May 29, 1453
The Holy Wisdom, the great church, is ringing out the message,
Four hundred sounding boards sound out, and two and sixty bells,
For every bell there is a priest, for every priest a deacon.
To the left the emperor is singing, to the right the patriarch,
And all the columns tremble with the thunder of the chant.
And as the emperor began the hymns to the Cherubim,
A voice came down to them from the sky, from the archangel’s mouth:
Cease the Cherubic hymn, and let the sacred objects bow;
Priests, take the holy things away, extinguish all the candles:
God’s Will has made our city now into a Turkish city.
But send a message to the West, and let them send three ships:
The first to take the cross, the second to remove the Gospel,
The third, the finest shall rescue for us our holy altar.
Lest it all to those dogs, and they defile it and dishonour it.
The Holy Virgin was distressed, the very icons wept.
Be calm, beloved lady, be calm and do not weep for them.
Though years, though centuries shall pass, they shall be yours again.
Anonymous Song of Lamentation
for the Fall of Constantinople in 1453
Translated by Richard Stoneman