ART. XIII. Chronicle of the Cid Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, the Campeador, from the Spanish, by Robert Southey, pp. 468. 4to. London. Longman, 1808.

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ART. XIII. Chronicle of the Cid Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, the Campeador, from the Spanish, by Robert Southey, pp. 468. 4to. London. Longman, 1808.

[pp. 134-153] [original article in PDF format]

  1. THE name of the Cid is best known to us by the celebrated tragedy of Corneille, founded on a circumstance which happened early in the Champion's career, and which the Spanish compilers of his story do not dwell upon with any peculiar emphasis. Those who are deep read in Don Quixote may also recollect, that the Campeador and his great exploits against the Moors was one of the subjects that deranged the brain of the worthy Knight of La Mancha. Few English or French literati know more of a hero as famous in Spain as Bertrand du Gueselin in France, Glendower in Wales, or Wallace in Scotland, yet have his achievements been recorded in the 'letter blake', and harped in many a hall and bower.

    Desde Sevilla a Marchena,
    Desde Granada hasta Leja.

  2. Mr. Southey, to whom the fabulous heroes of Spain, her Amadis, and her Palmerin, have such obligations, has undertaken the same generous task in favour of the Cid, the real champion of a history scarcely less romantic than theirs. His work is not to be considered as the precise translation of any of the numerous histories of the Cid, but as a compilation of all that relates to him extracted from those several sources. First, a prose chronicle of the life and achievements of the Cid, printed in 1552 and 1593, which there is some reason to ascribe to Gil Diaz, a converted Moor, one of the Cid's most faithful followers. This is corrected and enlarged from a general chronicle of Spanish history. Secondly, a metrical legend, of which the Cid is the hero. This work, which fluctuates between history and romance, has a considerable degree of poetical merit, is the oldest poem in the Spanish language, and, in Mr. Southey's judgement, decidedly and beyond all comparison the finest. Lastly, the translator has laid under contribution the popular ballads or romances which celebrated the feats of this renowned warrior—and were sung by minstrels, jongleurs, and glee-men, at places of festive resort. Mr. Southey is not inclined to rank very highly either the authority or the antiquity of these songs, and has made little use of them in compiling his [134] Chronicle. By these lights, however, he has guided the narrative through the following details.

  3. Rodrigo of Bivar, 'a youth strong in arms and of good customs,' destined to protect his country from the Moors, was born at Burgos in the reign of King Ferrando of Castile, and in the year 1026. His father Diego Laynez, chief of the noble house, had received a blow from the Count Don Gomez the Lord of Gormaz. The consequences are described in a picturesque manner and form a good specimen of this singular narrative.

    'Now Diego was a man in years, and his strength had passed from him, so that he could not take vengeance, and he retired to his home to dwell there in solitude and lament over his dishonour. And he took no pleasure in his food, neither could he sleep by night, nor would he lift up his eyes from the ground, nor stir out of his house, nor commune with his friends, but turned from them in silence as if the breath of his shame would taint them. Rodrigo was yet but a youth, and the Count was a mighty man in arms, one who gave his voice first in the Cortes, and was held to be the best in the war, and so powerful that he had a thousand friends among the mountains. Howbeit all these things appeared as nothing to Rodrigo when he thought of the wrong done to his father, the first which had ever been offered to the blood of Layn Calvo. He asked nothing but justice of Heaven, and of man he asked only a fair field; and his father seeing of how good heart he was, gave him his sword and his blessing. The sword had been the sword of Mudarra in former times, and when Rodrigo held its cross in his hand, he thought within himself that his arm was not weaker than Mudarra's. And he went out and defied the Count and slew him, and smote off his head and carried it home to his father. The old man was sitting at table, the food lying before him untasted, when Rodrigo returned, and pointing to the head which hung from the horse's collar, dropping blood, he bade him look up, for there was the herb which should restore to him his appetite: the tongue, quoth he, which insulted you, is no longer a tongue, and the hand which wronged you is no longer a hand. And the old man arose and embraced his son and placed him above him at the table, saying, that he who had brought home that head should be the head of the house of Layn Calvo.' p. 3.

