Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

(1840 - 1922 / England)

Sancho Sanchez - Poem by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Sancho Sanchez lay a--dying in the house of Mariquita,
For his life ebbed with the ebbing of the red wound in his side.
And he lay there as they left him when he came from the Corrida
In his gold embroidered jacket and his red cloak and his pride.

But at cockcrow in the morning, when the convents of Sevilla
Suddenly rang loud to matins, Sanchez wakened with a cry,
And he called to Mariquita, bade her summon his cuadrilla,
That they all might stand around him in the hour when he should die.

For he thought in his bold bosom, ``I have ventured with them often,
And have led the way to honour upon every ring in Spain.
And now in this the hardest of the fields that I have fought in
I would choose that every face of them were witness of my pain.

``For their stern eyes would upbraid me if I went down to the battle
Without a friend to cheer me, or at least a fool to hiss.
And they hold it all unworthy men should die like fatted cattle
Stricken singly in the darkness at the shambles of Cadiz.''

Then he bade the lamps be lighted, and he made them bring a mirror,
Lest his cheeks should have grown paler in the watches of the night.
For he feared lest his disciples should mistrust his soul of terror,
When they came to look upon him, if they saw his face was white.

Oh, long time in the mirror did he look with awful smiling
At the eyes which gazed out at him, while the women watched him mute.
And he marked how death's white fingers had been clammily defiling
The redness of God's image and had wiped the sunburns out.

Then he spake, ``Go fetch the carmine from the side drawer of the table,
Where Mariquita keeps it.'' But, when it was not found,
``'Tis no matter,'' answered Sanchez, ``we must do what we are able.''
And he painted his cheeks' paleness with the red blood of his wound.

And anon there came a murmur as of voices and a humming
On the staircase, and he knew them by their footsteps at the door.
And he leant up on his pillow that his eyes might see them coming
In their order of the plaza as they strode across the floor.

And when they stood around him, in their stately mantas folded,
With a solemn grief outawing the brute laughter of their eyes,
You had deemed them in the lamplight to be bronzen statues moulded
Of the powers of Nature yielding a brave man in sacrifice.

But the soul of Sanchez quailed not, and he laughed in their sad faces,
Crying loud to Mariquita for the Valdepeñas wine.
``A fair pig--skin, Caballeros, blushes here for your embraces.
And I drink to you your fortune, and I pray you drink to mine.''

Then they filled their leathern flagons, and they held them up together
In a ghastly expectation till their chief should give the sign.
And the red wine in the silence flowed like blood adown the leather.
And the red blood from the pillow trickled drop by drop like wine.

Spake the Master, ``Ere I pledge you, look upon me, men, and hearken,
For I have a thing to utter, and a dying man is wise.
Death is weighing down my eyelids. Silently your faces darken.
But another torch is lighted than the daylight in my eyes.

``Life, I see it now as never I had thought to comprehend it,
Like the lines which old Manola used to write upon the sand,
And we looked on in wonder nor guessed till it was ended
The birds and trees and faces which were growing from her hand.

``Meaning was there from the outset, glorious meaning in our calling,
In the voice of emulation and our boyhood's pride of soul,
From the day when first, the capa from our father's shoulders falling,
We were seized with inspiration and rushed out upon the bull.

``Meaning was there in our courage and the calm of our demeanour,
For there stood a foe before us which had need of all our skill.
And our lives were as the programme, and the world was our arena,
And the wicked beast was death, and the horns of death were hell.

``And the boast of our profession was a bulwark against danger
With its fearless expectation of what good or ill may come,
For the very prince of darkness shall burst forth on us no stranger
When the doors of death fly open to the rolling of the drum.

``As I lay here in the darkness, I beheld a sign from Heaven:
Standing close a golden angel by the footpost of my bed,
And in his hand a letter with the seal and arms engraven
Of the glorious San Fernando which he bade me read and read.

``And the message of his master, the blessed king my patron,
Was to bid me in his honour to hold myself at need
For this very day and morning of his feast and celebration,
And in pledge of his high favour he had sent me his own steed.

``For the lists of Heaven were open, and that day they had decreed it
There should be a special function for the glory of his name.
And the beasts were Sevillanos, and a master's hand was needed
Lest the swords of Heaven should falter and the Saint be put to shame.

``And I heard the potro stamping in the street, and would have risen
But that Mariquita held me and the women and my wound.
And, though the angel left me, it was truth and not a vision,
And I know the Saint has called me, and the place where I am bound.

``I shall fight this day in Heaven, and, though all Hell shall assail me,
I have hope of a good issue, for perhaps I have some skill,
And perhaps, if I should stumble or if my hand should fail me,
There are others in the plaza who have vowed me less than ill.

``And my mantle of salvation is the faith which is our charter,
And the Virgin of the Pillar my protector and reward,
And the hosts of Heaven my witness and each Spanish Saint and Martyr,
And our lord Don Santiago himself has lent the sword.''

Thus he spoke, and on his speaking fell a silence and a wonder,
While the eyes of his companions turned in awe from each to each,
And they waited in expectance for the gates to roll asunder
And the voices of the angels to command him to the breach,--

Waited till the sun uprising sent his glory through the chamber,
And the spent lamps paled and flickered on the shame of their dismay,
And the dying man transfigured passed in silence from his slumber,
Like a king to coronation, in the light of his new day.

Only they that stood the closest say the pale lips curved and parted,
And the eyes flashed out in battle, and the fingers sought the sword.
``'Tis the President has called him,'' said Fernandez the true hearted,
``He has thrown his hat behind him for the glory of the Lord!''


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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