As it always happens ,Genealogy Research leads us to discover interesting things. I first came across this Poem on Ancestry.com on a members family tree and was attributed to my ancestor my 9th great grandfather Juan Bautista Chapa.
Further research revealed that in fact he did write it into his work titled “Historia del Nuevo Reino de León, desde 1650 hasta 1690″ but as he mentions himself in that same work. He did not compose it. He goes on to state “There is a song that I do not wish to omit, although it may be alien in subject matter to the history. One of the persons who was in the settlement of the French composed a song which was inspired by seeing the tragedy and ruin inflicted by the enemy.”
It must have had caused him a great impression to have had taken the time to write it down. The De León Expedition of 1689 was started due to testimony form a French prisoner stating that the French had settled on Spanish territory and De Leon was ordered to locate it at all costs. The settlement was La Salle’s Fort.
Bellow you will find the poem and also a tranlation by Carl L. Duaine provided in his book “Caverns of Oblivion“.
As Written by Juan Bautista Chapa
Sitio funesto y triste
donde la lobreguez sola te asiste
porque la triste suerte
dio a tus habitadores fiera muerte.
Aquí sólo contemplo
que eres fatalidad y triste ejemplo
de la inconstante vida
pues el enemigo fiero y homicida,
tan cruel y inhumano,
descargó su cruelda con terca mano
sobre tanto inocente,
no perdonando al niño más reciente.
¡Oh, francesas hermosas
que pisabais de estos prados frescas rosas
y con manos de nieve
tocabais blanco lirio en campo breve
y en dibujo bello
a damas griegas echabais el sello
porque vuestros marfiles
adornaban la costura con perfiles
como así difuntas
os miran estas selvas todas juntas,
que no en balde ajadas
se ven por vuestra muerte, y tan trilladas¡
Y tú, cadáver frío,
que en un tiempo mostraste tanto brío,
y ahora de animales
comida, según muestran tus señales,
tierno te contemplo,
y eres de infelicidad un vivo ejemplo.
Gozas de eterna gloria,
pues fuiste de esta vida transitoria
a celestial morada
yendo con tanta herida trasposada
a celestial morada
yendo con tanta herida traspasada.
Ruégale a Dios eterno
nos libre de las penas del infierno.
English Translation by Carl L. Duaine
Site dismal and sad
Where only the darkness helps you:
Because sad fortune
Gave to your dwellers a wild beast death.
Here I only contemplate
That you are a sad and fatal example
Of this inconstant life;
How the fierce and murderous enemy,
So cruel and inhuman,
Wrought his cruelty with fierce hand
Over such innocence,
Not sparing even the newborn.
Oh, beautiful Frenchwomen
Who walked these meadows fresh with roses;
And with snow white hands
Touched lilies of the valley briefly
Making beautiful arrangements
Placing the seal of Greek women;
Because their ivory cameos
Adorned their needlework with profiles;
Like this the dead women
We see in these woods all together
That not in vain this withering
We see our death, they so ill treated!
And you cold corpse,
Who at one time showed so much courage
And now by animals
Eaten, accordingly I visualize your itnage
Softly of you I contemplate,
You are an eternal example of the unfortunate.
Enjoy eternal glory,
You left this fleeting life
For a celestial home,·
Going with so many wounds transfixed.
I pray to the eternal God
To liberate us from the pains of hell.
- Spanish verison was published in Historia de Nuevo Leon, con Noticias Sobre Coahuila, Tejas, y Nuevo Mexico por El Capitan Alonso de Leon, Un Autor Anonimo (an anonymous author, now believed to be Juan Bautista Chapa as Israel Cavasoz Garza proved)
- English Version obtained from “Caverns of Oblibion” by Carl L. Duaine Pg 206