Ancient Spanish Ballads.

A poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the chapter with this title in Outre-Mer, besides Illustrations from Byron and Lockhart are the three following examples, contributed by Mr. Longfellow.


Rio Verde, Rio Verde!
Many a corpse is bathed in thee,
Both of Moors and eke of Christians,
Slain with swords most cruelly.

And thy pure and crystal waters
Dappled are with crimson gore;
For between the Moors and Christians
Long has been the fight and sore.

Dukes and Counts fell bleeding near thee,
Lords of high renown were slain,
Perished many a brave hidalgo
Of the noblemen of Spain.


"King Alfonso the Eighth, having exhausted his treasury in war, wishes to lay a tax of five farthings upon each of the Castillan hidalgos, in order to defray the expenses of a journey from Burgos to Cuenca. This proposition of the king was met with disdain by the noblemen who had been assembled on the occasion."

Don Nuno, Count of Lara,
In anger and in pride,
Forgot all reverence for the king,
And thus in wrath replied:

"Our noble ancestors," quoth he,
"Ne'er such a tribute paid;
Nor shall the king receive of us
What they have once gainsaid.

"The base-born soul who deems it just
May here with thee remain;
But follow me, ye cavaliers,
Ye noblemen of Spain."

Forth followed they the noble Count,
They marched to Glera's plain;
Out of three thousand gallant knights
Did only three remain.

They tied the tribute to their spears,
They raised it in the air,
And they sent to tell their lord the king
That his tax was ready there.

"He may send and take by force," said they,
"This paltry sum of gold;
But the goodly gift of liberty
Cannot be bought and sold."


"One of the finest of the historic ballads is that which describes Bernardo's march to Roncesvalles. He sallies forth 'with three thousand Leonese and more,' to protect the glory and freedom of his native land. From all sides, the peasantry of the land flock to the hero's standard."

The peasant leaves his plough afield,
The reaper leaves his hook,
And from his hand the shepherd-boy.
Lets fall the pastoral crook.

The young set up a shout of joy,
The old forget their years,
The feeble man grows stout of heart.
No more the craven fears.

All rush to Bernard's standard,
And on liberty they call;
They cannot brook to wear the yoke,
When threatened by the Gaul.

"Free were we born," 't is thus they cry
"And willingly pay we
The duty that we owe our king
By the divine decree.

"But God forbid that we obey
The laws of foreign knaves,
Tarnish the glory of our sires,
And make our children slaves.

"Our hearts have not so craven grown,
So bloodless all our veins,
So vigorless our brawny arms,
As to submit to chains.

"Has the audacious Frank, forsooth,
Subdued these seas and lands?
Shall he a bloodless victory have?
No, not while we have hands.

"He shall learn that the gallant Leonese
Can bravely fight and fall,
But that they know not how to yield;
They are Castilians all.

"Was it for this the Roman power
Of old was made to yield
Unto Numantia's valiant hosts
On many a bloody field?

"Shall the bold lions that have bathed
Their paws in Libyan gore,
Crouch basely to a feebler foe,
And dare the strife no more?

"Let the false king sell town and tower,
But not his vassals free;
For to subdue the free-born soul
No royal power hath he!"

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