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"Houra! Cosacos del desierto, houra!
La Europa os brinda esplendido botin.
Sangrienta charca sus campiñas sean,
De los grajos su ejército festin."
("Hurrah! Cossacks of the desert, hurrah! Europe offers ye a splendid booty. Bloody pools may her battlefields become, and vultures on her army feast.")
ING, bard, sing! you who are as old as the world, and whose head began to whiten on the very day when the great beech of Berderiz 1 was planted. Sing, bard, sing! Eldest of our improvisatores; singer of our feasts, of our warlike deeds, of our loves! Sing a welcome to our
brothers of the valley of Bertizarana, of Baztan, Of Aezcoa, of Erro, and of Roncal. 1 Salute with your most penetrative and sonorous "lecayo" our brothers of Elzupel, of Otsobide, Hernio, and Aitzgorri. 2
The night is dark, and the wind whistles across the trees of Irati, 3 compelling the wolf of the mountains to hide its brown head. The night is darksome, and a whirlwind of snow is drifting the flakes in heaps. It is a pleasant night for us, children of the mountains and of the tempests. It is a night which terrifies the Roman matrons, and makes the sybarite son of the Tiber shudder as he ties on his soft couch.
We shall enter with strung bow into the gardens full of statues, into the palaces of marble, into the bedchambers hung with silken draperies. We must feast at the ivory tables, we must fill ourselves with the wines of Syracuse and of Cyprus, quaffed in cups of gold and precious stones. Our women will work mantles of
purple--standards to serve as guides in the battles--and will plait their hair with threads woven with the silver of their cups. The chieftain of the frontiers on hearing the "irrinzi" will mistake it for the noise of the hurricane, and we shall traverse the plains swift as the winds. The Romans crucified our prisoners, and we must devastate their cities and tread down their fields. And by the light of the conflagrations our sons, crowning the crests of the mountains, will intone hymns of victory.
Sing, bard, sing! This is the hour of our raid: the owl screeches in the crevices, the wolf hides in the caverns, the eagle, timorous, thrusts its beak under the wing; because night is fearful to all creatures, save to us, sons of the mountains and of the tempest. Come, brothers, forward! We drink our last wine, and eat our last bread, and our children ask for more! Reach the cup of sour milk, and let us drink our parting cup. Forward, my sons! Let our women sleep, and hush our mastiffs. The raid will last eight suns.
Thus spoke the chieftain of Izalzu, 1 and great acclamations resounded among the rocks of Orbara, 2 and the
torrent, which later on took the name of Irati, stayed its rapid course.
An hour later, and the mountaineers traversed the deserted parts of Montlig and Astarac. 1 To the right appear, like so many skeletons of gigantic elephants amid the shades of night, the Druidical altars of Asté, Sem, Nestos, and Heas. 2 From thence they descend and sally out of the darksome defiles of Zulogaraya, Izotzce, and Asarosta, 3 into the fertile plains of Novempopulania. 4 They descend silently and sinister, like the black, immense wave, the first breath of the hurricane which at night surprises the heedless ship.
Novempopulania slumbers in the midst of gardens and flowers, its splendid palaces built of the marble of Paros and of gold from Ethiopia, and out of them exhales, from among their peristyle columns, the perfumes of the feasts of night. And they descend, those sons of the mountains, like bands of water birds, enveloped in the
dismal mantle of the tempest. The watch-guards of the Roman fortresses are showing their bare heads and, flinging aside their lances, sleep at will; because the mountain is far distant--because no noise comes from thence--because the storm increases, and the night continues fearful and darksome. The waters of the Adour and of the Nive 1 are filled with the multitude that are swimming across silently, The neigh of the war-horse is not heard; nor is the red standard of the Three Hands waving in the air; nor is the echo awakened by the "irrinzi" of war.
Virgins of Leheren, of Iscilo, and Arai, repose peacefully. Only can your sleep be agitated by the great voice of the tempest, or by the last chords which vibrate from the citherns of gold. Nevertheless, during your waking hours you will smile at the image of the patrician who subjugated the heart, wearing on his brow the diadem of triumph in the Hypic games! And you will do well; because the mountain is distant, and no noise comes from thence; because the storm increases, and the night is fearful and darksome.
Towards the furthest compass of the horizon is seen a red point; another here and there, and some nearer. Oh, how these luminous points increase! How do the
waters of the rivers seethe! What clamours are mingled in the roar of the tempest! What shadows are those which glide along the vast plains? What smoke is that which rises like a funereal pall, and interposes between earth and the firmament?
Sing, bards, sing! Sing the incursions of the sons of the mountains and of the tempest! The lances are dripping with blood; the men come loaded with spoils. Sing, bard, sing! May your sonorous voice be echoed across the woods and forests of Cahella, of Belaya, and of Ahaide, 1 singing the victory of the sons of Aitor. Sing, bard of the silvery beard! Our children will have white bread and red wine until they are satiated, and our chieftains crucified in Kuruceta and Izascun smile from within their sepulchres.
The son of the Tiber remains there below, amid the ruins of the burnt-out palaces. Next spring the lime-tree of pale yellow flowers will cover the devastated gardens.
Farewell, my brothers, farewell! In our next incursion we shall swim across the Ebro, and our war-cry will reach even to Moncayo.
220:1 Berderiz. A mountain situated at two kilometres from the town of Irurita, in the valley of Baztan.
221:1 Bertizarana, &c. Valleys of Navarre, on the frontiers of France. The three first are narrow and surrounded by very high mountains.
221:2 Elzupel, &c. Mountains. The two first belong to Navarre and the third to Guipuzcoa.
221:3 Irati. One of the principal mountains of Navarre. It is covered by dense woods, in which are found lynx, bears, wolves, and all kinds of large game. The circumference of the base of this mountain is about fifty kilometres. One part belongs to France, and the rest to Navarre.
222:1 Izalzu. A village situated five kilometres from Ochagabia, in the valley of Aezcoa, in Navarre.
222:2 Orbara. A precipitous defile of the valley of Aezcoa, in Navarre.
223:1 Montlig and Astarac. Deserted places of the French Pyrenees.
223:2 Asté, Sem, Nestos, and Heas. Mountainous and deserted places in the centre of the Pyrenees.
223:3 Zulogaraya, &c. Defiles or passes of the French Pyrenees, which have their commencement in Spanish territory.
223:4 Novempopulania. During the epoch of the domination of the Romans this district extended from the Cantabrian Ocean to the margin of the river Garona, and from the first slope of the French Pyrenees to the margin of the above-said river and its mouth into the sea, forming an acute angle.
224:1 Nive, &c. A French river, which springs on the declivity to the north of the Western Pyrenees, and joins the river Adour in Bayonne, and jointly flows into the Cantabrian Ocean.
225:1 Cahella, &c. High and very luxuriant mountains, close to the valley of Roncal, in Navarre.
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