Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Spain, &c.
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV.  1876–79.
 
Spain: Biscay (Vizcaya)
Biscay
William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
 
I.
IN due observance of an ancient rite,
The rude Biscayans when their children lie
Dead in the sinless time of infancy,
Attire the peaceful corse in vestments white;
And, in like sign of cloudless triumph bright,        5
They bind the unoffending creature’s brows
With happy garlands of the pure white rose:
This done, a festal company unite
In choral song; and, while the uplifted cross
Of Jesus goes before, the child is borne        10
Uncovered to his grave. Her piteous loss
The lonesome mother cannot choose but mourn;
Yet soon by Christian faith is grief subdued,
And joy attends upon her fortitude.
 
II.
YET, yet, Biscayans, we must meet our foes
        15
With firmer soul, yet labor to regain
Our ancient freedom; else ’t were worse than vain
To gather round the bier these festal shows!
A garland fashioned of the pure white rose
Becomes not one whose father is a slave:        20
O, bear the infant covered to his grave!
These venerable mountains now enclose
A people sunk in apathy and fear.
If this endure, farewell for us all good!
The awful light of heavenly innocence        25
Will fail to illuminate the infant’s bier;
And guilt and shame from which is no defence
Descend on all that issues from our blood.
 
 
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