National Epics
By Kate Milner Rabb

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Public Domain Books

The Story of the Poem of the Cid

Tears stood in the eyes of the Cid as he looked at his pillaged castle. The coffers were empty, even the falcons were gone from their perches. “Cruel wrong do I suffer from mine enemy!” he exclaimed as they rode into Burgos. “Alvar Fanez, of a truth we are banished men.”

From the windows of Burgos town the burghers and their dames looked down with tearful eyes upon the Cid and his sixty lances. “Would that his lord were worthy of him,” said they.

He rode up to the gates of his house in Burgos; the king’s seal was upon them. “My lord,” cried a damsel from an upper casement, “thy goods are forfeited to the king, and he has forbidden that we open door or shelter thee upon pain of forfeiture of our goods, yea, even of our sight!”

Little hope then had the Cid of mercy from King Alfonso; and sooner than bring suffering on his beloved people of Burgos he betook himself without the city and sat him down to think of what to do. “Martin Antolinez,” said he, “I have no money with which to pay my troops. Thou must help me to get it, and if I live I will repay thee double.”

Then the two together fashioned two stout chests covered with red leather and studded with gilt nails, and these they filled with sand. Then Martin Antolinez without delay sought out the money lenders, Rachel and Vidas, and bargained with them to lend the Cid six hundred marks, and take in pawn for them the two chests filled with treasure that he dared not at that time take away with him. For a year they were to keep the chests and pledge themselves not to look in them. Glad were the hearts of the money lenders as they lifted the heavy chests, and happy was the Cid when he saw the six hundred marks counted out before him.

Seeking the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena, the Cid embraced his wife Ximena and his two daughters, and left them in the protection of the abbot, to whom he promised recompense. Hard was the pain of parting as when the finger nail is torn away from the flesh, but a banished man has no choice. And as they passed the night at Higeruela a sweet vision promising success comforted the Cid in his slumbers; and many from Castile, who heard of the departure of the hero, sought his banners to better their fortune.

Next day the Cid and his men took Castejon and sold the spoil to the Moors of Hita and Guadalajara, and then my Cid passed on and planted himself upon a lofty and strong hill opposite Alcocer, and levied tribute upon the neighboring peoples. When he had so besieged Alcocer for fifteen weeks he took it by stratagem, and Pero Bermuez, the slow of speech, planted his standard on the highest part. When the King of Valencia heard of this, he determined to capture my Cid, and accordingly sent three thousand Moors to lay siege to Alcocer.

When the water was cut off and bread became scarce, the six hundred Spanish men, acting upon the advice of Minaya, took the field against the three thousand Moors; and such was the valor of him that in a good hour was born, and of his standard bearer, Pero Bermuez, and of the good Minaya, that the Moors fell to the ground three hundred at a time, their shields shivered, their mail riven, their white pennons red with blood.

“Thanks be to God for victory!” said the Cid. In the Moorish king’s camp was found great spoil,–shields, arms, and horses. Greatly the Christians rejoiced, for to them fell much spoil, and but fifteen of their men were missing. Even to the Moors my Cid gave some of his spoil, and from his share of one hundred horses he sent by Minaya thirty, saddled and bridled, with as many swords hung at the saddle bows, to King Alfonso. Also he sent by him a wallet of gold and silver for his wife and daughters, and to pay for a thousand Masses at Burgos.

Alfonso was well pleased to receive this token. “It is too soon to take him into favor, but I will accept his present, and I am glad he won the victory. Minaya, I pardon thee; go to the Cid and say that I will permit any valiant man who so desires to follow him.”

Upon the hill now called the hill of the Cid, he who girt on the sword in a good hour, took up his abode and levied tribute on the people for fifteen weeks. But when he saw that Minaya’s return was delayed, he went even unto Saragossa, levying tribute and doing much damage, insomuch that the Count of Barcelona, Raymond de Berenger, was provoked into making an assault upon him in the Pine Wood of Bivar, where he was ingloriously defeated and taken prisoner. The count was the more shamed at this because my Cid had sent him a friendly message, saying that he did not want to fight him, since he owed him no grudge. When Count Raymond had given up his precious sword, the great Colada, the good one of Bivar endeavored to make friends with his prisoner, but to no avail. The count refused meat and drink, and was determined to die, until the Cid assured him that as soon as he ate a hearty meal he should go free. Then he departed joyfully from the camp, fearing even to the last lest the Cid should change his mind, a thing the perfect one never would have done.

