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The Cid

This  celebrated hero of Spanish history has been for more than eight centuries the theme of eulogy and song, and doubtless his wonderful achievements and romantic fame have contributed to kindle an emulous flame in many a youthful bosom, and to stir up even a nation to the resistance of oppression. It is by no means improbable that many of the deeds of valor and patriotic devotion witnessed during the invasion of Spain by Napoleon's armies, had their source in the name and fame of the Cid. In one of the numerous ballads which recount his history, and which are among the popular poetry of Spain to this day, he is addressed in the following vigorous lines:—

"Mighty victor, never vanquished,
Bulwark of our native land,
Shield of Spain, her boast and glory,
Knight of the far-dreaded brand,
Venging scourge of Moors and traitors,
Mighty thunderbolt of war,
Mirror bright of chivalry,
Ruy, my Cid Campeador!"

This chivalrous knight was born at Burgos, in the year 1025. His name was Rodrigo, or Ruy Diaz, Count of Bivar. He was called the Cid, which means lord; and the name of Campeador, or champion without an equal, was appropriated as his peculiar title. At this period, the greater part of the Peninsula was in the hands of the Arabs or Moors, who had invaded them three centuries before. The few Goths who had remained unconquered among the mountains, maintained a constant warfare upon the infidels, and by the time of which we speak, they had recovered a large portion of the country lying in the northwestern quarter. This territory was divided into several petty kingdoms, or counties, the principal of which, at the time of our hero's birth, were united under Ferdinand I., the founder of the kingdom of Castile. The rest of the Peninsula, subject to the Arabs, was also divided into petty kingdoms.

The father of Rodrigo, Don Diego Lainez, was the representative of an ancient, wealthy, and noble race. When our hero was a mere stripling, his father was grossly insulted by the haughty and powerful Count of Gormaz, Don Lozano Gomez, who smote him in the face, in the very presence of the king and court. The dejection of the worthy hidalgo, who was very aged, and therefore incapable of taking personal vengeance for his wrong, is thus strongly depicted in one of the ballads:—

"Sleep was banished from his eyelids;
Not a mouthful could he taste;
There he sat with downcast visage,—
Direly had he been disgraced.

Never stirred he from his chamber;
With no friends would he converse,
Lest the breath of his dishonor
Should pollute them with its curse."

When young Rodrigo, the son, was informed of the indignity offered to his father, he was greatly incensed, and determined to avenge it. He accordingly took down an old sword, which had been the instrument of mighty deeds in the hands of his ancestors, and, mounting a horse, proceeded to challenge the haughty Count Gomez, in the following terms:—

"How durst thou to smite my father?
Craven caitiff! know that none
Unto him shall do dishonor,
While I live, save God alone.

For this wrong, I must have vengeance,—
Traitor, here I thee defy!
With thy blood alone my sire
Can wash out his infamy!"

The count despised his youth, and refused his challenge; but the boy set bravely upon him, and, after a fierce conflict, was victorious. He bore the bleeding head of his antagonist to his father, who greeted him with rapture. His fame was soon spread abroad, and he was reckoned among the bravest squires of the time.

But now there appeared before king Ferdinand and the court of Burgos the lovely Ximena, daughter of the Count Gomez, demanding vengeance of the sovereign for the death of her father. She fell on her knees at the king's feet, crying for justice.

"Justice, king! I sue for justice—
Vengeance on a traitorous knight;
Grant it me! so shall thy children
Thrive, and prove thy soul's delight."

When she had spoken these words, her eye fell on Rodrigo, who stood among the attendant nobles, and she exclaimed,—

"Thou hast slain the best and bravest
That e'er set a lance in rest,
Of our holy faith the bulwark,—
Terror of each Paynim breast.

Traitorous murderer, slay me also!
Though a woman, slaughter me!
Spare not! I'm Ximena Gomez,
Thine eternal enemy!

Here's my heart,—smite, I beseech thee!
Smite! and fatal be thy blow!
Death is all I ask, thou caitiff,—
Grant this boon unto thy foe."

Not a word, however, did Rodrigo reply, but, seizing the bridle of his steed, he vaulted into the saddle, and rode slowly away. Ximena turned to the crowd of nobles, and seeing that none prepared to follow him and take up her cause, she cried aloud, "Vengeance, sirs, I pray you vengeance!" A second time did the damsel disturb the king, when at a banquet, with her cries for justice. She had now a fresh complaint.

"Every day at early morning,
To despite me more, I wist,
He who slew my sire doth ride by,
With a falcon on his fist.

At my tender dove he flies it;
Many of them hath it slain.
See, their blood hath dyed my garments,
With full many a crimson stain."

Rodrigo, however, was not punished, and the king suspected that this conduct of the young count was only typical of his purpose to hawk at the lady himself, and make her the captive of love. He was therefore left to pursue his career; and he soon performed an achievement which greatly increased his fame. Five Moorish chiefs or kings, and their attendants, had made a foray into the Castilian territories, and, being unresisted, were bearing off immense booty and many captives. Rodrigo, though still a youth under twenty, mounted his horse, Babieca, as famous in his story as is Bucephalus in that of Alexander, hastily gathered a host of armed men, and fell suddenly upon the Moors, among the mountains of Oca. He routed them with great slaughter, captured the five kings, and recovered all that they had taken.

