The Challenge


    I have a vague remembrance
        Of a story, that is told
    In some ancient Spanish legend
        Or chronicle of old.

    It was when brave King Sanchez
        Was before Zamora slain,
    And his great besieging army
        Lay encamped upon the plain.

    Don Diego de Ordonez
        Sallied forth in front of all,
    And shouted loud his challenge
        To the warders on the wall.

    All the people of Zamora,
        Both the born and the unborn,
    As traitors did he challenge
        With taunting words of scorn.

    The living, in their houses,
        And in their graves, the dead!
    And the waters of their rivers,
        And their wine, and oil, and bread!

    There is a greater army,
        That besets us round with strife,
    A starving, numberless army,
        At all the gates of life.

    The poverty-stricken millions
        Who challenge our wine and bread,
    And impeach us all as traitors,
        Both the living and the dead.

    And whenever I sit at the banquet,
        Where the feast and song are high,
    Amid the mirth and the music
        I can hear that fearful cry.

    And hollow and haggard faces
        Look into the lighted hall,
    And wasted hands are extended
        To catch the crumbs that fall.

    For within there is light and plenty,
        And odors fill the air;
    But without there is cold and darkness,
        And hunger and despair.

    And there in the camp of famine,
        In wind and cold and rain,
    Christ, the great Lord of the army,
        Lies dead upon the plain!


facebook share button twitter share button google plus share button tumblr share button reddit share button email share button share on pinterest pinterest

Create a library and add your favorite stories. Get started by clicking the "Add" button.
Add The Challenge to your own personal library.

Return to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Home Page, or . . . Read the next poem; The Chamber Over The Gate

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson