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The Poem of the Cid

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
This is a follow up post to my post on The Song of Roland. The other book I've been reading over the past few months is the Poem of the Cid, the W.S Merwin translation published by Meridian. It is an English verse translation of the Cantar de mio Cid with the medieval Spanish text on facing pages. The Cantar de mio Cid is the oldest preserved Castilian epic poem. We aren't exactly sure when it was written, but signs seem to point to a reconstruction of a 12th century text. As with the Song of Roland, it is based on real history and a real historical person, with some license taken for artistic purposes.

The Cid is Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, 11th century Castilian knight and warlord. In addition to being called "the Cid" (or "my Cid") from the Arabic al-Sayyid, meaning "the lord", he also had the epithet "Campeador" from "Campidoctor" (Master of the Battlefield). Born into minor nobility, he rose to greatness in the service of Sancho II of Castile and Leon. And became a commander of his armies and royal standard bearer. He led successful campaigns against Sancho's brothers, Alfonso VI of Leon and Garcia II of Galicia. When Sancho was murdered in 1072, and that some brother Alfonso took the throne, Don Rodrigo found himself in a difficult situation. Relations with the new king, whom he had helped remove from power, were not good. His position as standard bearer was taken over by Count García Ordóñez. In 1079, he was sent to Sevilla to collect the tribute owed to Alfonso. While he was there, Granada, aided by García Ordóñez, attacked. The Cid felt it his duty to defend the king's tributary and defended, routing the Granadans and take their Castilian supporters prisoner. In 1081 he was exiled from Castile.

He found work fighting for the various Muslim rulers south of Castile, where he was very successful. Perhaps of interest, he spent quite a while working for the Moorish king of Zaragoza, a city that also featured prominently in the Song of Roland. When the Almoravids came north into Spain from Morocco, Alfonso made peace with the Cid. The Cid had, however, set his sights on Valencia. To pave the way he defeated and captured Berenguer Ramon II, ruler of the nearby Barcelona. Later he led a successful siege of Valencia, ruling the city in the last five years of his life, from 1094 to 1099. His wife, Jimena, ruled the city for the next few years until it was captured by the Almoravids in 1102. His daughters married very well. Cristina married Ramino Sanches of Monzon and her son became King of Navarre. Maria (Sol) married Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona.

The Cantar de mio Cid retains the bones of the historical Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. It starts with the battle in Andalucia that led to the exile and follows the Cid through several successful campaigns in Muslim Spain leading to the taking of Valencia and successful battles against Almoravid incursions.

Once again, however, there is an artistic overlay of personal grievances of which there is no evidence in the historical record. His work for the Muslim rulers of central Spain is presented as successful raiding by a warrior leader anxious to provide for his men (and very successful in doing so!).

As well, we have added to the story the Cid's nemeses, the infantes (heirs) of Carrión. These are presented members of the powerful Banu Gomez clan (of which the historical rival Count García Ordóñez was also a member). They may have been composite characters, based on a number of real people, as some scholars believe, or complete fabrications. The poem presents them as envious of the Cid and his success and wealth, proud of their nobility and seeing him as something of an upstart. As the Cid's wealth grows, so does their envy and they decide to get a share of that wealth by marrying his daughters. The Cid is reluctant, but in persuaded by King Alfonso, whom the heirs have convinced to represent them and their suit. In the end, the Cid agrees to have his daughters given to the heirs as brides, so long as it is done by the king and not himself.

For years they seem content to love with the Cid in Valencia, enjoying his many gifts. But a number of incidents show them in a cowardly light and their resentment grows until they resolve to revenge themselves upon the Cid. They get his permission to take their wives to Carrión to show them the family estates. On the way, they decide to spurn their wives, casting them aside and beating them and leaving them for dead. But one of the Cid's men finds them in time, rescues them, helps nurse them back to health, and restores them to their parents.

The poem ends with the Cid's revenge upon the heirs, first in the courts of law and then on the field of honour. The Cid brings his grievance to the King (who was the one who gave the daughters in marriage) and the King calls a court in Toledo. At the court, the Cid first asks for the return of the valuable swords he gave the heirs, which he gives to two of his followers. Then he asks for and receives all that he had given to them, impoverishing them. Finally, his two followers who had received the two swords insult the heirs and challenge them to defend themselves on the field of honour. The poem ends with the heirs trounced and the daughters remarried ands the queens of Aragon and Navarre.


