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  • By David B. Gosselin

The Spanish Knight — A Historical Ballad


Wa le ghalib il Allah (God is the only victor)

—Muhamed Ibn-l-Ahmar, founder of the Alhambra Palace


He rode across the star-engulfed Sierra, Along the peaks of Andalusia; Beyond El Dorado by every measure, He hoped to find Andalusian treasure.


The monarchs of Granada long-since fled—

Infidel prayers now to God’s ears dead;

Those Moorish halls once built with alchemy

Would never again rule in infamy.


Climbing Granada’s mountains and defiles, He scaled the illustrious Moorish pile, Then found himself within her myrtle courts, Gleaming like ancient Aden’s fabled ports.


“Victor!” Cheered all his noble cavaliers As Don Alfonso and his brother neared. “Show me the jewels of Andalusia, Its luscious gardens fed by Arethusa!”


“Show me around this sumptuous palace, friends, And tell me how the Moors all met their ends!” The Don with joy exclaimed. “But see your prize,” His soldier said, as the knight met the eyes


Of Ben Seraj, the ancient Moor, enchained. “So what have you to say, impious bane? Granada yields unto the Christian scepter!” The Moor replied, “Only God is victor.”


“Ha!” The proud cavaliers regaled and raved As the old Moor was carried off a slave. The Don then strode across the palace halls Where strange reliefs appeared upon the walls.


But on those walls appeared no images, No symbols or reliefs with visages. Only swimming in the moonlit cornice, A divine calligraphy began to surface.


Demanding explanation from his captive, He asked with curiosity so furtive, “What signify these Saracen riddles, These cryptic fonts and Moorish symbols?”


His captive turned towards the bold relief

Which seemed to prophesize some strange belief.

The old Moor read, “God is the only victor,”

As all the burning stars above flickered.


Sporting the royal seal of empery —Exalting in the joy of victory— Alfonso left his train of valiant knights And drifted into dreams of new-found heights,


Of future victories and fallen foes, While salted air from seas and citron groves Blew through the palace halls where pallid beams Flowed from a crescent moon in pure white streams.


Luxuriously sleeping like a king, Alfonso soon awoke: he heard a swing, As though a scimitar cutting through air— Perhaps a soldier walking past his lair.


The monarchs of Granada long-since fled—

Infidel prayers now to God’s ears dead;

Those Moorish halls once built with alchemy

Would never again rule in infamy.


Waking to find that it was all a dream, The wily Moor was nowhere to be seen. He saw his brother standing at the door, “Brother, you’ve come—but did hear you the Moor?”


His brother remained mute—walking over— The sound of singing scimitars took over: His brother’s bold ambition he had failed To quell—glories of war never curtailed.


His once-dear brother now reclaimed his fame, Just as the crescent moon began to wane; As darkling night consumed each quarter, His brother whispered, “Only God is victor.”


September 2017


David is a poet, writer, and translator based in Montreal. He is the founding editor of The Chained Muse and New Lyre. His first collection of poems is entitled Modern Dreams.

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