Folgaba el Rey Rodrigo

This poem is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is not typical of Fray Luis, most of whose poems were contemplative, meditative and uplifting to the soul. I have posted a number of examples on this site. Secondly it explores a defining moment in Spain’s history, the events which led to the Moorish invasion of Spain in the early 700s. Within a very short s[ace of time the Moors had conquered three quarters of Spain and were halfway up France before being turned back and driven back across the Pyrenees. But they stayed in Spain for almost 800 year before finally being expelled in 1492, very recently of course for Fray Luis. Those 800 years were of course full of skirmishes, battles and sieges as the Spanish constantly tried to dislodge the Moors and reduce their presence in Spain.

So the poem recounts the prophesy of the river Tagus, foreseeing the calamity, the deaths and destruction that were to follow the one event which triggered the invasion. The Visigothic King Rodrigo is seducing Cava, the beautiful daughter of a powerful Count. As revenge, the count goes to see the Muslim ruler in Tunis and asks him to help overthrow and kill the King. Which the ruler, one Musa, agrees to, leading to the invasion of 711 and the death of the King in battle. What nobody had anticipated however was that the Moors would continue their conquest and settle in Spain, leading to the 800 year war which followed, and whose conclusion was very recent in Fray Luis’s lifetime.

So it is a prophecy written with the benefit of hindsight…

This is a longish poem, compared to some of the others posted here, but well worth staying with it until the end.

ODA VII – PROFECÍA DEL TAJO

Folgaba el Rey Rodrigo
con la hermosa Cava en la ribera
del Tajo, sin testigo;
el río sacó fuera
el pecho, y le habló desta manera:

«En mal punto te goces,
injusto forzador; que ya el sonido
oyo, ya y las voces,
las armas y el bramido
de Marte, de furor y ardor ceñido.

¡Ay! esa tu alegría
qué llantos acarrea, y esa hermosa,
que vio el sol en mal día,
a España ¡ay cuán llorosa!,
y al cetro de los Godos ¡cuán costosa!

Llamas, dolores, guerras,
muertes, asolamientos, fieros males
entre tus brazos cierras,
trabajos inmortales
a ti y a tus vasallos naturales;

a los que en Constantina
rompen el fértil suelo, a los que baña
el Ebro, a la vecina
Sansueña, a Lusitaña:
a toda la espaciosa y triste España.

Ya dende Cádiz llama
el injuriado Conde, a la venganza
atento y no a la fama,
la bárbara pujanza,
en quien para tu daño no hay tardanza.

Oye que al cielo toca
con temeroso son la trompa fiera,
que en África convoca
el moro a la bandera
que al aire desplegada va ligera.

La lanza ya blandea
el árabe crüel, y hiere el viento,
llamando a la pelea;
innumerable cuento
de escuadras juntas veo en un momento.

Cubre la gente el suelo,
debajo de las velas desparece
la mar; la voz al cielo
confusa y varia crece;
el polvo roba el día y le escurece.

¡Ay!, que ya presurosos
suben las largas naves. ¡Ay!, que tienden
los brazos vigorosos
a los remos, y encienden
las mares espumosas por do hienden.

El Éolo derecho
hinche la vela en popa, y larga entrada
por el Hercúleo Estrecho
con la punta acerada
el gran padre Neptuno da a la armada.

¡Ay, triste! ¿y aun te tiene
el mal dulce regazo? ¿Ni llamado
al mal que sobreviene,
no acorres? ¿Ocupado,
no ves ya el puerto a Hércules sagrado?

Acude, acorre, vuela,
traspasa la alta sierra, ocupa el llano;
no perdones la espuela,
no des paz a la mano,
menea fulminando el hierro insano.»

¡Ay, cuánto de fatiga,
ay, cuánto de sudor está presente
al que viste loriga,
al infante valiente,
a hombres y a caballos juntamente!

Y tú, Betis divino,
de sangre ajena y tuya amancillado,
darás al mar vecino
¡cuánto yelmo quebrado,
cuánto cuerpo de nobles destrozado!

El furibundo Marte
thcinco luces las haces desordena,
igual a cada parte;
la sexta, ¡ay!, te condena,
¡oh, cara patria!, a bárbara cadena.

 
From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/fray-luis-de-leon-oda-vii—profecia-del-tajo.htm&gt;

 

So the first stanza of the poem gets right to the heart of the matter. We see King Rodrigo fornicating with Cava on the banks of the river Tagus, with no witnesses, or so he thinks. But the river itself, personified as a prophetic voice, appears and begins to tell the King what terrible consequences will follow his act.

The rest of the poem, 15 stanzas out of the total of 16, consists of the prophecy itself, the river Tagus enumerating the disasters and misfortunes that will inevitably fall on Spain following King Rodrigo’s dastardly act.

Stanzas 2 to 5 are general warnings of fire, death and destruction to be visited on the poor people of Spain of whatever condition. In Stanza 6, the prophecy gets specific, with the Count crying for vengeance. Stanzas 7 to 11 describe the Count’s appeal to the Moors, their agreement, the preparation of a great invasion fleet, and their setting sail across the Meditterranean with a favourable southern wind at their backs.

In Stanzas 12 and 13, the river pleads with the King to go and prepare to meet the Moors in battle, to occupy the plain where they will land and turn them back. This is the end of the speech by the River.

The final three stanzas are in the voice of the poet, recounting how the King is tired from his amorous efforts, nothing will be done, the river Betis, in the south of Spain will be red with the blood and broken helmets of the defeated Spaniards and the country will be condemned to live under the yoke of the barbarian.

The Poetry Dude

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