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

Spain: Galicia

The Devotee

By Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787–1862)

Translated by C. T. Brooks

MID thy rock-bound shores, Galicia,

Lies a consecrated place,

Where the blessed Virgin Mother

Lavishes her stores of grace.

There for every wayworn wanderer

Gleams a friendly guiding star;

There a peaceful port is open

To the seaman, wrecked afar.

There, when tolls the bells at evening,

Vales and mountains echo round;

From the cities, from the cloisters,

All the bells send back the sound.

Then each angry, bursting billow

Sinks and dies along the shore,

And the boatman whispers, “Avé!”

Kneeling, with suspended oar.

On the day whose hallowed morning

Sees the Virgin heavenward soar,

There to meet, revealed in glory,

Him, the suffering Son she bore,—

Round her shrine, that festive morning,

Wonders manifold appear;

They who gaze on that bright image

Feel a holier presence near.

Banners of the cross, resplendent,

Through the fields are on their way;

Ships and boats, with painted streamers

Gayly fluttering, line the bay.

Up the rocky pathway climbing,

Rich-clad pilgrims wind along,

Till the mountain seems a ladder

Bearing up to heaven the throng.

In the rear, bedusted, barefoot,

Coarse-clad devotees are there,

Each with wan and wasted features,

Wrinkled hands and withered hair.

’Mongst the faithful in the temple

These may never linger more,

Ne’er again behold the altar,—

They must kneel without the door.

Who is he comes toiling yonder?

From his eye gleams wild despair;

In the breeze his white locks flutter,

Thinned with sorrow, age, and care.

From his wasted, trembling body

Hangs a black and galling chain;

Round each limb an iron fetter

Grinds the flesh with rending pain.

He, when hasty passion drove him

Once a brother’s blood to spill,

Took the sword, and while ’t was reeking,

Forged the chain that binds him still.

Homeless, hopeless, now he wanders,—

Seeks for peace, but seeks in vain;

Grace alone, a wonder working,

Can unbind the galling chain.

He may tread on soles of iron,

And, with naked, bony feet,

Wander day and night, but never

Find that peace, to man so sweet!

Not a saint looks down in pity,

When he shrieks his nightly prayer;

Not a shrine of heavenly mercy

Answers to his wild despair.

Up the rocky pathway climbing,

Near the door behold him now,

While the evening bell is tolling,

And the crowds in silence bow.

How he yearns the halls to enter,

Where the Virgin’s image gleams,

As the western sun, descending,

Through each rich-stained window beams!

What a blaze of tranquil glory

Rests on meadow, sky, and shore!

Say, when heaven received the Virgin,

Closed she not the golden door?

Where yon rosy clouds are floating

Trace we still her path on high?

In the deep and tranquil azure

Mark we still her beaming eye?

Homeward throng the enraptured pilgrims;

One still lingers at the place,

Prostrate on the threshold lying,

With a pale and ashen face.

Rusty chains still fast around him,

There his quivering body lies;

But his soul, now free forever,

Floats in glory through the skies!