FROM THE VIDA DE SAN MILLAN
by: Gonzalo de Berceo (1180-1246)
- nd when the kings were in the field, their squadrons in array,
- With lance in rest they onward pressed to mingle in the fray;
- But soon upon the Christians fell a terror of their foes--
- These were a numerous army, a little handful those.
- And whilst the Christian people stood in this uncertainty,
- Upward toward heaven they turned their eyes and fixed their thoughts on high;
- And there two persons they beheld, all beautiful and bright--
- Even than the pure new-fallen snow their garments were more white.
- They rode upon two horses more white than crystal sheen,
- And arms they bore such as before no mortal man had seen:
- The one, he held a crosier, a pontiff's mitre wore;
- The other held a crucifix--such man ne'er saw before.
- Their faces were angelical, celestial forms had they--
- And downward through the fields of air they urged their rapid way;
- They looked upon the Moorish host with fierce and angry look,
- And in their hands, with dire portent, their naked sabres shook.
- The Christian host, beholding this, straightway take heart again;
- They fall upon their bended knees, all resting on the plain,
- And each one with his clenched fist to smite his breast begins,
- And promises to God on high he will forsake his sins.
- And when the heavenly knights drew near unto the battle-ground,
- They dashed among the Moors and dealt unerring blows around:
- Such deadly havoc there they made the foremost ranks along,
- A panic terror spread unto the hindmost of the throng.
- Together with these two good knights, the champions of the sky,
- The Christians rallied and began to smite full sore and high:
- The Moors raised up their voices, and by the Koran swore
- That in their lives such deadly fray they ne'er had seen before.
- Down went the misbelievers; fast sped the bloody fight;
- Some ghastly and dismembered lay, and some half dead with fright:
- Full sorely they repented that to the field they came,
- For they saw that from the battle they should retreat with shame.
- Another thing befell them--they dreamed not of such woes--
- The very arrows that the Moors shot from their twanging bows
- Turned back against them in their flight and wounded them full sore,
- And every blow they dealt the foe was paid in drops of gore.
- * * *
- Now he that bore the crosier, and the papal crown had on,
- Was the glorified Apostle, the brother of Saint John;
- And he that held the crucifix, and wore the monkish hood,
- Was the holy San Millan of Cogolla's neighborhood.
--Translated by H. W. Longfellow
POEMS BY GONZALO DE BERCEO
|"Simancas" is reprinted from Poems of Places. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1877.