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

Ramón de Campoamor (1817–1901)

The Piper of Gijón

Translation of Mary Jane Christie Serrano

“NOW the dancers take their places;

But the piper, where is he?”

“He is burying his mother,

But he’ll be here presently.”—

“And will he come?”—What can he do?

See him now, to duty true,

With his pipes; but ah, how heavy

A heart he carries is only known

To the piper,

To the piper of Gijón!

When he thinks how desolate

A hearth awaits now his return,

Tears like molten lead his bosom,

In secret overflowing, burn.

But his brothers must be fed;

His the hands must earn their bread:

So his merry tunes, though joy

From his life for aye be gone,

Plays the piper,

Plays the piper of Gijón.

In all the western land was never

Mother held than his more dear;

And now the grave has closed above her,

Parting them forever here.

While he pipes his merry strain,

Sobs he seeks to still in vain

With it mingle, fierce and bitter,

Like the wounded lion’s groan.

Hapless piper!

Hapless piper of Gijón!

“Faster!” cry the eager dancers;

“Faster!” Faster still he plays;

Beneath a smiling face his anguish

To hide, though vainly, he essays.

And seeing him pipe gayly thus,

While flow his tears, as Zoïlus

Blind Homer once, some pitiless

Mock the aspect woebegone

Of the piper,

Of the piper of Gijón.

“Ah,” he cries, with bosom heaving,

“Mother, mother, how a sigh

Relieves the breast with anguish laden,”

While he pipes on merrily;

For in his breast the voice he hears,

Now stilled in death, that on his ears

Fell sweetest, that shall ever echo

In the heart, a benison,

Of the piper,

Of the piper of Gijón.

How many another, too, concealing

Beneath a smiling countenance

His unshared agony, pipes gayly

That others to his strains may dance.

So does the poet with his song

Rejoice the world, while he among

Its merry masquers sits apart,

In spirit and in heart alone,

Like the piper,

Like the piper of Gijón.