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: Bedmar
The Plaza Santiago
George Eliot (1819–1880)
 
(From The Spanish Gypsy)

’T IS daylight still, but now the golden cross
Uplifted by the angel on the dome
Stands rayless in calm color clear-defined
Against the northern blue; from turrets high
The flitting splendor sinks with folded wing        5
Dark-hid till morning, and the battlements
Wear soft relenting whiteness mellowed o’er
By summers generous and winters bland.
Now in the east the distance casts its veil,
And gazes with a deepening earnestness.        10
The old rain-fretted mountains in their robes
Of shadow-broken gray; the rounded hills
Reddened with blood of Titans, whose huge limbs
Entombed within, feed full the hardy flesh
Of cactus green and blue, broad-sworded aloes;        15
The cypress soaring black above the lines
Of white court-walls; the jointed sugar-canes
Pale-golden with their feathers motionless
In the warm quiet;—all thought-teaching form
Utters itself in firm, unshimmering hues.        20
For the great rock has screened the westering sun
That still on plains beyond streams vaporous gold
Among the branches; and within Bedmar
Has come the time of sweet serenity
When color glows unglittering, and the soul        25
Of visible things shows silent happiness,
As that of lovers trusting though apart.
The ripe-cheeked fruits, the crimson-petalled flowers;
The wingéd life that pausing seems a gem
Cunningly carven on the dark green leaf;        30
The face of man with hues supremely blent
To difference fine as of a voice mid sounds;—
Each lovely light-dipped thing seems to emerge
Flushed gravely from baptismal sacrament.
All beauteous existence rests, yet wakes,        35
Lies still, yet conscious, with clear open eyes
And gentle breath and mild suffuséd joy.
’T is day, but day that falls like melody
Repeated on a string with graver tones,—
Tones such as linger in a long farewell.
*        *        *        *        *
        40
Sudden, with gliding motion like a flame
That through dim vapor makes a path of glory,
A figure lithe, all white and saffron-robed,
Flashed right across the circle, and now stood
With ripened arms uplift and regal head,        45
Like some tall flower whose dark and intense heart
Lies half within a tulip-tinted cup.
 
Juan stood fixed and pale; Pepíta stepped
Backward within the ring: the voices fell
From shouts insistent to more passive tones        50
Half meaning welcome, half astonishment.
“Lady Fedalma!—will she dance for us?”
But she, sole swayed by impulse passionate,
Feeling all life was music and all eyes
The warming, quickening light that music makes,        55
Moved as, in dance religious, Miriam,
When on the Red Sea shore she raised her voice,
And led the chorus of her people’s joy;
Or as the Trojan maids that reverent sang
Watching the sorrow-crownéd Hecuba:        60
Moved in slow curves voluminous, gradual,
Feeling and action flowing into one,
In Eden’s natural taintless marriage-bond;
Ardently modest, sensuously pure,
With young delight that wonders at itself        65
And throbs as innocent as opening flowers,
Knowing not comment,—soilless, beautiful.
The spirit in her gravely glowing face
With sweet community informs her limbs,
Filling their fine gradation with the breath        70
Of virgin majesty; as full vowelled words
Are new impregnate with the master’s thought.
Even the chance-strayed delicate tendrils black,
That backward ’scape from out her wreathing hair,—
Even the pliant folds that cling transverse        75
When with obliquely soaring bend altern
She seems a goddess quitting earth again—
Gather expression,—a soft undertone
And resonance exquisite from the grand chord
Of her harmoniously bodied soul.
*        *        *        *        *
        80
But sudden, at one point, the exultant throng
Is pushed and hustled, and then thrust apart:
Something approaches,—something cuts the ring
Of jubilant idlers,—startling as a streak
From alien wounds across the blooming flesh        85
Of careless sporting childhood. ’T is the band
Of Gypsy prisoners. Soldiers lead the van
And make sparse flanking guard, aloof surveyed
By gallant Lopez, stringent in command.
The Gypsies chained in couples, all save one,        90
Walk in dark file with grand bare legs and arms
And savage melancholy in their eyes
That star-like gleam from out black clouds of hair;
Now they are full in sight, now stretch
Right to the centre of the open space.        95
Fedalma now, with gentle wheeling sweep
Returning, like the loveliest of the Hours
Strayed from her sisters, truant lingering,
Faces again the centre, swings again
The uplifted tambourine…..
                        When lo! with sound
        100
Stupendous throbbing, solemn as a voice
Sent by the invisible choir of all the dead,
Tolls the great passing-bell that calls to prayer
For souls departed: at the mighty beat
It seems the light sinks awestruck,—’t is the note        105
Of the sun’s burial; speech and action pause;
Religious silence and the holy sign
Of everlasting memories (the sign
Of death that turned to more diffusive life)
Pass o’er the Plaça. Little children gaze        110
With lips apart, and feel the unknown god;
And the most men and women pray. Not all.
The soldiers pray; the Gypsies stand unmoved
As pagan statues with proud level gaze.
But he who wears a solitary chain        115
Heading the file, has turned to face Fedalma.
She motionless, with arm uplifted, guards
The tambourine aloft (lest, sudden-lowered,
Its trivial jingle mar the duteous pause),
Reveres the general prayer, but prays not, stands        120
With level glance meeting that Gypsy’s eyes,
That seem to her the sadness of the world
Rebuking her, the great bell’s hidden thought
Now first unveiled,—the sorrows unredeemed
Of races outcast, scorned, and wandering.        125
Why does he look at her? why she at him?
As if the meeting light between their eyes
Made permanent union? His deep-knit brow,
Inflated nostril, scornful lip compressed,
Seem a dark hieroglyph of coming fate        130
Written before her.
 
 
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