The spoil he divided among his followers, but reserved the kings for his own share, and carried them home to his castle of Bivar, to present them, as proofs of his prowess, to his mother. With his characteristic generosity, which was conspicuous even at this early age, he then set them at liberty, on their agreeing to pay him tribute; and they departed to their respective territories, lauding his valor and magnanimity.

The fame of this exploit soon spread far and wide, through the land, and as martial valor in those chivalrous times was the surest passport to ladies' favor, it must have had its due effect on Ximena's mind, and will, in a great measure, account for the entire change in her sentiments towards the youth, which she manifested on another visit to Burgos. Falling on her knees before the king, she spoke thus:—

"I am daughter of Don Gomez,
Count of Gormaz was he hight;
Him Rodrigo by his valor
Did o'erthrow in mortal fight.

King! I come to crave a favor—
This the boon for which I pray,
That thou give me this Rodrigo
For my wedded lord this day.

Grant this precious boon, I pray thee;
'Tis a duty thou dost owe;
For the great God hath commanded
That we should forgive a foe."

There is a touch of nature in all this, that is quite amusing: while the lady's anger burns, she cries for justice; when love has taken possession of her heart, she appeals to religion to enforce her wishes. "Now I see," said the king, "how true it is, what I have often heard, that the will of woman is wild and strange. Hitherto this damsel hath sought deadly vengeance on the youth, and now she would have him to husband. Howbeit, with right good will I will grant what she desireth."

He sent at once for Rodrigo, who, with a train of three hundred young nobles, his friends and kinsmen, all arrayed in new armor and robes of brilliant color, obeyed with all speed the royal summons. The king rode forth to meet him, "for right well did he love Rodrigo," and opened the matter to him, promising him great honors and much land if he would make Ximena his bride. Rodrigo, who desired nothing better, and who doubtless had hoped for this issue, at once acquiesced.

"King and lord! right well it pleaseth
Me thy wishes to fulfil:
In this thing, as in all others,
I obey thy sovereign will."

The young pair then plighted their troth in presence of the king, and in pledge thereof gave him their hands. He kept his promise, and gave Rodrigo Valduerna, Saldana, Belforado, and San Pedro de Cardena, for a marriage portion.

The wedding was attended by vast pomp and great festivities. Rodrigo, sumptuously attired, went with a long procession to the church. After a while, Ximena came, with a veil over her head and her hair dressed in large plaits, hanging over her ears. She wore an embroidered gown of fine London cloth, and a close-fitting spencer. She walked on high-heeled clogs of red leather. A necklace of eight medals or plates of gold, with a small pendent image of St. Michael, which together were "worth a city," encircled her white neck.

The happy pair met, seized each other's hands, and embraced. Then said Rodrigo, with great emotion, as he gazed on his bride,—

"I did slay thy sire, Ximena,
But, God wot, not traitorously;
'Twas in open fight I slew him:
Sorely had he wronged me.

A man I slew,—a man I give thee,—
Here I stand thy will to bide!
Thou, in place of a dead father,
Hast a husband at thy side."

All approved well his prudence,
And extolled him with zeal;
Thus they celebrate the nuptials
Of Rodrigo of Castile.

We cannot attend this renowned hero through his long and brilliant career. We must be content to say, that on all occasions he displayed every noble and heroic quality. His life was an almost perpetual strife with the Moors, whom he defeated in many combats. Having collected a considerable force, on one occasion, he penetrated to the southeastern extremity of Arragon, and established himself in a strong castle, still called the Rock of the Cid. He afterwards pushed his victories to the borders of the Mediterranean, and laid siege to the rich and powerful Moorish city of Valencia, which he captured. Here he established his kingdom, and continued to reign till his death, about the year 1099, at the age of seventy-five.

While the Cid was living, his reputation was sufficient to keep the Moors in awe; but when he was dead, their courage revived, and they boldly attacked the Spaniards, even in Valencia, the city where his remains were laid. The Spaniards went forth to meet them; and behold, a warrior, with the well known dress of the Cid, but with the aspect of death, was at their head. The Moors recognised his features, and they fled in superstitious horror, fancying that a miracle had been performed in behalf of the Spaniards. The truth was, however, that the latter had taken him from the tomb, set him on his warhorse, and thus, even after his death, he achieved a victory over his foes. This incident sufficiently attests the wonderful power which the Cid's name exerted, as well over his countrymen as their enemies.

The Spaniards have an immense number of ballads and romances, founded upon the life of this wonderful hero. They all depict him as a noble and high-minded chief, without fear and without reproach, the very beau ideal  of a knight of the olden time. Some of these ballads are finely rendered into English by Mr. Lockhart, and they have been published in a style of unsurpassed beauty and splendor.