Cibola 82

This entry is part 81 of 119 in the series Cibola


The Friar’s Camp: Song Contest (cont’d)

3. Martí­n Medina de Sevilla (accompanying himself on a homemade guitar)

Seven caravels set sail
from Seville, fairest of cities,
plowing seven furrows
on the Guadalquivir.

From each ship arises such
a gust, such storms of wails
& sighs & blowing of noses
that they need no other wind

to carry them out past
the Punta del Perro,
stone muzzle
frozen at point–

dog nose, they’ll need thy direction,
through storm & calm
to find the Isles
of the Bless’d.

And as they drop
below the horizon
the guitarist’s fingers canter
across the strings:

“Tell me, you who nod
or tap your cup,
these poor sinners–
who do you say they are?

Will you wager on
the last Christians, with
the Seven Cities of Antilla
rising from the salt?

Or are they Jews,
fleeing their nests
at the first cock-crow
of the Inquisition?”


the last Christians: As mentioned in “Beginnings,” Spanish ballads of the late Middle Ages assumed that Christians had been driven from the Iberian Peninsula during the initial Muslim conquest in the eight century, and that some of them ended up founding idyllic, Christian colonies in “Antilla.” Thus were the utopian visions of a New World to the west bound up with the Reconquest and national-messianic dreams of recapturing the Holy Land in the east. Such ahistorical (and ageographical) propaganda helped build public support for the forced conversion or expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492.

Series Navigation← Cibola 81Cibola 83 →

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.