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

Spain: Toledo


By José Zorrilla (1817–1893)

Translated by M. E. M.

RUINED and black, deserted and forgot,

Half sunk mid sands around her gathering fast,

Toledo lies,—a world-abandoned spot,

Smote by the storm-wind, shattered by the blast.

Now in the mantle that her dead kings wore

Scant clad, her wasting brow to sight revealed,

A slave that arms and laws can boast no more,

She slumbering rests beside her ancient shield.

What hath she left her now?—an empty name,

A parody wherewith her shame to hide,

Wherefrom may men divine her former fame;

Toledo! Once a queen in wealth and pride,

What hath she left?—a temple, bridges twain,

An old Alcazar that doth frown on high,

Where wrecks and scutcheons of the past remain,—

Beneath, inert, her soulless people lie.

At times above the dark and louring night

Of that vast heap of dust and memories

Amid the shadows streams a pallid light,

And sweetest music floats upon the breeze,

Above the moan of winds, the voice of prayer,

Then loudly sounds the organ’s rolling tone;

An hour hath passed,—then what remaineth there?

A cross, an altar, a sepulchral stone.

There, when the moonlight steals with tardy beam,

Through painted panes of gorgeous blazonry,

Scarce can it see the small lamp’s feeble gleam

That by the altar glimmers soon to die.

Through opened window peeping, that dim ray

Shows that some being suffers, watches, weeps,

While a dull race that knows not yesterday,

Nor heeds to-morrow, in supineness sleeps.

And as the moon in silent flight

The dark blue skies moves nightly o’er,

She whitens with her silver light

The spoils of myriads now no more:

Those pages, without date or name,

The ciphers of an age unknown,

Wrought by man’s hand to be the shame

Of man, in feebler ages shown.

That vast cathedral,—sacred pile!

Whose capitals and columns gray,

Whose fretted vault and pillared aisle,

Whose painted windows’ rich display,

Whose cloisters, solemn, dim, and old

(Where silence reigns so deep and dread),

Need for their pavement but the cold

Sepulchral stones that hide the dead.

And o’er those stones the living sing

In loud-voiced choir their hymns to heaven;

And with the golden censer’s swing

The hallowed myrrh’s sweet breath is given.

At midnight hour, mid storm and rain,

There sounds mysterious harmony;

A deep-toned, sad, and awful strain,

That pleads for one about to die,—

The Miserere,—solemn sound!

It fills the dome; and on the air

Forth bursting, unto all around

Tells that Religion’s voice is there.

Then the loud peal of tolling bell,

That emulates the psalmody,

O’erpowers the dying music’s knell

With chime of hour that ’s fleeted by.

Sleep, then, sleep, Toledo! by the turbid river

That with hollow murmurs past thy feet doth glide!

While its yellow current wastes and wears forever

The walls that cast their shadows inglorious o’er the tide.

Ah! for thee ashamed, thy stain the river weepeth;

Mourning thy lost treasures, thy pride, thy beauty fled;

But telleth not the nations (its pity silence keepeth),

That all thy crests and blazons are buried in its bed.

Sleep, then, sleep, Toledo, mid the mimicked glory

Of thy once wealthy masters in their palmy day:

Thy treasures all have vanished, existing but in story;

Thy golden crown lies hidden deep in the sordid clay.