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The Lay of the Cid   By: (ca. 1043-1099)

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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... Continue reading book >>

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