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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: Guadalete, the River

The Lamentation of Don Roderick

By Spanish Ballad

  • Translated by J. G. Lockhart
  • Below the Cartuja [Carthusian convent of Xerez] rolls the Guadalete. A small hill, called El Real de Don Rodrigo, marks the head-quarters of the last of the Goths; here the battle was terminated which put an end to his dynasty.—Murray’s Handbook of Spain.

  • THE HOSTS of Don Rodrigo were scattered in dismay,

    When lost was the eighth battle, nor heart nor hope had they;—

    He, when be saw that field was lost, and all his hope was flown,

    He turned him from his flying host, and took his way alone.

    His horse was bleeding, blind, and lame,—he could no farther go;

    Dismounted, without path or aim, the King stepped to and fro;

    It was a sight of pity to look on Roderick,

    For, sore athirst and hungry, he staggered faint and sick.

    All stained and strewed with dust and blood, like to some smouldering brand

    Plucked from the flame Rodrigo shewed;—his sword was in his hand,

    But it was hacked into a saw of dark and purple tint;

    His jewelled mail had many a flaw, his helmet many a dint.

    He climbed unto a hilltop, the highest he could see,

    Thence all about of that wide route his last long look took he;

    He saw his royal banners, where they lay drenched and torn,

    He heard the cry of victory, the Arab’s shout of scorn.

    He looked for the brave captains that had led the hosts of Spain,

    But all were fled except the dead, and who could count the slain!

    Where’er his eye could wander, all bloody was the plain,

    And while thus he said, the tears he shed run down his cheeks like rain:—

    “Last night I was the King of Spain, to-day no king am I;

    Last night fair castles held my train, to-night where shall I lie?

    Last night a hundred pages did serve me on the knee?

    To-night not one I call mine own,—not one pertains to me.

    “O, luckless, luckless was the hour, and cursed was the day,

    When I was born to have the power of this great signiory!

    Unhappy me, that I should see the sun go down to-night!

    O Death, why now so slow art thou, why fearest thou to smite?”