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

Spain: Baza

The Gypsy Camp

By George Eliot (1819–1880)

(From Book III)

QUIT now the town, and with a journeying dream

Swift as the wings of sound, yet seeming slow

Through multudinous compression of stored sense

And spiritual space, see walls and towers

Lie in the silent whiteness of a trance,

Giving no sign of that warm life within

That moves and murmurs through their hidden heart.

Pass o’er the mountain, wind in sombre shade,

Then wind into the light and see the town

Shrunk to white crust upon the darken rock.

Turn east and south, descend, then rise again

Mid smaller mountains ebbing towards the plain;

Scent the fresh breath of the height-loving herbs

That, trodden by the pretty parted hoofs

Of nimble goats, sigh at the innocent bruise,

And with a mingled difference exquisite

Pour a sweet burden on the buoyant air.

Pause now and be all ear. Far from the south,

Seeking the listening silence of the heights,

Comes a slow-dying sound,—the Moslems’ call

To prayer in afternoon. Bright in the sun

Like tall white sails on a green shadowy sea

Stand Moorish watch-towers; ’neath that eastern sky

Couches unseen the strength of Moorish Baza;

Where the meridian bends lies Guadix, hold

Of brave El Zagal. This is Moorish land,

Where Allah lives unconquered in dark breasts,

And blesses still the many-nourishing earth

With dark-armed industry. See from the steep

The scattered olives hurry in gray throngs

Down towards the valley, where the little stream

Parts a green hollow ’twixt the gentler slopes;

And in that hollow, dwellings: not white homes

Of building Moors, but little swarthy tents

Such as of old perhaps on Asian plains,

Or wending westward past the Caucasus,

Our fathers raised to rest in. Close they swarm

About two taller tents, and viewed afar

Might seem a dark-robed crowd in penitence

That silent kneel; but come now in their midst

And watch a busy, bright-eyed, sportive life!

Tall maidens bend to feed the tethered goat,

The ragged kirtle fringing at the knee

Above the living curves, the shoulder’s smoothness

Parting the torrent strong of ebon hair.

Women with babes, the wild and neutral glance

Swayed now to sweet desire of mothers’ eyes,

Rock their strong cradling arms and chant low strains

Taught by monotonous and soothing winds

That fall at night-time on the dozing ear.

The crones plait reeds, or shred the vivid herbs

Into the caldron: tiny urchins crawl

Or sit and gurgle forth their infant joy.

Lads lying sphinx-like with uplifted breast

Propped on their elbows, their black manes tossed back,

Fling up the coin and watch its fatal fall,

Dispute and scramble, run and wrestle fierce,

Then fall to play and fellowship again;

Or in a thieving swarm they run to plague

The grandsires, who return with rabbits slung,

And with the mules fruit-laden from the fields.

Some striplings choose the smooth stones from the brook

To serve the slingers, cut the twigs for snares,

Or trim the hazel-wands, or at the bark

Of some exploring dog they dart away

With swift precision towards a moving speck.

These are the brood of Zarca’s Gypsy tribe;

Most like an earth-born race bred by the Sun

On some rich tropic soil, the father’s light

Flashing in coal-black eyes, the mother’s blood

With bounteous elements feeding their young limbs.

The stalwart men and youths are at the wars

Following their chief, all save a trusty band

Who keep strict watch along the northern heights.