Cheered by this conquest, the Cid turned to Valencia, and met a great Moorish army, which was speedily defeated, the Cid’s numbers having been greatly increased by men who flocked to him from Spain. Two Moorish kings were slain, and the survivors were pursued even to Valencia. Then my Cid sat down before the city for nine months, and in the tenth month Valencia surrendered. The spoil–who could count it? All were rich who accompanied the Cid, and his fifth was thirty thousand marks in money, besides much other spoil. And my Cid’s renown spread throughout Spain. Wonderful was he to look upon, for his beard had grown very long. For the love of King Alfonso, who had banished him, he said it should never be cut, nor a hair of it be plucked, and it should be famous among Moors and Christians. Then he again called Minaya to him, and to King Alfonso sent a hundred horses, with the request that his wife and daughters might be allowed to join him. Also he sent him word that he had been joined by a good bishop, Don Jerome, and had created for him a bishopric.

Now were the enemies of the good one of Bivar incensed in proportion as the king was pleased with this noble gift. And when the king silenced the envious ones, and ordered an escort for Ximena and her daughters, and treated Minaya with consideration, the Infantes of Carrion talked together, commenting on the growing importance of my Cid. “It would better our fortunes to marry his daughters, but they are below us in rank.” And so saying they sent their salutations to the Cid.

The Cid met his wife and daughters on his new horse, Babieca, the wonder of all Spain, and great was his joy to clasp them again in his arms. And he took them up in the highest part of Valencia, and their bright eyes looked over the city and the sea, and they all thanked God for giving them so fair a prize.

When winter was past and spring had come, the King of Morocco crossed the sea to Valencia with fifty thousand men, and pitched his tents before the city. Then the Cid took his wife and daughters up in the Alcazar, and showed them the vast army. “They bring a gift for us, a dowry against the marriage of our daughters. Because ye are here, with God’s help, I shall win the battle.”

He went forth on the good Babieca; four thousand less thirty followed him to attack the fifty thousand Moors. The Cid’s arms dripped with blood to the elbow; the Moors he slew could not be counted. King Yucef himself he smote three times, and only the swiftness of the horse he rode saved the king from death. All fled who were not slain, leaving the spoil behind. Three thousand marks of gold and silver were found there, and the other spoil was countless. Then my Cid ordered Minaya and Pero Bermuez to take to Alfonso the great tent of the King of Morocco, and two hundred horses. And the king was greatly pleased, and the Infantes of Carrion, counselling together, said, “The fame of the Cid grows greater; let us ask his daughters in marriage.” And the king gave their request to Minaya and Bermuez, who were to bear it to the Cid.

Said my Cid, when he heard the proposal: “The Infantes of Carrion are haughty, and have a faction in court. I have no taste for the match; but since my king desires it, I will be silent.”

When the king heard his answer, he appointed a meeting, and when he that in a good hour was born saw his king, he fell at his feet to pay him homage. But the king said: “Here do I pardon you, and grant you my love from this day forth.”

The next day when the king presented to the Cid the offer of the Infantes, my Cid replied: “My daughters are not of marriageable age, but I and they are in your hands. Give them as it pleases you.” Then the king commissioned Alvar Fanez to act for him and give the daughters of my Cid to the Infantes.

The Cid hastened home to prepare for the wedding. The palace was beautifully decorated with hangings of purple and samite. Rich were the garments of the Infantes, and meek their behavior in the presence of my Cid. The couples were wedded by the Bishop Don Jerome, and the wedding festivities lasted for fifteen days. And for wellnigh two years the Cid and his sons-in-law abode happily in Valencia.

One day while my Cid was lying asleep in his palace, a lion broke loose from its cage, and all the court were sore afraid. The Cid’s followers gathered around his couch to protect him; but Ferran Gonzalez crept beneath the couch, crying from fear, and Diego ran into the court and threw himself across a wine-press beam, so that he soiled his mantle. The Cid, awakened by the noise, arose, took the lion by the mane, and dragged him to his cage, to the astonishment of all present. Then my Cid asked for his sons-in-law, and when they were found, pale and frightened, the whole court laughed at them until my Cid bade them cease. And the Infantes were deeply insulted.

While they were still sulking over their injuries, King Bucar of Morocco beleagured Valencia with fifty thousand tents. The Cid and his barons rejoiced at the thought of battle; but the Infantes were sore afraid, for they were cowards, and feared to be slain in battle. The Cid told them to remain in Valencia; but stung by shame they went forth with Bermuez, who reported that both had fleshed their swords in battle with the Moor.

Great was the slaughter of the Moors on that field. Alvar Fanez, Minaya, and the fighting bishop came back dripping with gore, and as for my Cid, he slew King Bucar himself, and brought home the famous sword, Tizon, worth full a thousand marks in gold.

The Infantes, still wrathful at their humiliation, talked apart: “Let us take our wealth and our wives and return to Carrion. Once away from the Campeador, we will punish his daughters, so that we shall hear no more of the affair of the lion. With the wealth we have gained from the Cid we can now wed whom we please.”

Sore was the heart of the Cid when he heard of their determination; but he gave them rich gifts, and also the priceless swords Colada and Tizon. “I won them in knightly fashion,” said he, “and I give them to you, for ye are my sons, since I gave you my daughters; in them ye take the core of my heart.” He ordered Feliz Muoz, his nephew, to accompany them as an escort, and sent them by way of Molina to salute his friend, Abengalvon the Moor.

The Moor received them in great state, and escorted them as far as the Salon; but when he overheard the Infantes plotting to destroy him, and seize his substance, he left them in anger. At night the Infantes pitched their tents in an oak forest full of tall trees, among which roamed fierce beasts. During the night they made a great show of love to their wives, and the next morning ordered the escort to go on, saying that they would follow alone. As soon as they were alone they stripped the daughters of the Cid of their garments, beat them with their saddle-girths and spurs, and left them for dead in the wild forest. “Now we are avenged for the dishonor of the lion,” said they, as they departed for Carrion. But Feliz Muoz, who had suspected the Infantes, had gone forward but a little way, and then crept back, so that from a thicket he perceived the sufferings of his cousins. Straightway he went to their rescue, found them clothes, and helped them home again.

When the Cid heard of this insult to himself and his daughters, he grasped his beard and swore a mighty oath that the Infantes would rue the day when they had thus offended him. All of the Cid’s friends strove to comfort the ladies Elvira and Sol, and Abengalvon the Moor made them a rich supper for love of the Cid.

At the request of my Cid, King Alfonso summoned a Cortes at Toledo, to try the cause of the Cid and the Infantes. Thither went the Cid, richly clad, so that all men wondered at his rich garments, his long hair in a scarlet and gold coif, and his uncut beard bound up with cords. He and his hundred men wore bright hauberks under their ermines, and trenchant swords under their mantles, for they feared treachery.

The king appointed some of his counts as judges, and announced that he held this, the third Cortes of his reign, for the love of the Cid. Then my Cid stood forth.

“I am not dishonored because the Infantes deserted my daughters,” said the Cid, “for the king gave them away, not I; but I demand my swords, Colada and Tizon. When my lords of Carrion gave up my daughters they relinquished all claims to my property.”

The Infantes, well pleased that he demanded no more, returned the swords; and when the blades were unsheathed and placed in the hands of the king, the eyes of the court were dazzled by their brightness.

The Cid presented Tizon to his nephew and Colada to Martin Antolinez. “Now, my king, I have another grievance. I now demand that the Infantes restore the three thousand marks in gold and silver they carried from Valencia. When they ceased to be my sons-in-law they ceased to own my gold.” Then the Infantes were troubled, for they had spent the money; but the judges gave them no relief, and they were forced to pay it out of their heritage of Carrion.

“So please your grace,” said the Cid, “still another grievance, the greatest of all, I have yet to state. I hold myself dishonored by the Infantes. Redress by combat they must yield, for I will take no other.”

The Count Garcia ridiculed the Cid’s claim. “The noble lords of Carrion are of princely birth; your daughters are not fitting mates for them." Then, while his enemies were taunting him and the court broke into an uproar, the Cid called on Pero Bermuez, “Dumb Peter,” to speak.

When Pero spoke he made himself clear. For the first time he told how like a craven Ferrando had demeaned himself in battle, and how he himself had slain the Moor on whom the prince had turned his back. He also reminded Ferrando of the affair of the lion. When Diego attempted to speak, he was silenced by Martin Antolinez, who told of the figure he cut when he clung to the wine-press beam in an agony of fear, on the day the lion came forth from its cage. Then the king, commanding silence, gave them permission to fight. Martin Antolinez engaged to meet Diego, Pero Bermuez was to combat with Ferrando, and Muno Gustioz challenged the brawler, Assur Gonzalez. It was agreed that the combat should be held at the end of three weeks in the vega of Carrion.

When all had been arranged to his satisfaction, the Cid took off his coif, and released his beard, and all the court wondered at him. Then he offered some of his wealth to all present, and, kissing the king’s hand, besought him to take Babieca. But this the king refused to do: “Babieca is for the like of you to keep the Moors off with. If I took him he would not have so good a lord.”

When the day for the combat arrived, the king himself went to Carrion to see that no treachery was used, and he said to the Infantes: “Ye have need to fight like men. If ye come out successful, ye will receive great honor. If ye are vanquished, the fault will be on your own heads. Seek to do no wrong; woe betide him who attempts it!”

Then the marshals placed the contestants in the lists and left them face to face. Each with his gaze fixed on the other, they rushed together and met midway of the lists.

At the thrust of Pero’s Lance, Ferrando fell from his horse and yielded, as he saw the dread Tizon held over him. At the same time Diego fled from the sword of Martin Antolinez, and Muo Gustioz’s lance pierced Assur Gonzalez, who begged him to hold his hand, since the Infantes were vanquished.

Thus the battle was won, and Don Roderick’s champions gained the victory. Great was the sorrow in the house of Carrion; but he who wrongs a noble lady deserves such suffering.

Rejoiced were they of Valencia when the champions brought home these tidings, and ere long, favored by Alfonso himself, the princes of Navarre and Aragon wooed my Cid’s daughters, and were married to them with the most splendid nuptials. Now was the Cid happy, and happier still he grew as his honor increased, until upon the feast of Pentecost he passed away. The grace of Christ be upon him!

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Preface  •  The Rmyana  •  The Story of the Rmyana  •  Selections From the Rmyana  •  The Story of the Mah-Bhrata  •  Selections From the Mah-Bhrata  •  The Iliad  •  The Story of the Iliad  •  Selections From the Iliad  •  The Story of the Odyssey  •  Selections From the Odyssey  •  The Kalevala  •  The Story of the Kalevala  •  Selections From the Kalevala  •  Selection From the Aeneid  •  Beowulf  •  The Story of Beowulf  •  Selection From Beowulf  •  Selections From the Nibelungen Lied  •  The Story of the Song of Roland  •  Selections From the Song of Roland  •  The Story of the Shah-Nameh  •  Selections From the Shah-Nameh  •  The Story of the Poem of the Cid  •  Selections From the Poem of the Cid  •  The Divine Comedy - The Hell  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Hell  •  The Divine Comedy - The Purgatory  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Purgatory  •  The Divine Comedy - The Paradise  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Paradise  •  Selections From the Divine Comedy - Count Ugolino  •  Selection From the Orlando Furioso  •  The Lusiad  •  The Story of the Lusiad  •  Selections From the Lusiad  •  The Jerusalem Delivered  •  The Story of the Jerusalem Delivered  •  Selection From the Jerusalem Delivered  •  The Story of Paradise Lost  •  Selections From Paradise Lost  •  Apostrophe to Light  •  The Story of Paradise Regained  •  Selection From Paradise Regained