Don Roderick


“The king who unlocks this chamber

 will be the last of the Gothic kings of Spain.”


Now, down, as ash keys twirl,

and helicopter from a leaden sky,

now down by the spiral stair high

down from the secret chamber

in Toledo’s highest topmost tower,

bewildering the air, swirls

Don Roderick.  In this hour

all his proud hopes unfurl;

not love, not greatness or power,

but only these words of death

for you to catch your breath

against.  Now, down from the room

of bleak wonders and disastrous visions

and time’s long refrain,

down comes the last

of the Gothic kings of Spain.


With Don Roderick their glories end.

In the autumn the battles will take him

to them his fathers windblown and wasted,

betrayed, blotched and

cankered with prophecy;

yet he is also silk-russeted and golden-leaved

as if his cloak were all the seasons of a thousand years,

spread from the spirals of Toledo’s stairs

and laid across the plain.

All this was told in that tower,

and how, friendless and deserted

by cowards on the battlefield,

his last hour would come.


Calmly, down, he follows his exquisite wife.

Descending from the vision of

his end instead of finding treasure,

his courage is a kind of glory;

while as blossom scattering

on an April morning, Egilona is

beauty spiralling in her own light.

Down the elm-staired way she passes,

her negligent fragrance

dusting the ancient stone.


“He shall do battle with the Moors,

Spanish leather and steel brave against

the bright streamers of coloured silks

and finest white linen of the Arabs.

I shall always love Don Roderick!

And must I love the man

who will come after: Abd all-Aziz ibn Musa?

Who shall know which will

rule the best and love me most?”


Don Roderick turns his elm-boarded

way from the high tower.

Soon he will sleep through the ages

in a humble mountain grave,

and on the lintel we will read

the letters that will crumble

in the mist and sun of years to come:

“Hic requiescat Rodericus,

rex Gothorum.”


But for now he smiles at Egilona

down from the magic chamber

along the flower-light turning way.

They will come who will say

he is more legend than man;

but under star-strewn nights

by fountains in the palace gardens,

and in exotic chambers at the end of day,

I hear the fair lady dreaming,

her thoughts a song that lingers

in the valleys and over mountains:

“He is a man and my heart is music

and my love a dance,

and at least for now

this is he,

aqui esta y aqui se acuesta Don Roderic,

último de los reyes góticos de España[1],

yes, this is he,

Don Roderick,

and here for now he lies

down not in a crumbling grave

but here, he lies down with me.”



JACM September 2017 – February 2018

[1] Here is and here lies (beds) Don Roderick/last of the Gothic kings of SpainDon Roderick + purple + red ink 2

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