  4. This prosperous commencement was followed by a victory which Rodrigo obtained over five of the Moorish petty princes, who had allied themselves to spoil the country of Castile. Their defeat was so complete that they submitted to be in future the vassals of the victor. About the same time Ximena Gomez, daughter of the Count, (the Chimene of Corneille) came before [135] the king, and having stated that Rodrigo had slain her father, prayed his Majesty to command him to make atonement by taking her to wife, 'for God's service and that she might be enabled to grant him her hearty pardon.' Neither the King nor Rodrigo felt a desire to resist so singular a request, and the marriage was concluded accordingly. We cannot stop to relate how Rodrigo displayed his charity by plucking a foul leper out of a morass and placing him at his own table, and how the leper proved to be no less a person than St. Lazarus, who had thus disguised himself to prove the young warrior's love of God and his neighbour; nor can we narrate his single combat with Martin Gonzales, nor those repeated conquests over the Moors which caused him to be distinguished among the vanquished by the name of El Cid or THE LORD, a title which he afterwards made so famous in history. While his fame was rapidly advancing, the kingdom of Castile was convulsed with civil war. The King Don Ferrando had died, leaving three sons and one daughter, among whom, with the usual impolicy of the times, he attempted to divide his dominions. But the Kings of Spain were of the blood of the Goths, which is emphatically said to be a fierce blood, and certainly no history, excepting that of the heaven-abandoned Jews, is stained with more murders, conspiracies, and unnatural civil broils. The Cid was among the subjects of Castile, whose fealty descended to the eldest son Don Sancho, and he had no small part in the wars which that monarch made upon his brethren Garcia and Alfonzo. When Sancho had dethroned and imprisoned both his younger brothers, he forced Alfonzo to become a Monk, but he escaped from his convent, and fled to the Moors of Toledo, who received him with great hospitality. Meanwhile Sancho resolved to deprive his sister Urraca of the city and dependencies of Zamora, which the King her father had bequeathed to her. And it was while besieging this city that he was treacherously slain by one of her adherents, who pretended to desert to his party. This gave occasion to one of those scenes which illustrate the singular manners of the age. It was resolved in the camp of the deceased monarch that the town of Zamora should be impeached for the treason committed, and for having received the traitor within her gates after the perpetration of the murder. The task of denouncing it devolved upon Diego Ordonez, a right good and noble warrior, for the Cid, who might otherwise have been expected to be foremost in the revenge of his master's death, had uniformly refused to bear arms against Donna Urraca, because [136] they had been brought up together, and he remembered 'the days that were past.' Diego Ordonez came before the walls fully armed; and having summoned to the battlements Arias Gonzalo, who commanded the city for Urraca, he pronounced this celebrated impeachment in the following words:

    'The Castillians have lost their Lord; the traitor Vellido slew him, being his vassal, and ye of Zamora have received Vellido and harboured him within your walls. Now therefore I say that he is a traitor who hath a traitor with him, if he knoweth and consenteth unto the treason. And for this I impeach the people of Zamora, the great as well as the little, the living and the dead, they who now are and they who are yet unborn; and I impeach the waters which they drink and the garments which they put on; their bread and their wine, and the very stones in their walls. If there be any one in Zamora to gainsay what I have said, I will do battle with him, and with God's pleasure conquer him, so that the infamy shall remain upon you.' p. 75.

  5. In answer to this defiance, Gonzalo informed the champion, with great composure, that perhaps he was not aware of the law of arms in the case of impeachment of a council; which provided that the accuser should contend not with one only, but with five champions of the community successively, and his accusation was only held true if he retired victorious from this unequal contest. Ordonez, though somewhat disconcerted at this point of military law, which was confirmed by twelve alcaldes, chosen on each side, was under the necessity of maintaining his impeachment. Gonzalo, on the other hand, having first ascertained that none of the people of Zamora had been privy to the treason, resolved, that he himself and his four sons would fight in their behalf. With difficulty he is prevailed upon, by the tears and intreaties of Urraca, to let his sons first try their fortune. One of them enters the lists after his father had armed, instructed, and blessed him. The youth is slain in the conflict; and the victor calls aloud, 'Don Arias, send me another son, for this one will never fulfil your bidding.' He then retires from the lists to change his horse and arms, and to refresh himself with three sops of bread and a draught of wine, agreeably to the rules of combat. The second son of Gonzalo enters the lists, and is also slain. Ordonez then lays his hand on the bar, and exclaims, 'Send me another son, Don Arias, for I have conquered two, thanks be to God!' Rodrigo Arias, the eldest and strongest of the brethren then encounters the challenger, and in the exchange of two desperate blows he receives a mortal [137] wound; while, at the same time, the horse of Ordonez, also wounded, runs out of the lists with his rider. This was a nice point of the duello: for, on the one hand, the challenger had combated and vanquished his enemy; on the other, he had himself, however involuntarily, been forced out of the lists; which was such a mark of absolute defeat that even death was not held so strong. And there is a Spanish story of a duel, in which the defendant slew the challenged party; but the defunct being very corpulent and heavily armed, the victor was unable to heave him over the palisade, and after labouring the whole day to no purpose, was at sunset very rationally held to be convicted of the treason of which he had been accused; because he could not give the necessary and indispensable proof that he had vanquished the accuser. The judges of the field, in the impeachment of Zamora, did not choose positively to decide so nice a dependence. It would be probably doing those worthy alcaldes injustice to suppose, that they were moved with compassion either for the challenger, who had still such an unequal contest before him, or for Don Arias, who having lost three of his children, was to risk his own life with that of his remaining son. But whether from unwonted feelings of pity, or because the case could not be judged, they held the third combat to be a drawn battle, and would not allow Ordonez to proceed in his accusation. Thus Don Arias, at the expence of the lives of his three gallant sons, delivered from impeachment the people of Zamora, born and unborn, living and dead, past, present, and to come, together with their waters, their food, their garments, and the stones of their battlements. It would have been, no doubt, as easy to have delivered up the murderer, whose act both parties agreed in condemning; but it is not the least fantastical part of the story, that he was suffered to elude all punishment, excepting that the Chronicle assures us he could not escape it in hell, 'where he is tormented with Dathan and Abiram, and with Judas the traitor, for ever and ever.'

  6. While this scene was passing before Zamora, Alfonso, the remaining brother of the deceased Sancho, received the news of his murder; and resolved immediately to quit Toledo, where he was the guest of the Moorish monarch, Alimaymon, in order to take possession of the kingdom of Castile [sic], to which he was now sole heir. That monarch had already heard a rumour of Sancho's death, and posted guards in the passage to prevent his guest, now become a hostage of importance, from departing without his leave. But when Alfonso boldly and openly requested [138] his licence to return to Castille, the generous Moslem answered,

    'I thank God, Alfonso, that thou hast told me of thy wish to go into thine own country ; for in this thou hast dealt loyally by me, and saved me from that which might else have happened, to which the Moors have always importuned me. And hadst thou departed privily thou couldest not have escaped being slain or taken. Now then go and take thy kingdom; and I will give thee whatever thou hast need of to give to thine own people, and win their hearts that they may serve thee.' p. 85.

  7. He then requested him to swear friendship to himself and his sons; but in enumerating them, he 'had a grandson whom he dearly loved, who was not named in the oath, and therefore Don Alfonso was not bound to keep it towards him.' And the historian records it as a high instance of generosity, that Alfonso was so far from taking advantage of this omission, that, on a future occasion, when Alimaymon was as much in his power as he had been in Alimaymon's, he compelled the Moor to release him from the oath, but only that he might take it again fully, freely, and with all solemnity. When king Alfonso arrived in his kingdom, he found that many of his nobility, but especially the Cid, nourished a suspicion that he had been in some sort accessory to the murder of his brother Sancho. To purge himself of this guilt, the king, and twelve knights as his compurgatores, made oath of his innocence, upon the Gospels, in the church of St. Gadea, at Burgos. The Cid administered the oath with a rigour which implied the strength of his suspicions; and the following is the account of the manner in which the king was obliged to exculpate himself in the face of his people.

    'And the King came forward upon a high stage that all the people might see him, and my Cid came to him to receive the oath; and my Cid took the book of the Gospels and opened it, and laid it upon the altar, and the King laid his hands upon it, and the Cid said unto him, King Don Alfonso, you come here to swear concerning the death of King Don Sancho, your brother, that you neither slew him nor took counsel for his death ; say now you, and these hidalgos, if ye swear this. And the King and the hidalgos answered and said, Yea, we swear it. And the Cid said, If ye knew of this thing, or gave command that it should be done, may you die even such a death as your brother the King Don Sancho, by the hand of a villain whom you trust; one who is not a hidalgo, from another land, not a Castillian ; and the King and the knights who were with him said Amen. And the King's colour changed; and the Cid repeated the oath unto him a second time,[139] and the King and the twelve knights said Amen to it in like manner and in like manner the countenance of the King was changed again. And my Cid repeated the oath unto him a third time, and the King and the knights said Amen; but the wrath of the King was exceeding great, and he said to the Cid, Ruydiez, why dost thou thus press me, man? To-day thou swearest me, and to-morrow thou wilt kiss my hand. And from that day forward there was no love towards my Cid in the heart of the King.' p. 88.

  8. The Castillian monarch having this offence deeply engraved in his remembrance, took the first occasion which offered, to banish the Cid from his dominions, on pretence of some incursion which he had made on the friendly Moors of Toledo. The Cid then assembled the relations, vassals, and retainers whom his influence or high military reputation had attached to his person, and resolved at their head to leave Castille, and subsist by a predatory war upon the Moors.

    'And as he was about to depart he looked back upon his own home, and when he saw his hall deserted, the household chests unfastened, the doors open, no cloaks hanging up, no seats in the porch, no hawks upon the perches, the tears came into his eyes, and he said, my enemies have done this. God be praised for all things. And he turned toward the East, and knelt and said, Holy Mary Mother, and all Saints, pray to God for me, that he may give me strength to destroy all the Pagans, and to win enough from them to requite my friends therewith, and all those who follow and help me.' p. 97

  9. In passing through Burgos, no one dared to receive him into his house, the king having given strict command to the contrary; and such sorrow had the christian people at obeying these severe injunctions, that they durst not look upon the champion as he rode through the solitary streets of their city. When he came to his posada, or hotel, and struck against the door with his foot, none made answer but a little girl of nine years old, who informed him of the king's command. He, turned in silence from the door of the Inn, rode to the church of St. Mary, where 'he kneeled down, and prayed with all his heart,' and then encamped with his retinue on the sands near the city. There is something very striking in this picture—the silence with which the Cid receives his unjust sentence—the dignity with which he contemns the mean effort of the king to increase his distress and embarassment;— the desolate state to which the city is reduced by the fear and pity of the inhabitants at his approach—the military train slowly parading its streets, and seeking in vain for hospitality or [140] repose;- the swelling heart of the leader venting itself in devotion, when he saw every house, but that of God, shut against him, are all beautiful and affecting circumstances. The next scene is of a very different nature, yet equally curious.

  10. The Cid, like other great persons, setting out upon travel, was in great want of money to maintain his followers. And now we venture to supply an incident from the romances, which, though characteristic, Mr. Southey has omitted. We copy it from a slip-shod translation, which we happen to possess, and which may serve for a sample of these ballads.

    'When the Cid, the Campeador,
    (Of his life may God take care,)
    With three hundred pennon'd warriors,
    Forth of good Castille would fare;
    Nor the champion, nor his lady,
    Had of treasure, coin, or rent,
    Even a single Maravedi;
    All in war and wassail spent.

    Then Ximene took off her garland,
    Glittering like the stars of heaven,
    Deck'd with gems from Eastern far land,
    Which the Moorish Kings had given;
    "Take then, this, my Roderigo;
    Pledged in wealthy merchants hand,
    Twill supply thee gold, while we go
    Wanderers far in foreign land."

    Sola and her little sister,
    Daughters of the noble Cid,
    When they saw the chaplet's glister
    Taken from their mother's head,
    Wept to part with such gay jewel,
    Clamour'd loud around Ximene;
    "Must such garland, O, how cruel,
    From our mother dear be ta'en?"

    Mark'd the Cid their childish sorrow,
    Heard them murmur in dismay:
    "Grief enough may come to-morrow,
    Give our babes their boon to-day.
    Children weep for toys that glitter,
    Kings and Kaisars do the same:
    Why their blithest days embitter?
    Keep thy garland, gentle dame." [141]

    Loud their hands the children clapping,
    As their father's doom they heard,
    And their arms around him wrapping,
    Kist his cheeks, and strok'd his beard.'

    * * *

  11. Mr. Southey omits this curious trait of parental tenderness, which we think peculiarly characteristic of the hero, as those who are bravest and even fiercest in war are often distinguished by unlimited indulgence to the objects of their domestic attachments.

  12. The resource from which the Cid drew his supplies was of a questionable description, and not very dissimilar from the devices of our modern knights of industry. He sent one of his adherents, Martin Antolinez, to two wealthy jews, named Rachael and Vidas, to demand the loan of six hundred marks, upon two chests of treasure, which the Cid meant to deposit in their hands. The sons of Israel lent a willing ear to such a proposal, but when the marks were demanded, they sagaciously observed, that 'their way of business was first to take and then to give.' Antolinez conducted them to the tent of the Campeador, who dazzled their optics with the exhibition of two huge and heavy chests, covered with leather of red and gold, and secured with ribs of iron, but filled in truth with stones and sand. The Jews, forgetting the caution of their tribe, willingly agreed to advance the sum demanded on a deposit of such a promising aspect; and swore at the same time, to keep the chests a full year without opening. So highly delighted were the Israelites with the bargain, that Antolinez contrived to hook out of them thirty marks for agency, to buy himself a pair of hose, a doublet, and a rich cloak. It is not the least curious part of this story, that when the Cid acquired wealth in the Moorish wars, and sent to redeem the chests with a Spanish hyperbole that they contained his honour, which was the richest treasure in the world; 'the people held it for a great wonder; and there was not a place in all Burgos where they did not talk of the gentleness and loyalty of the Cid.' The Jews themselves also expressed such grateful surprise as makes it plain that in the ordinary course of things, they would have been left by way of punishment for looking so indifferenlty [sic] after their own interest in the outset of the bargain, to indemnify themselves by the deposit. Nay, we grieve to say, that some contradictory authorities make it not improbable that the Cid consigned them to the doleful predicament of their kinsman, Shylock, to console themselves with the penalty of the bond. [142]

  13. The Cid thus furnished with munition and money sets forth against the Moors, leaving his wife and children in the charge of the Abbot of St. Pedro de Cardena. It is not our intention to trace his military exploits, in which there is frequently vivid description, but which nevertheless, from the similarity of incident, are the dullest part of this volume. The following most excellent and spirited, as well as literal translation from the poem of the Cid, is given in the notes. It is not from the pen of Mr. Southey, but from that of a literary friend, who has caught the true tone of the Spanish Homer. The Cid, with his followers, sallies from the Castle of Alcoçer, where they were besieged by the Moors.

    'The gates were then thrown open, and forth at once they rush'd,
    The outposts of the Moorish host back to the camp were push'd;
    The camp was all in tumult, and there was such a thunder
    Of cymbals and of drums, as if earth would cleave in sunder.
    There you might see the Moors arming themselves in haste,
    And the two main battles how they were forming fast;
    .Horsemen and footmen mixt, a countless troop and vast.
    The Moors are moving forward, the battle soon must join,
    "My men stand here in order, rang'd upon a line!
    "Let not a man move, from his rank before I give the sign."
    Pero Bermuez heard the word, but he could not refrain.
    He held the banner in his hand, he gave his horse the rein;
    "You see yon foremost squadron there, the thickest of the foes,
    "Noble Cid, God be your aid, for there your banner goes!
    "Let him that serves and honours it shew the duty that he owes."
    Earnestly the Cid call'd out, 'For heaven's sake be still!'
    Bermuez cried, 'I cannot hold,' so eager was his will.
    He spurr'd his horse, and drove him on amid the Moorish rout;
    They strove to win the banner, and compast him about.
    Had not his armour been so true he had lost either life or limb;
    The Cid called out again, 'For heaven's sake succour him!'

    Their shields before their breasts, forth at once they go,
    Their lances in the rest levell'd fair and low;
    Their banners and their crests waving in a row,
    Their heads all stooping down toward the saddle bow.
    The Cid was in the midst, his shout was heard afar,
    "I am Rui Diaz, the Champion of Bivar;
    "Strike amongst them, gentlemen, for sweet mercies sake!"
    There where Bermuez fought amidst the foe they brake,
    Three hundred banner'd knights, it was a gallant show:
    Three hundred Moors they kill'd, a man with every blow;
    When they wheel'd and turn'd, as many more lay slain,
    You might see them raise their lances, and level them again. [143]
    There you might see the breastplates, how they were cleft in twain,
    And many a Moorish shield lie scatter'd on the plain.
    The pennons that were white, mark'd with a crimson stain,
    The horses running wild whose riders had been slain.' p. 439.

  14. There are many similar exploits described in the same animated tone; and the successes of the Cid soon led him to form plans of more permanent conquest. The dissentions of the Moors aided his views, and at length, after a tedious siege, in which the city suffered the last degree of distress, and after playing off against each other, almost all the factions within its walls, the fair city of Valencia became the property of the Cid, and the seat of his power. His fame and his untarnished loyalty had by this time reconciled the Campeador to King Alfonso; so the embassy which the Cid sent to him to announce his new conquest, and to demand his wife and daughters, was most favourably received. When the ladies arrived at Valencia, they had a specimen of the manner in which the Cid had acquired, and was forced to defend his possessions. The city was beleagured by an immense army of Moors. The Cid conducted his wife and daughters to the highest turret, from which they might see his exploits against the enemy, cheered their sinking spirits with an exclamation, 'the more Moors the more gain !' sallied out and utterly discomfited the enemy, making such mortality with his own hand, that the blood ran from the wrist to the elbow. He re-entered the town at the head of his knights.

    'His wrinkled brow was seen, for he had taken off his helmet, and in this manner he entered, upon Bavieca, sword in hand. Great joy had Dona Ximena and her daughters who were awaiting him, when they saw him come riding in ; and he stopt when he came to them, and said, Great honour have I won for you, while you kept Valencia this day ! God and the Saints have sent us goodly gain, upon your coming. Look, with a bloody sword, and a horse all sweat, this is the way that we conquer the Moors ! Pray God that I may live yet awhile for your sakes, and you shall enter into great honour, and they shall kiss your hands. Then my Cid alighted when he had said this, and the ladies knelt down before him, and kissed his hand, and wished him long life.' p. 233.

  15. The fame of the Cid's wealth led Diego and Ferrando Gonzales the Infantes of Carrion, brethren of great rank and high ancestry, to solicit the hands of his two daughters ; and the Cid, at the request of King Alfonso, consented to their union. But these noblemen had ill considered their own dispositions in [144] desiring such an union. The Cid, indeed, received them with all honour in Valencia, and bestowed on them many rich gifts, and especially his two choice swords, Colada and Tizona. But the Infantes had no taste for killing Moors, which was the principal amusement at the Court of the Campeador; and although the Cid prudently disguised his knowledge of their cowardice, he could not save them from the derision of his military retainers. An unfortunate accident brought matters to a crisis. The Cid, it seems, kept a tame lion, which, one day, finding its den unbarred, walked into the hall of the palace, where the banquet was just ended. The lion had happily dined likewise, so he paced coolly towards the head of the table, where the Cid was asleep in his chair. His captains and knights crouded around him for his defence; but his sons-in-law, holding, with Bottom, that there is not a more fearful wild fowl than your lion living, threw themselves, the one behind the Campeador's chair, the other into a wine-press, where he fell into the lees and defiled himself. The Cid awaking as the lion was close upon him, held up his hand, and said, how's this? and the lion standing still at his voice, he arose, and taking him by the mane, led him back to his den like a tame mastiff. But the Infantes of Carrion, reading their disgrace in the ill-suppressed laughter of the attendants, adopted a suspicion that this strange scene had been contrived on purpose to put them to shame, and formed a cowardly scheme of revenge.

  16. For this purpose, they craved the Cid's permission to return to their own country of Carrion, which he readily granted. On the road they led their wives into a forest, where they stripped them, beat them with the girths of their horses, mangled them with their spurs, and left them for dead upon the spot. Here they were found, and brought back to Valencia; and the Cid, incensed at this deadly affront, demanded justice before the king and the cortes of Castille. The investigation was conducted with great form and solemnity. The Cid sent to the place of meeting, an ivory throne which he had won at Valencia, 'a right noble seat, and of subtle work,' which gave rise to much invidious discussion among the Castillian nobles, until Alfonso decided that the Cid should occupy the ivory seat which he had won like a good knight. He then shaped his demand of satisfaction from the Infantes of Carrion into three counts. In the first place he demanded restitution of the two good swords Colada and Tizona, which being implements they had no great occasion for, were readily resigned. His second demand was for the [145] treasures he had bestowed on them with his daughter. The Infantes, who had quarrelled with their wives but not with their portions, resisted this strenuously, but were obliged to comply by the sentence of the cortes. This account being cleared with no small difficulty, the Cid a third time demanded justice, and stating the injuries done to his daughters, insisted on personal satisfaction from the Infantes. This was the hardest chapter of all; the Infantes could only alledge that they had unwarily married beneath their rank.

    'Then Count Don Garcia rose and said, Come away, Infantes, and let us leave the Cid sitting like a bridegroom in his ivory chair: he lets his beard grow and thinks to frighten us with it! The Campeador put up his hand to his beard, and said, What hast thou to do with my beard, Count ? Thanks be to God, it is long because it hath been kept for my pleasure*; never son of woman hath taken me by it; never son of Moor or of Christian hath plucked it, as I did yours in your castle of Cabra, Count, when I took your castle of Cabra, and took you by the beard; there was not a boy of the host but had his pull at it. What I plucked then is not yet methinks grown even!' p. 296".

  17. After a very stormy altercation it is at last settled, that the Infantes of Carrion, together with their uncle and abettor, should 'do battle' against three of the Cid's knights. The Infantes are defeated, and declared guilty of treason. This singular story is given at length, and with all those minute details which place the very circumstance before our eyes. There is also a literal poetical translation from that part of the poem which represents the scene in the cortes and in the lists. It is by the same hand, and in the same spirited style, as the account of the sally which we have already quoted.

  18. The Cid takes leave of the king, and returns to Valencia, where he bestows his daughters on the Infantes of Arragon and Navarre, two princes of higher rank and more estimable qualities than those whom he had punished. At length, when far advanced in years, he is once more besieged in his city of Valencia, by an immense army of Moors, and is warned by a Vision that his end approaches, but that God had granted him grace to defeat the Moors even after his decease. Upon this intimation, the Cid [146] prepares for death, and calling for a precious balsam with which the Soldan of Persia had presented him, he mingled it with rose-water, and tasted nothing else for seven days, during which, though he grew weaker and weaker, yet his countenance appeared even fairer and fresher than before. He then directed that his family and retainers should leave the city after his death, taking with them his dead body, and return to Castille. Having settled his worldly affairs, and ghostly concerns, 'this noble baron yielded up his soul, which was pure and without spot, to God,' in the year 1099, and the 73d of his life, The body having been washed and embalmed, appeared, by virtue of the balsam on which he had lived, as fresh and fair as if alive. It was supported in an upright state by a thin frame of wood; and the whole being made fast to a right noble saddle, this retinue prepared to leave Valencia.

    'When it was midnight they took the body of the Cid, fastened to the saddle as it was, and placed it upon his horse Bavieca, and fastened the saddle well : and the body sate so upright and well that it seemed as if he was alive. And it had on painted hose of black and white, so cunningly painted that no man who saw them would have thought but that they were grieves and cuishes, unless he had laid his hand upon them; and they put on it a surcoat of green sendal, having his arms blazoned thereon, and a helmet of parchment, which was cunningly painted that every one might have believed it to be iron; and his shield was hung round his neck, and they placed the sword Tizona in his hand, and they raised his aim, and fastened it up so subtilly that it was a marvel to see how upright he held the sword. And the bishop Don Hieronymo went on one side of him, and the trusty Gil Diaz on the other, and he led the horse Bavieca, as the Cid had commanded him. And when all this had been made ready, they went out from Valencia at midnight, through the gate of Roseros, which is towards Castille. Pero Bermudez went first with the banner of the Cid, and with him five hundred knights who guarded it, all well appointed. And after these came all the baggage. Then came the body of the Cid with an hundred knights, all chosen men, and behind them Dona Ximena with all her company, and six hundred knights in the rear. All these went out so silently, and with such a measured pace, that it seamed as if there were only a score. And by the time that they had all gone out it was broad day.' p. 336.

  19. Betwixt surprise and miracle, the Moors were completely routed; and the Christians, having spoiled their camp, retired to Castille. But when they proposed to put the body in a coffin, Ximena refused to consent, saying that while his countenance remained [147] so comely, her children and grand children should behold the face of their father. At length it was resolved to set him in his ivory chair on the right hand of the high altar in the cathedral of Toledo, dressed in noble robes, which were regularly changed, and placing in his left hand his sword Tizona in its scabbard, and in the right the strings of his mantle. Ximena retired into the neighbouring monastery, and Gil Diaz, the Cid's secretary, devoted his life to attend upon her and upon the good steed Bavieca. Meanwhile the Cid continued for seven years to sit beside the altar. At the expiration of this period, a false Jew who had hid himself in the church, to have the pleasure of plucking that beard which was never plucked when its owner was living, occasioned the body to change its posture. For the 'circumcised dog' had no sooner advanced his unhallowed fingers to that noble beard, than the Cid, letting go the strings of his mantle, drew his sword a palm's breadth out of the sheath. The natural consequence of this was the conversion of the Jew. After this miracle no one ventured to change his dress, or to attempt to sheathe the sword. At length after sitting ten years in state, without alteration, the nose of the champion began to change colour. Whether the noses of the attendants felt any sympathetic affection is not said, but the Cid was removed to a vault before the altar, seated, as before, in his ivory chair, with his sword in his hand, and his shield and banner hung upon the walls.

  20. Whether the ivory chair decayed faster than the Cid, we know not; but the body was taken from it, placed in a stone coffin, and, after some intermediate translations, finally interred in the chapel of the monastery of Cardena, where 'it remains to the present day.'

  21. We have not room to tell of the godly end of his wife Ximena, or the attention bestowed on his horse Bavieca, who, having comported himself with laudable spirit and fidelity through the whole of this history, of which he forms no very inconsiderable part, was never mounted by any one after his master's decease, and was buried before the gate of the monastery with the trusty Gil Diaz, his guardian. But we cannot help observing a curious coincidence between an ancient Irish romance, called the death of Cucholinn, and the remarkable circumstances said to have attended the funeral rites of the Cid. Cucholinn (the Cuthullin of the Pseudo Ossian) was chief of the warriors of the Red Branch, as they were called, and champion of Ulster. He was mortally wounded in a battle, through the wiles of an enchantress [148] called Meive. Feeling death approach, he thus addresses his foster-brother:—

    ''But accompany me, Laogh, to yonder rock that I may there die, and make my final departure. Let me be supported by resting my breast against that portion of it which advances from the rest; put this sword into my hand, and tie it fast to my wrist, and place my spear and shield as they ought to be; and when my enemies shall see me in that manner, their fear and dread will be still so great, that they will not venture to come and cut off my head, and Connel Cearnach will arrive in time to prevent that body which I quit from being treated with indignity.' Cucholinn walked afterwards towards the rock, and Laogh durst not offer to support him, or draw nigh him, till he had arrived at the place he had chosen, and rested his breast against that part of the rock which projected as he had remarked; and as he leaned against the rock, he put his hand upon his heart, and uttered a moan, saying, 'till this day I vow and swear, by the gods of the elements, that I knew not, but that this heart was of iron or stone; and had I thought it to have been of flesh and blood, perhaps half of the feats of chivalry, and of the noble deeds that I have done, would not have been performed by me! And now Laogh, when thou seest Eirir, tell her that my affection never hath strayed from her, that through my whole life I have loved her alone, nor ever saw that woman I would have exchanged for her. Relate to her, to Conner, to Connel, and to the men of Ulster, my late actions and my past battles; enumerate to them the numbers I have slain, and the days whereon my enemies have fallen, either by my sword or the arrows from my quiver, from the rising up until the setting of the sun."

    'Laogh obeyed the orders of Cucholinn and settled him with his face towards the enemy's camp, and placed his spear and shield by his shoulder, and put his sword into his hand as if ready for combat, and as he grasped it, he expired.

    'When Meive and her confederates beheld him placed in that manner, they imagined it was some scheme concerted by Cucholinn to draw them into an ambuscade, and they durst not draw nigh unto him. "Where is Babh (or Bava)" cried Meive. The sorceress replied, that she was there to fulfill her commands. She sent her therefore to discover if Cucholinn was alive or dead. Bava took the shape of a crow and flew around him; when having discovered that his spirit was fled, she perched upon his shield; and when the enemy saw this, they came forward; and when they came up to him and found that it was impossible to force his sword out of his hand; "Cut the sinews of his wrist," said Lughy, son of Conrec, "and the sword will fall." It was done; but as it fell down, it cut off the hands of thirty of the sons of their chieftains, who were looking [149] up to behold that deed done, and this was the last exploit that tho arms of that hero performed.'

  22. Leaving it to the antiquaries of Ierne to consider whether there is any connexion between these stories, we hasten to conclude the article with a few short observations on the information which we may derive from this curious work.

  23. The character of the Cid, who is held up as a model of perfection, contains many points which seem inconsistent with the more refined notions of chivalry. We say nothing of the cruelty which the 'Perfect One,' as the author frequently calls him, practised without compunction, especially towards his prisoners, whom he usually tortured to force a discovery of their treasures. And perhaps as the following abominable cruelly was perpetrated on circumcised infidels, it might not be a great blot in his escutcheon. It occurred during the siege of Valencia. 'So he ordered proclamation to be made so loud that all the Moors upon the walls could hear, bidding all who had come out from the town to return into it, or he would burn as many as he should find; and saying also that he would slay all who came out from that time forth. Nevertheless they continued to let themselves down from the walls, and the Christians took them without his knowledge. But as many as he found he burnt alive before the walls, so that the Moors could see them; in one day he burnt eighteen, and cast others alive to the dogs, who tore them in pieces.' p. 194.

