The World’s Best English Epic Poetry – Southey’s Roderick the Last of the Goths

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The world’s best English epic and narrative poetry includes Southey‘s Roderick: the Last of the Goths. This fantastic epic celebrates the legendary exploits of the Visigothic King Roderick during the tumultuous invasion of Spain by triumphant Moorish armies: who later founded powerful Islamic kingdoms that dominate the Spanish peninsula for centuries.

Defeated at the disastrous Battle of Guadalete, Roderick is on the run from the victorious Moors. Renouncing his throne, Roderick piously embraces a monastic life, accepting as company the monk Romano. Roderick and Romano make good their escape by traveling northwards to avoid the marauding bands of Muslim invaders: finding tranquility at last in a small hermitage by the edge of a desert, which becomes their home.

When Romano – Roderick’s confessor and confidant – dies: Roderick receives to a divine call to action. Leaving the hermitage, Roderick undertakes a long and dangerous journey to rescue the heir to the Spanish crown: Prince Pelayo, detained as a hostage at Cordoba. Under the guise of the itinerant  ‘Brother Maccabee’, Roderick avoids recognition while rescuing and then restoring Pelayo to his kinsfolk and supporters in the north.

But the game is up: the Moors have tracked Pelayo’s escape with the aid of Spanish traitors, and have assembled a sizeable fighting force to head north and crush Pelayo’s incipient revolt before it can escalate.

  • Does the holdout Christian Kingdom of León really have a fighting chance at survival? Or is it grasping at straws in the face of overwhelming Moorish force?
  • Does Prince Pelayo really want to be rescued? And if so: can he even succeed in rallying anyone to fight for his cause against the repeatedly victorious Moors?
  • If Roderick is recognised, the peaceful succession of Pelayo to the crown would be delayed: even imperiled. Can Roderick successfully conceal his identity underneath his monkish disguise? Or will Roderick end by fooling no-one except himself?

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Moorish conquest Spain


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