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

The Ballad of Guibour

By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)

From ‘Calendau,’ in the Atlantic Monthly: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

AT Arles in the Carlovingian days.

By the swift Rhône water,

A hundred thousand on either side,

Christian and Saracen, fought till the tide

Ran red with the slaughter.

May God forefend such another flood

Of direful war!

The Count of Orange on that black morn

By seven great kings was overborne,

And fled afar

Whenas he would avenge the death

Of his nephew slain.

Now are the kings upon his trail;

He slays as he flies: like fiery hail

His sword-strokes rain.

He hies him into the Aliscamp,—

No shelter there!

A Moorish hive is the home of the dead,

And hard he spurs his goodly steed

In his despair.

Over the mountain and over the moor

Flies Count Guillaume;

By sun and by moon he ever sees

The coming cloud of his enemies;

Thus gains his home,

Halts and lifts at the castle gate;

A mighty cry,

Calling his haughty wife by name;

“Guibour, Guibour, my gentle dame,

Open! ’Tis I!

“Open the gate to thy Guillaume!

Ta’en is the city

By thirty thousand Saracen,

Lo, they are hunting me to my den:

Guibour, have pity!”

But the countess from the rampart cried,

“Nay, chevalier,

I will not open my gates to thee;

For, save the women and babes,” said she,

“Whom I shelter here,

“And the priest who keeps the lamps alight,

Alone am I.

My brave Guillaume and his barons all

Are fighting the Moor by the Aliscamp wall,

And scorn to fly!”

“Guibour, Guibour, it is I myself!

And those men of mine

(God rest their souls!) they are dead,” he cried,

“Or rowing with slaves on the salt sea-tide.

I have seen the shine

“Of Arles on fire in the dying day;

I have heard one shriek

Go up from all the arenas where

The nuns disfigure their bodies fair

Lest the Marran wreak

“His brutal will. Avignon’s self

Will fall to-day!

Sweetheart, I faint; oh, let me in

Before the savage Mograbin

Fall on his prey!”

“I swear thou liest,” cried Guibour,

“Thou base deceiver!

Thou art perchance thyself a Moor

Who whinest thus outside my door;—

My Guillaume, never!

“Guillaume to look on burning towns

And fired by—thee!

Guillaume to see his comrades die,

Or borne to sore captivity,

And then to flee!

“He knows not flight! He is a tower

Where others fly!

The heathen spoiler’s doom is sure,

The virgin’s honor aye secure,

When he is by!”

Guillaume leapt up, his bridle set

Between his teeth,

While tears of love and tears of shame

Under his burning eyelids came,

And hard drew breath,

And seized his sword and plunged his spurs

Right deep, and so

A storm, a demon, did descend

To roar and smite, to rout and rend

The Moorish foe.

As when one shakes an almond-tree,

The heathen slain

Upon the tender grass fall thick,

Until the flying remnant seek

Their ships again.

Four kings with his own hand he slew,

And when once more

He turned him homeward from the fight,

Upon the drawbridge long in sight

Stood brave Guibour.

“By the great gateway enter in,

My lord!” she cried;

And might no further welcome speak,

But loosed his helm, and kissed his cheek,

With tears of pride.