'Siege and Conquest of Alhama, The' by George Gordon, Lord Byron

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The Moorish King rides up and down,
Through Granada's royal town;
From Elvira's gate to those
Of Bivarambla on he goes.
Woe is me, Alhama!

Letters to the monarch tell
How Alhama's city fell:
In the fire the scroll he threw,
And the messenger he slew.
Woe is me, Albamal

He quits his mule, and mounts his horse,
And through the street directs his course;
Through the street of Zacatin
To the Alhambra spurring in.
Woe is me, Alhama!

When the Alhambra walls he gain'd,
On the moment he ordain'd
That the trumpet straight should sound
With the silver clarion round.
Woe is me, Alhamal

And when the hollow drums of war
Beat the loud alarm afar,
That the Moors of town and plain
Might answer to the martial strain.
Woe is me, Alhama!

Then the Moors, by this aware,
That bloody Mars recall'd them there,
One by one, and two by two,
To a mighty squadron grew.
Woe is me, Alhama!

Out then spake an aged Moor
In these words the king before,
'Wherefore call on us, oh King?
What may mean this gathering?'
Woe is me, Alhama!

'Friends! ye have, alas! to know
Of a most disastrous blow;
That the Christians, stern and bold,
Have obtain'd Albania's hold.'
Woe is me, Alhama!

Out then spake old Alfaqui,
With his beard so white to see,
'Good King! thou art justly served,
Good King! this thou hast deserved.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'By thee were slain, in evil hour,
The Abencerrage, Granada's flower;
And strangers were received by thee
Of Cordova the Chivalry.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'And for this, oh King! is sent
On thee a double chastisement:
Thee and thine, thy crown and realm,
One last wreck shall overwhelm.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'He who holds no laws in awe,
He must perish by the law;
And Granada must be won,
And thyself with her undone.'
Woe is me, Alhama!

Fire crashed from out the old Moor's eyes,
The Monarch's wrath began to rise,
Because he answer'd, and because
He spake exceeding well of laws.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'There is no law to say such things
As may disgust the ear of kings:
'Thus, snorting with his choler, said
The Moorish King, and doom'd him dead.
Woe is me, Alhama!

Moor Alfaqui! Moor Alfaqui!
Though thy beard so hoary be,
The King hath sent to have thee seized,
For Alhama's loss displeased.
Woe is me, Alhama!

And to fix thy head upon
High Alhambra's loftiest stone;
That thus for thee should be the law,
And others tremble when they saw.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'Cavalier, and man of worth!
Let these words of mine go forth!
Let the Moorish Monarch know,
That to him I nothing owe.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'But on my soul Alhama weighs,
And on my inmost spirit preys;
And if the King his land hath lost,
Yet others may have lost the most.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'Sires have lost their children, wives
Their lords, and valiant men their lives!
One what best his love might claim
Hath lost, another wealth, or fame.
Woe is me, Alhama!

'I lost a damsel in that hour,
Of all the land the loveliest flower;
Doubloons a hundred I would pay,
And think her ransom cheap that day.'
Woe is me, Alhama!

And as these things the old Moor said,
They sever'd from the trunk his head;
And to the Alhambra's wall with speed
'Twas carried, as the King decreed.
Woe is me, Alhama!

And men and infants therein weep
Their loss, so heavy and so deep;
Granada's ladies, all she rears
Within her walls, burst into tears.
Woe is me, Alhama!

And from the windows o'er the walls
The sable web of mourning falls;
The King weeps as a woman o'er
His loss, for it is much and sore.
Woe is me, Alhama!

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Poetry, Siege, and Conquest of Alhama: A Masterpiece by Lord Byron

When we think of George Gordon, Lord Byron, the first thing that comes to mind is his romantic poetry, his love for adventure, and his rebellious spirit. However, his work "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama," a narrative poem published in 1810, is often overlooked. The poem tells the story of the siege of the Spanish city of Alhama by the Moors in the 14th century, and the subsequent conquest by the Christian Spaniards. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the themes, literary devices, and historical context of this masterpiece.

Historical Context

Before we dive into the poem, it's important to understand the historical context in which it was written. The 14th century was a time of great conflict between the Muslim Moors and the Christian Spaniards. The city of Alhama, located in southern Spain, was a strategic stronghold for both sides. The Moors had been in control of the city for centuries, but in 1482, the Spanish monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand launched a siege to retake the city. The siege lasted for several months, and when the Spanish finally conquered the city, it was a major turning point in the Reconquista, the centuries-long campaign to drive the Moors out of Spain.

Byron was fascinated by this period in history, and he was particularly intrigued by the story of the siege and conquest of Alhama. He was also drawn to the exoticism and mystery of the Moors, and he was fascinated by the idea of a clash between two cultures. In his poem, he captures the drama and tension of this historic event, while also exploring deeper themes of power, greed, and the human condition.


One of the central themes of "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama" is the idea of power and its corrupting influence. The poem tells the story of the Spanish king, who becomes obsessed with conquering Alhama and becomes blind to the suffering of his people. He ignores the advice of his counselors and puts his own desires above the well-being of his kingdom. This obsession ultimately leads to his downfall, as the Moors launch a surprise attack and defeat his army.

Another important theme in the poem is the clash between different cultures and ways of life. The Moors are depicted as a mysterious and exotic people, with their own customs and beliefs. The Christians, on the other hand, are portrayed as ruthless and greedy, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. This clash between cultures is a recurring theme in Byron's work, and it reflects his own interest in Eastern and Oriental cultures.

