San Miguel, the Convent

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(San Miguel de la Tumba)
By Gonzalo de Berceo

San Miguel de la Tumba is a convent vast and wide;
The sea encircles it around, and groans on every side:
It is a wild and dangerous place, and many woes betide
The monks who in that burial-place in penitence abide.

Within those dark monastic walls, amid the ocean flood,
Of pious, fasting monks there dwelt a holy brotherhood;
To the Madonna's glory there an altar high was placed,
And a rich and costly image the sacred altar graced.

Exalted high upon a throne, the Virgin Mother smiled,
And, as the custom is, she held within her arms the Child;
The kings and wise men of the East were kneeling by her side;
Attended was she like a queen whom God had sanctified.

. . . . . . . . .

Descending low before her face a screen of feathers hung,--
A moscader, or fan for flies, 'tis called in vulgar tongue;
From the feathers of the peacock's wing 't was fashioned bright and fair,
And glistened like the heaven above when all its stars are there.

It chanced that, for the people's sins, fell the lightning's blasting stroke:
Forth from all four the sacred walls the flames consuming broke;
The sacred robes were all consumed, missal and holy book;
And hardly with their lives the monks their crumbling walls forsook.