Like the Song of Roland, the Cantar de Mio Cid presents us with a model knight. He is a victorious warrior. The Cid never loses a martial engagement. He is a loyal liege man. Even in exile, the Cid remains loyal to King Alfonso, sending him gifts after each victory and deferring to his judgement. The virtues in the world of the Cid are simple and straightforward.

But the world itself, is not so simple and straightforward as the world of the Song of Roland. It isn't the same sort of simple Christian vs Muslim story. While this is certainly a tale of the era of Reconquista, and the poem celebrates Christian victories over Moors, there are nuances and not everything is so black and white. We see this from the beginning where the first battle is between one Muslim ruler and another, both with Christian allies. We see this towards the end where the Cid's friend and ally (and vassal?), the Moor Avengalvon plays an important part of the story.

The Cantar de Mio Cid is a poem of over 3700 lines, usually of 14-16 syllables in length, with a strong caesura, and ending with assonance rather than rhyme (so, like the Song of Roland, but with lines somewhat longer). It is preserved in a single manuscript from the 14th century that has some pages missing. The version I read used the reconstructed text of the Spanish scholar Ramon Menendez Pidal. My Spanish is nowhere near good enough to read the Old Spanish text, although with the facing page translation, I can generally piece together the Spanish and figure out what words mean what.

On the Camino Frances, you there are a couple of places where one can feel a strong connection to the story. The obvious one is Burgos. The statue of El Cid, mounted with sword outstretched, is hard to miss. (One thing that I really noticed in the statue was the Cid's generous beard. That beard is noted a number of times in the poem.). As well, in the very centre of the Burgos Cathedral, where the nave meets the transept, is where the Cid and his wife Jimena are buried. Another place with a strong connection to the poem is the town of Carrion de los Condes (Carrion of the Counts). The Counts in question were those of the Banu-Gomez clan, the Cid's chief rivals and antagonists.

On other Caminos: From Valencia, one can begin both the Camino de Levant and the Ruta de la Lana. Valencia is, of course, the site of some his greatest victories and where he established himself as Prince. Many other areas in Spain are associated with various battles he was engaged in, while in exile or, like the battle that started the poem in Andalucia, while in the service of Alfonso.

And, there is also GR 160 - The Way of the Cid.

Has anyone here read this poem? What did you think?
 
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SenorJacques

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF Spring 2022 (finally!)
I read Merwin's translation of El Cid as an undergraduate, way back in the last century, so can't offer much of an opinion beyond the fact that I'm pretty sure I've since mixed up some of its narrative details with the (very different) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, read the same year for a different class. Thanks for reminding me to read it again before I leave for my first Camino next spring.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
I read Merwin's translation of El Cid as an undergraduate, way back in the last century, so can't offer much of an opinion beyond the fact that I'm pretty sure I've since mixed up some of its narrative details with the (very different) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, read the same year for a different class. Thanks for reminding me to read it again before I leave for my first Camino next spring.
I also got it for an undergrad class back in the last century, when I also read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in the Tolkien edition, I believe).
 

Ivan_Prada

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés-(septiembre 2018)
Portugués-(en planes 2021)??
This is a follow up post to my post on The Song of Roland. The other book I've been reading over the past few months is the Poem of the Cid, the W.S Merwin translation published by Meridian. It is an English verse translation of the Cantar de mio Cid with the medieval Spanish text on facing pages. The Cantar de mio Cid is the oldest preserved Castilian epic poem. We aren't exactly sure when it was written, but signs seem to point to a reconstruction of a 12th century text. As with the Song of Roland, it is based on real history and a real historical person, with some license taken for artistic purposes.

The Cid is Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, 11th century Castilian knight and warlord. In addition to being called "the Cid" (or "my Cid") from the Arabic al-Sayyid, meaning "the lord", he also had the epithet "Campeador" from "Campidoctor" (Master of the Battlefield). Born into minor nobility, he rose to greatness in the service of Sancho II of Castile and Leon. And became a commander of his armies and royal standard bearer. He led successful campaigns against Sancho's brothers, Alfonso VI of Leon and Garcia II of Galicia. When Sancho was murdered in 1072, and that some brother Alfonso took the throne, Don Rodrigo found himself in a difficult situation. Relations with the new king, whom he had helped remove from power, were not good. His position as standard bearer was taken over by Count García Ordóñez. In 1079, he was sent to Sevilla to collect the tribute owed to Alfonso. While he was there, Granada, aided by García Ordóñez, attacked. The Cid felt it his duty to defend the king's tributary and defended, routing the Granadans and take their Castilian supporters prisoner. In 1081 he was exiled from Castile.

