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La conquista de Jerusalén por Godofre de Bullón (1581-1585), Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

The Conquest of Jerusalem, translated by Kathleen Jeffs (née Mountjoy)

Short Excerpts

Sample text

The play opens with the allegorical character Jerusalem bemoaning to her captor, Toil, her torment at being enslaved, referring to the Muslim rule of her city. She begins the play on a sombre note, begging him to relieve her suffering (I. 1-16):


Will you never leave me alone,
infuriating Toil? Do you not tire?
Why is your hard heart
not softened by my plight?
It seems as my agony grows
it pleases, delights, and relaxes you.
For one moment, lift your yoke
and heavy hand from my wearied neck.
What are you after? What do you want?
What do you hope to gain by my extreme suffering?
I do not fear more wrongs or misfortune,
my anguish has been stretched to its limit by so much pain.
Inflict upon me my last agony
and end so great a wrong.
Open the breast of Mother Earth
and bury there my life and your fury.

As the conversation between Toil and Jerusalem continues, Jerusalem explains to Toil that she suffers a ‘righteous punishment’ (I. 73) because of the sins of her people, but Hope emerges to pacify Jerusalem’s worries; the scene is reminiscent of the interaction between the ailing Spain and the wise River Duero in another play attributed to Cervantes, The Siege of Numancia. In this play, Jerusalem then looks to heaven for an answer to her woes after Toil’s assertion that she has sinned (I. 57-64):


With how many incontrovertible signs, my Lord,
are these prophesies already fulfilled!
Why do you renew my anguish and my pain,
making my passion never-ending?
See, gracious God, that if you carry forward
this plan to deprive me of my rightful happiness,
that one who does not know how to live by your command
will say that penitence has no worth.

Hope interferes with Toil’s tyranny over Jerusalem, with the assurance that her fortunes will soon change; she foretells the coming of the Christian Crusade and their victory (I. 97-108):

Enter HOPE, wearing a tunic and with an olive branch in her hand.


Jerusalem, afflicted Jerusalem,
turn your zealous hearts to the Lord
if you want to see the hour of your pleasure
and consolation come at last!
Your repentance holds
all the fortune heaven can provide you,
but our exalted Lord, creator of the heavens,
is satisfied by your lamentations.
And so that the yoke of unhealthy Toil
does not tire and afflict and hurt you further,
The soul of Pope Urban the Second
is filled with a divine purpose.

Upon defeating the Muslim forces at the end of the play, Godofre de Bullón accepts the kingship of Jerusalem, but under his own conditions (III. 1278-86):


I accept this charge, and while I appreciate your efforts,
I believe I can convey a king’s regal decorum
without this pomp which I despise.
I can be king without purple or gold,
for I count my humility among
my finest riches and my wealth,
and although I do not oppose your traditions,
on this occasion I will enter
the holy city barefoot and uncrowned.

Godofre and his army have come to the end of their long campaign through Europe and Asia Minor to the gates of Jerusalem. As his superior Christian forces besiege the Muslim-controlled city, he addresses his congregated troops emphasising the need of discipline and Christian virtue in battle (I. 275-307):


Oh soldiers of Christ, whose high
Christian virtue is all the greater
for your exemplary deeds!
Our most fortunate moment has arrived,
achieved through immense hardships,
and desired by foreigners as much as by us,
where your perfect and just desire
infused in your souls by heaven
must come to a sweet end.
It is not necessary, as I understand and believe,
for you to be spurred on in these difficult times
by the promise of honours and trophies.
I know that each of you
will fix his stare towards an honourable conclusion,
and raise his hands with deft arms and swiftness.
That resolve that moved you, Christians,
to abandon our pleasant homeland,
your sons, your wives, your fathers and brothers,
will bestow vigour to valour, sharpen the edge
of your sword to wrest from Aladdin, Jerusalem’s king,
this sacred and tyrannized city.
Though our enemies refute it,
our toil on the road is not wasted,
now that the prize is within our reach.
Make this place secure for the pitiful,
penitent pilgrim, who comes to see
the place where Jesus was interred.
For this purpose I will do what is right
as I am your general, and for now
it is right that you restrain your pride,
for I will tell you when the hour has come
to assault the city, and with such action
our men will set up camp as best we can.

The Christian army has besieged Jerusalem, and the mighty Godofre is approached by an ambassador of the Muslim Sultan of Egypt. As an ally of the King of Jerusalem, he relies on Godofre’s reputation as a just man (III. 121-7, 145-52, 201-4):


My renowned lord, whose illustrious fame,
untouchable even by envy
extends from one of the earth’s poles to the other,
stands firm through the passage of time,
better than in the works of the famous Phidia,
your name will forever be eternal,
listen to my King and do as he tells you.
The Great Sultan of Egypt, and my lord,
if you will spare Palestine,
is inclined to be your friend from today,
willingly and in good faith;
he is determined to do so with all his power,
and that of his friends,
to take it upon himself to defend you
against all who would offend you.
Accept, then, my lord, the peace we beg of you,
as you well know the cost of war,
and if my embassy has pleased you,
give me the answer that will please me.

Godofre responds after listening to the pleas of the Egyptian ambassador. Godofre’s mission is clear, and he feels his cause is just; therefore, he will not accept any outcome to the siege other than complete rule over Jerusalem (III. 205-16, 248-9):


As the resolve of my men
in this endeavour is so firm,
as I will reveal to you in my answer
there is no need to consult them.
You will tell the great Sultan that I thank him
for the offer of such high esteem he makes,
and although it is greater than I deserve,
little or nothing from him satisfies me.
From here I offer you my friendship
but not in the manner that will please him.
First, Jerusalem will be ours
for I expect this prize for my efforts.
There is no friendship, there is no peace, there will be no truce
as long as this city is not mine.


The above sample taken from the translation The Conquest of Jerusalem by Kathleen Jeffs (née Mountjoy) is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 4 October 2010.

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