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Finally he is driven to despair, and revolts on hearing that his uncle intends to leave the kingdom of Castile by will to his powerful neighbour, Charles the Great. Alfonso now promises to give up his father to him, but acting with his usual bad faith, he first avenges his family honour by killing the Count in his prison. The body is placed on horseback, and so handed over in mockery to Bernardo. The series of ballads ends with Bernardo's vows of vengeance.
Aqui estoy en estos hierros Y, pues d'ellos no me sacas, Mal padre debo de ser, O tu mal hijo, me faltas.
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The legend of the Seven Princes of Lara and the Bastard Mudarra does not contain quite so many inherent improbabilities as the foregoing. The outlines of this story are as follows: His nephews, the infantes, come to the wedding, but are advised not to attend the festivities for fear of quarrels.
The youngest comes into the lists and with the first throw of his lance hurls to the ground the tablado, or hoarding, of which the other knights have only succeeded in breaking a few planks. The infantes are set upon by the opposite party, and a relation of the bride is slain in the melee. Ruy Velazquez is led by his wife to betray his nephews to the Moors.
Their heads are presented to their father by Almanzor.
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Whilst Don Bustos is in prison a son is born to him by the sister of the Moorish king, who secretly loves him. Mudarra becomes a Christian, and his resemblance to one of her sons causes him to be greatly beloved by his father's wife. The following spirited passage decribes the first outbreak of the feud: No digades tal palabra, Porque hoy os desposaron Con don Rodrigo de Lara.
Vos No debeis ser escuchada, Que siete hijos paristes Como puerca encenagada. Dona Sancha; — thou oughtest not have a hearing — seven sons hast thou borne— like a sow that wallows in mud. He is the son of Diego Lainez, a knight of Burgos. His father in his old age has been grievously insulted by the Conde Lozano, a proud and wealthy nobleman. Brooding over his affront he determines to make trial of the spirit of his sons.
This he does by the barbarous but effective method of biting their fingers, which, at his bidding, they place in his mouth. The elder sons cry out and beg him to desist, but Rodrigo, the youngest, shows his spirit by threatening him, and thus is chosen as his father's avenger. Rodrigo challenges and slays the Conde Lozano. Jimena, the daughter of the Count, loudly demands justice of the king, and a marriage is brought about between her and Rodrigo in order to stay the feud.
Rodrigo now begins his military exploits by the famous battle in which, by conquering five Moorish kings, he is supposed to have gained the title of "my Cid" Arab. He now undertakes a pilgrimage to Santiago; on his journey Saint Lazarus appears to him in the form of a leper to whom he has shown great humanity, and promises him a prosperous career.
Many expeditions against the Moors are mentioned or described, and in these the Cid is uniformly successful. When the Emperor claims recognition of his over-lordship from the King of Castile, the Cid encourages his master to refuse the demand. The parties are cited to appear before the Pope; the Cid accompanies the king Don Fernando, and, finding the throne of the King of France placed in a more dignified position that than of his sovereign, he hurls it down and claims for Castile the highest place. For this outrage he is excommunicated; but, of course, like a good Catholic submits and is readily pardoned.
Jimena writes a letter complaining of the continual absence of her husband, and is wittily answered by the king to whom it was addressed. King Fernando dies after dividing his kingdom among his three sons, and leaving the town of Zamora to his daughter Urraca, who cherishes a romantic affection for the Cid.
On the outbreak of war between the three brothers, Rodrigo takes the part of Don Sancho the eldest, who is consequently successful. She refuses, and bitterly reproaches him for the ingratitude with which he requites her love. The Cid, who has by this time returned to favour and is present in the king's camp, though not taking an active part in the siege, pursues the traitor to the gates of the city and, failing to come up with him, pronounces his curse on all knights who ride without spurs.
The ordeal of battle, however, proves the goodness of their cause, and Zamora is freed from reproach of treachery by the challenger's horse accidentally carrying him outside the limits prescribed by the judges, thus leaving the victory undecided. Alfonso, the brother of Don Sancho, escapes from his captivity among the Moors and succeeds to the throne. He outlaws the Cid, who has offended him by exacting from him an oath 36 "on an iron bolt and a wooden crossbow" that he had no part in Don Sancho's death.
The Cid submits to his sentence, though powerful enough to have resisted it, and sets forth to win for himself a kingdom from the Moors. When successful, he recognises the overlordship of Don Alfonso who, finding himself unable to dispense with his services, recalls him.