  24. This might be selon les regles [sic]; but we allude to the whole tenor of his policy with the Moorish chiefs of Valencia, which was of a very indirect and crooked kind, in which his promise was forfeited more than once and to more than one person. This was a breach of honour on the part of the 'Happy one whom God created in a lucky hour,' which seems to derogate from his knightly character. His mode of conducting the charge against the Infantes of Carrion, by which he secured restitution before he demanded revenge for his injured honour, argues a cool and interested mode of reason better becoming an attorney than a warrior. All these are no doubt qualified by his extreme and punctilious loyalty towards the king who had exiled him, his warm affection for his family, and his generosity to his vassals and sometimes to his enemies. Yet upon the whole the Cid Ruy Diaz forms no exception to Froissart's general rule, that the knights of Spain had not attained the highest and most refined chivalry practised in France arid England. And his story leaves [150] us at a loss whether he had most of the fox, the tiger, or the lion in his disposition; for he seems to have been at least as crafty and cruel as he was brave. It is also worthy of remarking that the supreme respect enjoined by the laws of knighthood to the fair sex, does not appear in this romance. The females all act a subordinate part, and that irreconcilable with their being persons of any influence. It may be hardly fair to quote the beating which the sons-in-law of the Cid bestow upon their wives, as a proof of general manners. Yet this castigation, though utterly extra modum, was not much wondered at, except in relation to the power and generosity of the Cid, father of the patients. The counts appeal to the whole cortes whether they had not a title to beat maids of low degree with their girths, and tear them with their long rowelled spurs; and issue was joined upon an allegation that the daughters of the Cid were of too high a rank to be subjected to such discipline. Ximena also makes a sorry figure in the tale—she comes before the king to ask the hand of the man who had killed her father, a step which surely argued a degraded state in society, and a want of free will. The daughters of the Cid are with very little ceremony, and without at all consulting their own choice, bestowed on one set of husbands and transferred to another. And lastly, the passion, or even the word love, does not occur in the whole volume. It is highly probable that in this respect the manners of the Spaniards were tinged by those of their Mahommedan conquerors, from whom they had caught the oriental contempt of the female sex. Many other marks of resemblance between those nations might be pointed out; nor indeed, upon the whole, do the Moors appear to have been a more unamiable race than the Castillian Christians. The volume contains many splendid instances of their generosity and good faith, which are sometimes but indifferently requited by the Christians. It is true, the situation of the Spanish Moors was already become degraded; they were a luxurious people broken with domestic factions, split into petty principalities, superior to their Christian foes in the arts of peace, therefore affording a tempting prospect of plunder; inferior to them in the art of war, therefore an easy prey. Accordingly they were considered as the common enemy, the feræ naturæ, whom every iron-clad champion had a natural right to hunt down and plunder ; while in obeying so tempting an impulse he believed himself to be also doing God service. Yet the constant wars between the Spaniards and the Moors were, from their very continuance, subjected to some degree of rule and moderation. The war was [151] not directed, as in the crusades, to mutual extermination. The Spanish Christians hated the Moors and spoiled them, but their aspect and dress had not for them that novelty which, in the eyes of other nations, removed the infidels almost out of the class of human beings, and added peculiar zest to the pleasure of killing them. The Cid, when he had fairly got possession of Valencia, administered justice indifferently to Moor and Christian; and leaving his 'paynim' subjects in possession of their property, contented himself with levying a tythe as an acknowledgment of sovereignty. Of the Moorish manners we do not learn much from this curious volume; but the lamentation over the ruin of Valencia (p. 179) is an interesting specimen of Arabian poetry.

  25. It is sufficiently obvious that whether the history of the Cid be real or fictitious, it is exceedingly valuable as a singular picture of manners of which we know little or nothing. The history however of the chief of a band of adventurers, making war on his own account, and becoming the prince of a conquered territory, with all his intermediate acts, is not so interesting as to lead us to investigate its authenticity. That the Cid was a real existing personage distinguished by his exploits against the Moors, cannot be doubted. But although his history does not present a more romantic air than the real chronicles of the age, and has not above a very conscionable proportion of miracles and prodigies, there is reason to believe that it is in many particulars fictitious. The conquest of Valencia seems particularly suspicious. In short, the whole may be dismissed with the account given of the adventures in Montesinos's cave, by the ape of Ginez de Passamente, que parte de las cosas son falsas y parte verisimiles.

  26. The faults which we have to notice belong to the style. This is an imitation of that of scripture; it is, we think, sometimes too periphrastical, and sometimes it abounds in unnecessary repetitions. It retains also marks of its derivation from metrical romance in the detail and accumulation of particulars, which, though sometimes striking, at other times degenerate into mere expletives. Thus we have a march described with, 'Who ever saw in Castille so many a precious mule and so many a good-going palfrey, and so many great horses, and so many goodly streamers set up, goodly spears and shields adorned with gold and with silver, and mantles, and skins, and such sandals of Adria.' This is all very well and very animated; but why should we again, only six lines below, have a repetition of 'many a great mule, and many a palfrey, and many a good [152] horse,' &c. &c. &c. As Mr. Southey was compiling a history, and not making a literal translation of a single work, he would we think have been justifiable in compressing one of these descriptions. There are besides, sundry odd phrases which we could have wished amended. Thus the pursuers making havoc among a flying army, are said to 'punish them badly;' we have elsewhere 'happy man was his dole' and other expressions more venerable from simplicity than elegance. We dare not proceed too far in these censures, because Mr. Southey has informed us, that reviewers, in censuring his introduction of new words, have only shewn their own ignorance of the English language. Despite of this 'retort churlish,' however, we must say, that if a word be so old that it has become new again, it is unfit, at least generally speaking, for modern use. We have a title to expect payment in the current coin of the day, and may except against that which bears the effigies of king Cnut, as justly as if it had been struck by Mr. Southey himself. It also seems to us that the story would have been improved by abridging some of the Cid's campaigns, if the conscience of the editor had permitted him.

  27. While we are on the subject of faults, we may just remark that Mr. Southey appears to have mistaken the sense of two or three Spanish terms; but his knowledge of the language is so deep and extensive, that we must, in justice to him, attribute the oversight to a momentary lapse of attention.

  28. But in noticing these defects, we offer our sincere gratitude to Mr. Southey for a most entertaining volume, edited with a degree of taste and learning, which few men in England could have displayed. The introduction and notes are full of the most ample and extraordinary details concerning the state of Spain in the middle ages, from works of equal curiosity and scarcity.

Published @ RC

September 2006