He found work fighting for the various Muslim rulers south of Castile, where he was very successful. Perhaps of interest, he spent quite a while working for the Moorish king of Zaragoza, a city that also featured prominently in the Song of Roland. When the Almoravids came north into Spain from Morocco, Alfonso made peace with the Cid. The Cid had, however, set his sights on Valencia. To pave the way he defeated and captured Berenguer Ramon II, ruler of the nearby Barcelona. Later he led a successful siege of Valencia, ruling the city in the last five years of his life, from 1094 to 1099. His wife, Jimena, ruled the city for the next few years until it was captured by the Almoravids in 1102. His daughters married very well. Cristina married Ramino Sanches of Monzon and her son became King of Navarre. Maria (Sol) married Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona.

The Cantar de mio Cid retains the bones of the historical Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. It starts with the battle in Andalucia that led to the exile and follows the Cid through several successful campaigns in Muslim Spain leading to the taking of Valencia and successful battles against Almoravid incursions.

Once again, however, there is an artistic overlay of personal grievances of which there is no evidence in the historical record. His work for the Muslim rulers of central Spain is presented as successful raiding by a warrior leader anxious to provide for his men (and very successful in doing so!).

As well, we have added to the story the Cid's nemeses, the infantes (heirs) of Carrión. These were members of the powerful Banu Gomez clan (of which the historical rival Count García Ordóñez was also a member). The poem presents them as envious of the Cid and his success and wealth, proud of their nobility and seeing him as something of an upstart. As the Cid's wealth grows, so does their envy and they decide to get a share of that wealth by marrying his daughters. The Cid is reluctant, but in persuaded by King Alfonso, whom the heirs have convinced to represent them and their suit. In the end, the Cid agrees to have his daughters given to the heirs as brides, so long as it is done by the king and not himself.

For years they seem content to love with the Cid in Valencia, enjoying his many gifts. But a number of incidents show them in a cowardly light and their resentment grows until they resolve to revenge themselves upon the Cid. They get his permission to take their wives to Carrión to show them the family estates. On the way, they decide to spurn their wives, casting them aside and beating them and leaving them for dead. But one of the Cid's men finds them in time, rescues them, helps nurse them back to health, and restores them to their parents.

The poem ends with the Cid's revenge upon the heirs, first in the courts of law and then on the field of honour. The Cid brings his grievance to the King (who was the one who gave the daughters in marriage) and the King calls a court in Toledo. At the court, the Cid first asks for the return of the valuable swords he gave the heirs, which he gives to two of his followers. Then he asks for and receives all that he had given to them, impoverishing them. Finally, his two followers who had received the two swords insult the heirs and challenge them to defend themselves on the field of honour. The poem ends with the heirs trounced and the daughters remarried ands the queens of Aragon and Navarre.


Like the Song of Roland, the Cantar de Mio Cid presents us with a model knight. He is a victorious warrior. The Cid never loses a martial engagement. He is a loyal liege man. Even in exile, the Cid remains loyal to King Alfonso, sending him gifts after each victory and deferring to his judgement. The virtues in the world of the Cid are simple and straightforward.

But the world itself, is not so simple and straightforward as the world of the Song of Roland. It isn't the same sort of simple Christian vs Muslim story. While this is certainly a tale of the era of Reconquista, and the poem celebrates Christian victories over Moors, there are nuances and not everything is so black and white. We see this from the beginning where the first battle is between one Muslim ruler and another, both with Christian allies. We see this towards the end where the Cid's friend and ally (and vassal?), the Moor Avengalvon plays an important part of the story.

The Cantar de Mio Cid is a poem of over 3700 lines, usually of 14-16 syllables in length, with a strong caesura, and ending with assonance rather than rhyme (so, like the Song of Roland, but with lines somewhat longer). It is preserved in a single manuscript from the 14th century that has some pages missing. The version I read used the reconstructed text of the Spanish scholar Ramon Menendez Pidal. My Spanish is nowhere near good enough to read the Old Spanish text, although with the facing page translation, I can generally piece together the Spanish and figure out what words mean what.

On the Camino Frances, you there are a couple of places where one can feel a strong connection to the story. The obvious one is Burgos. The statue of El Cid, mounted with sword outstretched, is hard to miss. (One thing that I really noticed in the statue was the Cid's generous beard. That beard is noted a number of times in the poem.). As well, in the very centre of the Burgos Cathedral, where the nave meets the transept, is where the Cid and his wife Jimena are buried. Another place with a strong connection to the poem is the town of Carrion de los Condes (Carrion of the Counts). The Counts in question were those of the Beni-Gomez clan, the Cid's chief rivals and antagonists.

