San Miguel de la Tumba by Gonzalo de Berceo

San Miguel de la Tumba is a convent vast and wide;
The sea encircles it around, and groans on every side;
It is a wild and dangerous place, and many woes betide
The monks who in that burial place in penitence abide.
Within those dark monastic walls, amid the ocean flood
Of pious fasting monks there dwelt a holy brotherhood;
To the Madonna’s glory there an altar high was placed
And a rich and costly image the sacred altar graced.
Exalted high upon a throne, the Virgin Mother smiled,
And as the custom is, she held within her arms the Child;
The kings and wisemen of the East were kneeling by her side;
Attended was she like a queen whom God had sanctified.

Descending low before her face a screen of feathers hung,–
A moscader or fan for flies, ’tis called in vulgar tongue;
From the feathers of the peacock’s wing ’twas fashioned bright and fair,
And glistened like the heaven above when all its stars are there.
It chanced that for the people’s sins, fell lightning’s blasting stroke;
Forth from all four sacred walls the flames consuming broke;
The sacred robes were all consumed, missal and holy book;
And hardly with their lives the monks their crumbling walls forsook.

But though the desolating flame raged fearfully and wild,
It did not reach the Virgin Queen, it did not reach the Child;
It did not reach the feathery screen before her face that shone,
Nor injured in a farthing’s worth the image or the throne.
The image it did not consume, it did not burn the screen;
Even in the value of a hair they were not hurt, I ween;
Not even the smoke did reach them, nor injure more the shrine
Than the bishop, hight Don Tello, has been hurt by hand of mine


Date: 13th century (original in Spanish); 1844 (translation in English)

By: Gonzalo de Berceo (c1197-before 1264)

Translated by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: