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- The Lay of the Cid - 1/24 -

Synopsis: The national epic of Spain, written in the twelfth century about Rodrigo Diaz of Bivar, conqueror of Valencia, who only died in 1099 but had already become a legend. Rendered into vigorous English rhymed couplets of seven iambic feet in 1919.


Transcription by Holly Ingraham.



Translated into English Verse


R. Selden Rose


Leonard Bacon ______________________

THE CID Lashed in the saddle, the Cid thundered out To his last onset. With a strange disdain The dead man looked on victory. In vain Emir and Dervish strive against the rout. In vain Morocco and Biserta shout, For still before the dead man fall the slain. Death rides for Captain of the Men of Spain, And their dead truth shall slay the living doubt.

The soul of the great epic, like the chief, Conquers in aftertime on fields unknown. Men hear today the horn of Roland blown To match the thunder of the guns of France, And nations with a heritage of grief Follow their dead victorious in Romance. ______________________


The importance of the Cid as Spain's bulwark against the Moors of the eleventh century is exceeded by his importance to his modern countrymen as the epitome of the noble and vigorous qualities that made Spain great. Menéndez y Pelayo has called him the symbol of Spanish nationality in virtue of the fact that in him there were united sobriety of intention and expression, simplicity at once noble and familiar, ingenuous and easy courtesy, imagination rather solid than brilliant, piety that was more active than contemplative, genuine and soberly restrained affections, deep conjugal devotion, a clear sense of justice, loyalty to his sovereign tempered by the courage to protest against injustice to himself, a strange and appealing confusion of the spirit of chivalry and plebeian rudeness, innate probity rich in vigorous and stern sincerity, and finally a vaguely sensible delicacy of affection that is the inheritance of strong men and clean blood. [1]

[1] Cf. Menéndez y Pelayo, Tratado de los romances viejos, I, 315.

This is the epic Cid who in the last quarter of the eleventh century was banished by Alphonso VI of Castile, fought his way to the Mediterranean, stormed Valencia, married his two daughters to the Heirs of Carrión and defended his fair name in parliament and in battle.

The poet either from ignorance or choice has disregarded the historical significance of the campaigns of the Cid. He fails to mention his defeat of the threatening horde of Almoravides at the very moment when their victory over Alphonso's Castilians at Zalaca had opened to them Spain's richest provinces, and turns the crowning achievement of the great warrior's life into the preliminary to a domestic event which he considered of greater importance. We are grateful to him for his lack of accuracy, for it illustrates how men thought about their heroes in that time. The twelfth century Castilians would have admitted that in battle the Cid was of less avail than their patron James, the son of Zebedee, but they would have added that after all the saint was a Galilean and not a Spaniard.

In order then to make the Cid not merely heroic but a national hero he must become the possessor of attributes of greatness beyond mere courage. The poet therefore, probably assuming that his hearers were well aware of the Cid's prowess in arms, devoted himself to a theme of more intimate appeal. The Cid, an exile from Castile and flouted by his enemies at home, must vindicate himself. The discomfiture of the Moor is not an end in itself but the means of vindication and, be it said, of support. When he is restored to favor, the marriage of his daughters to the Heirs of Carrión under Alphonso's auspices is the royal acknowledgment. The treachery of the heirs is the pretext for the Parliament of Toledo where the Cid shall appear in all the glory of triumphant vindication. The interest in the hecatombs of Moors and even in the fall of Valencia is a secondary one. What really matters is that the Cid's fair name be cleared of all stain of disloyalty and the doña Elvira and doña Sol wed worthy husbands.

This unity of plan is consistently preserved by a rearrangement of the true chronology of events and by the introduction of purely traditional episodes. The shifting of historical values may be due to the fact that when the poem was composed, about 1150, the power of the Moor had really been broken by the conquests of Ferdinand I, Alphonso VI, Alphonso VII and Alphonso VIII of Castile and alphonso I, the Battler, of Aragon. The menace was no longer felt with the keenness of an hundred years before. until the end of the tenth century the Moors had dominated the Peninsula. The growth of the Christian states from the heroic nucleus in northern Asturias was confined to the territory bordering the Bay of Biscay, Asturias, Santander, part of the province of Burgos, León, and Galicia. In the East other centers of resistance had sprung up in Navarre, Aragon and the County of Barcelona. At the beginning of the eleventh century the tide turned. The progress of the reconquest was due as much to the disruption of Moorish unity as to the greater aggressiveness and closer coöperation of the Christian kingdoms. The end of the Caliphate of Cordova was the signal for the rise of a great number of mutually independent Moorish states. Sixty years later there were no less than twenty- three of them. By the middle of the following century the enthusiasm that had followed the first successful blows struck against the Moor had waned, and with it the vividness of their historical significance and order.

Let us look at the Cid for a moment as he was seen by a Latin chronicler who confesses that the purpose of his modest narrative was merely to preserve the memory of the Cid of history.

When Ferdinand I of Castile died under the walls of Valencia in 1065 he divided his kingdom among his five children. To Sancho he left Castile, to Alphonso León, to García Galicia, to doña Urraca the city and lands of Zamora, and to doña Elvira Toro. Sancho, like his father, soon set about uniting the scattered inheritance. Ruy Diaz, a native of Bivar near Burgos, was his standard bearer against Alphonso at the battle of Volpéjar, aided him in the Galician campaign and was active at the siege of Zamora, where Sancho was treacherously slain. Alphonso, the despoiled lord of León, succeeded to the throne of Castile. Ruy Diaz, now called the Campeador (Champion) in honor of his victory over a knight of Navarre, was sent with a force of men to collect the annual taxes from the tributary Moorish kings of Andalusia. Mudafar of Granada, eager to throw off the yoke of Castile, marched against the Campeador and the loyal Motamid of Seville, and was routed at the battle of Cabra. García Ordoñez who was fighting in the ranks of Mudafar was taken prisoner. It was here probably that the Cid acquired that tuft of García's beard which he later produced with such convincing effect at Toledo. The Cid returned to Castile laden with booty and honors. The jealousy aroused by this exploit and by an equally successful raid against the region about Toledo caused the banishment of the Cid. From this time until his death he was ceaselessly occupied in warfare against the Moors.

The way to Valencia was beset with more and greater difficulties than those described in the poem. The events of the first years of exile are closely associated with the moorish state of Zaragoza. At the death of its sovereign Almoktadir bitter strife arose between his two sons, Almutamin in Zaragoza and Alfagib in Denia. The Cid and his followers cast their lot with the former, while Alfagib sought in vain to maintain the balance by allying himself with Sancho of Aragon and Berenguer of Barcelona. After a decisive victory in which Berenguer was taken prisoner Almutamin returned to Zaragoza with his champion, "honoring him above his own son, his realm and all his possessions, so that he seemed almost the lord of the kingdom." There the Cid continued to increase in wealth and fame at the expense of Sancho of Aragon and Alfagib until the death of Almutamin.

For a short time the Cid was restored to the good graces of Alphonso, but a misunderstanding during some joint military expedition brought a second decree of banishment. The Cid's possessions were confiscated and his wife and children cast into prison.

The Cid then went to the support of Alkaadir, king of Valencia. He defeated the threatening Almoravides flushed with their victory over the Castilians at Zalaca. Again he chastised Berenguer of Barcelona. he hastened to answer a second summons from Alphonso, this time to bear aid in operations in the region about Granada. Suspecting that Alphonso intended treachery, he with drew from the camp toward Valencia. With Zaragoza as his base he laid waste the lands of Sancho and avenged himself upon Alphonso by ravaging Calahorra and Nájera.

Finally in 1092 the overthrow of Alkaadir prompted him to interfere definitely in the affairs of Valencia. He besieged the city closely and captured it in 1094. There he ruled, independent, until his death in 1099.

Even the Moorish chroniclers of the twelfth century pay their tribute to the memory of the Cid by the virulence of their hatred. Aben Bassam wrote: "The might of this tyrant was ever growing until its weight was felt upon the highest peaks and in the deepest valleys, and filled with terror both noble and commoner. I have heard men say that when his eagerness was greatest and his

The Lay of the Cid - 1/24

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