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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: Esla, the River

The River Esla

By George of Montemayor (1520?–1561)

  • Translated by R. Southey
  • The river Esla, where we past it a little below Benavente, is a clear, deep, tranquil stream. I drank of its water, and found it excellent. A stream of little note, yet should it be dear to the poet; for it is consecrated by the genius of George of Montemayor. I must give you a specimen of the poetry of his Diana. After a year’s absence Sireno returns to his mistress on the banks of the Esla, and finds her married. In this state he lays him down on the shore, and addresses these lines to a lock of her hair.—Southey’s Letters from Spain.

  • AH me! thou relic of that faithless fair!

    Sad changes have I suffered since that day

    When, in this valley, from her long loose hair

    I bore thee, relic of my love! away.

    Well did I then believe Diana’s truth,

    For soon true love each jealous care represses;

    And fondly thought that never other youth

    Should wanton with the maiden’s unbound tresses.

    Here on the cold clear Esla’s breezy side

    My hand amid her ringlets wont to rove,

    She proffered now the lock and now denied,

    With all the baby playfulness of love.

    Here the false maid, with many an artful tear,

    Made me each rising thought of doubt discover,

    And vowed and wept,—till hope had ceased to fear,

    Ah me! beguiling like a child her lover.

    Witness thou how that fondest, falsest fair

    Has sighed and wept on Esla’s sheltered shore,

    And vowed eternal truth, and made me swear,

    My heart no jealousy should harbor more.

    Ah! tell me! could I but believe those eyes?

    Those lovely eyes with tears my cheek bedewing,

    When the mute eloquence of tears and sighs

    I felt, and trusted, and embraced my ruin.

    So false and yet so fair! so fair a mien

    Veiling so false a mind who ever knew?

    So true and yet so wretched! who has seen

    A man like me, so wretched and so true?

    Fly from me on the wind, for you have seen

    How kind she was, how loved by her you knew me;

    Fly, fly, vain witness what I once have been,

    Nor dare, all wretched as I am, to view me!

    One evening on the river’s pleasant strand,

    The maid too well belovéd sat with me,

    And with her finger traced upon the sand,

    “Death for Diana,—not inconstancy!”

    And Love beheld us from his secret stand,

    And marked his triumph, laughing to behold me,

    To see me trust a writing traced in sand,

    To see me credit what a woman told me!