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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Don Rodrigue Describes to King Fernando his Victory over the Moors

By Pierre Corneille (1606–1684)

From ‘The Cid’

Unrhymed literal version in the metre of the original, by Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson

UNDER me, then, the troop made advance,

With soldierly confidence marked on each brow.

Five hundred we started, but soon reinforced,

Three thousand we were when the port we had reached;

So much did mere sight of our numbers, our mien,

New courage revive in all timorous hearts.

Two-thirds did I ambush, as soon as arrived,

In the vessels in harbor, that ready were found;

But the others, whose numbers each hour did increase,

With impatience on fire, all about me encamped,

Stretched out on the earth passed the beauteous night.

In the harbor, I order the guards to like watch;

Their concealment my stratagem further assists;—

I dared to declare, Sire, as thine the command

That I so followed out, and enjoined upon all.

In the radiance pallid that fell from the stars,

At last, with the flood-tide we spy thirty sails;

Beneath swells the wave, and in movement therewith,

The sea and the Moors into harbor advance.

We permit them a passage—to them all seemed calm,

Our soldiers unseen, and the walls without ward.

Our silence profound well deluded their wit;

No longer they doubt our surprise is achieved;

Without fear they draw nearer—they anchor—they land—

They run to the hands that are waiting to strike.

Then rise we together, and all in a breath

Utter clamorous shoutings that heavenward rise.

From the ships to such signal our troops make response;

They stand forth in arms, and the Moors are dismayed;

By dread they are seized when but half-disembarked;

Ere the battle’s begun they have deemed themselves lost.

They have come but to pillage—’tis fight that they meet.

We assail them on sea, we assail them on land;

On the ground runs the blood we set flowing in streams

Ere a soul can resist—or fly back to his post.

But soon in our spite the chiefs rallied their host,

Their courage awoke, and their fear was o’ercome:

The shame of their dying without having fought,

Their disorder arrests, and their valor restores.

A firm stand they take, and their swords are unsheathed;

The land and the stream, ay, the fleet and the port,

Are a field where, triumphant o’er carnage, is death.

Oh, many the deeds, the exploits worthy fame,

In that horror of darkness are buried for aye,

When each, the sole witness of blows that he struck,

Could not guess whither Fortune the conflict would steer!

I flew to all sides to encourage our force,

Here to push into action, and there to restrain,

To enrank the newcoming, to spur them in turn,

Yet naught could I know till the breaking of day.

But with dawn and the light, our advantage was plain;

The Moors saw their ruin; their courage declined;

And beholding new succor approach to our side,

Changed their ardor for battle to sheer dread of death.

Their vessels they seek,—every cable is cut;

For farewells to our ears are sent up their wild cries;

Their retreat is a tumult—no man ever heeds

If their princes and kings have made good their escape.

Even duty itself yields to fear so extreme.

On the flood-tide they came, the ebb bears them away;

Meantime their two Kings with our host still engaged,

’Mid a handful of followers, slashed by our blows,

In valiance contending, are selling life dear.

In vain to surrender I beg them—entreat,

With the cimeter gripped, not a word will they hear:

But at sight of their troops falling dead at their feet,

The brave who alone make so vain a defense,

Our chief they demand; and to me they submit.

To you, O my Sire, have I sent them, each one—

And the combatants lacking, the combat was done.