Finally, the poem explores the human condition, particularly the idea of mortality and the inevitability of death. The narrator reminds us that even the most powerful kings and warriors are ultimately subject to the laws of nature, and that death will come for us all. This theme is particularly poignant in light of the historical context of the poem, which was written during a time of great upheaval and conflict.

Literary Devices

One of the most striking things about "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama" is its use of imagery and symbolism. Byron was a master of metaphor and allegory, and he uses these literary devices to great effect in the poem. For example, the Spanish king is compared to a falcon, a powerful bird of prey that is blind to everything but its own desires. The Moors are described as a swarm of locusts, a reference to their reputation for being a relentless and unstoppable force.

Another important literary device in the poem is the use of repetition and rhyme. The poem is structured as a ballad, with a simple meter and a repetitive refrain. This gives the poem a musical quality, and enhances its emotional impact. The repetition of the phrase "Ay de mi, Alhama" throughout the poem serves as a reminder of the tragic consequences of the siege and conquest.

Finally, the poem makes use of vivid and descriptive language to create a sense of atmosphere and tension. The descriptions of the battlefield are particularly vivid, with images of blood and gore that are both unsettling and compelling. Byron's use of language is a testament to his skill as a writer, and it elevates the poem to the level of a true masterpiece.


At its core, "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama" is a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and the consequences of greed. The Spanish king's obsession with conquering Alhama is a warning against the dangers of blind ambition, and his downfall serves as a reminder of the need for humility and wisdom. The poem also highlights the tragedy of war and the toll it takes on the human spirit. The cries of "Ay de mi, Alhama" are a haunting reminder of the human cost of conflict, and they serve as a poignant commentary on the futility of war.

In addition to its moral lessons, the poem is also a celebration of the power of language and storytelling. Byron's use of vivid imagery and descriptive language creates a sense of atmosphere that draws the reader in and immerses them in the world of the poem. The repetition of the refrain "Ay de mi, Alhama" creates a sense of urgency and desperation that enhances the emotional impact of the poem. In this way, "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama" is not just a historical document, but a work of art that transcends its time and place.


In conclusion, "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama" is a literary masterpiece that deserves to be studied and appreciated. Byron's use of language, imagery, and symbolism create a work that is both beautiful and powerful, and his exploration of themes such as power, conflict, and mortality make the poem a timeless meditation on the human condition. Whether read as a historical document, a cautionary tale, or a work of art, "The Siege and Conquest of Alhama" is a testament to Byron's skill as a writer and a testament to the power of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Siege and Conquest of Alhama is a classic poem written by the renowned poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron. This masterpiece is a perfect example of the romantic era of literature, which was characterized by a focus on emotions, individualism, and nature. The poem tells the story of the siege and conquest of the Spanish city of Alhama by the Moors in the 15th century. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and historical context of this epic poem.

The poem begins with a description of the beautiful city of Alhama, which is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains. The city is described as a place of peace and prosperity, where the people live in harmony with nature. However, this peaceful existence is soon shattered by the arrival of the Moors, who lay siege to the city. The people of Alhama are caught off guard and are unable to defend themselves against the powerful army of the Moors.

The theme of war and conflict is central to the poem. The siege of Alhama is a symbol of the struggle between two cultures and religions. The Moors represent the Islamic culture, while the people of Alhama represent the Christian culture. The poem portrays the conflict between these two cultures as a tragic event, where both sides suffer losses. The poem also highlights the futility of war, as both sides are left with nothing but destruction and death.

The poem is also a commentary on the human condition. Lord Byron portrays the people of Alhama as being complacent and unaware of the danger that is looming over them. The people are described as being too focused on their own lives and pleasures, and they fail to see the bigger picture. This is a common theme in romantic literature, where the individual is seen as being disconnected from society and nature.

The poem is also rich in literary devices. Lord Byron uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the city of Alhama. The city is described as being surrounded by mountains, which creates a sense of isolation and vulnerability. The use of personification is also evident in the poem, where the city is described as being "weeping" and "lamenting" as it is being attacked by the Moors. This creates a sense of empathy towards the city and its people.

The use of symbolism is also evident in the poem. The city of Alhama is a symbol of the Christian culture, which is being attacked by the Moors, who represent the Islamic culture. The poem also uses symbolism to represent the futility of war. The destruction of the city is a symbol of the destruction that war brings, and the loss of life is a symbol of the human cost of war.

The historical context of the poem is also important. The siege of Alhama took place in the 15th century, during the period of the Reconquista, which was a series of wars between the Christian kingdoms of Spain and the Islamic Moors. The poem reflects the tensions and conflicts that existed between these two cultures during this period. The poem also reflects Lord Byron's own political views, as he was a supporter of the Greek War of Independence, which was a conflict between the Greeks and the Ottoman Empire.

In conclusion, The Siege and Conquest of Alhama is a masterpiece of romantic literature. The poem explores themes of war, conflict, and the human condition, and uses literary devices such as imagery, personification, and symbolism to create a vivid picture of the siege of Alhama. The poem also reflects the historical context of the period, and Lord Byron's own political views. This poem is a testament to Lord Byron's genius as a poet, and it continues to be a source of inspiration for readers and writers alike.

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