THE SIEGE OF NUMANTIA
by Miguel de Cervantes
EXT: HORATIO'S GARDEN
My friends, for Romans I do know you well
Romans in build and gallant port, I mean;
But by the tale these soft white fingers tell,
And that rich bloom which on your cheeks is seen,
Ye seem to have been reared at British fires,
And drawn your parentage from Flemish sires
My friends, this wide-spread languor and decay,
Which for yourselves hath borne such bitter fruit,
Nerves up your fallen foes to sterner fray,
And brings to naught your valor and repute.
This city's walls, that stand as firm to-day
As battled rock, are witnesses to boot
How all your native strength hath turned to shame,
And bears no stamp of Roman but the name.
Seems it, my sons, a manly thing to own,
That when the Roman name towers far and wide,
Within the land of Spain yourselves alone
Should humble it and level down its pride?
What feebleness is this, so strangely grown?
What feebleness? If I may now decide,
It is a feebleness loose living breeds
The mortal enemy of manly deeds.
Soft Venus ne'er with savage Mars did start
A pact on firm and stable at the core:
She follows pleasures; he pursues the art
That leads to hardships, and to fields of gore.
So let the Cyprian goddess now depart,
And let her son frequent this camp no more;
For he whose life in reveling is spent
Is badly lodged within a martial tent.
Think ye, the battering-ram with iron head
Will of itself break down the battled wall?
Or crowds of armed men and armor dread
Suffice alone the foemen to appall?
If dauntless strength be not with prudence wed,
Which plans with wisdom and provides for all,
But little fruit will mighty squadrons yield,
Or heaps of warlike stores upon the field.
Let but the smallest army join as one
In bonds of martial law, as strict as pure,
Then will ye see it, radiant as the sun,
March where it will to victory secure.
But let an army manly courses shun,
Were it a world itself in miniature,
Soon will its mighty bulk be seen to reel
Before the iron hand, and breast of steel.
Ye well may be ashamed, ye men of might,
To see how these few Spaniards, sore distressed,
With haughty spirit, and to our despite,
Defend with vigor their Numantian nest.
Full sixteen years and more have taken flight,
And still they struggle on, and well may jest
At having conquered with ferocious hands,
And kept at bay, our countless Roman bands.
Self-conquered are ye; for beneath the sway
Of base lascivious vice ye lose renown,
And while with love and wine ye sport and play,
Ye scarce have strength to take your armor down.
Blush then with all your might, as well ye may,
To see how this little Spanish town
Bids bold defiance to the Roman host,
And smites the hardest when beleaguered most.
At every hazard let our camp be freed,
And cleanly purged of that vile harlot race,
Which are the root and cause, in very deed,
Why ye have sunk into this foul disgrace.
One drinking-cup, no more, is all ye need;
And let your lecherous couches now give place
To those wherein of yore ye slept so sound
The homely brushwood strewn upon the ground.
Why should a soldier reek of odors sweet,
When scent of pitch and resin is the best?
Or why have kitchen-things to cook his meat,
To give withal his squeamish stomach zest?
The warrior, who descends to such a treat,
Will hardly bear his buckler on the breast;
For me all sweets and dainties I disdain,
While in Numantia lives son of Sjaain.
Let not, my men, this stern and just decree
Of mine appear to you as harshly meant;
For in the end its profit ye will see
When ye have followed it with good intent.
'Tis passing hard to do, I well agree,
To give your habits now another bent;
But if ye change them not, then look for war
More terrible than this affront by far.
From downy couches and from wine and play
Laborious Mars is ever wont to fly;
He seeks some other tools, some other way,
Some other arms to raise his standard high.
Not luck nor hazard here have any sway,
Each man is master of his destiny;
'Tis sloth alone that evil fortune breeds,
But patient toil to rule and empire leads.
Though this I say, so sure am I withal
That now at last ye'll act as Romans do,
That I do hold as naught the armed wall
Of these rude Spaniards, a rebellious crew.
By this right hand I swear before you all,
That if your hands be to your spirits true,
Then mine with recompense will open wide,
And this my tongue shall tell your deeds with pride.