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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: Tagus (Tajo), the River

The Prophecy of Tagus

By Luis Ponce de León (1527–1591)

Translated by J. H. Wiffen

AS by Tagus’ billowy bed

King Rodrigo, safe from sight,

With the Lady Cava fed

On the fruit of loose delight,

From the river’s placid breast

Slow its ancient Genius broke;

Of the scrolls of Fate possessed,

Thus the frowning prophet spoke:

“In an evil hour dost thou,

Ruthless spoiler, wanton here!

Shouts and clangors even now,

Even now assail mine ear;

Shout, and sound of clashing shield,

Shivered sword and rushing car,—

All the frenzy of the field!

All the anarchy of war!

“O, what wail and weeping spring

Forth from this thine hour of mirth,

From yon fair and smiling thing

Who in evil day had birth!

In an evil day for Spain

Plighted is your guilty troth!

Fatal triumph! costly gain

To the sceptre of the Goth!

“Flames and furies, griefs and broils,

Slaughter, ravage, fierce alarms,

Anguish and immortal toils,

Thou dost gather to thine arms,—

For thyself and vassals,—those

Who the fertile furrow break,

Where the stately Ebro flows,

Who their thirst in Douro slake!

“For the throne, the hall, the bower,

Murcian lord and Lusian swain,

For the chivalry and flower

Of all sad and spacious Spain!

Prompt for vengeance, not for fame,

Even now from Cadiz’ halls,

On the Moor, in Allah’s name,

Hoarse the Count,—the Injured calls.

“Hark, how frightfully forlorn

Sounds his trumpet to the stars,

Citing Afric’s desert-born

To the gonfalon of Mars!

Lo, already loose in air

Floats the standard, peals the gong;

They shall not be slow to dare

Roderick’s wrath for Julian’s wrong.

“See, their spears the Arabs shake,

Smite the wind, and war demand;

Millions in a moment wake,

Join, and swarm o’er all the sand:

Underneath their sails the sea

Disappears, a hubbub runs

Through the sphere of heaven alee,

Clouds of dust obscure the sun’s.

“Swift their mighty ships they climb,

Cut the cables, slip from shore;

How their sturdy arms keep time

To the dashing of the oar!

Bright the frothy billows burn

Round their cleaving keels, and gales

Breathed by Eolus astern,

Fill their deep and daring sails.

“Sheer across Alcides’ strait

He whose voice the floods obey,

With the trident of his state,

Gives the grand Armada way.—

In her sweet, subduing arms,

Sinner! dost thou slumber still,

Dull and deaf to the alarms

Of this loud inrushing ill?

“In the hallowed Gadite bay

Mark them mooring from the main

Rise, take horse, away! away!

Scale the mountain, scour the plain

Give not pity to thy hand,

Give not pardon to thy spur,

Dart abroad thy flashing brand,

Bare thy fatal cimeter!

“Agony of toil and sweat

The sole recompense must be

Of each horse and horseman yet,

Plumeless serf and plumed grandee.

Sullied is thy silver flow,

Stream of proud Sevilla, weep!

Many a broken helm shalt thou

Hurry to the bordering deep.

“Many a turban and tiar,

Moor and Noble’s slaughtered corse

Whilst the Furies of the war

Gore your ranks with equal loss!

Five days you dispute the field;

When ’t is sunrise on the plains,—

O loved land! thy doom is sealed,

Madden, madden in thy chains!”