« PreviousContinue »
with his sword in his hand, and his shield and banner hung upon the walls. Whether the ivory chair decayed faster than the Cid we know not; but the body was taken from it, placed in a stone coffin, and, after some intermediate translations, finally interred in the chapel of the monastery of Cardena, where “it remains to the present day.” We have not room to tell of the godly end of his wife Ximena, or the attention bestowed on his horse Bavieca, who, having comported himself with laudable spirit and fidelity through the whole of this history, of which he forms no very inconsiderable part, was never mounted by any one after his master's decease, and was buried before the gate of the monastery with the trusty Gil Diaz, his guardian. But we cannot help observing a curious coincidence between an ancient Irish romance, called the death of Cucholinn, and the remarkable circumstances said to have attended the funeral rites of the Cid. Cucholinn (the Cuthullin of the pseudo Ossian) was chief of the warriors of the Red Branch, as they were called, and champion of Ulster. He was mortally wounded in a battle, through the wiles of an enchantress called Meive. Feeling death approach, he thus addresses his foster-brother:— “‘But accompany me, Laogh, to yonder rock, that I may there die, and make my final departure. Let me be supported by resting my breast against that portion of it which advances from the rest; put this sword into my hand, and tie it fast to my
wrist, and place my spear and shield as they ought to be ; and when my enemies shall see me in that manner, their fear
and dread will be still so great, that they will not venture to come and cut off my head, and Connel Cearnach will arrive in time to prevent that body which I quit from being treated with indignity.” Cucholinn walked afterwards towards the rock, and Laogh durst not offer to support him, or draw nigh him, till he had arrived at the place he had chosen, and rested his breast against that part of the rock which projected as he had remarked; and as he leaned against the rock, he put his hand upon his heart, and uttered a moan, saying, ‘Till this day I vow and swear, by the gods of the elements, that I knew not but that this heart was of iron or stone; and had I thought it to have been of flesh and blood, perhaps half of the feats of chivalry, and of the noble deeds that I have done, would not have been performed by me ! And now, Laogh, when thou seest Eirir, tell her that my affection never hath strayed from her, that through my whole life I have loved her alone, nor ever saw that woman I would have exchanged for her. Relate to her, to Conner, to Connel, and to the men of Ulster, my late actions and my past battles; enumerate to them the numbers I have slain, and the days whereon my enemies have fallen, either by my sword or the arrows from my quiver, from the rising up until the setting of the sun.”
“Laogh obeyed the orders of Cucholinn, and settled him with his face towards the enemy's camp, and placed his spear and shield by his shoulder, and put his sword into his hand as if ready for combat, and as he grasped it, he expired.
“When Meive and her confederates beheld him placed in that manner, they imagined it was some scheme concerted by Cucholinn to draw them into an ambuscade, and they durst not draw nigh unto him. “Where is Babh' (or Bava), cried Meive. The sorceress replied, that she was there to fulfill her commands. She sent her therefore to discover if Cucholinn was alive or dead. Bava took the shape of a crow and flew around him; when, having discovered that his spirit was fled, she perched upon his shield; and when the enemy saw this, they came forward; and when they came up to him and found that it was impossible to force his sword out of his hand, “Cut the sinews of his wrist,” said Lughy, son of Conrec, “and the sword will fall.” It was done; but as it fell down, it cut off the hands of thirty of the sons of their chieftains, who were looking up to behold that deed done, and this was the last exploit that the arms of that hero performed.”
Leaving it to the antiquaries of Ierne to consi
der whether there is any connexion between these stories, we hasten to conclude the article with a few short observations on the information which we may derive from this curious work.
The character of the Cid, who is held up as a model of perfection, contains many points which seem inconsistent with the more refined notions of chivalry. We say nothing of the cruelty which the “Perfect One,” as the author frequently calls him, practised without compunction, especially towards his prisoners, whom he usually tortured, to force a discovery of their treasures. And perhaps as the following abominable cruelty was perpetrated on circumcised infidels, it might not be a great blot in his escutcheon. It occurred during the siege of Valencia.
“So he ordered proclamation to be made so loud that all the Moors upon the walls could hear, bidding all who had come out from the town to return into it, or he would burn as many as he should find; and saying also that he would slay all who came out from that time forth. Nevertheless they continued to let themselves down from the walls, and the Christians took them without his knowledge. But as many as he found he burnt alive before the walls, so that the Moors could see them; in one day he burnt eighteen, and cast others alive to the dogs, who tore them in pieces.”—P. 194.
This might be all selon les regles; but we allude to the whole tenor of his policy with the Moorish chiefs of Valencia, which was of a very indirect and crooked kind, in which his promise was forfeited more than once, and to more than one person. This was a breach of honour on the part of the “Happy one, whom God created in a lucky hour,” which seems to derogate from his knightly character. His mode of conducting the charge against the Infantes of Carrion, by which he secured restitution before he demanded revenge for his injured honour, argues a cool and interested mode of reason better becoming an attorney than a warrior. All these are, no doubt, qualified by his extreme and punctilious loyalty towards the king who had exiled him; his warm affection for his family; and his generosity to his vassals, and sometimes to his enemies. Yet, upon the whole, the Cid Ruy Diaz forms no exception to Froissart's general rule, that the knights of Spain had not attained the highest and most refined chivalry practised in France and England. And his story leaves us at a loss whether he had most of the fox, the tiger, or the lion in his disposition; for he seems to have been at least as crafty and cruel as he was brave. It is also worthy of remarking, that the supreme respect, enjoined by the laws of knighthood, to the fair sex, does not appear in this romance. The females all act a subordinate part, and that irreconcilable with their being persons of any influence. It may be hardly fair to quote the beating which the sons-in-law of the Cid bestow upon their wives, as proof of general manners. Yet this castigation, though utterly extra modum, was not much wondered at, except in relation to the power and generosity of the Cid, father of the patients. The counts appeal to the whole cortes, whether they had not a title to beat maids of low degree with their girths, and tear them with their long-rowelled spurs; and issue was joined upon an allegation, that the daughters of the Cid were of too high a rank to be subjected to such discipline. Ximena, also, makes a sorry figure in the tale; she comes before the king to ask the hand of the man who had killed her father—a step which surely argued a degraded state in society, and a want of free will. The daughters of the Cid are, with very little ceremony, and without at all consulting their own choice, bestowed on one set of husbands and transferred to another: and, lastly, the passion, or even the word love, does not occur in the whole volume. It is highly probable, that, in this respect, the manners of the Spaniards were tinged by those of their Mahommedan conquerors, from whom they had caught the Oriental contempt of the female sex. Many other marks of resemblance between those nations might be pointed out; nor indeed, upon the whole, do the Moors appear to have been a more unamiable race than the Castilian Christians. The volume contains many splendid instances of their generosity and good faith, which are sometimes but indifferently requited by the Christians. It is true, the situation of the Spanish Moors was already become degraded. They were a luxurious people, broken with domestic factions; split into petty principalities; superior to their Christian foes in the arts of peace, therefore affording a tempting prospect of plunder; inferior to them in the art of war, therefore an easy prey. Accordingly, they were considered as the common enemy; the ferae natura, whom every iron-clad champion had a natural right to hunt down and plunder; while, in