Epic Poetry- “El Cantar de Mio Cid” (The Song of My Lord)
This is the Spanish epic poem. It is based on a medieval warrior from the reign of Alfonso II (Castilian King from 1072-1109). Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar “El Cid” (1043-1099) as a historical character was a mercenary who sometimes fought on the Christian side and other times on the Muslim side during the Reconquista (Spanish Reconquest), and managed to conquer the King of Valencia, a city which was in the hands of the Arabs. He earned a great reputation in the battles, which in turn led to his nickname al-Sidi, or El Cid (the lord).
His legend was spread by the jongleurs whose songs brought news of his historic events. The poem recounts his journey into exile, as ordered by the King, Alfonso, despite swearing that he had nothing to do with the murder of his brother Sancho II of Castile (Zamora, 1072). The court met in the Santa Maria Church in Burgos, where the judgment was passed. After swearing on the bible the King exiled el Cid to outside the Castilian borders; and so we have the “Cantar del Destierro” (Song of Exile).
De los sos ojos | tan fuerte mientre lorando
tornava la cabeça | y estava los catando.
Vio puertas abiertas | e uços sin cañados,
alcandaras vazias | sin pielles e sin mantos
e sin falcones e sin adtores mudados.
Sospiro mio Çid | ca mucho avie grandes cuidados.
Fablo mio Çid | bien e tan mesurado:
«¡Grado a ti, señor, | padre que estas en alto!
¡Esto me an buelto | mios enemigos malos!
Tears streamed from his eyes
As he turned his head and stood looking at them.
He saw doors left open and gates unlocked,
empty pegs without fur tunics or cloacks,
Perches without falcons or moulted hawks.
The Cid sighed, for he was weighed down with heavy cares
Then he said, with dignity and restraint:
"I give Thee thanks, O God, our Father in Heaven.
My wicked enemies have contrived this plot against me."
The song is divided into three parts:
- Cantar del Destierro (Song of Exile) that relates the story from the exile of Cid until the conquest of Valencia.
- Cantar de las Bodas (Song of the Weddings) that recounts the weddings of his daughters with the princes of Carrion.
- La afrenta de corpes (The Offence of the Bodies) that recounts the humiliation of his daughters at the hands of their husbands, and Cid´s subsequent revenge.
Problems of authorship:
The “Song of Cid” is signed by Per Abbat, but this is a remaining manuscript only. It is generally assumed that the song was composed by two poets: one from the Gomaz area and the other from Medinaceli. According to Menéndez Pidal the first part of the poem and its general structure are attributed to San Esteban of Gormaz, while the latter was the one to complete it. Despite this, as often happens with the oral tradition, the song went under many changes before reaching its final version, which is the one recognized by Pedro al Abad in the 18th century. Other theories suggest just one author, an expert in law who had studied in some city in France (which would explain the French influence in the poem) and who knew how to give artistic form to historical documents that he knew about.
The poem is characterized by its “anisosilabismo”, that is to say that the verses in the poem do not have a fixed syllabic pattern or meter, and are divided into two hemistiches (half a poetic verse) whose meters also vary. Normally the verses follow the same syllabic pattern as Spanish phrases.
The verses are grouped stanzas called assonance heroic couplets, of which the number varies from three to one hundred.
The theme of the poem is honor. Throughout the poem we witness the loss of honor on two occasions (the exile, and the offence of the bodies) and then the subsequent recuperation of honor by Cid through the conquest of Valencia and his daughters’ weddings with the heirs of Aragón and Navarra. This is the peak of the book. One could not aspire to anything greater.
Realism in the poem:
The character of Cid Campeador is historical, as demonstrated by the stories of Roderici and Carmen Campidoctoris. But the author of the book wanted a fictional tale full of realism. The narrative of the story moves away from the fabulous and legendary in order to create realism and make the book believable. Moreover a whole range of ballads dedicated to Cid exist, which help us to reconstruct the story, as well as the documented historical texts mentioned above.