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Poem by Robert Southey

Queen Orraca and the Five Martyrs of Morocco

THE FRIARS five have girt their loins,
  And taken staff in hand;
And never shall those Friars again
  Hear Mass in Christian land.
They went to Queen Orraca
  To thank her and bless her then;
And Queen Orraca in tears
  Knelt to the holy men.
Three things, Queen Orraca,
  We prophesy to you:
Hear us, in the name of God!
  For time will prove them true:
In Morocco we must martyred be;
  Christ hath vouchsafed it thus:
We shall shed our blood for Him
  Who shed his blood for us.
To Coimbra shall our bodies be brought,
  Such being the will divine;
That Christians may behold and feel
  Blessings at our shrine.
And when unto that place of rest
  Our bodies shall draw nigh,
Who sees us first, the king or you,
  That one that night must die.
Fare thee well, Queen Orraca!
  For thy soul a Mass we will say,
Every day as long as we live,
  And on thy dying day.
The Friars they blest her, one by one,
  Where she knelt on her knee;
And they departed to the land
  Of the Moors beyond the sea.
What news, O King Affonso!
  What news of the Friars five?
Have they preached to the Miramamolin?
  And are they still alive?
They have fought the fight, O queen!
  They have run the race;
In robes of white they hold the palm
  Before the Throne of Grace.
All naked in the sun and air
  Their mangled bodies lie;
What Christian dared to bury them,
  By the bloody Moors would die.
What news, O King Affonso!
  Of the Martyrs five what news?
Doth the bloody Miramamolin
  Their burial still refuse?
That on a dunghill they should rot,
  The bloody Moor decreed;
That their dishonored bodies should
  The dogs and vultures feed.
But the thunder of God rolled over them,
  And the lightning of God flashed round;
Nor thing impure nor man impure
  Could approach the holy ground.
A thousand miracles appalled
  The cruel Pagans mind:
Our brother Pedro brings them here,
  In Coimbra to be shrined.
Every altar in Coimbra
  Is dressed for the festival day;
All the people in Coimbra
  Are dight in their richest array;
Every bell in Coimbra
  Doth merrily, merrily ring;
The clergy and the knights await
  To go forth with the queen and the king.
Come forth, come forth, Queen Orraca!
  We make the procession stay.
I beseech thee, King Affonso,
  Go you alone to-day.
I have pain in my head this morning,
  I am ill at heart also;
Go without me, King Affonso,
  For I am too faint to go.
The relics of the Martyrs five
  All maladies can cure;
They will requite the charity
  You showed them once, be sure.
Come forth, then, Queen Orraca!
  You make the procession stay:
It were a scandal and a sin
  To abide at home to-day.
Upon her palfrey she is set,
  And forward then they go;
And over the long bridge they pass,
  And up the long hill wind slow.
Prick forward, King Affonso,
  And do not wait for me:
To meet them close by Coimbra
  It were discourtesy.
A little while I needs must wait,
  Till this sore pain be gone:
I will proceed the best I can;
  But do you and your knights prick on.
The king and his knights pricked up the hill
  Faster than before;
The king and his knights have topped the hill,
  And now they are seen no more.
As the king and his knights went down the hill,
  A wild boar crossed the way:
Follow him! follow him! cried the king;
  We have time by the queens delay.
A-hunting of the boar astray
  Is King Affonso gone:
Slowly, slowly, but straight the while,
  Queen Orraca is coming on.
And winding now the train appears
  Between the olive-trees;
Queen Orraca alighted then,
  And fell upon her knees.
The Friars of Alanpuer came first,
  And next the relics passed:
Queen Orraca looked to see
  The king and his knights come last.
She heard the horses tramp behind;
  At that she turned her face:
King Affonso and his knights came up,
  All panting, from the chase.
Have pity upon my poor soul,
  Holy Martyrs five! cried she:
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
  Virgin, pray for me!
That day in Coimbra
  Many a heart was gay;
But the heaviest heart in Coimbra
  Was that poor queens that day.
The festival is over;
  The sun hath sunk in the west;
All the people in Coimbra
  Have betaken themselves to rest.
Queen Orracas Father Confessor
  At midnight is awake,
Kneeling at the Martyrs shrine,
  And praying for her sake.
Just at the midnight hour, when all
  Was still as still could be,
Into the church of Santa Cruz
  Came a saintly company.
All in robes of russet gray,
  Poorly were they dight;
Each one girdled with a cord,
  Like a Friar Minorite.
But from those robes of russet gray
  There flowed a heavenly light;
For each one was the blesséd soul
  Of a Friar Minorite.
Brighter than their brethren,
  Among the beautiful band,
Five were there who each did bear
  A palm-branch in his hand.
He who led the brethren,
  A living man was he;
And yet he shone the brightest
  Of all the company.
Before the steps of the altar
  Each one bowed his head;
And then with solemn voice they sung
  The Service of the Dead.
And who are ye, ye blesséd saints?
  The Father Confessor said;
And for what happy soul sing ye
  The Service of the Dead?
These are the souls of our brethren in bliss;
  The Martyrs five are we;
And this is our Father Francisco,
  Among us bodily.
We are come hither to perform
  Our promise to the queen:
Go thou to King Affonso,
  And say what thou hast seen.
There was loud knocking at the door,
  As the heavenly vision fled;
And the porter called to the Confessor
  To tell him the queen was dead.

Robert Southey

Robert Southey's other poems:
  1. For the Cenotaph at Ermenonville
  2. St. Bartholomews Day
  3. For a Tablet at Penshurst
  4. For a Monument in the Vale of Ewias
  5. For a Monument in the New Forest

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