Last updated on Aug. 22, 2000
[Versión original]

             Jorge Manrique
                  (1440-1479)

The Coplas on the Death of His Father,
      the Grand-Master of Santiago


        The Introit

Let from its dream the soul awaken,
    And reason mark with open eyes
        The scene unfolding,—
How lightly life away is taken,
    How cometh Death in stealthy guise,—
        At last beholding;

What swiftness hath the flight of pleasure
    That, once attained, seems nothing more
        Than respite cold;
How fain is memory to measure
    Each latter day inferior
        To those of old.

Beholding how each instant flies
    So swift, that, as we count, 'tis gone
         Beyond recover,
Let us resolve to be more wise
    Than stake our future lot upon
        What soon is over.

Let none be self-deluding, none,—
    Imagining some longer stay
        For his own treasure
Than what today he sees undone;
    For everything must pass away
        In equal measure.

Our lives are fated as the rivers
    That gather downward to the sea
        We know as Death;
And thither every flood delivers
    The pride and pomp of seigniory
        That forfeiteth;

Thither, the rivers in their splendor;
    Thither, the streams of modest worth,—
        The rills beside them;
Till there all equal they surrender;
    And so with those who toil on earth,
        And those who guide them.

 
        The Invocation

I turn me from the praise and singing
    Of panegyrists, and the proud
        Old poets' stories;
I would not have them hither bringing
    Their artful potions that but cloud
        His honest glories;

On Him Alone I lay my burden—
    Him only do I now implore
        In my distress,—
Who came on earth and had for guerdon
    The scorn of man that did ignore
        His Godliness.

This world is but a highway going
    Unto that other, the abode
        Without a sorrow;
The wise are they who gird them, knowing
    The guideposts set along that road
        Unto tomorrow.

We start with birth upon that questing;
    We journey all the while we live,
        Our goal attaining
The day alone that brings us resting,
    When Death shall last quiétus give
        To all complaining.

This were a hallowed world indeed,
    Did we but give it the employ
        That was intended;
For by the precepts of our Creed
    We earn hereby a life of joy
        When this is ended.

The Son of God Himself on earth
    Came down to raise our lowly race
        Unto the sky;
Here took upon Him human birth;
    Here lived among us for a space;
        And here did die.

Behold what miserable prize—
    What futile task we set upon,
        Whilst greed awakes us!
And what a traitor world of lies
    Is this, whose very gifts are gone
        Ere Death o'ertakes us!

Some through increasing age deprived,
    Some by unhappy turn of fate
        Destroyed and banished,
Some, as with blight inherent rived
    At topmost of their branching state,
        Have failed and vanished.

Yea, tell me shall the lovely blason,
    The gentle freshness and contour
        Of smiling faces,—
The blush and pallor's sweet occasion,—
    Of all—shall one a truce secure
        From Time's grim traces?

The flowing tress, the stature slender,
    The corporal litheness, and the strength
        Of gallant youth,—
All, all,—to weariness surrender
    As o'er them falls the shadow's length
        Of age in truth.

The Visigoths whose lineage kingly
    Whose feats of war and mighty reign
        Were so exalted,—
What divers ways did all and singly
    Drop down to the obscure again
        And were defaulted!

Some through their worthlessness (How lowly
    And base among the rabble came
        Their estimation!)
Whilst others as a refuge solely
    In offices they only shame
        Maintain their station.

Estate and luxury's providing
    Can leave us pauper—who may doubt?—
        Within an hour;
Let us not count on their abiding,
    Since there is nothing sure about
        Dame Fortune's dower.

Hers are the gifts of one unstable
    Upon her globe as swift as light
        Revolving ever;
Who to be constant is unable,
    Who cannot stay nor rest from flight
        On aughtsoever.

And though, say I, her highest favor
    Should follow to the tomb and heap
        With wreaths her master;
Let not our solid judgment waver
    Since life is like a dream and sleep
        Flies nothing faster.

