I was just saying to Clammie the other day how restless I was for a
good long walk now that the grey skies have momentarily dispersed.
We both agreed that we had often longed to walk at least part of the
route to Compostela.
That reminds me, I said. I once wrote a ballad about Santiago de
Compostela. I’ll post it on the blog as there has been nothing but
bad news lately and not much to fairly satirise, so I’ll look it out and
give it an airing.
Good idea, replied Clammie. We haven’t had one of your poems for
This one is just a lightweight narrative, but it was fun keeping to the
ballad metre. Here it is:
THE BALLAD OF CAMPUS STELLAE
St James, he was a fisherman,
disciple of Our Lord.
After he’d seen Christ’s Ascension,
he went to spread the Word.
He took the gospel then to Spain
on an ill-starred mission.
Returning to Jerusalem,
he crossed a magician.
Hermogenes was furious
because his acolyte
had been converted to the faith-
he turned on James in spite.
Ordering demons to fetch James,
his will was not observed.
Angels tortured them gleefully:
they’d got what they deserved.
Hermogenes instead was brought
to kneel before the saint,
but H. was afraid the demons
would avenge their complaint,
and take revenge on their master.
James then gave him his staff
as a protection for himself
to ensure the last laugh.
Then evil Herod Agrippa
cut off St James’ head.
Two disciples took his remains
and set off for the Med.
A boat miraculously took
them to the selfsame shore
where James had once been preaching,
not all that long before.
In Iria now called Padron,
a pagan lady there,
Called Lupa, owned the entire port.
She would not heed their prayer.
They asked for land to bury him.
She sent them to the king.
He threw them into prison cells
on the first evening.
But God released them from their plight,
though still under attack.
Armies were sent to bring them in,
but were stopped in their track.
A bridge collapsed and killed them.
The fugitives were spared.
Returning to traitorous Lupa,
she asked them how they’d fared.
She commanded them: Fetch oxen,
knowing them to be bulls.
They genuflected over them,
showing they were no fools.
So, tamed by the sign of the Cross
and harnessed to a cart,
St James’ body transported;
the “oxen” played their part.
Then Lupa released her palace;
conversion followed this
and St James’ bones found solace:
the shrine its genesis.
Almanazor the warrior
spared the shrine when he sacked
the town where hermit, Pelago,
told the Bishop a fact
of great significance indeed-
how he had seen some stars
shining over St James’ grave:
a place for peace, not wars.
So King Alfonso II
built a church on the site
and a touch from a pilgrim’s shell
then healed a goitrous knight.
Thus Campus Stellae did become
The Santiago de
Compostela and its wide fame
went down in history.
To this day penitents still flock,
wearing the pecten shell
in great hope that St James will save
souls from eternal hell.