« PreviousContinue »
Mark'd the Cid their childish sorrow,
Heard them murmur in dismay :
Loud their hands the children clapping,
Kist his cheeks, and strok'd his beard.”
Mr Southey omits this curious trait of parental tenderness, which we think peculiarly characteristic of the hero, as those who are bravest and even fiercest in war are often distinguished by unlimited indulgence to the objects of their domestic attachIments.
The resource from which the Cid drew his supplies was of a questionable description, and not very dissimilar from the devices of our modern knights of industry. He sent one of his adherents, Martin Antolinez, to two wealthy Jews, named Rachael and Vidas, to demand the loan of six hundred merks, upon two chests of treasure, which the Cid meant to deposit in their hands. The sons of Israel lent a willing ear to such a proposal, but when the merks were demanded, they sagaciously observed, that “their way of business was first to take and then to give.” Antolinez conducted them to the tent of the Campeador, who dazzled their optics with the exhibition of two huge and heavy chests, covered with leather of red and gold, and secured with ribs of iron, but filled in truth with stones and sand. The Jews, forgetting the caution of their tribe, willingly agreed to advance the sum demanded on a deposit of such a promising aspect; and swore at the same time to keep the chests a full year without opening. So highly delighted were the Israelites with the bargain, that Antolinez contrived to hook out of them thirty merks for agency, to buy himself a pair of hose, a doublet, and a rich cloak. It is not the least curious part of this story, that when the Cid acquired wealth in the Moorish wars, and sent to redeem the chests with a Spanish hyperbole that they contained his honour, which was the richest treasure in the world, “the people held it for a great wonder; and there was not a place in all Burgos where they did not talk of the gentleness and loyalty of the Cid.” The Jews themselves also expressed such grateful surprise as makes it plain that in the ordinary course of things, they would have been left by way of punishment for looking so indifferently after their own interest in the outset of the bargain, to indemnify themselves by the deposit. Nay, we grieve to say, that some contradictory authorities make it not improbable that the Cid consigned them to the doleful predicament of their kinsman, Shylock, to console themselves with the penalty of the bond. The Cid, thus furnished with munition and money, sets forth against the Moors, leaving his wife and children in the charge of the Abbot of St Pedro de Cardena. It is not our intention to trace his military exploits, in which there is frequently vivid description, but which nevertheless, from the similarity of incident, are the dullest part of this volume. The following most excellent and spirited, as well as literal translation from the poem of the Cid, is given in the notes. It is not from the pen of Mr Southey, but from that of a literary friend, who has caught the true tone of the Spanish Homer. The Cid, with his followers, sallies from the Castle of Alcocer, where they were besieged by the Moors.
“The gates were then thrown open, and forth at once they rush'd,
Strike amongst them, gentlemen, for sweet mercies sake!'
There are many similar exploits described in the same animated tone; and the successes of the Cid soon led him to form plans of more permanent conquest. The dissensions of the Moors aided his views, and at length, after a tedious siege, in which the city suffered the last degree of distress, and after playing off against each other almost all the factions within its walls, the fair city of Valencia became the property of the Cid, and the seat of his power. His fame and his untarnished loyalty had by this time reconciled the Campeador to King Alfonso ; so the embassy which the Cid sent to him to announce his new conquest, and to demand his wife and daughters, was most favourably received. When the ladies arrived at Valencia, they had a specimen of the manner in which the Cid had acquired, and was forced to defend his possessions. The city was beleaguered by an immense army of Moors. The Cid conducted his wife and daughters to the highest turret, from which they might see his exploits against the enemy, cheered their sinking spirits with an exclamation, “the more Moors the more gain!” sallied out and utterly discomfited the enemy, making such mortality with his own hand, that the blood ran from the wrist to the elbow. He re-entered the town at the head of his knights.
“His wrinkled brow was seen, for he had taken off his helmet, and in this manner he entered, upon Bavieca, sword in hand. Great joy had Dona Ximena and her daughters who were awaiting him, when they saw him come riding in ; and he stopt when he came to them, and said, “Great honour have I won for you, while you kept Valencia this day ! God and the Saints have sent us goodly gain, upon your coming. Look, with a bloody sword, and a horse all sweat, this is the way that we conquer the Moors Pray God that I may live yet awhile for your sakes, and you shall enter into great honour, and they shall kiss your hands.” Then my Cid alighted when he had said this, and the ladies knelt down before him, and kissed his hand, and wished him long life.”—P. 233.
The fame of the Cid's wealth led Diego and Fernando Gonzales, the Infantes of Carrion, brethren of great rank and high ancestry, to solicit the hands of his two daughters; and the Cid, at the request of King Alfonso, consented to their uuion. But these noblemen had ill considered their own dispositions in desiring such an union. The Cid, indeed, received them with all honour in Valencia, and bestowed on them many rich gifts, and especially his two choice swords, Colada and Tizona. But the Infantes had no taste for killing Moors, which was the principal amusement at the court of the Campeador; and although the Cid prudently disguised his knowledge of their cowardice, he could not save them from the derision of his military retainers. An unfortunate accident brought matters to a crisis. The Cid, it seems, kept a tame lion, which, one day, finding its den unbarred,