The soft occasions of today
    Wherein we find our joy and ease
        Are but diurnal;
Whilst the dread torments that must pay
    The cost of our iniquities
        Shall be eternal.

The pleasures light, the fond evasions
    That life on troubled earth deploys
        For eyes of mortals,
What are they but the fair persuasions
    Of labyrinths where Death decoys
        To trap-like portals?

Where heedless of the doom ensuing
    We hasten laughing to the snare
        Without suspicion.
Until aghast at our undoing,
    We turn to find the bolt is there,
        And our perdition.

Could we but have procured the power
    To make our faded youth anew
        Both fresh and whole,
As now through life's probation hour
    'Tis ours to give angelic hue
        Unto the soul,—

What ceaseless care we then had taken,
    What pains had welcomed, so to bring
        A health but human,—
Our summer bloom to re-awaken,
    Our stains to clear,—outrivalling
        The arts of woman!

The kings whose mighty deeds are spacious
    Upon the parchments of the years,
        Alas!—the weeping
That overtook their boast audacious.
    And swept their thrones to grime and tears
        And sorrow's keeping!

Naught else proves any more enduring;
    Nor are the popes, nor emperors,
        Nor prelatries
A longer stay or truce securing
    Than the poor herdsman of the moors
        From Death's decrees.

Recount no more of Troy, or foeman
    The echo of whose wars is now
        But far tradition;
Recount no more how fared the Roman
    (His scroll of glories we allow)
        Nor his perdition;

Nor here rehearse the homely fable
    Of such as yielded up their sway
        These decades gone;
But let us say what lamentable
    Fate the lords of yesterday
        Have fallen upon.

Of fair Don Juan the king that ruled us,—
    Of those hight heirs of Aragon,—
        What are the tidings?
Of him, whose courtly graces schooled us,
    Whom song and wisdom smiled upon,
        Where the abidings?

The jousts and tourneys where vaunted
    With trappings, and caparison,
        And armor sheathing,—
Were they but phantasies that taunted,—
    But blades of grass that vanished on
        A summer's breathing?

What of the dames of birth and station,
    Their head-attire, their sweeping trains,
        Their vesture scented?
What of that gallant conflagration
    They made of lovers' hearts whose pains
        Were uncontented?

And what of him, that troubadour
    Whose melting lutany and rime
        Was all their pleasure?
Ah, what of her who danced demure,
    And trailed her robes of olden time
        So fair a measure?

Then Don Enriqué, in succession,
    His brother's heir,—think, to what height
        Was he annointed!
What blandishment and sweet possession
    The world prepared for his delight,
        As seemed appointed!

Yet see what unrelenting foeman,
    What cruel adversary, Fate
        To him became;
A friend befriended as was no man—
    How brief for him endured the state
        His birth might claim.

The golden bounties without stinting,
    The strongholds and the lairs of kings
        With treasure glutted;
The flagons of their wassail glinting,
    The sceptres, orbs, and crowns, and rings
        With which they strutted;

The steeds, the spurs, and bits to rein them,
    The pillions draped unto the ground
        Beneath their paces,—
Ah, whither must we fare to gain them?—
    That were but as the dews around
        The meadow places.

His brother then, the unoffending,
    Who was intruded on his reign
        To act as heir,—
What gallant court was round him bending,
    How many a haughty lord was fain
        To tend him there!

Yet as but mortal was his station,
    Death for his goblet soon distilled
        A draught for draining;
O Thou Divine Predestination!—
    When most his blaze the world had filled
        Thou sent'st the raining!

And then, Don Alvaro, Grand-Master
    And Constable, whom we have known
        When loved and dreaded,—
What need to tell of his disaster,
    Since we behold him overthrown
        And swift beheaded!

His treasures that defied accounting,
    His manors and his feudal lands,
        His boundless power,—
What more than tears were their amounting?
    What more than bonds to tie his hands
        At life's last hour?

