Fernando De Herrera: “Ode to Don John of Austria”

Excerpt, W. Herbert, “Translations from the Italian, Spanish, Portugal, etc.” London: 1806.
Fernando De Herrera was born in Seville about 1510. Little is known of the circumstances of his life. He appears to have been an ecclesiastic, but of what rank is not recorded. He is spoken of as an excellent scholar in Latin, and of having a moderate knowledge of Greek. He read the best authors in the modern languages, and studied profoundly the Castilian, of which he became a distinguished master.
Herrera was a vigorous and elegant prose writer as well as poet. Many of his works, however, are lost. His best productions are lyrical. The ode on the Battle of Lepanto, and that on the death of Sebastian of Portugal, are of remarkable excellence. He is praised by Cervantes, who says, “The ivy of his fame will cling to the walls of immortality.”
On 7 October 1571, Don John of Austria, son of the Emperor Charles V, commanding the navies of the Pope and the Emperor, together with the navies of Spain and Venice, defeated a much larger Turkish navy off the coast of Greece at a place now called Naupactos. To the men of his day this place was called by its Roman name: Lepanto!





When from the vaulted sky,

Struck by the bolt and volleyed fire of Jove,

Enceladus, who proudly strove

To rear to heaven his impious head,

Fell headlong upon Etna’s rocky bed;

And she, who long had boldly stood

Against the powers on high,

By thousand deaths undaunted, unsubdued,

Rebellious Earth – her fury spent,

Before the sword of Mars unwilling bent:


In heaven’s pure serene,

To his bright lyre, whose strings melodious rung,

Unshorn Apollo sweetly sung,

And sprang the joyous numbers round,

His youthful brows with gold and laurel bound,

Listening the sweet, immortal strain,

And all the lucid spheres, night’s wakeful train,

That swift pursues their ceaseless way,

Forgot their course, suspended by his lay.


Hushed was the stormy sea,

At the sweet sound the boisterous waves were laid,

The noise of rushing winds was stayed;

And with the gentle breath of pleasure

The Muses sang, according with his measure.

In wildest strain of rapture lost,

He sung the victory,

The power and the glory, of the heavenly host;

The horrid mien and warlike mood,

The fatal pride, of Titanian brood:


Of Pallas, Attic maid,

The Gorgon terrors and the fiery spear;

Of him, whose voice the billows fear,

The valor proved in deadly fight;

Of Hercules the strength and vengeful might.

But long he praised thy dauntless heart,

And sweetest prelude made,

Singing, Bistonian Mars, thy force and art;

Thine arm victorious, which o’erthrew

The fiercest of the bold Phlegrean crew!