On other Caminos: From Valencia, one can begin both the Camino de Levant and the Ruta de la Lana. Valencia is, of course, the site of some his greatest victories and where he established himself as Prince. Many other areas in Spain are associated with various battles he was engaged in, while in exile or, like the battle that started the poem in Andalucia, while in the service of Alfonso.

And, there is also GR 160 - The Way of the Cid.

Has anyone here read this poem? What did you think?
Hi David:

Thanks a lot for bringing back memories from my days at school and at Spanish class having as one of the required readings; El Cantar de Mio Cid.

I still have the book I used back them. Pages yellowed after all these years and the many times read as an entertainment. Like your book, mine has the original Castillian language facing the modern Spanish.

Thanks again from bringing back great memories.

Iván
 

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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
David - I take it you're still not allowed BBC iplayer outside of the UK?

There was a wonderful programme on BBC4 last night - Blood and Gold: The Making of Spain with Simon Sebag Montefiore - which covered the period from El Cid up until the expulsion of Jews and Muslims and Columbus' first voyage.

You'd have loved it. Next week the glory days of Spain, French occupation, the Civil War and dictatorship . . . can't wait!

 
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Grid

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2019, 2022
David - I take it you're still not allowed BBC iplayer outside of the UK?

There was a wonderful programme on BBC4 last night - Blood and Gold: The Making of Spain with Simon Sebag Montefiore - which covered the period from El Cid up until the expulsion of Jews and Muslims and Columbus' first voyage.

You'd have loved it. Next week the glory days of Spain, French occupation, the Civil War and dictatorship . . . can't wait!

I’m in Canada, and a quick Google took me to all three episodes posted on Dailymotion.
 

dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
It's on my list, especially as the Ruta del Cid overlaps with several parts of the Lana, also on my list for next year. I'll have to take a little bit of issue over the Chanson de Roland being based on real historical fact though. General consensus seems to be that Charlemagne's rear-guard was ambushed and slaughtered by Basques and Navarrese, not the Moors, apparently in revenge for having flattened Pamplona. The story was picked up, Hollywood style, and pretty shamelessly rearranged to suit the ideological narrative of the narrators. Great poem though.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
It's on my list, especially as the Ruta del Cid overlaps with several parts of the Lana, also on my list for next year. I'll have to take a little bit of issue over the Chanson de Roland being based on real historical fact though. General consensus seems to be that Charlemagne's rear-guard was ambushed and slaughtered by Basques and Navarrese, not the Moors, apparently in revenge for having flattened Pamplona. The story was picked up, Hollywood style, and pretty shamelessly rearranged to suit the ideological narrative of the narrators. Great poem though.
I think I mentioned that in my discussion of the Song of Roland. The historical fact it was based on seems to be that Charlemagne did enter Spain and lay siege to Zaragoza, leave with tribute, and have his rear guard ambushed in the Pyrenees, and that a noble named Roland was part of the rearguard. The artistic license was trading in Moors for Basques. And in adding an invasion by the Emir of Babylon and a battle with him.

I tried to speak to both the history and the fiction and where the one replaced the other, as I did with the Cantar de Mio Cid also based on history with a lot of fiction added.
 
Past OR future Camino
2021
Like others, I studied the Cid in undergraduate Spanish, just after the Ice Age at the University of Texas. I still have great memories of it -- it was the first assignment of my first collegiate Spanish class, and I had a superb professor. I also still have the textbook. I'm going to dig it out and revisit it as well. I do remember the statue in Burgos, but not sure I remember that El Cid and his wife are buried in the cathedral. Thank you for a wonderful post.
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
Like others, I studied the Cid in undergraduate Spanish, just after the Ice Age at the University of Texas. I still have great memories of it -- it was the first assignment of my first collegiate Spanish class, and I had a superb professor. I also still have the textbook. I'm going to dig it out and revisit it as well. I do remember the statue in Burgos, but not sure I remember that El Cid and his wife are buried in the cathedral. Thank you for a wonderful post.
"He who was born in a good hour"
20160721_141355.jpg
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
Sometimes, when something is written long after the event, a lot of artistic licence and romanticism is added to a factual story.
The story of King Arthur in England is a case in point.
These two threads are very interesting and informative and are a very welcome addition to the forum.
 

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