That other twain, Grand-Masters solely,
    Yet with the fortunes as of kings
        Fraternal reigning,—
Who brought the high as well as lowly
    Submissive to their challengings
        And laws' ordaining.

And what of all their power and prize
    That touched the very peaks of fame
        That none could limit?—
A conflagration 'gainst the skies,
    Till at its brightest ruthless came
        Death's hand to dim it.

The dukes so many and excelling,
    The marquises, and counts, the throng
        Of barons splendid,
Speak, Death, where hast thou hid their dwelling?
    The sway we saw them wield so strong—
        How was it ended?

What fields upon were they engaging,—
    What prowess showing us in war
        Or its cessation,
When thou, O Death, didst come outraging
    Both one and all, and swept them o'er
        With desolation.

Their warriors' unnumbered hosting,
    The pennon, and the battle-flag,
        And bannered splendor,—
The castles with their turrets boasting,
    Their walls and barricades to brag
        And mock surrender,—

The cavern's ancient crypt of hiding,
    Or secret passage, vault, or stair,—
        What use affords it?
Since thou upon thy onslaught striding
    Canst send a shaft unerring where
        No buckler wards it!

O World that givest and destroyest
    Would that the life which thou hast shown
        Were worth the living!
But here, as good or ill deployest,
    The parting is with gladness known
        Or with misgiving.

Thy span is so with griefs encumbered
    With sighing every breeze so steeped,
        With wrongs so clouded,
A desert where no boon is numbered,
    The sweetness and allurement reaped
        And black and shrouded.

Thy highway is the road of weeping;
    Thy long farewells are bitterness
        Without a morrow;
Adorn thy ruts and ditches keeping
    The traveller who doth most possess
        Hath most of sorrow.

Thy chattels are but had with sighing;
    With sweat of brow alone obtained
        The wage they give;
In myriads thine ills come hieing,
    And once existence they have gained,
        They longest live.

And he, the shield and knightly pastor
    Of honest folk, beloved by all
        The unoffending,—
Don Roderic Manrique, Master
    Of Santiago,—Fame shall call
        Him brave unending!

Not here behooves to chant his praises
    Or laud his valor to the skies,
        Since none but knows them;
Nor would I crave a word that raises
    His merit higher than the prize
        The world bestows them.

O what a comrade comrades found him!
    Unto his henchmen what a lord!
        And what a brother!
What foeman for the foes around him!
    His peer as Master of the Sword
        There was no other!

What precious counsel 'mid the knowing!
    What grace amid the courtly bower!
        What prudence rare!
What bounty to the vanquished showing!
    How 'mid the brave in danger's hour
        A lion there!

In destiny a new Augustus;
    A Caesar for his victories
        And battle forces;
An Africanus in his justice;
    A Hannibal for energies
        And deep resources;

A Trajan in his gracious hour;
    A Titus for his open hand
        And cheer unfailing;
His arm, a Spartan king's in power;
    His voice, a Tully's to command
        The truth's prevailing!

In mildness Antoninus Pius;
    A Marc Aurelius in the light
        Of calm attending;
A Hadrian to pacify us;
    A Theodosius in his right
        And high intending;

Aurelius Alexander stern
    In discipline and laws of war
        Among his legions;
A Constantine in faith eterne;
    Gamaliel in the love he bore
        His native regions.

He left no weighty chests of treasure,
    Nor ever unto wealth attained
        Nor store excelling;
To fight the Moors was all his pleasure
    And thus his fortresses he gained,
        Demesne, and dwelling.

Amid the lists where he prevailed
    Fell knights and steeds into his hands
        Through fierce compression,
Whereby he came to be regaled
    With vassals and with feudal lands
        In fair possession.

Ask you how in his rank and station
    When first he started his career
        Himself he righted?
Left orphan and in desolation
    His brothers and his henchmen dear
        He held united.

And ask you how his course was guided
    When once his gallant deeds were famed
        And war was ended?
His high contracting so provided
    That broader, as his honors claimed,
        His lands extended.

