Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Flood of the Tagus

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

Spain: Tagus (Tajo), the River

The Flood of the Tagus

By Luis de Góngora (1561–1627)

Translated by Edward Churton

A WORD with thee, grand Tagus;—

Say why, in wrath and pride,

Thy stream rolls down, to plague us,

This deluge wild and wide?

What moves thy spleen at princes?

Thy work is with the clown,

Watering his groves of quinces

By old Toledo town.

Thy boast is in the wonder

Of Rome’s imperial sway,

Where flow thy deep waves under

That high o’erarching way,

Where might in age reposes,

By Spaniards noised as far

As trumpet-sounds of noses

In winter’s hoarse catarrh.

Long live that strength and beauty,

By poets vaunted higher

Than chimes in Sunday duty

Hung out from belfry spire.

For thee the vocal Muses

More hue and cry have made

Than market-beadle uses

For cattle stolen or strayed.

By Nature thou art gifted,

They say, with sands of gold:

But let those sands be sifted,

And truth may then be told.

They call thee sacred river:

I grant the reason why,

Because thy course is ever

In Spain’s Archbishop’s eye.

But from hard Cuenca’s mountain

Thy rills first rise to day,

From dribbling stony fountain

Forth trickling as they may.

And year by year, in guerdon

Of thy young sins, a load

Of pines, a growing burden,

Weighs down thy shoulders broad.

Remembering this, be modest;

For ’t is a monstrous thing,

When wastefully thou floodest

The gardens of Spain’s King.

So may men’s eyes with wonder

Gaze, where thy waters fall

With arrowy speed, whose thunder

Shakes rock and castle wall;

Or where in peace delaying

They spread like lakes at rest,

And snow-white swans are playing

Upon thy tranquil breast;

Or where in highland forest

The dun deer drink thy spray,

Where thou thy rills outpourest

As wild and free as they.