Curros Enríquez- The Cold Church

The Cold Church

High above the fields
Amongst mountains set
There is raised up
Bloated and black-
A giant, dead hippo
Covered with worms and couch grass-
The deformed back of the old monastery.

The tower bars-
Iron needles-
Seem to protest
Time’s passing
And often, unmoving and still,
They look like the fingers
Of a Titan’s hand awaiting
The delayed lightning bolt of heaven’s wrath.

From the high bell
Now tumbles
The strong cadence
Of a sad rhythm
When at sunset from the peaks
The winds whip down.
An enchanted serpent curls up
Guarding the ruins, whispering and weaving.

His hair on end,
In his hand a knife
Stained with the blood
Of poor travellers,
The highwayman often came here
To seek refuge and welcome-
Thief of the roads, whom these brothers
Who burned Praga1, gave sanctuary.

In monk’s attire
Like them, the convict
Turned in one day
From reprobate to saint,
And from the throat that should have been
Severed on a wooden block
Emerged the gospel that excommunicated
Famous Columbus and great Galilieo.

The virgins, raped;
The worthy poor
Meanwhile begging
For help and succour;
And Justice, underpaid page
To the bloody crime
Against holy things, remained at the door
With teeth chattering in rage and anger.

On my solitary
Nocturnal walks
It sometimes happens
That I come to the monastery;
Then, making faces at me,
In the light of the moon,
A dark vision appears out of the ruins:
“What times!” it says, and I reply, “What times!”

1 Xerónimo de Praga was a follower of Jan Hus who was executed for his beliefs in Braga in 1416

This poem appeared in the volume Aires da miña terra in 1880.  The melodramatic vision and the anti-clerical sentiments are reminiscent of English Romantics of the second phase in the circle of Shelley.  It got him into trouble and was denounced by don Cesáreo Rodrigo, the Bishop of Ourense as heretical, blasphemous and scandolous in an edict that was read in all the parish churches of the diocese.

This did not prevent Curros Enríquez becoming one of the most popular poets of his time in Galicia!

About Jason Preater

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