ODE TO SPAIN — AFTER THE REVOLUTION OF MARCH
What nation, tell me, in the older day
Proclaimed its destiny across the world,
Through all the climes extending its broad sway
From east to west with golden pomp unfurled?
Where from the sunset the Atlantic swept
Its glorious fortunes—there was mighty Spain!—
America and Asia's confines kept
And Africa's upon its boundary main.
The hardy sail upon its fickle course
In vain would 'scape the reaches of its power;
All earth for mineral riches was its source,
All ocean was its pearls' and corals' bower.
Nor where the tempests raged the most
Met they on any but a Spanish coast.
Now to the depths of shame reduced,
Abandoned to the alien eye of scorn,
Like some poor slave unto the market used
To the vile whip and shackle basely borne!—
What desolation, God!—The plague respires
Its deadly breath of poison on the air
And Hunger scarce with feeble arms aspires
For a poor morsel there!
Thrice did the temple gates of Janus ope
And on Mars' trumpet was a mighty blast!
Thrice, but oh see, where even without a glance of hope
The tutelary gods have passed,
And on the sea and land have left us cast!
Throughout thy spreading realms what hast thou seen,
O Spain? —but bitter mourning spread,
Sorrow and misery between
Thy fruits of slavery full harvested?
Thus the sail rends, the hulk is smashed,
And broken goes the bark upon its way;
With every wave a torment it is lashed;
Its prows no more their garlands old display.
Nor sign of hope nor of content appears;
Its standard floats no more upon the air.
The voyager's song is broken by his tears;
The mariner's voice is hushed by weight of care,
And dread of death comes ever on his heart,
A dread of death in silence; there apart
He drifts where the destroying shoals prepare.
Then the fell moment! Reaching forth his hand
The Tyrant threatening the west, exclaims:
«Behold, thou now art mine, O Western Land!»
His brow with barbarous lightning flames,
As from the cloud the summer tempest brings
The horror spreading bolt's appalling wings.
His warriors afar
Fill the great winds with pæans of their war;
The anvils groan, the hammers fall,
The forges blaze. O shame, and dost thou dream
To make their swords their toil, and that is all?
See'st thou not where within their fiery gleams
'Tis chains and bars and shackles they prepare
To bind the arms that lie so limp and bare?
Yea, let Spain tremble at the sound,
And let her outraged ire
From the volcano of her bosom bound,
High justice for its fire,
And 'gainst her despots turn,
Where in their dread they hide,
And let the echoes learn
And all the banks of Tagus wide
Hear the great sound of rage outcried,—
«Vengeance!» —Where, sacred river, where
The titans who with pride and wrong
Opposed our weal so long?
Their glories are no more, while ours prepare;
And thou so fierce and proud
Seeing Castile and thy Castilians there
Urgest thy ruddy waves in seaward pour,
Crying aloud:—«The tyrants are no more!»
Triumph! and glory! O celestial time!
Would that my tongue might speak our country's name
Unto the very winds sublime!
Gladly would I —but not on harp of gold—
My song acclaim; not in the prison hold
Where the inspired breast
Grows weak and cold,
With breathless lips opprest.
Old Tyrteus' lyre untomb,
In the bright sun and the uplifting wind
Of pineclad, rocky Fuenfría's bloom!
High be my flight consigned
To noble singing that shall rouse the plain
And wake Castilians to the sound again
Of glory and of war combined!
War, awful name and now sublime!
The refuge and the sacred shield in time
To stay the savage Attila's advance
With fiery steed and lance!—
War! War! O Spaniards, on the shore
Of Guadalquivir, see arise once more
Thy Ferdinand the Third's imposing brows!
See great Gonzalo o'er Granada rear!
Behold the Cid with sword in mad carouse!
And o'er the Pyrenees the form appear
Of brave Bernardo, old Jimena's son!
See how their stormy wraiths are interspun!
How valor breathes from out their hollow tombs
Where «War» upon the mighty echoes booms!
And then! Canst thou with face serene
Behold the fertile plains
Where endless greed would glean
Our heritage and gains,
And to destruction cast? Awake,
O hero race, the moment is at hand
When victory thou must take—
Our glory owning thine more grand,—
Thy name a higher place than ours to take!—
It was no little day they raised
Nor vain —the altar of our fathers grand;
Swear then to keep its praise;
Swear, —«Rather death than tyrants in the land!»—
Yea, I do swear it, Venerable Shades,
And with the vow mine arm is stronger grown.
Give me the lance, tie on my helm and blades,
And to my vengeance bid me swift be gone!
Let him despairing bow his coward head
To dust and shame! Perchance the mighty flood
Of devastation on its course shall spread
And bear me on? What matter? One can shed
But once his mortal blood!
Shall I not go to meet
Our mighty ones upon the field of old?
«Hail, warrior forefathers!» there to greet
Their mighty «Hail». Where hero-Spain
Amid the horror and the carnage cold
Lifts up her bleeding head again,
And turns anew from her unhappy reign,
A Victress, her reconquered lands to sign
With golden sceptre and device divine!
Manuel José Quintana, abril 1808
Translation by Thomas Walsh