And these, the proud exploits narrated
    In chronicles to show his youth
        And martial force,
With triumphs equal he was fated
    To re-affirm in very sooth
        As years did course.

Then for the prudence of his ways,
    For merit and in high award
        Of service knightly,
His dignity they came to raise
    Till he was Master of the Sword
        Elected rightly.

Finding his father's forts and manors
    By false intruders occupied
        And sore oppressed,
With siege and onslaught, shouts and banners,
    His broad-sword in his hand to guide,
        He re-possessed.

And for our rightful king how well
    He bore the brunt of warfare keen
        In siege and action,
Let Portugal's poor monarch tell,
    Or those who in Castile have been
        Among his faction.

Then having risked his life, maintaining
    The cause of justice in the fight
        For law appointed,
With years in harness spent sustaining
    The royal crown of him by right
        His lord anointed,

With feats so mighty that Hispania
    Can never make account of all
        In number mortal,—
Unto his township of Ocaña
    Came Death at last to strike and call
        Against his portal:


        Speaketh Death

“Good Cavalier,”—he cried,—“divest you
    Of all this hollow world of lies
        And soft devices;
Let your old courage now attest you,
    And show a breast of steel that vies
        In this hard crisis!

“And since of life and fortune's prizes
    You ever made so small account
        For sake of honor,
Array your soul in virtue's guises
    To undergo this paramount
        Assault upon her!

“For you, are only half its terrors
    And half the battles and the pains
        Your heart perceiveth;
Since here a life devoid of errors
    And glorious for noble pains
        To-day it leaveth;

“A life for such as bravely bear it
    And make its fleeting breath sublime
        In right pursuing,
Untainted, as is their's who share it
    And put their pleasure in the grime
        Of their undoing;

“The life that is The Everlasting
    Was never yet by aught attained
        Save meed eternal;
And ne'er through soft indulgence casting
    The shadow of its solace stained
        With guilt infernal;

“But in the cloister holy brothers
    Besiege it with unceasing prayer
        And hard denial;
And faithful paladins are others
    Who 'gainst the Moors to win it bear
        With wound and trial.

“And since, O noble and undaunted,
    Your hands the paynim's blood have shed
        In war and tourney,—
Make ready now to take the vaunted
    High guerdon you have merited
        For this great journey!

“Upon this holy trust confiding,
    And in the faith entire and pure
        You e'er commended,
Away,—unto your new abiding,
    Take up the Life that shall endure
        When this is ended!”


        Respondeth the Grand-Master

“Waste we not here the final hours
    This puny life can now afford
        My mortal being;
But let my will in all its powers
    Conformable approach the Lord
        And His decreeing.

“Unto my death I yield, contenting
    My soul to put the body by
        In peace and gladness;
The thought of man to live, preventing
    God's loving will that he should die,
        Is only madness.”


        The Supplication

O Thou who for our weight of sin
    Descended to a place on earth
        And human feature;
Thou who didst join Thy Godhead in
    A being of such lowly worth
        As man Thy creature;

Thou who amid Thy dire tormenting
    Didst unresistingly endure
        Such pangs to ease us;
Not for my mean deserts relenting,
    But only on a sinner poor,
        Have mercy, Jesus!


                    The Codicil

And thus, his hopes so nobly founded,
    His senses clear and unimpaired
        So none could doubt him,—
With spouse and offspring fond surrounded,
    His kinsmen and his servants bared
        And knelt around him,—

He gave his soul to Him who gave it,
    (May God in heaven ordain it place
        And share of glory!)
And left our life as balm to save it,
    And dry the tears upon our face!
        His deathless story.

                    Thomas Walsh (translator).

From: Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated from the Spanish by English and North American Poets. Collected and arranged by Thomas Walsh. G. P. Putnam's Sons. New York, 1920.


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Texto electrónico por Fred F. Jehle
URL: http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/poesia/coplasen.htm