

Through the dark chamber groped he, with very anxious mind;

Loudly he lifted up his voice, with speed a lamp was brought,

Yet nowhere was the leper seen, though far and near they sought.

He turned him to his chamber, God wot, perplexed sore

With that which had befallen—when lo! his face before,

There stood a man, all clothed in vesture shining white:

Thus said the vision, “Sleepest thou or wakest thou, Sir Knight?”—

“I sleep not,” quoth Rodrigo; “but tell me who art thou,

For, in the midst of darkness, much light is on thy brow?”

“I am the holy Lazarus, I come to speak with thee;

I am the same poor leper thou savedst for charity.

“Not vain the trial, nor in vain thy victory hath been;

God favors thee, for that my pain thou didst relieve yestreen.

There shall be honor with thee in battle and in peace,

Success in all thy doings, and plentiful increase.

“Strong enemies shall not prevail, thy greatness to undo;

Thy name shall make men’s cheeks full pale,—Christian and Moslem too;

A death of honor shalt thou die, such grace to thee is given,

Thy soul shall part victoriously, and be received in heaven.”

When he these gracious words had said, the spirit vanished quite.

Rodrigo rose and knelt him down—he knelt till morning light;

Into the Heavenly Father, and Mary Mother dear,

He made his prayer right humbly, till dawned the morning clear.