They tied the tribute to their spears,
They raised it in the air,
And they sent to tell their lord the king
That his tax was ready there.
“He may send and take by force,” said
“This paltry sum of gold;
But the goodly gift of liberty
Cannot be bought and sold.”
“One of the finest of the historic ballads is that which describes Bernardo’s march to Roncesvalles. He sallies forth ’with three thousand Leonese and more,’ to protect the glory and freedom of his native land. From all sides, the peasantry of the land flock to the hero’s standard.”
The peasant leaves his plough afield,
The reaper leaves his hook,
And from his hand the shepherd-boy.
Lets fall the pastoral crook.
The young set up a shout of joy,
The old forget their years,
The feeble man grows stout of heart.
No more the craven fears.
All rush to Bernard’s standard,
And on liberty they call;
They cannot brook to wear the yoke,
When threatened by the Gaul.
“Free were we born,” ’t is thus
“And willingly pay we
The duty that we owe our king
By the divine decree.
“But God forbid that we obey
The laws of foreign knaves,
Tarnish the glory of our sires,
And make our children slaves.
“Our hearts have not so craven grown,
So bloodless all our veins,
So vigorless our brawny arms,
As to submit to chains.
“Has the audacious Frank, forsooth,
Subdued these seas and lands?
Shall he a bloodless victory have?
No, not while we have hands.
“He shall learn that the gallant Leonese
Can bravely fight and fall,
But that they know not how to yield;
They are Castilians all.
“Was it for this the Roman power
Of old was made to yield
Unto Numantia’s valiant hosts
On many a bloody field?
“Shall the bold lions that have bathed
Their paws in Libyan gore,
Crouch basely to a feebler foe,
And dare the strife no more?
“Let the false king sell town and tower,
But not his vassals free;
For to subdue the free-born soul
No royal power hath he!”
VIDA DE SAN MILLAN
BY GONZALO DE BERCEO
And when the kings were in the field,—their
squadrons in array,—
With lance in rest they onward pressed to mingle in the fray;
But soon upon the Christians fell a terror of their foes,—
These were a numerous army,—a little handful those.
And while the Christian people stood in this uncertainty,
Upward to heaven they turned their eyes, and fixed their thoughts on high;
And there two figures they beheld, all beautiful and bright,
Even than the pure new-fallen snow their garments were more white.