The prophecy that he should be victorious after death is fulfilled by the rout of the Moors, who are besieging Valencia, and are put to flight by the sight of the hero's corpse mounted on his horse, lance in hand, according to his own dying instructions. Even the dead body of the champion is able to defend itself. It starts into life again when insulted by a Jew, who attempts to pluck the beard,22 and such is the terror it inspires in the wretched infidel that he at once becomes a good Christian. The ballads of this series, and throughout the whole of the Romancero, vary greatly in date, in interest, and in literary merit.
Some of the most beautiful of them, unconnected with the heroes of romance and of history, are purely imaginative or pastoral in character; others are deeply infected with the artificial and euphuistic taste of the seventeenth century, in which the greater part of them were composed. The ballads were at that time ceasing to be really popular, and were becoming, greatly to their loss, the property of literary men.
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The tone, even of the later ones,23 is however generally manly, for the more artificial and pretentious writers despised this simple form, and throughout them ring the keynotes of the Spanish inspiration, Catholicism, loyalty, and the same intense sensitiveness as to the point of honour which appears again in an exaggerated form as the almost invariable theme of the drama of a later age. Numerous interesting references to the superstitious reverence in which the beard was held are to be found in the Poema de Myo Cid.
It is true that these writers belong rather to Provence than to Spain, and were connected by race, language, and literary tradition with France and Italy rather than with Castile; still to Spain, as it now exists, belongs the honour of having produced them, and thus they come within the province of a history of Spanish literature. They have left behind them a large body of writings, consisting chiefly of amatory verse of the kind cultivated by the troubadours.
Very few names deserve special mention among the long list of victors in the Floral Games and Courts of Love. The distinction, above noticed, originated probably in the strongly marked ethnological characteristics which, up to the present, have hindered all real sympathy between two nations thus unevenly yoked under one crown.
Those who look to poetry for the general expression of the sentiments of an individual or of a people will ever prefer the rough and manly verses of the men of the uplands of Central Spain to the polished but vapid lyrics of the descendants of the troubadours who inhabited the north-eastern provinces. He was a Valencian, and flourished in the fifteenth century. A devoted admirer and imitator of Petrarch, he addressed his somewhat fantastical and metaphysical verses to a shadowy lady, whose real existence has been doubted.
However this may be, we cannot believe in the genuineness of his affection for her, expressed as it is in the stately but somewhat hollow -sounding Songs of Love and Death, where passion is set forth with most elaborate accompaniment of abstruse similes and metaphors. This verdict agrees with that of the most learned 38 of modern Spanish critics,24 who treats him as a philosopher who happened to write in verse. It is one of the many satires on women, which form so large a part of the literary stock of the Middle Ages, and is somewhat more worthy of attention than most books of the class by reason of the many quaint local details that it introduces.
Its faults are its obscurity and licentiousness, as well as the unsuitability of its measure to so long a composition. Though highly praised by Cervantes, in the scrutiny of Don Quixote's books, it has little merit as a book of entertainment. That which most favourably distinguishes it from others of the same kind is the almost unique quality of an entire absence of the supernatural element, the abuse of which forms one of the worst features of the class.
Two of them deserve special notice.
It was composed by the monarch himself, and continued up to a period immediately preceding his death in Written with frank and manly simplicity, and abounding in interesting details, it brings out with great vividness the striking personality of its author who is at the same time its central figure. The candour with which the great prince describes his public and private life is truly charming.
The value of these memoirs as a historical document is very great. The second conqueror of Valencia is almost as interesting as the Cid, who was the first to successfully carry out the great exploit which gave En Jaime his surname. The second chronicle to which reference has been made above is, like that of En Jaime, the work of a man of action. He tells of the great men of his time, of courts and camps, feasting and fighting, and his chapters pass before us like some gorgeous pageant of the chivalrous times and sunny land in which he lived. The whole breathes the spirit of the faithful soldier, loyal gentleman, and good Christian, whose lance was not the less sharp because his pen was ready.
The author of the Pelegrino Curioso sixteenth cent. La sciencia no embota el fierro de la lanza ni face floxa el espada en la mano del caballero. Having one day followed into a church a lady whose beauty had attracted his attention, she ridded herself of his importunities by suddenly uncovering before him her bosom, disfigured by a hideous cancer. The revulsion of feeling was so violent that the young gallant forthwith turned his mind to serious thoughts; he travelled through Europe and the Holy Land, studying wherever he went, and ended his life as a martyr at the hands of the Moorish pirates.