Almansor

Text by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
Translated into English by Joseph Massaad 

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In fair Cordova's cathedral,
Thirteen hundred columns stand there,
Thirteen hundred giant columns
The mighty dome securely bear.

And on dome and walls and columns,
One can see a clever display
Of Koran's Arabic maxims,
Twining in a flowery way.

Moorish kings formerly fashioned
This vast house to Allah's glory,
But much then has been inverted,
Through the dark tricks of history.

Over the turret where the watchman
Summoned the people for prayer,
Now one can hear the Christian bells,
With their melancholic murmur.

On the steps whereon the faithful
Sang the prophet's words, now alas!
Bald-headed priesthood exhibits
The trivial wonders of their Mass.

Before the multi-colored doll,
Oh, how they twist and how they turn!
They bleat, they burn incense and ring,
And the candles stupidly burn.

In Cordova's cathedral stands
Almansor ben Abdullah, viewing
In deep silence all the columns,
And these bated words murmuring:

" Oh you columns, strong and mighty,
Once adorned to Allah's great fame,
Now must you to Christendom,
Humble homage, display in shame!

You have submitted to the times,
And bearing your load, were patient;
The more reason for the weaker,
At this time to be complacent. "

And Almansor ben Abdullah,
Showing his most serene front,
Bends, in Cordova's cathedral,
His head on the baptismal font.

II

He quickly left the cathedral,
On his wild steed, onward speeding,
While, upon the wind, his moist locks
And his helmet's plumes are dancing.

On the road to Alcolea,
Along the Guadalquiver's flow,
Where the snowy almonds blossom,
And fragrant gold oranges grow,

Thither hastens the merry rider,
With whistles, songs, happy laughers,
And the birds all sing in chorus,
And the stream resounding waters.

In the fort at Alcolea,
Fair Clara de Alvares dwells,
Her father battles in Navarre,
And, in her freedom, she revels.

And from afar Almansor hears
Drums and clarions resounding,
And beholds, through the shady trees,
The fort's lights, glittering.

In the fort at Alcolea,
Dance twelve ladies, gaily dressed,
With twelve knights in gay apparel,
But Almansor's dance is the best.

As if winged by merry humor,
All around the floor, he flutters,
And every one of the ladies,
With the sweetest words, he flatters.

The fair hands of Isabella,
He's quick to kiss, then changes place,
He now stands before Elvira,
And he merrily scans her face.

Laughing, he asks Leonora:
If today, he'll win her favors?
And, stitched inside his mantel,
He, the golden cross discovers.

He in turn assures each lady:
That she in his heart is dwelling,
And, " as I am Christian! " swears he
Thirty times upon that evening.

III

In the fort at Alcolea,
Joy and music have now vanished,
Knights and ladies have departed,
And the lights are all extinguished.

Donna Clara and Almansor,
In the hall above still linger,
And one single lamp is casting,
Over both its feeble glimmer.

On a seat, the lady's sitting,
The the knight sits on a stool; his head,
Slumber-weary, he reposes
On the knees of his beloved.

Rose-oil out of a golden flask
Pours the lady, sadly musing,
On the brown locks of Almansor,
Who, from his deep heart, is sighing.

Then, with her sweet lips, the lady
Gives a sweet kiss, sadly musing,
On the brown locks of Almansor,
While his brow with gloom is clouding.

Flowing tears from eyes that sparkle,
Weeps the lady, sadly musing,
On the brown locks of Almansor,
And his lips begin quivering.

And he dreams he's once more standing,
His head lowly bent and weeping,
Before Cordova's cathedral,
Many dismal voices hearing.

And the mighty giant columns,
Full of anger, hears he murmur,
That no longer will they bear it,
And they tremble and they totter.

And they wildly fall together,
The priests and people all grow pale,
While the dome crashes upon them,
While the Christian Gods shriek and wail.